Trekking to Dzongri

India, Yuksom

September 2018
At 06:30 AM, I went to the Red Panda Tours office to meet my group for our four-days trekking into the mountains in Sikkim, which is a state in the north of India. The office was still closed, but the restaurant next to it was already open for breakfast. I sat down at a round wooden table outside and ordered two omelets with honey and baked toast. It was already mid-September, and the weather was changing from monsoon to more often sunny, cloudless days. At 07:00 AM, the owner arrived with the guides for the trekking. Back in the office, we made our final preparations. The four Indians also finally came, and the team was complete and ready to take off. Our food for today’s lunch we got from the travel organizer because on our first day the hike will be until evening. At 07:30 AM, we left Yuksom on the way to Bakhim.

My four new Indian friends were from Mumbai. All of them were around twenty-one years old and studying different subjects at university. At the beginning of the trip, we exchanged a lot of information about ourselves and our countries. When I asked them what they knew about Switzerland, they quickly answered: “Roger Federer.” They were impressed with his endurance and still winning a lot of tournaments at the age of thirty-five. My knowledge about India, in general, was still modest. Cricket is a favorite sport which already young kids playing at school they told me. When I changed the subject from competition to environment, they showed me a picture of Switzerland how green and cleaned up it was. In India, they have a lot of problems with plastic pollution and animal welfare. Their excuse for it was that the politicians did not keep their promises. The government always has big plans, but all the politicians were corrupt (Later on I will find out, there are other reasons for this problem).

While we were talking two hours passed. One of my new friends was already tired and got quieter. We focused more on walking than talking, and at noon, we took a break in a small hut and ate our lunch meals. At this point, we overcame five-hundred meters altitude, and the village Yuksom wasn’t visible anymore. Without our trekking guide we would have been lost, surrounded by all these hills and forests. If I compare it to my country, three-thousand meters in Sikkim were like one-thousand meters in Switzerland. Farmers kept sheep up to five-thousand altitude in this region.

It was 01:00 PM when we resumed our path. This time I walked without the Indians. They were too slow, and I had to wait every five minutes for them. I joined a group of locals. They were carrying our food and the Indians heavy backpacks to the closest place where we will rest tonight. I was so relieved that I had left the other group and eventually we could walk in a decent time to the first accommodation.

At 05:00 PM, we arrived at the camping area in Tshoka. A wooden hut was reserved one night for us. I laid down all my baggage in the bedroom, and a carrier brought me a sleeping bag for tonight. Suddenly it got darker, and my guide brought a package of candles. Of course, it wasn’t common to have electricity from now on. I took a nap until the Indians arrived at 08:00 PM. Meanwhile, the locals had prepared rise dishes with Indian bread for our dinner. After the meal, I went to the kitchen to talk with the trekking guides about their life and work in the mountains. They also let me taste their Nepalese food, which they always cook for themselves. After a pleasant conversation, we crawled in our sleeping bags and fell asleep...


Religion Classes

China, Kunming

June 2019
At 10:00 PM, the class was over. Jimmy, one of my new friends, invited me to join him for some night work. We left the apartment and took a car to the flower market. Jimmy worked at a flower store. They were not just selling simple flowers; they also made flower cakes. We went to a big warehouse full of fresh flowers. This night we had to prepare a delivery for a customer. The flowers must be made until early morning when they will be picked up. We were about twenty people from the religion classes. All the nosegays had to be wrapped with a piece of paper and put in boxes for the delivery. At 01:00 AM, we were finished and went together to a restaurant to have a midnight supper. They ordered a barbecue with beef skewers, vegetables, fries, tofu, and eggplant. Also, we drank a few beers, and we shared Chinese and German words. At 02:30 AM, we went home to sleep.

Part 02: Today I went already at 05:30 PM to the neighborhood and I ate dinner there. The women were cooking rice with a lot of different supplements. Baked beans with soy sauce were one of my favorites. At 06:00 PM, Paul started with English lessons. Today most of the kids learned how to say hello and their name. One by one came to my seat, and we had a small conversation. “What is your name?” “Nice to meet you (too)” and “we are friends now” was the primary procedure. Some were too shy and afraid to say something. Paul called them back and let them stand in front of the audience and tried to encourage them. Sometimes he used a stick to push them a little bit on the leg and for a short time they were crying. After a minute they were all right, and at the end of the lesson, I had a small talk with all of them. It was more a school of life than a strict English experience. It was well done by Paul, and a lot of Western parents could benefit from it! At 08:00 PM, the room was full, and Paul started a new religion class. Our topic was from the New Testament, the Gospel of John, chapter 9, how Jesus healed a man who was born blind (KJV). We interpreted some lines and compared them with our life today. After the final prayer, it was almost midnight, and one wife prepared supper before we went to bed. Some sort of Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) with vegetables.

Part 03: Today I joined the community already in the early afternoon. I played with the kids and taught them also more English words. I used pencil and paper to write with them their names and numbers. We used paper also to create some airplanes and boats. Isabella, a five-year-old girl was always there when I arrived and needed an extra hug as a greeting. She was very energized and proactive. Her drawing skills were very advanced, and she showed me some of her sketches. Barnabas, a six-year-old boy, could not stop feeding me the whole day. He went to the kitchen and brought me a few blueberries, some bread, raw beans, or Chinese flower cakes. If I were not eating, he would get mad. Today’s English lesson was nurture. A few of the very young kids were still pooping in their pants. They had to stand up from their chairs and get in front of the audience...


Nepal, Charikot

April 2015
At 05:15 AM, I already woke up. Sunrise was five minutes later. It was a beautiful view. Electricity and the telephone network still did not work, and it would take a week to fix it. We went to a place as big as a soccer field. Many locals were there trying to get information from each other about relatives who were living in other villages, especially in Kathmandu. We heard that the earthquake damaged a lot of buildings there. Nabin’s whole family lived near Kathmandu. He visited them sometimes, but they still did not accept his relationship to Leila. Later that day we found an ATM, but all the shops in the city also had no electricity. In the afternoon we went to their flat. A house with three floors, where the ground floor belongs to them. They had not one furniture to put their clothes into. Everything they had was somewhere on the ground or in plastic bags. In the guest rooms and living room were a lot of cracks on the walls, but the pillars were not damaged. We decided not to stay there. On the first floor lived a man from the USA. He spoke fluent English, and we met us today before we left to Nabin’s friends. He worked as a missionary in Nepal for the next five years.

At 05:00 PM, we were back at our friends’ home. They were pitching tents with plastic blankets. To make it stable against the earthquakes. They used many trunks. In Switzerland, five or six people would sleep in that tent, but in Charikot, it was enough for thirty kids, all side by side as in the army. Before sunset, we had a small picknick on a green hill where a farmer held many cows. No fence between the animals and us, all were living together.

At 08:00 PM, we returned to their apartment. We took some covers and clothes with us and spotted a sleeping place in a small, simple building. The rooms were occupied by many other families already. In one room in the right corner was still some space. We prepared everything to make it as comfortable as possible. Meanwhile, Nabin went to the market and bought noodles for dinner. This evening was no alcoholic beverages included, and we could sleep peacefully...

Couchsurfing Experiment

China, Guangzhou

Mai 2019
Part 3: On Sunday early in the morning, the girl who messaged me yesterday told me to meet us outside of town at the central bus station. At 09:00 AM, I was there, and we took a small breakfast before we went to a cultural attraction about old Cantonese living. It was a small town where we could go back in time and explore how the folk lived centuries ago. Some houses were precisely recreated, and I felt like in the past. There was a demonstration of how marriage was done back then and an indoor theatre we also attended. At noon the weather got hot, and we decided to leave and eat lunch in the city. We talked a lot about living in China, traveling, Couchsurfing experiences and about our jobs. Late in the afternoon, I could go to her apartment to drink a coffee. She lived outside of downtown to save money. It was a simple and clean apartment with its own bed and bathroom. The room was still more comfortable than what I used in my hometown to live. Because living in Switzerland is expensive, I can only afford an apartment if I share it with others or if it is much smaller than hers. In the evening, I went home to clear up my room before I changed again to another Airbnb host.

Part 4: My new host liked to cook various Chinese food, and the next four days I could taste all different kind of homemade meals. She taught me how to cook meatballs with noodle soup and different type of vegetables. Almost every dinner was a blast, and the healthy food was exactly what I needed after hot days. On Tuesday, my friend from Couchsurfing assisted me in getting a rain shelter for my backpack and other essential things for traveling. I did not know where to buy, and she ordered everything to her home. It was similar to eBay, which we use in Europe. A website for everything. In the evening I went to her to pick all the goods and joined her for dinner. Her cooking skills were also a blast. I am going to miss it when I leave at the end of the month, China. The next days I got all my visas, and I prepared to leave on Monday to Kunming. My last weekend I stayed in Guangzhou, and I went out on Saturday with the girl from CS. She invited me to a salsa dance bar. I hesitated, but finally, I was agreed even though I never learned how to dance to salsa music. The people there who danced could all do it well. I did not know the necessary steps to dance correctly to the music. Therefore, I was awful at it. But I did not feel much embarrassed, and at least my friend showed me what the required steps were. I could dance a bit with her, and it felt good that I tried it out instead of running away. I should consider taking part in dance classes and learn it properly after my travels. It was fun even though I was terrible. At 01:00 AM, we left the bar, and I thanked her for her time the last days. I took a taxi to my home.

Part 5: Fortunately, at the destination, I met a man who talked something in English, and my night was not over. We spoke together, and I decided spontaneously to hang out with him and his other friends. I hopped on a bike and got off at a bar...


Thailand, Bangkok

July 2019
I lived in Bangkok near the university at my Couchsurfing host's apartment for two nights. On the second day, at 08:00 AM, I left the market. I ate a bowl of small noodle soup for forty Baht and took a bus for ten Baht to the motorway. There I missed the bus station to change from Bus 46 to 132 or 133. I had to walk back ten minutes and eventually, Nr. 133 arrived. This bus had no AC only open windows, and the price for the ticket was ten Baht. During the ride, I checked Google Maps and decided to get off after forty minutes.

My destination today was Chon Buri and later the same day to Pattaya. Meanwhile, it was already noon, and the sun was burning my skin. I tried to find a stranger who could take me to Chon Buri, which was about thirty kilometers to drive. I carried my backpack in front of me and started hitchhiking. When I spotted a taxi or minivan, I had to stop until they passed me. I was so relieved when the first car stopped and turned down the windowpane. The driver asked me if I needed any help, and I showed him on my paper map, where I would like to go. She told me she went out only for shopping in this area and wanted to know if I was lost. I was not lost, but a lot of drivers stopped only to help me to get a van or taxi. After twenty minutes and zero progress, a Chinese-Thai lady let me in her car. We drove only one kilometer. I realized she did not clearly understand me. She thought she could find somebody for me, but I said thanks and goodbye. Luckily I was near a gas station now, and I had no better opportunity to find a driver. All who were leaving the parking area, I asked. But I had no success. Eventually after an hour a man, thirty-years-old was on the way to a village close to Chon Buri. He was very calm, and for twenty kilometers, I could take a ride with him. He did not talk English at all, but Google Translator assisted me to conversate with him. At the freeway exit ramp, I got off. It was only around five kilometers left. It was already 03:30 PM, and I felt my sunburn on the neck. I joined a minibus for the last part for less than a dollar. I arrived at 04:00 PM in the center of the city. I was too tired for more hitchhiking therefore I took for the second part to Pattaya directly a bus for sixty-five Baht.

In Pattaya, I checked in at a budget Hostel. It was off-season, and the dormitories with eight beds were almost empty. There was a traveler from Australia who also arrived today. I asked him to go out together to grab a few beers. He agreed, but he always said later when I met him. He did not like me and could not say "No," therefore, I went out at 10:00 PM alone. I walked along the beach to Pattaya Walking Street. It is famous for partying, sex-tourism and lady-boys. After a short first inspection of the place and what was going on, I went back to my hostel to sleep. Today I used Couchsurfing to hang out with Mark from the USA. We met us at noon to eat lunch together. In the afternoon we went to the beach and grabbed a few drinks. At 06:00 PM, I was back at my hostel for a short nap until 11:00 PM. We started the party night at the entrance of Walking Street. Until 01:00 AM, we checked out different clubs and drunk alcohol. In one place, I met two girls from the Philippines, and one of them joined me to play a couple of pool games. In the end, she gave me her number, and I left the club with Mark. It was not fun at all with Mark; we only sat on the bar and drunk alcohol. I decided to go alone and spent my money elsewhere. I left the Walking Street and walked back to the beach road where I used the public toilet....