Home Sweet Home

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Storms a brewing.

We had one of those travelling moments when you reach a destination and just don’t want to leave, for us; the destination was Mui Ne, a coastal one road town near the bottom of Vietnam, famous for its kite surfing.

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Mr Facial Hair enjoying a cold shower.

After meeting up with an Aussie who runs a kite surfing business and whom offered us employment, we decided to take a chance that the wind would pick up and cash would flow.

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Tough life at the office.

$46 each for a months rent got us a basic room with ensuite, on a sand dune, a few minutes walk from the local (garage) market, and the beach. The guy that hired it out to us laughed the loudest when we said we wanted the cheaper no air-con room. He must have thought we were crazy, we thought the same on the first night, trying to get to sleep under the fan in about 40 degree heat, watching the geckos on the wall eating the mosquitoes.

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The sand dune we call home.

 

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One of many geckos that lives our wall.

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Nice view of our bedroom/ study/ kitchen/ laundry/ dining room/ and office.

The market is awesome, sprawling with Vietnamese picking up their daily fruit and veg on their way to work (they are probably lying in a hammock on the beach like the Vietnamese who works with us).

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Tropical fruit and vegies galore at our local market.

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All around our area are the local kids, a younger one has developed a habit of watching my screen when I’m on skype.

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The meat for sale, nicely presented on a wooden table.

We work at ‘Kite and Surf’, it comes with the best office view, a shower, office chairs and stationary. When the wind picks up, Jirka instructs kite surfing,  I am able to instruct surfing and stand up paddle boarding if there is a demand. When there are no people around,  we are just hanging out on the beach, gorging ourselves on tropical fruit and washing it down with coconut water.

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The kiting school Jirka works for.

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Coconut time at our place.

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June, the beach boy who works with us, resting in his usual spot.

There are jelly fish in the ocean, lizards in our kitchen, squirt nozzle instead of toilet paper in the bathroom , vegetarian restaurant down the street, sand dunes down the road, dragon fruit growing around the corner, more bikes than cars on the road and we are more than happy to spend the month here.

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A usual sight in Vietnam, this one was taken right near our place.

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The Vietnamese periodically come round trying to sell fruit and coconuts. They are friendly and hard working.

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A boat towing the small round fishing boats away. A daily occurance.

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Jirka working hard with his student.

With only a few days left to go, we are already thinking towards our next destination; the Mekong Delta shall be out next pit stop on our way towards Cambodia.

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Sun, Sand and Surf

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Jirka had time to take this pic as I hurridly searched for a toilet in a country void of public toilets.

A month in Vietnam sure leaves an impression. So much so that we have decided to extend our visa and stay for another month. This is not to say that the impression was all the time good, but it was an impression, and that’s enough to keep our interest.

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An awesome wall we found in the old part of Hoi An.

After Hanoi we headed to a small town called Ninh Binh which is famous for its Karst mountains, caves, pagodas, river and small villages. We hired a scooter to joy ride around to all of the attractions on. The lady who hired it out to us really wanted us to take the cheaper manual scooter…manual….MANUAL! This could be interesting as neither of us have driven a manual scooter before. But that seemed to be of no concern to her, she was happy to give us a rushed 2 minute lesson, and I’m pretty sure it was not entirely in English, and then we were off on the road, trying to work it out ourselves.

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Fastest manual lesson EVER!

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Getting lost in Ninh Binh.

After a few days of exploring the area, we needed to move on, I had acquired the flu, it was raining and we didn’t want to lose time on the road, so we cheated and bought an open bus ticket down south.

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The bed on the bus is almost big enough…but not really.

What was bought: an open bus ticket, sleeper buses with toilets, air con, 2m long beds, non stop, just sleeping, relaxing and luxury to be had for sure.

What was sold:  an open bus ticket, sleeper buses with no toilets, air con blasting in your face during the night, and not working during the day, beds wouldn’t fit a midget, the aisles were crowded with locals sleeping on the floor for a very much discounted rate, stops every 2 minutes to pick up more locals but no one that needed to pee was let off, if you tried to sit in the aisle to chat to someone you would be barked at immediately and made to ‘go back to bed’, at least there was beautiful music singing you to sleep, or was that just the horn which would periodically go off every second. If you could sleep through the sound of the horn, no way could you sleep through being thrown up off the bed every few minutes as the bus sped its way down a highway which looked less like a highway and more like a dirt road, lastly, for the gas breaks, do your thing and get back to the bus ASAP, there is no headcount, on the last bus, I was boarding whilst the bus was moving, and one other was still in the toilet. Regardless of this, the buses were still an awesome experience.

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Want a banana?

Our next stop was Hoi An, we arrived in the afternoon and waited until it got dark and started raining before walking the 5km or so to the beach to pitch our tent. We awoke on a beautiful beach…surrounded by hundreds of school kids looking interestingly at our out of place tent.

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Our morning alarm: a thousand screaming kids.

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But they are cute!

Some awesome local took pity on our failed attempt to get a coconut from a tree, we were underneath it for ages throwing bricks, rocks and anything else we could find at the coconuts, wanting the young coconut water. He waltzed over to our tree and climbed straight up about 8m, quickly unscrewing 2 massive coconuts for us, climbed down, brushed off his hands and walked away. What a champion!

After a few days on the beach it was time to move on; to another beach further south. Each time we catch a bus and head south a few hundred kms, we get off with a warmer welcome in the air and in the sea, the water is like a bath! Unfortunately the sun has a dark side to it; on my first day in Nha Trang, me being the conservative tanner, I wanted to stay under the shade at the beach and built an impressive shelter with the tent. Who would have known I would receive the worst sunburn of my life, not by being in the sun, but by the sun reflecting off the sand and straight onto my white as a ghost skin, which quickly turned lobster red over the whole of one side of my body…with a nice glasses tan to match.

Whilst I was in the process of receiving my sunburn we got to meet a local up close and personal. As we are lying under our shelter, every few minutes a middle aged lady would come to our tarp wanting us to buy fruit, water or coconuts. These ladies are crazy, they walk around all day in more layers than I wear to go skiing, and they don’t even break a sweat! Talk about sun protection. So as we were lying down, we hear the familiar sound of ‘coconut, mango, banana, madam, madam, you want to buy???’.  No we did not want to buy, we didn’t want to buy 1 hour ago, we didn’t want to buy 2 minutes ago; she got the hint and started to retreat, not before tripping on the tents guy ropes, sending her and her basket of fruit flying. Jirka and I rushed to her rescue, quickly bringing her into the shade and collecting her fruit. She was hitting her knee, telling us it was bad, I used my first aid training to examine her knee, as Jirka rushed off to get her some cold water. No swelling present, probably no pain as well since she was almost beating it. She sat with me for a while in silence, a lack of a common language will do that. After a few minutes the only words she decided to speak were ‘you give me money now’. She was evoking the wrong Aussie. No sooner had the word ‘money’ left her mouth was she quickly moved out of our tent, fruit and all. It didn’t take long for her to register our disgust; she rebelled by yelling out at us every time she walked by, I was more than happy to yell back. Wicked lady, she didn’t even have a limp.

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‘You give me money now’ lady acting all innocent before the trip.

The next few days I was stuck inside, under a fan wearing many, many layers of aloe vera, unable to move. I have learnt my lesson, I am never getting burnt again! Although I walked like a robot and lathered aloe vera onto anything I touched, it was time for a new town. We got ourselves onto a bus and headed to a coastal, one road town, called Mui Ne; in hopes of a new home for a while.

 

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Our home when we were in Hoi An.

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A face like this tell a thousand tales.

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Iconic Vietnamese hats ready for sale.

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Who needs a car these days?

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Fishing with the skyline of Hanoi in the background.

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One of many street hairdressers in Hanoi.

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Random but awesome photo.

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Where is the best place to take a nap? ANYWHERE!

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Dog meat for sale. Most probably someone’s pet. People on mopeds go around in Vietnam snatching up pets to kill and cook in restaurants or sell on the street. Things like this make me proud to be vegan.

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Birds in cages, found on the streets, in the parks and out the front of shops.

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Awesome view from the raw food restaurant in Hoi An.

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Ahhh where did the times go when little boys went around holding hands?

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She looks friendly, but her prices aren’t.

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Hanging out at the bus stop, reading the paper in Hanoi.

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When we stopped on the side of the street for a beer in Hanoi, this lady served us…one for us, then one for her, one for us, one for her; what a champion!

 

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At the top of a mountain in Ninh Binh.

 

 

 

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It may not have been fun, but it was definitely interesting.

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The typical pose, isn’t she cute!/Klasická póza – při průchodu typickou vesnicí

I have just been inspired to write more frequently. Our day to day life is just that to us, a day to day existence, making our way through Asia. We have gotten so used to the stares, the crazy drivers, rice paddies, strange camp sites and intriguing people that one day to the next seems like just a normal day for us. But here is where my inspiration lies. I have just read another travellers post about a difficult day they had, trying to find camp, a friendly encounter with the police, and at the end of it, flat camp ground and a guaranteed booking into a hotel for the next night. Their story sounded normal to us, but I guess to those that have not been in our situation, it would be an exciting read. So here is our story.

We spent a little under a week in Hanoi. While Couch Surfing there we met a Vietnamese who hosted us, a Swiss who kicked our ass in cards, and a German who was a big friendly giant. Hanoi was crazy, bikes galore and largely lacking in vegan friendly street food; we miss the street food streets that China delivered daily, within every city. There was always an option for vegetable fried rice or veggie noodles that we couldn’t pass up. But in Northern Vietnam, meat is on the menu everywhere! They love their meat and noodles and greens are scarcely found within the restaurants. We have been cooking on our own camping stove to beat the lack of vegan options, this worked quite well until we ran out of fuel in our gas canister. Well you can’t beat us that easily Vietnam. Because we couldn’t find a single gas canister in the whole of Hanoi, we decided to improvise and make our own pop stove, now we can burn any combustible liquid.

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The base, and wind shield for our makeshift stove./ Náš štít proti nežádoucímu větru při vaření.

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Burns better than a trangia./Dvě plechovky od piva = vařič.

On to the interesting story: during our last couple nights in Hanoi we only managed to get 3-5hrs sleep a night, so not wanting to miss out on a full day in a new place we awoke nice and early to head out of the city and hitchhike 100km South. We recently purchased a compass which told us our bus we took to get out of the city was heading in the opposite direction to where we wanted to go. Finally after a couple wrong buses we were onto the highway. The highway was less like a typical highway and more like a road, with no guttering, full of locals riding 50km/hr on all modes of transport and lined with old ladies selling baguettes. The traffic was loaded with buses, trucks, taxis, bikes and a personal car here and there for good measure. Needles to say that lifts were thin, probably because drivers thought we were waiting for one of the many buses that were stopping for us to see if we needed a ride. Or maybe because we were surrounded by locals that stood next to us, staring and talking at us in Vietnamese.

Finally a truckie picked us up and took us south. A little while later we were dropped along the side of the highway, not knowing where we were and wanting to get away from exhaust fumes we headed inland to walk through the villages along our way to Nimh Binh, it couldn’t be too far away.

It’s always the way, we end up somewhere and I need to do something, in this case I needed to find somewhere to go to the toilet. It’s a guarantee that when I return, Jirka will be surrounded by a small crowd, and this time was no exception. I was only gone 5 minutes and as I walked around the corner back to our bags, Jirka was busy chatting away to an old lady, a pregnant lady, and a bunch of their closest friends.

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Our little crowd, with Jirka doing as the locals do. / Odpočívám v té nejpřirozenější poloze, teda alespoň dle místních.

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Photogenic villager./ Kolemjdoucí vesničan.

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Another photogenic villager. / Další kolemjdoucí vesničanka.

We were famished but didn’t want the crowd to linger as we ate lunch, so on we trod, further into town, finding a suitable and deserted table for our humungous sandwich making. No peace for the wicked, it wasn’t long until a crowd gathered to watch the action in progress. One lady even volunteered herself as honorary bad lettuce remover, much to our protests since she had a warped sense of which leaves were bad, so many good leaves ended up on the ground.

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Our nice and quiet lunch didn’t stay quiet for long. / Naše pauza na oběd nezůstala soukromá dlouho.

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Awesome sandwich with lettuce lady in the background. / Obložená bageta na oběd s tiše závidějící paní.

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School is out. / Děti z místní školy se vracejí domů.

Then the school kids came by, all yelling out hello to us, and many cycling back and forth down the street to see us again and again. They weren’t used to tourists so these types of experiences off the beaten track are always valued for their authenticity.

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The friendly kids, hanging out for some pics. / Veselé děcka pózující před foťákem.

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Hanging out with the gang. / Klučičí gang.

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One, Two Three…JUMP! / 3, 2, 1, teď. Tania skáče s místními dětmi.

After a massive and long lunch, darkness was approaching us, we needed to find camp fast and catch up on sleep. We were both knackered and facing a stormy sky we wanted to find a sheltered spot to pitch our tent. Vietnam being the second largest producer of rice in the world has its ups and downs. The upside is that rice is everywhere and we love rice, the downside is that every inch of space is filled up with rice paddies, all water logged this time of year, no space for our little tent.

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Darkness came, with no home to be found. / Světlo je pryč, místo k přespání neznámé.

While walking through the city we stumbled upon some kind of temple, we asked the people living there if we could pitch our tent near the gate, one guy said it was ok, and then left. Did he even live there? Who knows! Darkness hit once our tent was up, we were inside getting ready to bunk down for the night when some cops came by. These cops were not like the friendly officers in China. They wanted us to pay them to camp, and were adamant at taking our passports away to be copied without us. I got my passport off the cops and hung onto it tightly as they tried to pry it from my hands, Jirka followed suit. The people living in the house were watching on, some old lady kept on poking me and pointing at a 100,000 note showing how much they wanted us to pay. Where was the dude that said we could camp there?

We quickly packed up and tried to walk off. They had other plans in mind. Some kid who was in the audience, translated for us that the cops wanted to take us to some hotel or home to sleep the night, where we would be safe. The only thing dangerous around that village were the cops. They were angry, trying to take our passports, corrupt and would not let us leave by our own free will. They met their match; we were not going to get on the back of their motor bikes no matter how much they tried. We had 3-4 cops and half a village following us as we walked down the road, figuring our legs could take us further than their petrol. One nice girl who saw us and spoke English looked like she wanted to help, we asked her where the highway was but the cops got to her first, not letting her answer any of our questions. Surely it wasn’t illegal to walk in Vietnam at night. The cops aggression only intensified our wary feelings towards them. One cop rode 100m in front of us and blasted his horn, waving his arms for us to hurry up and follow him. Good luck, we made up a story about a friend waiting for us as we turned down the opposite road to them, eventually the people started dropping off until we were all alone.

We found the highway but no camp spot in sight. Jumping the railway tracks led us to a dirt road, and just off it was a couple metres of trees with just enough space to pitch our tent. The rain was upon us, as was midnight, but at least we found home. Our sleep wasn’t exactly peaceful, nor comfortable. The ground was as flat as San Francisco, mosquitoes were abundant but at least we had a bag full of fresh fruit to feast on for dinner.

Bhoih Bjknbp OLih Khg Jg Huioi is what it sounded like as the owner of the land we were on came round to our tent before 6am yelling at us to leave. You don’t need to understand Vietnamese to know when you are not welcome.  At least there were no cops with him. We packed up quickly and made our way to the highway, not waiting too long before a truck pulled up offering us a lift to Ninh Binh, but dropping us 10km from the city, saying we were in Ninh Binh. As we wandered around wondering why our map wasn’t matching up to the town, an English speaking lady orientated us and helped us get on a local bus to Ninh Binh where we quickly checked  into a cheap guesthouse, to recover from the flu that came most probably due to lack of sleep.

Regardless of being sick, we are certainly gaining experiences and are now in a gorgeous little town, looking forward to seeing the mountains, caves, floating villages and pagodas. Tomorrow we are off, hiring mopeds and hitting the road for some more adventures.

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The village supermarket where we bought water, no woolies around here. / Místní supermarket. Koupili jsme si vodu:-)

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Mom and daughter in the village came to say hey. / Mladá maminka s dcerkou přišly pozdravit.

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Some more cute kids from the village. / Místní děti prostě milovaly foťák.

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Basket baby! / Kočárek? Není třeba!

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2000km of hitchhiking to Vietnam.

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Hanging out, ready to grab a lift. / plni elanu a chuti po novych zazitcich.

Finally we set sail from China, although not without some adventure. Hitchhiking always has its moments, and we experienced most of them while heading to Vietnam, luckily they went from good to better. Chinese people are a little on the inexperienced side when it comes to hitch hiking. Many of whom were a little confused as to why a couple white people were walking down a highway. Were they lost, did they get mugged, maybe they need the police?!

The Chinese culture really shone through when hitching a ride. We were constantly being taken to the highway patrol not to turn us in for illegal hitching, but because the drivers thought we needed help or at least a bus. The police officers were less like cops, and more like mates, they even gave us lifts to good hitching spots and wrote us out a hitching script in Chinese characters we could use to gain rides.

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The friendly highway patrol, always eager to help out. / pratelska dalnicni policie, vzdy ochotna ppmoci

One nice couple took us over 500km, as midnight was approaching; they turned off the highway abruptly. We thought they wanted to get in a nana nap before continuing; with the help of a police officer translating for us, we were told they wanted to find a hotel room for the night to get some sleep before finishing off their route. That was all good for them, we were happy to walk back to the highway and find a camping spot. The couple had other plans for us, they insisted on paying for us to have our own room in the hotel, as much as we protested it was no match against the strong willed couple and an enthusiastic cop, so we agreed. Whilst in our hotel, they turned up at our door every so often handing us dinner, dessert and drinks, again to our protests that were shoed away. In the morning they were adamant at buying us breakfast before driving us another 500km to our destination. With no common language spoken, it is amazing how much you can find out about people by their actions.

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Phototime with our 1000km lift and the local cop / momentka s nasimi ridici co nas vzali 1000km a mistnim policajtem, ktery nikdy nesmi chybet

Halfway to Vietnam we stopped in Guilin, and spent a while checking out mountains full of rice paddies, old villages, rivers, caves and karst mountains. At one spot along the river, there was a massive fee to cross the 50m river by bamboo raft. We didn’t want to pay the extravagant tourist fee so we set about attempting to make our own raft. Needless to say we failed miserably, so we abandoned the raft and found a different fee less stretch of the river to hike.

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Sitting proudly on our makeshift bamboo raft / hrde sedici Tania na nasem bambusovem voru ktery nikdy nefungoval

One night we enjoyed a great sleep on a floating bamboo raft, waking up in the morning to curious housewives who were doing their laundry in the river. Some of the villages made us think we had gone back 100 years in time. With no machinery in sight, everything was done manually, from ploughing the fields, planting and cropping. These villagers were the kind where an 80 year old woman herding an ox down the alley-way was not an unusual sight. People pump their water from the wells, snack on sugar cane, transport food on their backs, make fences out of thorns, cook on fires, and spend their  free time playing cards with neighbours out on the street.

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Kids fighting over sugar cane / deti na vesnici bojujici o cukrovou trtinu s otcem palicim odpadky

After our village trip, we found a flat area in the city’s park. We had forgotten how Chinese parks are used in the morning. The park at night was deserted, apart from the odd guy here and there trying to catch fish in the stream. Early morning arrived and with it came the park madness. By 7am there were hundreds of people around, doing all sorts of strange and interesting things. Tai Chi, group dancing, bat and ball dancing, sword dancing, people playing cards and Chinese chess, then there was us; if you can’t beat them, join them. We accumulated an impressive audience doing our Acroyoga on the grass.

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The usual morning exercise for people of all ages/ milion let stare starenky s ohebnosti dvacetiletych

The next day we made our way down south, arriving near the border early enough to spend a few days relaxing on the beach with the locals curiously watching us doing the most mundane things like cooking breakfast. To us it was just a meal; to them it was like a live viewing of master chef. Some nice guys that we thought we were hitching a ride with to the border, actually paid for our bus tickets before we even got a chance to get out of the car. They weren’t going our way and wanted to help out.

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Our very own master chef in action / Jirka konzultujici zasoby potravin s mistnimi

On our last night, we slept in a park on the border, the park officer let us sleep next to his station which was also conveniently a badminton court. We were awoken early in the morning by 4 oldies enjoying a morning game straight over our tent.

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We were awoke by these young things tripping on our tent / typicke ranni probuzeni do rozhraneho zapasu badmintonu

After just over 2000km we walked across the bridge into Vietnam! A different language, currency and culture. We were welcomed with tropical fruit, unpolluted skies, rainforests, and islands; many, many islands. Our hitching experience continued as we got a free 70km bus ride. A cop that found us walking around asked what we were doing, after explaining what hitch hiking is, he told us to ask the truck drivers for a lift, then called us back to him a few minutes later saying he asked a bus driver that just pulled up if we can get a free ride down south.

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Green green and more green, is the view from a Hospital cave in Vietnam / pohled na zeleny Vietnam nas velmi tesil, oproti sede Cine

After our awesome ride, random choice led us off shore and onto the least touristy island we could find. The islanders were so welcoming; one family invited us into their home to hang out and stay for dinner. Being vegan can certainly be difficult when you are presented with a homemade meal, and not just any homemade meal. This was not some microwave dinner, nope, the husband caught the fish himself, collected the veggies from the forest, hunted the animal and raised the chickens. Now how do you tell someone that doesn’t speak your language and has probably never even heard of the word vegan in even their own language that you can’t eat the meal that they sweated over to prepare for you? Well we didn’t figure it out so for one night we had to relax the veganism somewhat. That night we slept near the beach and discovered the most amazing thing in the world. Some crazy particles in the sand when faced with a pressure or vibration, would light up like a shimmery glow. So when we walked along the wet sand, right underneath our footsteps we would have a glow around our feet; think avatar.

In the morning after heavy rain we seeked shelter under a locals balcony. It was a young family who lived in somewhat of a shack. They took pity on the rain drenched white folks and gave us a hot breakfast, we were so grateful we handed over a bag of tropical fruit. These islanders barely have a cent to their name but were the most generous people, offering up everything they had, even their own bed for us to sleep on.

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Our refuge from the rain / Nas utulek u mistnich pri desti

Our next stop was Halong Bay. After a 15km walk with our bags, and sleeping at a construction site, we landed ourselves on an island. The first night was spent out with other tourists enjoying some beers at the bar, we lost track of time and before we knew it, it was midnight, the tourists were leaving, the rain was coming and we were without a place to sleep. In the pouring rain Jirka found us a sheltered home, we spent the night sleeping in between tables and chairs on a floating restaurant.

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This gives a new meaning to the phrase bed & breakfast, I am happily sleeping on a floating restaurant / novy smysl pojmu bed & breakfast, Tania spici na plovouci restauraci

The next day we quickly found a hotel room for $5 a night, right in the middle of town, it came with an ensuite and massive windows looking out over the harbour. We spent the next couple days enjoying the easter festivities in pubs with the locals and tourists, exploring the national park by moped, and finding our own secluded beach out in Lan Ha bay with a kayak.

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Kayaking through Lan ha bay / kajakem Lan ha zalivem ve Vietnamu

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Phototime! Mountain top on monekey island / z vrcholu hory na opicim ostrove v Lan ha zalivu

We cheated our way to Hanoi, it was raining and there was a bus waiting for us. Even though there were two different prices for the ticket, a Vietnamese price and a ‘Westerner’ price, we paid the higher fare and hoped on for an easy ride. We are couch surfing in Hanoi now, staying with an event organiser. Jirka is busy attempting to make his own petrol stove for our camping, and it is 3am, we really should get to bed soon, we are going to a Vietnamese wedding tomorrow.

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Perfect spot just off the highway. / Perfekní místo na uzavřeném sjezdu z dálnice.

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Cosy in between the bikes at a gas station. / Útulné místečko mezi motorkami a benzínkou.

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Sleeping mountain top among the rice paddies. / Krásný výhled po ránu na rýžové políčka.

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Not far from what we figure are haunted houses. / Nedaleko od domů kde straší:-)

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Can you find our tent at this construction site? / Najdeš náš stan na staveništi?

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Floating bamboo raft, it doesn’t get much better than this. / Co víc si přát… (Ano, zdálo se mi, že se potápíme)

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Looking out over the karst mountains. / Výhled ze stanu na homolovité hory nedaleko města Guilin.

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In a cave for a couple nights. / Stará dobrá jeskyně nikdy nezklame.

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What hotel has a view like this? / Pár nocí na pláži. Nocleh jako každý jiný:-)))

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Washing my clothes like the locals. / Tania pere v místní řece-stoce. 

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You would be tired too if you woke up in the middle of a brick construction site at 6am. / Ranní probuzení v cihlárně.

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Tropical fruit shopping, bring on the mangoes, jack fruit and durians! / Tania po nákupu tropického ovoce: mango, žakie (jackfruit) a hlavně durian!

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Looking out over Lan Ha bay. / Pohled na Lan Ha bay.

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Nanny nap at work, these raft guides sure do work hard! / Odpolední pauza pro převozníky na bambusových raftech.

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The best ever salad sandwich! / Jeden z dalších sendvičů. Mňam.

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Cutting open pomelos we found. / Při lovu pomela v místním sadu.

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Hows the serenity? / Krásná túra podél řeky.

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People in the suburbs walk their dogs, people in villages walk somewhat larger animals. / Lidé v městě chodí na procházky se psem, lidé zde mají tak trochu jiné požadavky.

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Hanging out with a bucket. / Odpočinek, kýbl musí být fest těžký.

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And we are off!

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All set for the road. / Vše připraveno na cestu.

6 months working and living in China has come to an end. There’s no better time than now to get out and explore the world. Our bags are packed and we are geared up ready to go.

We are not conventional travellers. We are swapping hostels for a tent, trains for hitchhiking, restaurant meals for cooking on our camping stove, showers for swims in rivers. I think you get the idea, we are travelling somewhat differently, people may call it cheaply, but we call it courageously. No need to book train tickets, hostels or flights.  The advantage of carrying your home on your back is, whenever you want to go to bed…you can!  There are possibly a couple disadvantages that we will face. Food and water being one of them, we will regularly have to find a place to stock up on bottled water and fresh fruit and veggies, however we will be in the tropics, a mango tree shouldn’t ever be too far.  We will also need to find a power outlet once in a while to recharge our camera and head torch batteries.

We don’t have any exact route planned, just zigzagging our way through almost all of the South East Asian countries. We have about 2000km of hitchhiking ahead of us to get to Vietnam. We will be stopping half way to explore some mountains, see rural Chinese villages, climb up the rice paddies, and hike a river. Near Vietnam we have one last stop in Nanning to get our Vietnamese visas, afterwards we are heading straight to the tropical coastline to soak up some much needed sun. Time will be a friend not a foe, for we will travel without an agenda; exploring appealing places, and skipping over the dull ones. We are heading off the beaten track and away from the tourist traps, having just over a month per country, by January we will be heading out to Central and South America. Here’s a map of our rough route.

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The plan thus far… / Takhle to prozatím vidíme.

Surprisingly not too much planning was needed. We have the highways in China mapped out, pepper spray on hand, border crossings noted down, visa information dually gathered, and a bit of cash saved up. We will gather more information one country in advance. Right now, we have our work done for us, being the proud owners of a Lonely Planet Vietnam book we found in our old flat.

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Jirka working hard at his new job, being a traveller. / Jirka přemýšlející nad svým novým povoláním – cestovatel.

Now you may be asking how we are going to get across to some countries like Indonesia and the Philippines, since they are islands. Well we have NO IDEA!!! That’s the beauty of our trip, there’s no plan, we will travel on a whim, when opportunity presents itself, we will take it. Who knows, we may end up working on a sail boat around Indonesia. Our limits are set by our creativity.

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Wonder if we have enough free pages left in our passports. / Jenom přemýšlíme nad tím, zda máme dostatek volných stránek v pasu.

Stay tuned for more and wish us luck 🙂

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Chinese New Year

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I’ve always wondered how Chinese New Year would be celebrated, in China. I’d always pictured streets full of dragons, fireworks left, right and centre, plus a surplus of scrumptious Chinese food. I have been to China town in London and Sydney on Chinese New Year, and the streets were basically how I imagined, minus the fireworks, ok and maybe the dragons too. So Chinese New Year in China must be one massive nationwide China Town style celebration, right?

The festive season is not without tradition; the holiday is spread out across 15 days. There’s a fireworks day to ward off evil spirits, a day for married daughters to visit their families, days for firecrackers, feasts, and a lantern lighting day among many others.

We had 9 days off work and were willing to brave the largest annual human migration in the world, which occurs every Chinese New Year, when families travel to see each other for the festive season. To the Chinese it is not a day to drink as much as possible, it’s more like Christmas to them, a time for family, gifts and feasts. It also marks the beginning of spring, hence why the Chinese New Year holiday is called Spring Festival. Image Our boss kindly booked us tickets on a sleeper train, so on the 7th we embarked on our trip to the ‘Yellow Mountains’, a scenic mountainous area 15 hours train ride inland. We had beds in a 6 bed compartment that we shared with a 12 year old and his parents. They spoke very minimal English but were enthusiastic to try out their conversational skills on us. We taught them a couple card games, which took up a good few hours just trying to explain the rules. They tried to teach us a Chinese card game, but were distracted with their winnings to let us in on the rules. We had our massive backpacks with us, not full of clothes, but full of salad, fruit and fruit shakes. They were amazed and intrigued by our diets, as they themselves were constantly snacking on processed MSG ridden packaged foods that ended up making the 12 year old feel sick. We gave him some of our banana and mango smoothie which he LOVED, actually all the kids who came to see what was happening in our compartment, we shared our fruit with; they devoured it. Seems they enjoyed our fruit more than the 2 minute noodles their parents were feeding them. One of which looked at us sternly and enquired where we were getting our protein from and why we were on such a ‘radical’ diet. If only they knew.

Once we arrived at our destination, the best thing in the world happened. I thought it only happens in movies where someone is holding up a sign with your name on it at exit gates. A low and behold, waiting for us outside the train station was a lady holding up a massive sign with Tania Sheehy on it. Happiest moment EVER!!! My 10 seconds of fame had come.

We had a hostel in the city of Huangshan. Our own private room, equipped with a bathroom, TV and computer for only $5 a night, bargain! The only catch was, they felt it necessary to turn off our air con at the power board at random times during the night, which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that it was minus temperatures outside, Spring Festival brought snow instead of foliage. Image Image The first couple of days we hung around the city, checking out the old part of town and trying to find vegan food. We had planned on heading out but the heavy snow meant buses were cancelled. We did get to experience Chinese New Year on the second day. At 3pm, all the shops closed and everyone went home, the streets were deserted par from fireworks stands; what happened to the dragons and scrumptious food? Well a couple hours later we got neither, but we did get the fireworks. NYE in Sydney boasts 9pm and 12am fireworks for a good 30-45min a set. I thought this was impressive, but it was nothing compared to what we experienced in China. From about 4pm until long after midnight, there were constant fireworks going off around the city. Fireworks are as legal as anything else in China. We bee lined it to the closest mountain that overlooked the city and enjoyed an awesome view of the night sky being lit up by constant explosions. Image Image

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The next day the weather cleared and we headed out in the early hours of the morning to conquer the Yellow Mountains. A couple bus rides later and we were standing at the foot of the most awe inspiring mountain range we had set eyes upon in China thus far. It wasn’t much of a surprise that there was a massive entrance fee, guards on the lookout and a great big electric fence blocking our access. This didn’t faze us too much as we set about trying to find a way in, minus the fee. Why is it that everything in China with natural beauty like a mountain or a beach is enclosed with a wall and a fee? What about the poor people? Don’t they have a right to enjoy nature? Hence our need to rebel and save a couple bucks along the way.

This was no easy task, we had to bush bash it through the heavy snow with our massive packs, trying to find a gap in the fence and dodge not only the guards, but also the surveillance cameras. Seems like we weren’t the first ones wanting to sneak in. Finally we found a massive hole in the fence, with confidence we headed forward, and up the mountain, but we didn’t get far before we were stopped by yet another electric fence! We followed this one all the way around the spur before it started to lead us down to where the guards were. They really had this mountain protected. We decided to give up, there was no way in, no man made holes, not even a tree we could climb up to pass over the fence. But alas in our final moments of desperation, we sighted a glimmer of hope. The fence had failed to follow the line of a rock where a creek was, leaving a small gap. While trying to squeeze through the gap, avoid touching the fence and attempting to keep dry, Jirka managed to push me up high enough so I could cling onto some bamboo near the very steep rock I was climbing. Our bags and Jirka made it through straight after. We beat the system! Now to find the path. 20 more minutes of bush bashing and we were high fiving on the path, ready to ascend to the summit. Image Image We were told that the buses home would leave at 3pm, I guess that is why most people paid to take the gondola up. We reached the bottom of the path at about 11am, 1000 steps later and it was already 2pm at the top. Thankfully some nice Chinese folk gave us directions to a hostel at the top. I know, I know…sneaking into a mountain is ok, but we also tried sneaking into the hostel, somewhat. Thought we could get by on buying one bed for me and Jirka would be able to sneak into the room. Nope, they caught onto us straight away, I guess because the hostel was deserted they had an idea of who was a paying guest and who wasn’t. But we did manage to bargain down the price of Jirkas bed to the same price I paid; a smile always takes us far. We enjoyed a room to ourselves, with a bathroom. Bummer we didn’t know we were staying on the mountain, I guess we would have bought up more food, water and clothes. Our food, which consisted of fruit and some peanuts, plus 1.5L of water between us, was rationed. It was simply too expensive to buy anything on the mountain. That didn’t dampen our spirits; we enjoyed a beautiful sunset then headed to our ‘private’ room. Image Image Image Image Ok, I bet you will think I am making this up, or it is some kind of coincidence, or there is an easy explanation for what happened. So here is my story, I shall set the scene first; I was in the hostel room, which had 8 bunk beds, only two were taken up by myself and Jirka. We had minimal possessions, so apart from the beds, our bags and a TV, the room was completely bare. The door was closed and Jirka was in the shower. I wanted to hang up my spare socks to dry; I had brought two extra sets since my shoes had a tendency to let in rain and snow.  They were in a plastic bag in my big bag. I got the plastic bag out and removed the socks from within. One sock dropped, right next to me, I felt it and heard it. Figuring I would hang up the three in my hand then come back for the sock on the floor; I hung them up in the same room about 2 metres away. When I turned around to pick up the dropped sock, it was nowhere to be found. I searched high and low. Where could it have gone? I dropped it straight onto a bare floor. There was no one else in the room, and I did not hear any rats. Still to this day the sock has not shown up. Even when we packed up our bags to leave the next day, we left a completely empty room, void of my lost sock. If you have a reasonable explanation for what happened I would love to hear it, but until I do, I shall assume there was a ghost there that night. I’m just glad it didn’t find my wallet or passport.

Back to the mountains; the next morning we headed out in time to see the sunrise. We spent all day walking around the mountains enjoying the serene views and cliff side paths. By the afternoon the bad weather had returned and we were engulfed with clouds. The crowds also seemed to have rolled in, as tourist upon tourist ventured off the gondola to check out the view, which consisted only of clouds. At some point we found ourselves in a queue, being pushed this way and that just to walk on the path on our way down the mountain. For people with more money than energy, there were porters, who would carry them on a makeshift chair, one porter either end holding the chair up in the air with long wooden poles. Seems like a good idea, if you don’t mind being on the edge of a cliff, trusting your life with two people half your size running down stairs. Other porters were seen carrying up people’s luggage, they are tough people; I had a bit of trouble simply carrying up my mini fruit shop. Image Image Image Image Image

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Once we passed the gondola the crowds cleared and we made our way down. One young guy persistently followed us, filming Jirka on his phone for a good 10 minutes; his height is still an attention grabber. IMG_0874   IMG_0879

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On another day we took off to explore an ancient city called Hongcun. It is a UNESCO world heritage village, being almost a thousand years old. The bus dropped us of outside the village…WALLS!!!! More walls, we were really getting sick of walls in China. No not this time! The village had not only walls but a river around it and a massive dense bushy mountain. Whatever, we were determined. We headed upstream out of sight of the front entrance guards; a few stone jumps later we were across the river and already acting dumb in front of a guard that stood in front of us. Of course it couldn’t be so easy. To the mountain we went. Bush bashing was quickly becoming our favourite past time. We headed over fields, up over some hills, meeting the local wildlife; we finally were able to sneak in through a garden and into the village.

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Hongcun was beautiful, just how I imagined a Chinese village would be. They had redirected the flow of water through the village, so the main alley ways had water channels. There was a big lake in the middle and ancient buildings surrounding it.

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Our last few days were spent trying to stay warm and recover from the flu that we caught from being constantly cold.

Once back at home the flu persisted. Just as I thought I was on the mend, a severe headache developed. I woke up at 5am from the pain; it was the third morning of having this constant stabbing headache. I only get headaches if I drink too much grog, so having one for 3 days got me a little worried. Jirka and I set off to the local hospital to get a doctors opinion.  When we got there we were greeted by dense smoke, every smoker in the near vicinity sought the shelter of inside the hospital to shield them from the cold. The hospital was well equipped with ash trays and even the medical staffs were puffing away like chimneys.

The doctors didn’t speak any English so my poor boss got woken up as our translator. We had no idea what was happening and got pushed from one room to another, make a payment here, sign this form, have your head examined there, collect a bag of goodies and take it to the nurse. So there I was, standing dumbstruck in front of the nurse, head throbbing; and she pulled out an intravenous drip which I presumably paid for. What? I wasn’t dehydrated, I had a headache! I looked around and noticed that others had the same treatment. Seems like that’s the norm around here, well not for me. I got my refund and got out of there, quick smart. After some painkillers and a self diagnosis, I came to realise I had sinusitis. Nothing some steam can’t fix.

So we now have a couple weeks left of work, then we are off to explore the rest of Asia, seeing how far our Chinese savings can take us. We will be hitch hiking down through China, to Vietnam, up through Cambodia to Laos, across to Burma, down Thailand, to Malaysia, across to the Philippines, all around Indonesia, then to Papua New Guinea before heading to South America for next year. Our rough budget is $10/day each, so we may need to pick up some work along the way, but we will be camping it and roughing it. I will probably end up with dread locks and Jirka looking like the guy from into the wild, but it shall be an adventure.

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Jak jsme byli unavení a nemocní z toho, být unavený a nemocný

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Low fat raw vegan strava. Ve zkráceném překladu syrová veganská strava. To byly slova, které nám moc neříkaly, zvláště ne v době, kdy jsme si zplna užívali Čínských pochoutek, které se prodávaly na každém rohu. Tím však nechci říct, že bychom jedli pouze nezdravé jídla. V zásadě jsme žili na zeleninovém rizotu, knedlíkách plněných zeleninou, nudlemi na pánvi opět se zeleninou a dalšími pokrmy vždy s něčím zeleným. Maso je drahé, proto nám žádné prasátka ani kravičky na talířích neběhaly.

Proč jsme se tedy rozhodli vyzkoušet syrovou stravu? Před asi rokem, když byla Tania v Kanadě, začaly jí vypadávat vlasy. Kanadský doktor jí řekl, že buď může jít na řadu drahých vyšetření, nebo ušetřit peníze, jít domů a relaxovat. Samozřejmě, že se rozhodla pro druhou variantu. Se snahou nenechat se stresovat, dále si užívala lyžařské sezóny a vesele projídala ušetřené peníze na místních dobrotách.

Když po pěti měsících lyžování Tania přijela do České republiky, její malý problém ji, zhoršujíce se postupně, následoval. V jisté momentu vypadávání dosáhlo takového rozměru, že to již nemohla dále ignorovat. Po návštěvě 5 doktorů, majíce spousty odběrů krve za sebou jí bylo řečeno, že opravdu má problém s vypadáváním vlasů, avšak co je příčinou nevěděli. Ó, jak zázračná naše medicína jest. Výsledky doktory vodily v kruhu a my odletěli do Číny hledat odpovědi.

Zde jsme doufali, že tradiční Čínská medicína pomůže. Naše šéfka z práce nás vzala k jejich místnímu doktorovi. Tamější nemocnice vypadala jako kdybychom se přesunuli o sto let zpátky. V ordinaci leželo asi 5 lidí do půl těla svlečených, tiše čekajících na doktora, který aplikoval akupunkturní jehly zatímco rozprávěl s naší nadřízenou. Domů jsme se vydali obdarováni taškou plnou bylinek, kořínku a bůhví čeho. Čínské pořekadlo říká, že dobrá medicína je hořká medicína. Pokud by tohle byla pravda, tak by Tania byla zdravá pouhým přičichnutím. Nevíme zda jsme kořínky uvařili špatným způsobem, nebo co, na vlasy to však nemělo vůbec žádný význam.

Vypadalo to, že se s Taniou budeme muset vydat do Austrálie, aby to doma pořádně vyléčila. Do konce kontraktu nám zbývaly dva měsíce. Tanii se domů vůbec nechtělo, ale pokaď by to s vlasy šlo pořád od deseti k pěti, jela by. Poté však na internetu narazila na slečnu, která popisovala výhody a jaké to je být na raw food stravě. Vypadalo to nějak takhle: bla bla bla, silnější vlasy, bla bla bla, hustší vlasy, bla bla bla. To jí stačilo, aby do toho šla. Vyzkoušela již tolik jiných možností, které nefungovaly, že jíst pouze ovoce a zeleninu se zdálo být hračkou.

Co vlastně, ale znamená pojem raw food a vegan?

Raw food alias syrová strava je taková, která nebyla továrně zpracovaná, ohřána na více než cca 40°C, a je plná živých enzymů. Jedli jsme proto spoustu ovoce, zeleniny, ořechů a semínek

Vegan nebo také veganství vyjímá veškeré jídla živočišného původu, veškeré mléčné produkty, ryby, vejce a podobně.

Já jsem se rozhodl Taniu v jejím snažení podpořit a vlastně jsem i sám chtěl vyzkoušet jaké to je jíst, jako před pár set lety. Bylo rozhodnuto, že na ozdravnou kůru nastoupíme prvním lednem 2013. Do dne D tudíž zbývaly dva týdny. Tyto jsme projedli, jako bychom již nikdy neměli okusit dobrého jídla. Posledním jídlem, asi tři hodiny po Silvestrovské půlnoci Tania oficiálně zahájila náš detox.

Ráno jsme se probudili s kruhy pod očima a velmi žízniví. Nebyli jsme připravení, ale ochotní to zkusit. Šuplíky v naší kuchyni se rozdělily. Na horní, který byl téměř prázdný, z něhož jsme mohli jíst. A na spodní, který byl přeplněný surovinami jako je rýže, nudle, fazole, avšak nedotknutelný.

V průběhu našeho prvního týdnu jsme prošli nejhorší částí detoxikačního procesu. Naše těla za svůj život nastřádala ohromnou masu toxinů, které jsme strávili skrze zpracované a jinak továrně upravené jídla. Toxiny naše těla neopustily bez boje. Tania dostala vyrážku a měla příznaky chřipky. Já byl unavený, měl jsem něco jako zánět čelistí, mé rty byly celé opuchlé a bolavé. Oba dva jsme prošli fází, kdy jsme měli enormní lupy. Vše však během pár dní, max. týdne vymizelo

Rádi bychom řekli, že náš první týden byl snadný, plný úžasného jídla a pocitu spokojenosti. Nebyl! Bylo to peklo! Naše žaludky nemohly najít místo pro potřebné množství ovoce a zeleniny, abychom dosáhli dostatečného množství kalorií. Jedli jsme neústavně, ale stále měli hlad. Byli jsme unavení a to jsem se nezmínil o našem dalším předsevzetí, že od nového roku nebudeme používat výtah. Celé tělo nás šíleně bolelo. Ono by to nebylo zas až tak těžké, chodit po schodech, bohužel však bydlíme v 15. poschodí, práci máme v 7. a supermarket je ve 3. To by také ještě nebylo to nejhorší. Vzhledem k tomu ale, že jsme denně snědli až 5kg ovoce a zeleniny museli jsme nakupovat úplně pořád. Takže například takový nákup na tři dny (15kg) se vždy na těch schodech pronesl. Dále v autobuse z práce domů jsme vždy fantazírovali o všech těch jídlech, které si zbytek světa mohl užívat. Navíc na cestě domů jsme vždy procházeli kolem našich oblíbených pouličních stánků, které nás svou vůní a úsměvy majitelů pokaždé velmi lákaly.

Samozřejmě bychom do toho nešli bez předchozího průzkumu. Zjistili jsme si kolik jídla musíme denně sníst, pro dostatečné množství kalorií, a různých prvků. K tomu jsme používali také program pro počítání veškerých živin. Pro srovnání, průměrný den na tradiční stravě nám dodal obrovský nadbytek kalorií a zároveň velký nedostatek vitamínů a minerálů. Průměrný den na raw food stravě měl vždy doporučené množství kalorií a několikanásobně větší příjem živin, než jaký byl nezbytně potřebný.

Konečně jsme to zvládli a první týden byl za námi. V tom ten druhý udeřil. Naštěstí, již ne takovou silou. Tanina chřipka byla pryč, mě pomalu přestávaly bolet čelisti a rty se taky dávaly do kupy. Navíc naše žaludky si zvykly, takže jsme byli schopni do sebe nasoukat dostatečné množství kalorií a nešli do postele hladoví, což znamenalo, že Tania mohla usnout a lidé ji neříkali, že má kruhy pod očima. Já mám výhodu v tom, že jsem schopný usnout i ve stoje, doslova. Fantazírování o zakázaných jídlech však zůstalo. Tania dokonce začala na internetu hledat obrázky jídla a jen se na ně dívala. Jenom ona a spousta a spousta jídla na obrázcíchJ

Náš osmý den byl ve znamení oslavování 30. narozenin místního kamaráda a neustavičného vysvětlování, proč si s něma nepřipijeme a proč jsou naše batohy nacpané ovocem.

V průběhu tohoto týdne jsme se dále vzdělávali dokumentárními filmy o tom, jaké benefity to má jíst zdravě. Tyto nám velmi pomohly vydržet a hlavně chtít jíst zdravě. Dozvěděli jsme se pravdu o tom jak to ve velkovýrobnách probíhá, jak se tam zachází se zvířaty a hlavně jaké mají živočišné produkty efekt na zdraví lidského těla. A spoustu dalšího.

Ve třetím týdnu Tania přestala sledovat obrázky jídla, fantazírování pomaličku začalo ustupovat, ale přičichávání ke stánkům stále nezmizelo. Nicméně tohle byl náš zázračný týden. Začali jsme experimentovat s omáčkami a dalšími recepty. Měli jsme energii, každé ráno se budili odpočatí a veselí. Dokonce jsme pozvali naše kamarády na párty, kde jsme servírovali raw těstoviny, hamburgery, ovocné saláty, zeleninové saláty s dresingy a uzavřeli to zmrzlinou. Měli jsme stůl plný jídla a Emily, náš host, se zeptala co z těch jídel je zdravé. Na to jsme ji odpověděli, že úplně všechno! Odzkoušeli si jaké to je nacpat se k prasknutí a za patnáct minut být opět hladový. Zakončené nikdy nekončícím čůráním… v průběhu noci!

Čtvrtý týden! Naše šéfová se ptala, zda jsme ještě stále na té šílené dietě. Naši kolegové se naučili si zacpávat si nosy před tím, než vstoupili do naší kanceláře. Měli totiž strach, že ucítí durian. Ovoce původem z Thajska a Malajsie, neuvěřitelně smradlavé, neuvěřitelně dobré. Jsou pouze dvě skupiny lidí. Ti co durian milují a ti co durian nenávidí. Stali jsme se také mistry při nakupování ovoce a zeleniny. Řekni druh ovoce, či zeleniny a můžeme říct průměrnou cenu, kde to koupit nejlevněji, na kterém tržišti se tě pokusí oškubat, kolik toho sníst, pro naplnění na jednu hodinu, jak dlouho to může ležet, než se zkazí a jak vybrat nejlepší.

Ke konci čtvrtého týdne jsme začali plánovat co si dáme den po naší detoxikační kůře. Ó jaká výborná jídla budeme moci jíst. Nicméně jsme se rozhodli, že zůstaneme u relaxované veganské stravy, protože nikdy nebudeme vědět, co přesně nám na ulici do jídla dají, navíc pokaď budeme chtít ochutnat jídla při našem cestování, musíme to brát z nadhledu.

Prvního Února , po noci prosněné nad vařeným jídlem, se naše snídaně skládala z ovesných vloček ve vodě, s banánem a medem. Bylo to výborné! Vypadalo to, že naše přemýšlení prošlo zvláštní změnou. Namísto myšlenky, že nějaké druhy jídla nemůžeme jíst, jsme cítili, že je nechceme jíst. Čím víc bylo vařené jídlo k dispozici a my ho „mohli“ jíst, tím méně jsme ho chtěli. Na programu dne tím zůstalo ovoce a já si k obědu ještě dal česnečku, na kterou jsem měl obrovskou chuť. Večer jsme ale museli přece jen ochutnat něco z ulice. Dali jsme si smažené nudle se zeleninou a rýží. Každý to spláchl půl pivem. Den byl zakončen desertem z čokolády, kokosu, rozdrcených oplatků, a kondenzovaného mléka. Vše pořádně prohnětené. Jedli jsme to, při sledování filmu, přímo z hrnce. Do postele jsme šli neuvěřitelně nacpaní, ani jsme ten náš sladký výtvor nedojedli.

Naše porce nebyly veliké, nicméně Tania prožila peklo následující den. Cítila se jako kdyby se předchozí den šíleně opila. Tak se nám pročistila těla, že toxiny z jídel z předchozího dne měly obrovský efekt. Po zbytek dne tak byla pouze na ovoci. Já se cítil dobře, dokaď jsem nesnědl zeleninovou placku. Byla horká a já ji snědl rychle, po 10 minutách jsem měl možnost prožít krásy obrovské bolesti z žaludku, které trvaly pár hodin.

V průběhu našeho měsíce jsme měli pár jídel, které nebyly raw či vegan. Každý den jsme měli hrnek s rozpuštěnou melasou, která je plná železa a pomáhá na vlasy. Také jsme si mysleli , že ovesné vločky jsou raw, dali jsme si tedy misku a teprve poté jsme začali vyhledávat na internetu, zda tomu tak opravdu je. Nebylo. Takže to také byla poslední miska. Kokosový krém, ořechy, a slunečnicové semínka byly zpochybnitelné. Nevěděli jsme, zda jsou raw či ne, naše jazykové znalosti čínštiny zde zklamaly. Také jsme používali med v našich receptech, kterýžto není vegan. Avšak až na tyto úlevy, jsme dodržovali pravidla hry, jak se jen dalo.

Zjistili jsme, že při konzumaci pouze čerstvé ovoce a zeleniny se člověk cítí nepopsatelně lépe. Čistá pleť, pravidelné vyprazdňování, snížené zadržování vody v těle, zvýšení energie, byli jsme obecně šťastnější… Oba dva jsme shodili 3 kila. Já  je však díky konzumaci jídel se solí v Únoru nabral zpět v průběhu asi dvou dnů. Tania zůstala štíhlejší. Jsme zdravější, silnější a více fit. Naše měsíční výdaje se k velikému překvapení vůbec nezvýšily. Měly až tendence klesat. Naše toužení po klasickém, dobrém, ale nezdravém jídle se v průběhu měsíce neustále zmenšovalo a věříme, že kdybychom zůstali na této stravě déle, vymizelo by nadobro. Je to skvělá dieta pro ty, kdo rádi jí. Opravdu! Nikdy v životě jsme nejedli tak často a tak hodně a stále shodili pár kil.

Používali jsme www.cronometer.com k měření našeho denního příjmu energie, vitamínů, minerálů a všeho ostatního. Na tomto webu je možno přidávat snězené jídlo do kalendáře a všechny živiny jsou přehledně zobrazeny v tabulkách a grafech. Bylo příjemné vidět, že při konzumaci ovoce a zeleniny jsme stále měli dostatek bílkovin (proteinů).

A celkový výsledek našeho snažení? Tania zvládla to, co asi 8 doktorů ve 4 zemích nedokázalo. Vyhrála svou válku nad ztrátou vlasů!!! “Nechť je jídlo vaším lékem a lék je vaším jídlem.” Hippokrates (460 – 377 př. n. l.) Prášky nejsou řešením problému, ty jsou jeho součástí. Lidské tělo je naprogramováno se samo léčit. Nesmí být, ale vystaveno neustálému přísunu toxinů, jelikož takto spotřebovává veškerou energii k jejich neutralizaci. Při našem výzkumu jsme zjistili, že tato dieta prokazatelně dokáže vyléčit srdeční problémy,  rakovinu, cukrovku typu II, alergie, kožní nemoci, artritidu, autoimunitní onemocnění a zmínil jsem se už o vypadávání vlasů?

Pokud vás tohle vše zajímá, určitě doporučuji shlédnout pár dokumentárních filmů, které vysvětlují co bychom měli a neměli jíst a hlavně proč. Zde je pár odkazů na ty, které jsme ohodnotili jako zajímavé, vzdělávací a motivační.

The best speech you will ever hear by Gary Yourofsky: velmi zajímavý pohled na téma práva zvířat, podán velmi přesvědčivě. Anglicky s českými titulkami.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4

Food that Kills: Přednáška doktora Michaela Klapera, ukazující následky stravy založené na mase. Anglicky s anglickými tiulkami. Celý film zde:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNCGkprGW_o

Forks Over Knives: Vidličky Nad Nože. Zkoumá fakt, že většina degenerativních onemocnění, které nás ovlivňují, může být kontrolováno, nebo dokonce zvráceno, odmítnutím stravy založené na zvířecích produktech a továrně zpracovaných produktů. Pouze anglicky, titulky jsem nenašel. Oficiální webové stránky:

http://www.forksoverknives.com/about/

Processed People: Zpracovaní Lidé. Film objasňující fakt, že marketing a reklama nás učí jíst špatně. A jaké následky na zdraví to má. Trailer na film v angličtině s anglickými titulky:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQNNX2Oo7Kk

Hungry for Change: Glutaman sodný, cukr a další. Vysvětluje co vlastně je v našem jídle, proč nám tak chutná a proč jsme na něm tak závislí. Anglický trailer s anglickými titulkami:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MvAM97VDE8

Food Matters: Proč je dobré být nemocný. Teda alespoň pro farmaceutický průmysl. Předvádí farmaceutický průmysl a jeho techniky k tahání peněz z lidí. Dále představuje metody jak přirozeně léčit nemoci. Anglický film s českými titulky:

http://dokumentarni.tv/zdravi/na-jidle-zalezi-jsi-to-co-jis-food-matters

Food Inc.: Fakta o velkoprodeji potravin, lobby firem na vysokých postech, atd… Anglicky s českými titulky:

http://dokumentarni.tv/zdravi/potraviny-a-s-food-inc

Supersize Me: co s tělěm udělá měsíc čistě na jídle z McDonaldu? Anglicky celý film zde:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-eRXuuH9AI

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: týpek ve středních letech tráví měsíční detoxikační dietu čistě na ovocných a zeleninových džusech, aby vyléčil své nemoci. Vyléčí více, než to. Změní se celý jeho svět. Anglicky, celý film zde:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT6PrbctPJ4

Simply Raw: 6 američanů podniká raw vegan dietu, aby vyléčili jejich cukrovky. Jaký vliv má pouhá změna jídelníčku na příjem insulinu? Anglický trailer s anglickými titulkami:

http://www.rawfor30days.com/

Další:

http://www.freshness.cz/page/filmy-o-vyzive

http://dokumentarni.tv/zdravi/

PS.: určitě na internetu budou české verze pro všechny filmy a dokumenty, chce to jen hledat, hledat a hledat…

Hodně zdaru

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We were sick and tired of being sick and tired.

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One of many colourful salads we enjoyed.

Low fat raw vegan diet weren’t words that appealed to us much, especially not while in China feasting off all the delicacies street food had to offer. Don’t get us wrong, our diets were not too unhealthy. We lived off veggie and rice stir fries, dumplings, stir fried noodles, veggie wraps and the not too occasional bakery item. Meat is expensive and questionable so there were no farms on our dinner plates, not for these budget savvy backpackers.

So why did we decide to go raw vegan? Well…a year ago in Canada I started experiencing small amounts of hair loss. Enough to make me to go the doctor who told me I could take further tests for A LOT of money, or I could save my money, go home and relax. I chose the latter and enjoyed the rest of the ski season, having enough money to buy my Belgium waffles, chocolate muffins and sticky buns.

When I hit Czech 5 months later, my hair problem followed me, and got worse. One day I had had enough and went to see a Czech doctor. After seeing about 5 doctors, and having many blood tests, I was told that I did indeed have a hair loss problem but they were clueless as to what could be the cause. My test results were sending them in circles and I left to China with unanswered questions.

Queue traditional Chinese medicine. My boss kindly took me to see her local specialist. This medical centre looked unlike I could have ever imagined. I felt like I had gone 100 years back in time. In the doctors’ room were a couple people lying half naked on a bed, patiently waiting for the doctor to stab the acupuncture needles into them, in between chatting with my boss. I left with a bag of herbs I was to boil into a tea. In China they say good medicine tastes bitter, well if this were true I would be healed just by the smell of my concoction. In the end it appeared to not have any effect on my hair.

It looked like I would have to head home to Oz and get those extra tests done, I had 2 months left on my contract and wasn’t planning on returning for another few years, but I valued my hair so homewards bound I would be once I finished up at work. But then I found on the internet a girl talking about the benefits of being on a raw food diet, to me it sounded something like this: bla bla bla, thicker hair, bla, bla, bla, stronger hair, bla bla bla. I was sold. Hell it ought to be better than some of the other things I tried.

So what does raw and vegan mean?

Raw food has not been heated above 40 degrees Celsius  its uncooked, unprocessed and all natural with living enzymes. We lived of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Vegan food excludes all animal based foods, so no meat, dairy, seafood or poultry for us.

Jirka decided to join me for the ride, we enjoyed our last 2 weeks over Christmas and New Years, gorging ourselves on anything and everything we could get our hands on, eating like we would never be able to taste good food again. On December 31st 2012 our big finale of the two week food frenzy was topped off with beer and a 3am stir fried noodles that I bought from the street.

We awoke dreary eyed and very thirsty on the 1st of January, not quite prepared but willing to give the raw vegan challenge a go. If it wasn’t raw and vegan, it wasn’t in our fridge. Our two kitchen drawers were separated, the top one was pretty much empty and consisted of what we could eat, the bottom one jam packed full of the untouchable; rice, noodles, and beans.

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Half a weeks worth of food.

During the first week we went through the worst of our detox stage, our bodies had accumulated a lifetime supply of toxins that we had ingested through things like processed and packaged foods. These toxins didn’t leave our bodies quietly; I got a rash and felt like I had the flu for a couple days. Jirka was tired, had some strange sore lip bumps for two weeks, both of us had dandruff, and neither of us had any energy.

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One of many supermarkets we shop at.

I would love to say that the first week was easy, full of glorious food and satiety. HA! It was HELL!!!! Our stomachs could not accommodate the amount of fruit and veg we needed to reach our caloric needs, so we were constantly eating, yet constantly hungry. On the bus home we would fantasize about all of the glorious food the rest of the world got to enjoy, and while we walked home we would wonder precariously close to the street food, with its scent surrounding us, invitingly.

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Our favourite fruit lady, doesn’t know a word of English, but she sure drives a hard bargain.

Now we had done our research on this, we watched these raw vegans on youtube looking all happy and fulfilled, saying how much energy they had, how amazing this diet was and how it would cure all diseases. Well, let me just tell you that we were hungry, tired, sick and grumpy, and did I mention sore, since our new year’s resolution was to omit elevators. This sounds like a nice idea right? WRONG!!!! We live on the 15th floor of our building; our work is on the 7th floor of its building, the supermarket is on the 3rd floor of its building. This still wouldn’t be too bad except for one last thing; when you are eating up to 5kg of fruit every day, it means you have to buy food ALL THE TIME!!!! So if you shop for two days worth of food, you are lagging up 10kgs of food up 15 flights of stairs just to get home!

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Our veggie lady looks nice and innocent, would never guess she would try and rip you off any chance she gets, while smiling of course.

Finally we made it through the first week. Then the second week hit. The flu was gone, and our stomachs grew, so much so, that we were able to consume enough calories so we weren’t going to bed hungry, which meant I could get some sleep and avoid everyone asking me why I looked so tired. Jirka the lucky one is able to sleep standing up so this had no impact on his z’s. The fantasising, and street food smelling continued. Adding to this, I started to find myself googling food porn, picture upon picture of rice, noodles, cake, and chocolate. Nobody in sight, just a hell of a lot of food!

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Try figuring out how much the oranges cost.

On our 8th day we had the privilege of  explaining to everyone at a 30th birthday bash why we couldn’t take shots with them, and why our bags in the bar were full of fruit, since we couldn’t go an hour without eating.

During this week we educated ourselves by watching many documentaries on the benefits of eating well. These films had an enormous impact on us and helped us not only stay on the diet, but WANT to eat raw vegan food. We discovered the truth about the industrialised, mass production farming industry; why dairy foods are bad for you and what effect processed and animal products have on the body.

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In the queue waiting to get our fruit weighed.

Week three came, the food porn stopped, the fantasising ceased, but the noodle smelling continued. However this was our magical week. We started to experiment with sauces, salad dressings and raw vegan recipes. We had energy, woke up every morning refreshed and happy, enjoyed bountiful meals and even hosted a raw vegan dinner party where we served raw vegan pasta, hamburgers, fruit salad, veggie salad with dressing and topped it off with ice cream. Before us was a table full of food, Emily our guest even asked what was healthy, to which we replied, EVERYTHING! They got to experience what it was like to get so incredibly full, then hungry 15 minutes later, and a never ending need to pee it all out…during the night.

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Our raw vegan burger, it actually looks like raw meat.

Week four! Our boss was asking us if we were still on the diet. Our colleagues had learnt to block their noses before entering our staff room for fear they would smell the durians. We had turned into fruit and veggie bargain experts. Name any fruit or vegetable and we can pretty much tell you what the average price is, where you can buy it the cheapest, which supermarket it can be found in, which market stall will try and rip you off for it, how much you will need to eat to get full for 1 hour, how many calories are in it, how long it can stay on your bench before it goes off, and how to pick the best one.

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At work with my prized durian, king of fruits.

By the end of the week we were planning our first day off the detox, ohhh what wondrous food we would be able to consume! We decided to stick to a relaxed vegan diet, because sometimes you never know what they are putting in your street food and if we want to explore the food of the world we would need to let some extras in.

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Your guess is as good as mine as to what this thing is, we tried it never the less.

February the 1st, after a night of cooked food running through our heads, our breakfast consisted of uncooked oats, banana, honey and water, delicious! It seemed as though our minds had changed, instead of saying that we can’t have something, it turned into we don’t want something. The more that cooked food was available and we were ‘allowed’ to eat it, the less we wanted to. Fruit was on the agenda the rest of the day. But by night we needed to test our guts, and test them we did! To the streets we went; we got our veggie stir fried noodles and rice then downed it with half a beer each. But it didn’t end there; dessert consisted of melted chocolate mixed with coconut, crushed biscuits and condensed milk, eaten over a good movie.  We went to bed feeling completely stuffed and overloaded with calories; we couldn’t even finish the dessert.

Our meals weren’t big, only one portion each with dessert, but the next day for me was HELL!!!! I felt like I was hung over. Yet I only had half a beer. My insides were so clean that I could feel all of the toxins and their affect on my system. The next day I was only able to stomach fruit, and was in bed by 7pm. Jirka felt good until he ingested a hot veggie wrap, the heat and eating it too quickly caused immense pain for the next couple of hours.

During the month we did have a couple foods that weren’t raw or vegan. Every day we drank blackstrap molasses tea, which is loaded with iron and is healthy for the hair. We thought rolled oats were raw, after eating one bowl we researched them and realised they weren’t, so no more oats for the month. The coconut cream, nuts and sesame seeds were questionable. Not sure if they were raw or cooked, our language skills failed on that one. We also added honey to our salad dressing which is not vegan. But apart from these things we stuck to the diet as religiously as possible.

We have learnt that we feel soooooo much better living off fresh raw fruit and veg, we saw amazing benefits from the diet including: clear skin, toilet regularity, no water retention, increased energy, waking up every morning feeling light, no mood swings, and being simply happier. We both lost 3kg, yet because of ingesting salt in the cooked food, Jirka has already managed to gain his 3 back, I am still yet to see what happens to mine. We are fitter, stronger and healthier. Our monthly spending on food surprisingly didn’t increase. Our cravings throughout the month weakened and I am sure if we stayed on the diet even longer, they would disappear for good. It is a great diet for those who love to eat, because you get to eat constantly, seriously! We have never eaten so much in our lives and we still lost weight!

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Jirka protectively guarding his dinner.

We used http://www.cronometer.com to track our calorie and nutrient intakes. The website allows you to add food into a daily log, it shows you all of the nutrients and macronutrients in each food item and as a total over the whole day; plus your intake of carbs, fat and protein. It was great to see that our protein intake was sufficient.

So after one month on the healthiest quest of my life, in the end I had indeed managed to do what about 8 doctors in 4 countries could not; I cured my one year battle with hair loss, and I could not have done it without the support of Jirka, hooray for us! ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food’ Hippocrates (460-377 BC). Pills are not the answer; they are part of the problem. Your body is designed to heal itself, don’t impede it by ingesting toxins. Through research, we found that this diet has proved to heal diseases such as arthritis, cancers, type II diabetes, allergies, skin diseases, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and did I mention female hair loss?

If you are interested in seeing the documentary movies which explain a lot about what you should and shouldn’t eat and more importantly why, then here are a few which we found interesting, insightful, helpful and motivational:

The best speech you will ever hear by Gary Yourofsky: This is the most moving and motivating documentary I have ever seen. I have not eaten meat since watching this. Here is a link to the full speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=es6U00LMmC4

Food that Kills: This is a speech by Dr. Michael Klaper. He explores the consequences of having a meat based diet. Here is a link to his full speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNCGkprGW_o

Forks Over Knives: ‘Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods’. There are a couple doctors who are well over 70 years of age, featured bike riding and jogging as if they were 20! This alone is motivational enough to make me want to stick to a vegan diet. Here’s a link to the official website and movie trailer: http://www.forksoverknives.com/about/

Processed People: A film revealing the truth behind marketing and why we are programmed to eat the wrong types of food and what affect this has on our bodies. A link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQNNX2Oo7Kk

Hungry for Change: MSG, sugar and more; it tells you what’s in your food and why you are so addicted. The trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MvAM97VDE8

Food Matters: “’Food Matters’ sets about uncovering the trillion dollar
worldwide “Sickness Industry” and giving people some scientifically verifiable solutions for curing disease naturally.” The trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4DOQ6Xhqss

Food.Inc: An unflattering look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry. The trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKYyD14d_0

Supersize Me: McDonalds; why it’s simply not worth eating it. See the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-eRXuuH9AI

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: A middle aged man undertakes a month long juice detox to cure his skin disease; and ended up changing his whole life. The full movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT6PrbctPJ4

Simply Raw: 6 Americans embark on a raw vegan challenge to cure their diabetes. The trailer is here: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/simply-raw-reversing-diabetes-in-30-days/

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“Lunch time!”.

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Rules to obey in Lianyungang.

  • Pyjamas can and should be worn outside, at all times of the day and night, and by anyone of any gender and any age.
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A pregnant lady shopping in her pj’s

  • If the job offer states work and accommodation, then you might just get both…together. Our Chinese teacher sleeps in the room next to the classroom. The doorman at the local restaurant brings his bed out at night and sleeps in the reception area: full street view through the glass walls. The construction workers sleep at the construction site, a couple bunk beds amongst the steel rods shall do the trick for them. The grocer sleeps right alongside the fruit and veggie stand, a curtain helps to shield the street draft. Last but not least is the public toilet attendant who sleeps in a small attached room, sharing one wall with the public toilet. Fun times to be had at his place.
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The building next to us is under construction, this is where the workers sleep, in the buildings garage, open to the street.

  • You must dance…NOW!!!!!
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Dancing on the street, why not?

  • If you are brave enough to go jogging outside, you must do so by the step, step, hock and spit method. This includes but is not limited to: two steps for every time you must hock and spit.
  • You must not wait for people to exit… anything… before entering. This includes elevators, buses, and any free public space.
  • For those people that are fortunate enough to use the public toilets, which require you to squat over a trough in full view of everyone; you must stare at everyone else on the toilet, especially any western folk, for as long as you deem necessary. If your toilet has a door, you have to keep this door open whilst you do your business.
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Some people complain when the toilet lock is broken, others complain when there is no toilet paper, this toilet makes sure every customer is satisfied, no expectations= no complaints, easy!

  • The washing of hands is forbidden after using rest rooms.
  • Playing pool, cards, Chinese board games or knitting and sewing is a public affair and should be done outside.

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  • Firecrackers: they are totally and utterly legal, sell them in stalls on the street and set them off as many times a day as physically possible. Fireworks are also in the same category regardless of any potential dangers they might pose to unsuspecting pedestrians.
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Just one of many friendly fireworks and firecracker sellers on the streets of Lianyungang.

  • Although you must pay for your plastic bags in the supermarket (the governments idea of cutting down on plastic bag pollution), you must use as many plastic bags as possible elsewhere. When you buy your street food, all items of a different nature must have their own bag, if you have a bunch of small plastic bags with not much in them, you must collaborate them into one large plastic bag. Once you are done with the bags, dispose of them thoughtfully, in the park on the grass is always a good choice. Everything in China must be wrapped in plastic, car seats, electronic devices on display in retail stores, and restaurant bowels and cutlery after every washing, to be served as though new to each patron.
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My glass, bowels and chopsticks all freshly wrapped after being washed.

  • Road rules: there are none, as there are also no rules to what can be on your car or bike. .
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Vehicles are used to transport anything and everything.

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Want a stuffed toy?

  • If you see rice for sale in an open sack, you must…I repeat: you MUST drop everything to grab a handful, smell it, look up with an inquisitive face, before shaking your head and continuing along your way.
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Smelling the rice.

  • Hide the cheese, in fact don’t use cheese, talk about cheese or even sell cheese, it is a forbidden substance and a nice joke to play on all of the cheese deprived westerners.
  • You must take a course in how to rip off westerners. This is a 3 day event where you will learn valuable skills like: how to change the price on the scale that weighs the food, how to stall for a while as you make up a ‘western’ price on the spot, and, how to smile politely while asking for twice the price of an item even though the westerner saw you charge the correct price to the customer before them.
  • If you are an English teacher, don’t worry about your own grammar and spelling, as all of the English books you will be working off look like they were written by a 10 year old anyways.
  • Time to dance!
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A whole band dancing on the street.

  • If you work in a restaurant, stand a mere inch away from the patrons, stay there staring at them until they order enough to pay your nightly wage.
  • If you see a tall person, it is rude to not point and stare while alerting their whereabouts to everyone in the near vicinity.
  • Why are you not dancing?
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Crowds of people gather every night to dance together.

  • If you are a bra sales lady, do not offend your customers by being distant, they are there for the full service so please be their second pair of hands and help them out with the whole trying on procedure.
  • If you want to smoke, don’t contribute to the already polluted air outside. Save the environment and keep your ciggies unlit until you get in an elevator.
  • There is no, no sleeping zone. You have to sleep wherever you lay; this can be in bed, on a bus, on all of the blankets you are trying to sell on the street; or even in a milk carton box on the footpath.
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NAP TIME!!!!

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    Spot the sleeping tuk tuk driver.

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This vehicle is equipped with a state of the art alarm system, no need for a lock on this bike. Try to steal it and see what happens.

  • If you are working in the red light district, you may study in the window while waiting for clients. Men like smart women right?
  • If you are aged between 0-4 you will wear split pants. It is exactly as the name suggests. All of your pants will have a split in them which means the world will serve as a constant toilet for whenever you need to squat.
  • To all of the bus drivers out there, you get your own special category of rules. You MUST: pullover whenever you are hungry, leave the passengers waiting as you order your breakfast then get back on and continue driving like nothing happened. Beep, always beep, you can never go wrong as long as your horn is making a noise. Press buttons, and lots of them, people love hearing each radio station in 10 second increments, and enjoy that volume knob. Only turn the heating on if you are cold, just because your passengers can see their breaths doesn’t mean they are cold. And finally, the elevator smoking rule is exempt for you, smoke on the bus instead, just remember to keep the windows up.
  • Bikes: the older the better, rust is your friend!
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I hope the owner has had their tetanus shot.

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This is one way to do it.

  • If you want to buy something, normally you would go to the shop, look at what is on display and choose your desired product…not in China. Here you do go to the store, you do choose your desired product then you get told which products on display are actually for sale and in stock. Only one blender out of about 30 was available to purchase for our blending needs last week.
  • You don’t need a dehydrator here, nope, just use the footpath and the sun for all your dehydrating needs.
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Want some dried radish? We will even chuck in the fly for free.

  • Pets and washing should out on the street.
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Usual sighting on the streets.

  • Power lines are a work of art, available to view along all streets in Lianyungung today!
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Usual sighting in the sky.

  • And now just remember, in Lianyungang; if you want to be prepared, rest assured that you will be told what you need to do…when it is too late.
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Off to Beijing!

A few weeks ago we were told that because we need to work extra hours the following week during the xmas parties, we would have Monday to Friday off. Are you thinking what I’m thinking B1? Hell yeah B2, lets head to Beijing! That night we packed our small day bags and hoped our boss the next day would be able to book us a bed on the sleeper train for that night. During our lunch break at work we asked our boss Alice if she could call the railway station and book two beds. Now, Alice is notorious for being the queen bee of lost in translation. If you ever want an answer, ask Alice then choose the opposite of what she recommends because you are guaranteed that what she says will be wrong. So when she said the train that night was fully booked, we headed to the station after work anyways, bought two tickets and went along our merry way towards Beijing. Because of our last minute decision, we could not buy two beds in the same carriage. However the top bed in Jirka’s compartment looked just as comfortable as my far away booked bed, so I fell asleep in someone else’s bed. Jirka got woken up late that night by the owner of the bed I was sleeping in and the train guards. He somehow managed, without any words, to get the guy to head off to a different bed, and I was none the wiser. 13 hours later we were in Beijing, no map, no accommodation, no idea what to do, where to go or what to see; the joys of travelling spontaneously. A bus later and we were in Tian’anmen Square, the third largest square in the world!

Jumping in Tian'anmen square.

Jumping in Tian’anmen square.

Rubbish collector in the square.

Rubbish collector in the square.

Then the Forbidden City where we swore we would never be sucked into buying audio guides ever again. If you ever want to experience the stupidest audio guide system in the world, go to the Forbidden City, home of malfunctioning electronics.

Learn from our mistake and NEVER pay for an electronic audio guide system!

Learn from our mistake and NEVER pay for an electronic audio guide system!

The sun setting over the Forbidden City.

The sun setting over the Forbidden City.

We hadn’t realised how accustomed we had gotten to the sanitation levels in China, it was only when we heard Westerners exclaim ‘no way’ at the squat toilets that we realised how much we had adapted to the Chinese lifestyle, for these toilets were fit for a king compared to others we have experienced. The -10 degrees made Lianyungang feel like a sauna. All of the waterways were iced over.

What does that sign say?

What does that sign say?

Night hit and we were left wondering around in search of a hostel, or at least Maccas so we could use the WIFI. No such luck, but we did find a Spanish guy who led us to a hostel, right in the city centre and it was only $5 a night…what a bargain!

Want some fresh meat? It's only been sitting here for a week or two.

Want some fresh meat? It’s only been sitting here for a week or two.

An usual small shop in a back alley near our hostel.

A typical small shop in a back alley near our hostel.

6:30am…waking up that early was only worth it for one thing…the GREAT WALL OF CHINA!!!!! Most tourists head to the Wall on an organised tour. But we weren’t interested in being stuck in a tour, being told what to do and when. Instead we took a bus out of the city then bargained a mini-van to the Wall. The Great Wall was awesome, cascading over the mountain off into the distance. Because no one in their right mind would want to walk around outside all day on a wall in -10 degree temperatures, we got the Wall almost to ourselves.

Just hanging out on the Great Wall of China.

Just hanging out on the Great Wall of China.

Looking up at a tout.

Looking up at a tout.

All alone on one massive wall.

All alone on one massive wall.

The next day we headed off to the CCTV building, and bargained with just about everyone on every floor of an opposing building to use their window so we could take a picture of the CCTV building in full. One kind lady let us, while others guarded their windows as if they were made of gold. Off to the silk market next, it seemed as though a recording was accidently put on repeat…Do you want to buy a bag? Do you want to buy a bag? Do you want to buy a bag? Needless to say we got out of there pretty quickly. Beihai Park was much more peaceful and beautiful; it led into the Shichahai area, which had three massive lakes. These frozen over lakes made for the best slippery slides and dance stages. There was a section of ice cut out where willing older Chinese men and women lined up to take the plunge and do a lap for the gobsmacked audience. I was frozen just watching them while wearing 5 layers.

Wanna go for a swim in the lake? Its a warm -10 degrees and snowing.

Wanna go for a swim in the lake? Its a warm -10 degrees and snowing.

Dancing on the frozen lake.

Dancing on the frozen lake.

The Summer Palace...in winter.

Beihai Park

Just strolling in the park.

Just strolling in the park.

After the frozen lakes we zig zagged our way through the Hutongs, which are remnants of old style Beijing residences, alley ways up to 900 years old, full of mini courtyards and construction that looks like it would collapse if a butterfly landed on it.

Random guy ordering through in a very old hutong, gotta love the window in this pic.

Random guy ordering in a very old hutong, gotta love the window in this pic.

In a hutong.

In a hutong.

View from our hostel.

View from our hostel.

The subway took us up to the Olympic Stadium, since Beijing spent the most on record to host an Olympic Games; we wanted to check out where the $44 billion went.  There were a couple cool buildings, one called the Water Cube, the other called the Birds Nest, but to be honest, they should have spent less money on the games, more money on solving their pollution problem.

The Water Cube.

The Water Cube.

The Birds Nest

The Birds Nest

Our last destination for the day was Qianmen Street, it should have been one of the busiest and most touristy streets in Beijing, but the cold plus it being late evening kept people away. Yay the street was ours. The main street was not that interesting, but parallel side streets were awesome, full of character, and atmosphere that makes you think you had travelled back in time 100 years.

Retro old alley.

Retro old alley.

Lady fanning the bbq.

Lady fanning the bbq.

This side alley would look at home in a horror movie. But in China these alleys are usually full of life and have children running through them.

This side alley would look at home in a horror movie. But in China these alleys are usually full of life and have children running through them.

For our final full day in Beijing, the first stop was Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum. Mao Zedong died in 1976, his body was embalmed and put on display in the mausoleum.  No bags or cameras were allowed inside so we had to have them stored for a fee. Security was tight, I felt like I was at the airport, they didn’t find the pocket knife I had on me but gave Jirka a full body scan. Once we made it through security we were ushered towards the hall, passing flowers that were available for visitors to buy and place in the memorial hall. These flowers are recycled through on an hourly basis I am sure of it.  Through the front entrance of the hall, a quick look at Mao’s corpse which looked a lot like a wax figure, then we were ushered to the exit and that was it. The next destination was the Summer Palace, a beautiful getaway where the imperial could escape Beijing’s heat and relax by the water. It was snowing when we went, yay less tourists yet again. The palace was magnificent, full of traditional Chinese architecture, frozen lakes and public toilets.  Through the hutongs then back to the hostel for some much needed R&R.

The Summer Palace...in winter.

The Summer Palace…in winter.

Royal architecture.

Royal architecture.

Royal hallway.

Royal hallway.

Looking out over the Royal garden.

Looking out over the Royal garden.

Relaxing by the Royal lake.

Relaxing by the Royal lake.

Our train on Friday left at 9:45am, so we woke up at 7:30, giving ourselves heaps of time to make the 1hr journey. During the morning we were so blasé about the time, not battering an eyelid when we had to walk to a different subway station because Jirka’s pepper spray was found in his bag and we wanted to keep it. Nor did it bother us when we missed our subway stop by two stations because we weren’t paying attention. Only did we start to rush when we realised we had 10 minutes until our train departed and we were only half way to the railway station. We started running through the streets hoping to find a taxi, alas a tuk tuk found us and took us on a crazy ride. The driver sped his way through a barricaded area and almost had his window broken by a security guy running after us, banging on the window. We headed down to some undercover walkway with our tuk tuk speeding his way along, and were dropped off at the railway station at long last. Our train was due to depart in 4 minutes and we had no idea where to go. This was not some, one line station, but a major transport hub in Beijing. Running around like chocks with no heads we found our terminal and bee lined our way there. My bag managed to unzip spilling its contents out through the xray machine, no time to collect everything, we had to make the train, the only one of the day heading our way. Finally at the terminal, Jirka pushed his way through the crowd, ignoring the glares. At the head of the crowd we realised that everyone we pushed through was waiting for the same train, yay we made it! After our almighty rushed entrance, where I had a thermos as a casualty, the train ended up leaving 40 minutes late.

Dedicated dumpling chef.

Dedicated dumpling chef.

A quick breakfast before the long train ride home, who needs cereal when there are dumplings around?

A quick breakfast before the long train ride home, who needs cereal when there are dumplings around?

Aboard our train.

Aboard our train.

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