Checklist Traveling – Seeing the World as Opposed to Experiencing It

Originally posted on .each mile.:

Sometimes it's tough to just sit and let nature entrance you. I use it during stressful times in travel as "a bring me back to earth" tool. Sometimes it’s tough to just sit and let nature entrance you. I use it during stressful times in travel as “a bring me back to earth” tool.

Tourism in China is a weird thing. The Olympics of 2008 in Beijing spotlighted this once stigmatized powerhouse in a new light and the influx of tourists, curious to discover it’s rich history and culture, came pouring in from all directions. And the Chinese government sort of understands the process to deal with this. People want to be able to access the sites, the flavors and people that Maoist China tried to subjugate, repress and ultimately uniform (They use none of those terms, nor did the Maoist government do ANYTHING like that).

A temple way out of Beijing. Jietai Temple and Tanzhe Temple were beautiful daytrips, off the beaten path, that we could enjoy at our own pace without the throngs of people, as well as not feel the need to SEE it out of innate urge to complete something. Temples way out of Beijing. Jietai Temple and Tanzhe Temple were beautiful daytrips, off the beaten path, that we could enjoy at our own pace without the throngs of people, as…

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Checklist Traveling – Seeing the World as Opposed to Experiencing It

Sometimes it's tough to just sit and let nature entrance you. I use it during stressful times in travel as "a bring me back to earth" tool.

Sometimes it’s tough to just sit and let nature entrance you. I use it during stressful times in travel as “a bring me back to earth” tool.

Tourism in China is a weird thing. The Olympics of 2008 in Beijing spotlighted this once stigmatized powerhouse in a new light and the influx of tourists, curious to discover it’s rich history and culture, came pouring in from all directions. And the Chinese government sort of understands the process to deal with this. People want to be able to access the sites, the flavors and people that Maoist China tried to subjugate, repress and ultimately uniform (They use none of those terms, nor did the Maoist government do ANYTHING like that).

A temple way out of Beijing. Jietai Temple and Tanzhe Temple were beautiful daytrips, off the beaten path, that we could enjoy at our own pace without the throngs of people, as well as not feel the need to SEE it out of innate urge to complete something.

Temples way out of Beijing. Jietai Temple and Tanzhe Temple were beautiful daytrips, off the beaten path, that we could enjoy at our own pace without the throngs of people, as well as not feel the need to SEE it out of innate urge to complete something.

Their solution to this semi-new venture, tourism, is what’s strange. Like a flawed translation on many English signs throughout China, there seems to be a bit of a miscommunication of what international tourists are interested in seeing and how what their interested in seeing is expected to be presented. That’s a vast generalization, but for myself, if fly half way around the world to see something, I want to see something that is at least somewhat authentic and real. That’s the difference between seeing it in person and via media. Attached to this authenticity is an indescribable feeling of achievement, a connection to something beyond one’s own world, and the thrill of experiencing, immersing and discovering something new for yourself. Yet China’s approach to their unique cultures, languages and especially places, is reconstituting, rebuilding, modifying rather than preservation. Many of the historical sites that survived the Red Guard are being remodeled to provide a Disneyland-like, rather than an emerging experience in history. The grit, the real businesses, even the buildings themselves, have been replaced by five star accommodations, vendors selling chachkies and pre-fab, historical facades. One of China’s famous UNESCO heritage sites, Lijiang, almost lost it’s heritage status for attempting to rebuild the ancient black tiled roofed town as a resort, after one of it’s many earthquakes. It’s everywhere. Look in your China guidebooks. 9 times out of 10, the historical building you are standing in has been rebuilt. From Qianmen Business District in Beijing (torn down and rebuilt exactly the same) to large sections of the Great Wall.

Lamont, Alberta. Never heard of this place? Very cute town near Edmonton. Buildings, like Churches, for me, act as inspirational places during travel to just sit in, engage with, immerse yourself in and possibly be inspired. These structures, are many intricate parts woven together that are worth paying attention to, exploring and considering. Imagination runs wild in these places, all you need to do is let it.

Lamont, Alberta. Never heard of this place? Very cute town near Edmonton. Buildings, like Churches, for me, act as inspirational places during travel to just sit in, engage with, immerse yourself in and possibly be inspired. These structures, are many intricate parts woven together that are worth paying attention to, exploring and considering. Imagination runs wild in these places, all you need to do is let it.

Though maybe this is a very North American stance on tourism. Maybe China is focused on local tourism, since for Chinese nationals, it’s very difficult to impossible to leave the country. On that subject, I simply have my observations of large buses, unloading their leader with their volumed up megaphones and umbrellas, followed by hoards all wearing the same hats, so they know who they should follow, blending into an earthen colored mass, filling up quaint, quiet and historical places with bursting commotion, noise and refuse. Pictures are snapped, mechanically, fingers are held in peace signs, or two hands come together to complete an unbelievable heart, occurring in no matter what venue, winding cobblestoned street or tranquil holy temple. I fear though that the “real” China that the international community strives to locate is fast becoming theme parks, parades or simply, like the hutongs of Beijing and Shanghai, being demolished for shinier, newer facilities, that cheaply emulate something that could have stood for a thousand more generations.

The Details. Yes it's a butterfly. They exist everywhere. but this specific butterfly lives where I was, within a specific moment I saw it in. That alone is special enough and can be appreciated without adherence to a standardized hierarchy of importance.

The Details. Yes it’s a butterfly. They exist everywhere. but this specific butterfly lives where I was, within a specific moment I saw it in. That alone is special enough and can be appreciated without adherence to a standardized hierarchy of importance.

Hidden Places – Chengyang – Wind and Rain Bridge, Peaceful Meandering, Chasing the Authentic

Where we were heading to!

Where we were heading to!

Our bus from the famous karst landscape of Yangshuo sits on the highway in a nameless, industrial spread. The only movement that exists is on the bus, as people squirm in the uncomfortably small and metallic sleeper bunks.

Finally, I jumped down from my bunk, unable to hold on anymore. I had to pee and no traffic jam or on bus facilities would stop me from accomplishing this goal.

In broken Chinese I told the bus driver my intentions and he reluctantly opened the door. Seeing this act of rebellion, several other Chinese men jumped down from their bunks and followed me out of the bus, into the resonating heat of the valley we were in. They followed me in a line as if we were on some sort of school field trip. I had no idea where I was taking this cohort of mostly suited Chinese men.

Fuck it. With limited options I resorted to the tried and tested, pee on a tree (a lemon tree, to be exact). The men, crowding to see what I was doing, looked flabbergasted.

“Peeing on a tree! Good lord! What’s next? Eating cheese???! Barbaric!”

So logically for them, the best place to urinate was in someone’s shed that they found open.

After relieving myself, I climbed up onto the wide highway to see what the hold up was. It was a gruesome scene. A car vs big truck scene, where the body of a man now lay splattered on the road, face covered by a poorly weighed down napkin.

Me being super creepy in our creepy room in Sanjiang.

Me being super creepy in our creepy room in Sanjiang.

We got into Sanjiang at night. With no leads on accommodations, we found a random lady waiting at the bus stop, whose broken English promise of a ‘warm bed’ seemed like an oasis in the dark. Our room was in a non-descript building near the bus station. It had running water, two beds, slippers and lock. Heaven as far as I’m concerned. Satisfied, we quickly ate some foodly food and went to sleep.

Crossing the river!

Crossing the river!

The next day, we were up early, as we had to find this mystical bus to Chengyang, our final destination on this leg of our South China Adventure. I refer to the bus as mystical, not because it’s driver is Greek God or a Wizard, no, it’s because finding buses in China is somewhat of an epic task, as they are constantly changing numbers and services. Crossing the river, following the much-lauded Ipad GPS, we found the bus stop up a hill and miraculously purchased tickets and got on the right bus in one fail swoop.

Forty-five minutes later through farmland, following the Linxi River, we had made it to Chengyang, in the Guangxi Province of Southern China.

Tourist map of the villages within the Chengyang "scenic" area. Scenic = pay.

Tourist map of the villages within the Chengyang “scenic” area. Scenic = pay.

Chengyang is a series of 8 villages of the Dong Minority that the Chinese government has made into somewhat of a tourist attraction. What this means is, along with sleeping accommodations, such as ours, the Dong Village Hotel (which was a lovely wooden structure), there is also an entry fee and hockers trying to sell you “local products”, which look oddly similar to items I could purchase in Beijing.

Traditional Dong celebration dress.

Traditional Dong celebration dress.

The local Dong Minority are friendly people. They have their own language, but from what I found, many of them understand basic Mandarin. They are known for the Wind and Rain Bridges and their polyphonic choir singing, which is a UNESCO recognized intangible cultural heritage. Their songs and stories are about nature and agricultural work, which are still very much part of the Dong peoples’ lives. Like elsewhere in China, they were curious about us as we walked through their towns, but seemingly were happy to have us there and were excited when they interacted with us, especially the kids. On a random side note, I also found out these people were traditionally involved in bullfighting! That is nuts and doesn’t fit with the image of this truly tranquil place.

People in the village just hanging out, cleaning veggies, laundry.

People in the village just hanging out, cleaning veggies, laundry.

We quickly dropped off our stuff at the hotel and went to explore. To gain perspective of where we were, we climbed up some random steps into the forest, past some tea terraces where we found an observation deck that looked out onto the whole valley. If we followed the river to the horizon, we could see the villages, nestled into the green trees and hilly landscape, with their easily identifiable dark wooden tiled roofs and their central cone shaped drum towers.

Our first view of our surroundings.

Our first view of our surroundings.

Not a lot of movement going on below, which in China, is an odd feeling, since even in the remotest of places, hustle and bustle seems to be a national credo that all adhere to.

Kids in villages are always so curious. My beard is quite a popular item to point out.

Kids in villages are always so curious. My beard is quite a popular item to point out.

No, Chengyang is a place for the somewhat slower paced. Though the bridges are UNESCO heritage attractions, it’s remoteness and lack of anything to do (completely subjective, as I found LOTS to do), make it still a safe haven for travelers wishing to just walk around and be with the locals. And that’s what there is to do.

Lifestock seemed free to just roam about. How do you know which one is yours?

Lifestock seemed free to just roam about. How do you know which one is yours?

Over the two days we spent there, we made our way from town to town and stopped and sat with people in the traditional drum towers, that act as a meeting point for each town for ceremonies, such as dancing, smoking tons of gross cigarettes, playing cards, washing the town TV (wonder who decides on the channel) and simply a hangout spot:

“Hey, where you at?”

“I’m at the drum tower”

“Ya? What you doing?”

“You know. Sitting around smoking, around a fire, with a bunch of other dudes.”

“Sounds like a blast! See you there!”

One of the many towers we saw.

One of the many towers we saw.

Though we couldn’t speak to the older generation that asked us to sit around a fire as they chimneyed smoke from their cracked mouths and blackened teeth, we shared a few international laughs at our situations and shook numerous outstretched hands, liked celebrities. The towers themselves look like wooden Christmas trees, with beautifully painted and decorated interiors.

Old people sitting around, staring at us.

Old people sitting around, staring at us.

The main attractions are no letdowns. The Wind and Rain Bridges are defiant marvels, spanning over the Linxi River. Since the turn of the 20th century when they were originally built, hey have survived the elements, without a single nail in their wooden structures. And they aren’t simply covered bridges. Like the drum towers, they are also focal points with many functions to them. They act as a thoroughfare for vendors, a safe haven from the rain and as a place of tranquil prayer at one of the many alcoved temples.

The Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge

The Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge

The meals we ate in town varied in quality and if you asked me, I couldn’t name you exactly where or what we ate. And that’s the joy of exploration, the spontaneity of trusting new situations and just putting whatever they have labeled food into your mouth. Though, the food in Chengyang isn’t ex-factor level. It is simple fair of veggies and meat. There are a few local specialties, such as rice wine and cooked pumpkin, which are both delicious and apart.

Pumpkin Fritters

Pumpkin Fritters

The towns themselves are fun little mazes to wander through. The buildings are two storied or on stilts (Ganlan houses), tightly compact, intersected by small cobbled passages. Life exists up and down, left and right, and of all variations and species. Where you’d expect a human head to poke out, a rooster stares down at you, head cocked sideways, listening. The sun is all but blocked out of these wooden crevices, and black figures make their way from one house to another, pausing for a curious moment to see us making out way towards the light.

A visual: Rooster staring down at you.

A visual: Rooster staring down at you.

Though the hotels rent bicycles, the immediate villages are easy enough to explore on two, semi-affluent of hiking all day, feet. I, myself, are always curious what’s beyond the tourist map (literally a map outlining the 8 walkable towns), so we did rent bicycles and cycled beyond the Chengyang area. What exists there are other Dong Villages that are also attempting to build up their tourist cred to attract new visitors to their towns. Though, it’s hard to say if this new infrastructure is a local endeavor or the government’s moneymaker.

View from our hotel.

View from our hotel.

It’s a place of deep reflection and nature. Sitting by the river and staring at the wooden villages, like stilted reminders of the past, I realized how utterly dense this country is and how diverse it’s makeup is. Many of these people were force fed nationality, of a country they couldn’t be farther from being apart of. And yet that underlying animosity that exists slowly flows downstream. What you’re left with is nature sounds, the window flipping through my book novel. Thank goodness I folded the page to remember my spot.

Peaking through the stilt houses.

Peaking through the stilt houses.

Some would say that once you saw one village, you’ve seen them all and there’s only one lousy museum with NO English. This is culture at its rawest, real people who have to get up and work the fields or they starve, wells in use, because there isn’t enough water, fires in pits used to heat the room. The museum isn’t MOMA, it’s what some MOMA artists use as inspiration or as reflection upon. It is a room filled with preservation, a rare feat in China, of usable items, of tradition, of belief. But above a basket or a drum tower, the people in these small pocket communities, have the twinkle of a deep routed, energetic spirit in their eyes and are well worth the several bus rides and train rides to get there. Did I mention they use to be in BULLFIGHTING? Ernest Hemingway approved! Travel details and gallery below!

Another shot of this beautiful area of the world.

Another shot of this beautiful area of the world.

TRAVEL DETAILS!:

GETTING THERE:

If you arriving from Guilin, you will arrive at the HeDong bus terminal. To get to He Xi bus station walk out of HeDong bus station, turn right and then turn right onto the bridge, when you come off the bridge, keep walking straight across the intersection and the bus station is a little way up the hill on the right.

The address for He Xi is: 三江河西客运站, located in 71 Xingyi St. Sanjiang.

If all else fails, the word Gong Gong Qi Che (Gong-gong-chee-ch’uh) means bus.

Simply saying Chengyang Gong Gong Qi Che should get someone’s attention.

At the end of saying that phrase, if you want to add a bit of flair to your random blurt, you can say “Zai Nar?” (Z-eye N-uhr), which means “where is”.

The word for ticket is “piao” (pee-ow! – like a laser sound).

The bus heading to Chengyang costs around 6 Y and takes around half an hour. From around 7:30am, it leaves when it is full, to around 5pm.

The bus coming back, meets right outside of the main entrance to the park. Make sure you flag it down. The last bus leaves around 5pm.

FEES:

The bus to Chengyang, was around 10 Y. The park entry fee is 60 Y. There didn’t seem to be a way of avoid this, though, if you can it’s not such a bad thing, since the money apparently isn’t going into the pockets of the locals.

ACCOMMODATION:

The Dong Village Hotel cost around 80 Y per night, but had spacious, wooden rooms, wireless, western toilets, BIG balconies, overlooking the Linxi river and the Wind and Rain Bridge. They also have bicycles for rent, which we used and were quite well maintained. There are also a few guesthouses in town that are both labeled and unlabeled. I am sure you could also stay with a local for a really, personal experience, exciting for both yourself and your host.

OTHER STUFF:

I did see some western food on the menu, but why…..would….you? Eat local and try something new. If you are not allergic to anything and don’t have any food inhibitions, point to something on the menu and get ready to eat a mystery meal.

If you are into trying to local foods, you can attempt to ask the waiter (foo-yan) if there are any local specialties:

“yo te se t’eye ma?

GALLERY:

Disneyland – China’s Interesting Tourist Industry

In the ricefields of Yuanyang, tourism means whole towns are reformatted to look older than they are.

Chengyang Villages – Famous for their Wind and Rain Bridges. Like many Chinese towns with some cultural wealth, this group of towns charges an entry fee, though reportedly, the fee does not go to the people, but rather the government. The area remains in constant renovation as the Chinese tourism machine moves in.

Tourism in China is a weird thing. The Olympics of 2008 in Beijing spotlighted this once stigmatized powerhouse in a new light and the influx of tourists, curious to discover it’s rich history and culture, came pouring in from all directions. And the Chinese government sort of understands the process to deal with this. People want to be able to access the sites, the flavors and people that Maoist China tried to subjugate, repress and ultimately uniform (They use none of those terms, nor did the Maoist government do ANYTHING like that).

I could possibly do a whole blog on mistranslated signs that I found. I think I will...

I could possibly do a whole blog on mistranslated signs that I found. I think I will…

Their solution to this semi-new venture, tourism, is what’s strange. Like a flawed translation on many English signs throughout China, there seems to be a bit of a miscommunication of what international tourists are interested in seeing and how what their interested in seeing is expected to be presented. That’s a vast generalization, but for myself, if fly half way around the world to see something, I want to see something that is at least somewhat authentic and real. That’s the difference between seeing it in person and via media. Attached to this authenticity is an indescribable feeling of achievement, a connection to something beyond one’s own world, and the thrill of experiencing, immersing and discovering something new for yourself. Yet China’s approach to their unique cultures, languages and especially places, is reconstituting, rebuilding, modifying rather than preservation. Many of the historical sites that survived the Red Guard are being remodeled to provide a Disneyland-like, rather than an emerging experience in history. The grit, the real businesses, even the buildings themselves, have been replaced by five star accommodations, vendors selling chachkies and pre-fab, historical facades. One of China’s famous UNESCO heritage sites, Lijiang, almost lost it’s heritage status for attempting to rebuild the ancient black tiled roofed town as a resort, after one of it’s many earthquakes. It’s everywhere. Look in your China guidebooks. 9 times out of 10, the historical building you are standing in has been rebuilt. From Qianmen Business District in Beijing (torn down and rebuilt exactly the same) to large sections of the Great Wall.

Around 20km away from Yangshuo, unlike the other famous stone bridge, Dragon Bridge, this 600 year old marvel remains unscathed by tourism and the fleets of river boats. The question is for how long?

Around 20km away from Yangshuo, unlike the other famous stone bridge, Dragon Bridge, this 600 year old marvel remains unscathed by tourism and the fleets of river boats. The question is for how long?

Though maybe this is a very North American stance on tourism. Maybe China is focused on local tourism, since for Chinese nationals, it’s very difficult to impossible to leave the country. On that subject, I simply have my observations of large buses, unloading their leader with their volumed up megaphones and umbrellas, followed by hoards all wearing the same hats, so they know who they should follow, blending into an earthen colored mass, filling up quaint, quiet and historical places with bursting commotion, noise and refuse. Pictures are snapped, mechanically, fingers are held in peace signs, or two hands come together to complete an unbelievable heart, occurring in no matter what venue, winding cobblestoned street or tranquil holy temple. I fear though that the “real” China that the international community strives to locate is fast becoming theme parks, parades or simply, like the hutongs of Beijing and Shanghai, being demolished for shinier, newer facilities, that cheaply emulate something that could have stood for a thousand more generations.

Coldly, Kohima

Featured Image -- 482

mrmakdeck:

These the places I like to find…

Originally posted on Where is Shyamni?:

All my savviness from the day before went out the window by the time we hauled into the cold mountains of Kohima. A shared jeep took 7 hours (supposedly a 3 hour ride) to reach the mountain town center only to arrive and get stuck in the evening traffic. They offloaded me on the roadside and continued on. It was freezinggggg and no taxi wanted to stop. Shops start shutting at 4pm in this region because of the cold. Finally one stopped and it took me to the address I gave.

IMG_0785 The mountain town of Kohima

Arriving at the nice, warm heritage house, their room rates started from way over my budget. For this I can get much better. Exact words in my head. For the next 1 hour, crawling in traffic the cab took me from one place to another. I don’t know whether it was the cold…

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Hidden Places – Sherpenheuvel-Zichem: A Holy Place of Pilgrimage in Belgium

The Church and centre of Sherpenheuvel-Zichem.

The Church and centre of Sherpenheuvel-Zichem.

Belgium is known for its monasteries and pilgrimage sites. Yet, the pilgrims routes are usually lined with train tracks, the holy sites are usually beer dispensaries of various shapes and sizes, and the monasteries that are visited are, nine times out of ten, are renowned for brewing the well secret kept, orgasmic flavors of the Trappist beers. Some enthusiasts would retort in all seriousness to by humorous description, that Belgium beer isn’t simply nation pride. It’s a full religion. Having tasted a fair share of it myself, I would say that I’m all on board with that declaration of sudsy faith. To reiterate and be as bombastic, bold and loud as I can be, Belgian beer is, at it’s finest, the best beer on this planet, beating out other Beer Empires: Germany and the Czech Republic.

s2

mmmmmmmm fresh baked bread.

But Belgium also contains non-alcoholic holy sites. Near the medieval town of Diest, in the Flemish Brabant province lies the little town of Scherpenheuvel-Zichen. Hm. “Lies” connotes substantial space occupancy. Hm. Dots the little town of Scherpenheuven-Zichen. Enough of that. The town’s there, I went there. I’m going to talk about it.

A good start to a day, Belgium Waffles and ten pounds of real whipped cream.

A good start to a day, Belgium Waffles and ten pounds of real whipped cream.

Round 2? No, but, yes, but, I'll consider.

Round 2? No, but, yes, but, I’ll consider.

Scherpenheuven-Zichen’s town centre is situated on a small hill. Scherpenheuven in English translates to “sharp hill”. Like most quaint towns, a cobbled stone road wraps around the centre, lined with restaurants and more importantly an assortment of bakeries, serving an assortment of sugar sprinkled tasty stuff to fill my belly. If you grow tired from your travels, don’t expect the vending machines scattered around the centre to quench your thirst. Inserting money into the coin slot, the blocking apparatus within, will release into the receiving area a cylindrical object. Yet this object will not be ice cold or be produced by Pepsi or The Coca Cola Company. In fact, this object is adorned by a shining image of Jesus Christ, arms wide open, like he’s ready for a big, climatic, bear hug. This is a Jesus Christ candle vending machine. Why do several of these Holier Than Thou candle dispensaries exist? Because it’s a comical twist on the vending machine?

A "vending machine"

A “vending machine”

Jesus stores lined the streets.

Jesus stores lined the streets.

For Christ candles to coke and candies

For Christ candles to coke and candies

No, no, vending machines are never funny. Sometimes scary. Sometimes annoying. Sometimes helpful. But never funny. N.E.V.E.R. Funny. The reason for these machines (“finally, he is going to EXPLAIN what the holy pilgrimage site IS!”) is because the holy pilgrimage site of Scherpenheuven-Zichen, smack dap in the centre of the cobblestoned ring road in a church. The Basilica of Our Lady of Scherpenheuvel is the holiest Roman Catholic pilgrimage site in Belgium. Originally people came to this non-descript blip on the map, as part of the Marian cult, focused upon a statute of the Virgin Mary that hung in an oak tree on the top of the hill that supposedly had healing powers. It’s fame spread throughout the Flemish world and beyond in the 16th century and a church was built on the site to accommodate the influx of pilgrims. Respect was shown to the holy tree, by people cutting pieces off of it and making statues of it. Great to see that “respect” was interpreted the same way back when.

The church up close.

The church up close.

The church is a immensely beautiful and ornate and always occupied by awe struck believers and non-believers. Though I wasn’t there, I’ve heard during the summer months the park surrounding the church is also a happening place, full of stalls selling Chrstian-y knick-knacks and local treats with funny names like ”pepernoten” and “noppen”. Possibly with as equally funny tastes. Yes, the church is the only listed attraction in the town, but it is well worth the venture if you’re in the area, plus the nearby town of Diest has also quite a nice town centre with some lovely little bars serving lovely, lovely, happiness inducing beer.

Artsy church shot.

Artsy church shot.

Hidden Places – Neah Bay

IMG_9342

The first sign you see when you enter.

I’ve decided to restart this site as a means to share with people not only my photos and thoughts, but hopefully to inspire people to leap out of their comfort zones, spin the globe, pick a point on the map and with no if, ands, or buts (unless you are cycling there, then there is A LOT of butt), go there!

Everyone knows Paris, London, the big flashy cities, with the flashy names, that connote a whole array of expectations. Everyone has done the EUROPE trip or the USA trip, where you tick tourist sites off a list as you seen them, accomplishing Bucket List items. Yet, my joie de vivre is finding those experiences you can’t find in the travel bibles, places, even though many of them most definitely are not, feel, like my secrets that I get to share with anyone who will listen or, in this case, read.

Neah Bay is one of those magical places that you don’t want to leave. Quite literally there is only ONE way to leave, along a windy road, mostly occupied by logging trucks. From that road you come to a single fork. Take a right towards Forks (yes, home of those awfully fashionable and emo vampires), or keep heading along the windy coastal road, past the Nippon paper factory’s billowing smokestacks into Port Angeles.

I arrived into Neah Bay along that windy logger road, one rainy evening in late March on a fully loaded bicycle. I had made a terrible error in judgement, due to my limited touring experience. A 100km day, was actually a 140km day, along an insane road, wind pushing me into oncoming truckers barreling down the road in their mammoth infinite wheelers, the rain drenching my body, my soul, my two pairs of socks. At one bend, I was almost going to call it quits, but I pushed forward, called my couchsurfing host from the Tyee Motel. She was shocked at how I had gotten there.

“No one cycles on that road.”

Well, now at least one person had. She fed me elk soup and gave up her warm bed, to sleep in her daughter’s room, so my frozen shell could resume it’s regularly scheduled temperature.

“You’re not ridin’ out of here”

My host said grimly. She could not be persuaded, so I decided it was probably for the best to explore the town today and bus out on the evening bus to Forks.

Fishing boats for tourists and locals.

Fishing boats for tourists and locals.

The town of Neah Bay is peace on earth. As I walked the wide streets, with no one in sight, except for a few cawing crows and some people walking the wharf towards one of the numerous fishing boats docked there, I got the feeling that the old way of life was present way of life here. I entered a small gift shop. No one hustled me to buy or even greeted me as I perused. It’s as if the business existed, simply as a way to present the town’s art. Selling anything was a bonus.  There are under 1000 permanent residents in Neah Bay, mostly members of the Makah Tribe, who have fished and lived here, on this, the most North Western point of the USA, for thousands of years.

The Makah Learning Centre and Museum -Very great introduction to the history.

The Makah Learning Centre and Museum -Very great introduction to the history.

Reconstructed longhouse in the Museum.

Reconstructed longhouse in the Museum.

The Makah Museum here, presents the history of the Makah Tribe, interpreted through artifacts recovered from Ozette, a Makah village that was party buried in a landslide in 1750. The area is rife with history and culture. When you go there, make sure to ask people about Goat Island. Everyone I met seemed to have a new story to weave. Truly friendly folks are abound in Neah Bay, along with some beautiful camping and hiking opportunities. The must do walk is the Cape Flattery Trail, out towards the lighthouse, overlooking Canada in the distance, visible on the other side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Beautiful trail along the Strait.

Beautiful trail along the Strait.

Along with the museum, it’s worth checking out the “trading post” mercantile there, which not only sells an array of food items and oddities, but has a wonderful display of scary taxidermed animals lining the shelves. And since taxidermy spikes my appetite (nothing says EAT like a glass-eyed, poorly stuffed cheetah) I ate AMAZING candied salmon for dinner. Salmon so good, It will make you cry tears of joy.

Fun general store. Supplied up with candies, sodie pops and other organic, tasty treats!

Fun general store. Supplied up with candies, sodie pops and other organic, tasty treats!

Neah Bay is truly unique, truly pen scribbling inspiring stuff. And though, I won’t mention names, since there isn’t TOO many people here, I would recommend to Couchsurf. I was given a lot of insight, inspiration and wonderful company by my amazing host, who not only rescued me, but rejuvenated my spirits and introduced to me that community vibe and welcomeness, that brings me to a gap toothed smile, even almost five years later.

If you haven’t already tried it, check out http://www.couchsurfing.org and travel through the eyes of those who live in the places you go to. Plus meet some amazing new people and future friends!

Neah Bay even has a FOOD TRUCK! On the cutting edge of trends.

Neah Bay even has a FOOD TRUCK! On the cutting edge of trends.

Without A Map,

Ira

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