Drifting Dane

A world Journey ends

  • February 28, 2013
  • February 24, 2024

Nepal | Himalayas | China | Malaysia | Indonesia | Vietnam

My trip to India was most likely the shortest in history.
Four days before my flight I found out that a visa was needed before entering. Since I didn't have the time to apply for one, and I did not want to risk being sent back, I bought a connecting flight to Kathmandu, Nepal where I was heading to anyway by going through India up north.

Kathmandu Is imprinted in my mind as being the dirtiest capital In the world, or at least of all the places I've seen so far.
Nepal holds the dirtiest city, and at the same time is the proud owner of the largest, most beautiful, and spectacular mountain range on the planet, the Himalayas.

Almost at Kala Patar

This was my reason to come here, to visit the home of the world's highest peaks.
To understand how enormous this system is one just has to remember that it holds over a hundred mountains that exceed 7200 meters, including the one with most lives on its consciences, the giant of them all, Everest.
The first attempt to reach the summit was back in 1922 – 1924 by George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, both perished before reaching it.
Many tried after but suffered the same fate and Everest remained unconquered until 1953 where Nepalese born Tenzing Norgay along with his companion Edmund Hillary finally reached the top.

I did not stay to explore Kathmandu itself for too long. I spent the first 12 days there, preparing myself for the trek - mentally - physically - and gathering equipment.
My interest was the Himalayas and the historic region that I had heard so much about.
The city had some great spots but it won’t make you gasp unless it is for fresh air and the river that runs through is more a sewer than anything else.

The Monkey temple is worth a visit.

Monkey Temple Katmandu

The people are kind and helpful, though, and you can get everything you need for trekking very cheap.
Head for the Himalayas as soon as you can, there is no resembles of any kind, the vastness of this astonishing region is to be explored right away.

You start in Lukla, the starting point of all treks in the region.
To get there you either have to trek for six days or take a small plane.
Flying there can get a bit exciting as some of these planes will only fit up till fifteen people, making turbulence feel kind of rough, you tend to forget it, though, when you are surrounded and flying between these massive peaks of the world.

Lukla airport is a different matter, being one of the dangerous airports in the world, it was built in 1971 for the sole purpose of flying in emergency ration and materials to this isolated region.
It lies on the edge of a cliff 2800 meters up and is only 475 meters long and can therefore only be used for helicopters and small planes with the ability to take off in such conditions.

local Monastery in Lukla village

When I first arrived at Lukla I met a local young guy that I hired as my guide.
I had already made up my mind of doing this alone but earlier on my journey, I had gotten very sick in a high altitude area so I decided to get one for safety reasons.
I did not bother with getting a Sherpa for carrying my stuff as I had managed to store my big backpack in Kathmandu and fit only the essentials into a small daypack, keeping it under ten kilos.

When you encounter Yaks you move along the inner side of the mountain or they push you off it.

Get out of way when Yaks come

My guide was perfect, never said a word unless I asked him so it was easy to enjoy it all and suck in the spectacular scenery as if I was on my own.
I would tease him once in a while on the way up when we met friends of his in villages, especially if those friends were girls.
We trekked for an average of 6 hours a day and then stayed overnight at the villages.
Once you reach an altitude of 3000 meters the air gets very thin very quickly so your body has to acclimatize and adjust because it does not matter how good in shape you are for altitude sickness to sneak up on you.
One thing that amazed me about these small people is their strength, you’ll see them carrying almost anything that they can strap on their backs, some of them with 8 pieces of long timber, weighing up to 100 kilos.
The Sherpa’s that live here are just naturally superior in terms of their physics, being born with bigger lunges and working as Sherpa’s most of their lives keeps them strong.
After a certain amount of years they can show if they have the ability to be a guide for the agencies and earn a lot more money for an easier job.
You’ll also hear some stories of Yaks forcing people off the side, not true in that sense, Yaks just doesn’t stop unless they are told too so if you meet a big enough caravan and move to the wrong side in a nearer area of the path, well I am sure you can guess the scenario on that one.
I personally think that the yearly tourists with their walking sticks coming down towards you in groups of up to 12 are more dangerous the any Yak.

It took me seven days to reach Mount Everest Base Camp and Kala Patar in an altitude of 5750 from where I had clear skies and sunny weather with a perfect view of the highest mountain on Earth, and that is when you know it was all worth it.

View of Mount Everest peak from Kala Patar lookout on a clear sunny day at 5750 m

View of mount everest from Kala Patar

Mount Everest Base Camp

It only took me two days to get all the way back down to Lukla and by that time, I was 5 kilos lighter. 
When I arrived back in Kathmandu I realized that this was the last place that I wanted to stay in after exploring the peaceful Himalayas, fortunately, I had already applied for a Chinese visa before I went trekking so all I had to do was to pick that up and find a flight to Chengdu.
At the time my first thought had been to pass through Tibet, but I later learned that the Tibetan government have some strict rules and only allows people in groups to enter, through an agency.
The idea of paying 600 dollars for a forced tour from which I had no say, did not appeal to me just to be allowed to go through Tibet, so I flew directly to Chengdu instead. 

From spiritual peacefulness to exploding culture shock

China is a massive landmass in comparison with Nepal and very organized, but It only seems to work in favour of the Chinese.
If you don’t speak the language simple things can quickly become extremely difficult, making travelling less fun or more challenging.

A fog lies over the city, whether it is pollution from the billion people and the many industrial factories situated here or it is just grey weather all of the time I do not know, but I can guess.
One thing I do know is that China is rich in culture and the diversity is big from the western countries, which is also the interesting part of travelling, experience the things that would never happen in your own country.
As for me when I first entered China I was not really in the mood of cultural enlightenment. I hadn’t met any other travellers since I left Atilla in Lima, Peru and after a month in Nepal, trekking in the mountains and sucking in a more spiritual part of my journey, I was starting to feel a need of company and missing a tropical atmosphere instead of dirty and overpopulated cities.

I kind of rushed through China, only visiting the Chengdu Panda Center, which is actually quite amazing.
I had the whole place to myself and saw the pandas getting their early morning breakfast.
Being an animal lover it was a treat seeing the most endangered species, and to the Chinese most holy, so to top it off I paid a little extra to be able to cuddle a big one.

You can also hold a baby Panda but it cost twice as much and touching a giant panda the size of yourself is for sure one of the memorable ones.

Three days later I flew to Beijing to visit and to stand on the Great Wall of China. I stayed in a hostel in downtown Beijing where I shared a dormitory with a German young guy who had arrived the day before me from Australia, after working there for 9 months.
I also met two Frenchmen, siblings who were also on a world trip but going in the opposite direction than me.
We spent some days together going to the Silk Market for some good deals and I took a trip out to the Great Wall which is two and a half-hour ride from the city.

The season for the average vacationers was well on its way to know all the bigger tourist attractions would be filled.
That was for me another excuse not to stay and to move on down south.

I flew to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in a couple of hours, instead of taking a four days train ride, in search of a temporary tropical paradise.
I found it upriver from Minh city, a small fisherman town named Vung Tao.
I remained here for the duration of my two weeks that I was allowed to stay in the country without a visa, a rule apparently only applying to people from Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
One thing that I noticed about this place was that I was the only traveller here or backpacker. The only foreigners that I saw were old Australians who’d married and settle down, opening a small business.
It turns out to have quite a reputation as a place for the sailors to come for a good time when their ship is anchored close to shore.

Vung Tao village Vietnam

After two weeks there I flew to Singapore where I had agreed to meet a friend from back home, so we could travel around the region together.
We travelled up through Malaysia to the Capital Kuala Lumpur and took a 3 days trip to Malaysia biggest National Park, Taman Negara and continued to Bali, Indonesia from where we then flew to Flores and sailed to Rinca Island, one of the smaller Komodo Islands.
Here we were lucky to encounter a big variety of animal life in their natural habitat including several giant Komodo Dragons, and millions of bats flying up from the mangrove at sundown to head for the bigger islands to hunt.
All this including your own boat and sleeping under the open sky made this a trip I would recommend.

Indonesia is a much-unorganized country and hard to travel in, it is not relatively easy to get something done.
Bali itself was really not for me and I do not know why you hear so much about this place that makes it sound so great.
I visited both a poor neighbourhood area and the touristy part with all the resorts and even the beaches were dirty and filled with rocks and something that was supposed to look like sand.
I am sure Bali has appeal and delights but I just did not see it.
I think when people say they love Bali It might be because they never have had to leave the resort they were staying at, seeing that they offer and have everything a tourist possible could need and are much nicer than the reality outside their door.

In my overall view of all the countries and continents I have visited on my Journey I was not impressed by Malaysia and Indonesia, especially when you consider that they both have a small independent country like Singapore, in between them to learn from.
My summery is that I would trade it any day for travelling more of South America and Mexico or spend it in the Kimberley region of West Australia, something I hope will become a reality in future travels. 

I ALMOST did all the things that I had set my mind on doing, and I ALMOST visited all the places that I thought to be in a realistic view.
There have also been times where I’d had to make some drastic changes and decisions in the last minute, but they have mostly been for the better and are a big part of being an independent traveller.
There are people and places that I will forget about, but most importantly, also people and places that I will remember forever that helped shape this extensive journey into more than just an aspiration.
If you have been reading my other stories and following along you already know that this is a big part of me and that I will once again be going home with tons of good life memories and another dream come true.

A World Journey Ends.