I have moved to a new site…

Hello Amazing Adventures Ostomy Included Followers 🙂

You haven’t heard from me in a few months because I have been busy getting my website for Inside Tract Wellness ready! You can check it out here http://insidetractwellness.com/

I have decided to move my blog over to this site and I hope you will continue to follow me over there! I appreciate all the support and I look forward to sharing more joy, inspiration and ostomy travel adventures with you…

Much love and gratitude,

Juliejulie-heatherpennell13

Advertisements

One Night in Bangkok

IMG_0722
Bangkok was a bit of a culture shock from what i had been experiencing in China, amazing that can happen between two countries in south east Asia?! I arrived late and didn’t get dropped off by the taxi close to my hotel until 1:30am, prime party time on Khaosan Road! Here is a picture above during the daytime, but trust me, it gets crazier as the sun goes down. I had to walk a couple blocks with my backpack, dodging people who couldn’t see straight, while they were busy sucking booze out of buckets filled booze and Red Bull. It was a sight to see and I had to chuckle at the craziness of it all! The passion that these people were putting into partying was impressive, I must admit I had a moment of self-reflection and was brought back to the years when I was doing the same.
IMG_0687
The next morning between monsooning rainstorms, I saw some of the sights of Bangkok by foot. I walked and explored Wat Po. The most impressive sight was the giant reclining gold Buddha with his ornately designed feet in Mother of Pearl. This temple houses the largest collection of Buddha images in all of Thailand. I enjoyed walking around the temples and soaking in the beautiful architecture and serenity. I caught a tuk tuk (little motorcar) back to my neighbourhood for a bit of shopping while I waited for Ainaz and Anouk to meet me. Ainaz is a friend from back home who was been biking across south east Asia and has been staying in Bangkok for a couple months. It was lovely to see them and we headed out of the touristy area and had pad Thai, at a favourite local place, down by the river. It was nice to get a warm hug from a friend, I think I have been feeling a bit lonely since leaving the IBD Adventures group in China. Enjoyed more exploring down by the river, visiting little alleys and shopping along the way. Despite drunk couples screaming at one another in the hallway of my hotel, my sleep was pretty good and set off early the next morning for the airport to catch a plane to Krabi. On my way way to the airport, gazing out the window and day dreaming, i asked the Universe to bring some fun friends who i could travel with. I was ready to experience the magic of Thailand that I had imagined from gazing at pictures, white sand beaches, rock cliffs jutting out of turquoise waters, and smiling friendly faces.
IMG_0719

Beijing Night Markets and The Forbidden City

IMG_0480
Our last night in Beijing we went to the night market and watched Marc and Betty Anne munch on fried scorpions. The smell of this market was intense and I barely managed to keep down my dinner. There was an indescribable stench, I think it might be some kinda fermented tofu they eat. That along with the deep fried oil seemed to make the air even more pungent! Here is a taste of the local flavour, sorry, I can’t give you the smell!
image
Our IBD Adventures wrapped up with a trip to The Forbidden City. It was fascinating to learn about the history of this place and how the emperors held court here from 1420 until 1911. It was intriguing to listen to the stories of their rise and fall, the concubines and untold treasures that were housed within these walls. I am looking forward to going back and watching the movie, The Last Emperor, now that I have seen this place in person and learned a bit of the history.
IMG_0513
Here are some tidbits of information that seemed to stick…Beijing is the most recent capital city, Bei means North and jing means city. Nanjing was the capital in the South and Xian was the ancient capital city and the start of the Silk Road which brought trade from the East to the West. All these cities have a Bell and Drum tower which they used to tell time. The Bell was used for the morning hours and drum for the night. These were towers were positioned in the centre of the old town. I was surprised to learn that the Emperor often had 200-300 concubines that would live in the palace as well, along which their servants. Young beautiful girls who showed promise in the area of dance, and other skills deemed worthy by the establishment, were brought to the palace by their families, in the hopes of them being chosen by the emperor. The chosen girls then devoted their lives to winning the favour of the emperor, sadly, these women would be buried alive, along with him when he passed. There seems to be a very strong emphasis on preparing ones’ tomb, and filling it with all the treasures (and people) you want to have join you in the afterlife. I guess if you had the means you would want to be prepared for whatever lay ahead, on the other side of death’s doorstep…those poor women though?!
IMG_0508

Mutianyu Section

Here is the map of where we have trekked the last 6 days…
Map of Great Wall
I kept hoping that we were going to have one day with sunshine while hiking the wall but no such luck. The last day was actually the stormiest of them all with high winds and rain. Today our hike was was along a popular tourist part of the wall at Mutianyu and Dr. Jiang and some of the doctors he works with came out to hike with us. Michele’s friend, Bruce, who is also from Vancouver, joined us as we reached our hiking goal at the top of the Stairway to Heaven. I had to laugh that our final ascent was a staircase to Heaven…so appropriate and a great way to finish the journey. We took some photos at the top and then quickly retreated back down for lunch at Subway which seemed to be a fan favourite this week. Here is us at the top of the stairs.
photo-3I am so proud of everyone who was a part of this awesome IBD adventure team, each one of you inspired and empowered me in different ways, thank you! We were all stretched and strengthened in many ways, not only has my legs become much stronger but my eyes and heart have opened a bit wider.
IMG_0447

Gubeikou Gateway

IMG_0426
Today was my second favourite trekking day! It started with Chinese pancakes for breakfast and lunch, a nice change from the white Wonder bread sandwiches with processed cheese. The fog lifted a bit and the views along the ancient wall were spectacular, we also had some variety in the scenery. We had a chance to get off the wall and bushwhacked around a military zone, through the mist and vegetation you could hear shells exploding in the distance. We walked for a couple hours over the countryside, through farmers fields, the only people we encountered was a small group of farmers fixing up their place to make it into a lodge to host groups like ours. Chris, our guide, mentioned that he was going to have a group stay there next week. I imagine that it is going to be very rustic accommodations, the goat and chickens roaming around were charming and hopefully, the outhouse is complete before they arrive. It was amazing how far these local farmers will go to plant crops, up mountainsides in what feels like the middle of nowhere, another reminder of the strength of the human spirit! I had a huge smile as I hiked because for most of the day we were followed by butterflies, white in colour, dancing playfully with one another.
IMG_0407
It was beautiful to see parts of The Wall that Mother Nature had begun to reclaim, as carpets of green grass started to fill in some of the sections. Many of the towers were crumbling and parts of the walkway had fallen away completely, as we navigated sections only a few feet wide, sheer drops on either side.
IMG_0424

Karaoke at Fairyland

IMG_0191
So I have decided to take part in a bit of a social experiment, after realizing recently how much could change in my life in one year (ie. a year ago I was laying in a hospital bed with a PICC line in my arm and now I am hiking 15km a day across the Great Wall.) I decided that I would live the next year as though it was my last, not in the I am cashing in my RRSP’s kinda way, but more in the how can I soak in every tidbit of awesome! I am choosing to be more aware, to taste the flavour of each moment, the pleasant ones and the not so sweet. My one year count down started on May 25th, and I am finding that I am excited as I wake up each day, something that hasn’t happened since I was a young child and it usually involved a holiday. Simple pleasures like watching water droplets on leaves or soaking in every step along the Wall have been super uplifting! I can really appreciate the meaning behind the saying, each day is a gift! Today’s gift, along with hiking 12 km along the wall through the Chinese countryside, included my first Karaoke experience EVER! There have been singing opportunities in the past but I was always too shy and embarrassed by what my voice would sound like. Well today I got over myself, embraced my lame voice, and belted out, Total Eclipse of the Heart, by Bonnie Tyler in a small town Karaoke Bar. It was so many things…horrible, ridiculous and maybe even mildly entertaining for anyone from the 80’s, but most of all to me it was freedom! This picture below is of Chris, our guide, offering us sashimi from some fresh water fish…it was actually pretty good but you can see the look of doubt and fear on Marc and Rob’s faces. I love BA she will try anything and is definitely one of the most adventurous in our group when it comes to food!
IMG_0438
I had to laugh the next morning at breakfast when I realized that the bar where I had my karaoke debut was called Fairyland. Actually, the whole “resort” is called fairyland, complete with decals of unicorns on the windows and sparkly Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling…priceless!
IMG_0444

Jinshanling Section of the Wall

IMG_0379
Not sure if we lucked out with the weather this week or not? We have had manageable temperatures, not too hot but no sunshine, either! The view changes from completely socked in a grey fog to some green hills peaking through the mist, at times it feels as though we are in a dream, walking along this ancient crumbling wall, often not seeing any other people except our group all day. Kinda feels like we are in Lord of the Rings on some epic adventure, to where, I am not sure?
IMG_0353
Today was one of those days where we did see others along the wall, in fact we had some local women farmers join us as we started up the 1400 stairs to the wall. The continued on with us for a good part of the day, reminding us to be careful on the steep parts, even offering their hands to hold as we navigated difficult parts.
IMG_0348
It was impressive how far they tagged along in the hopes of selling a bracelet or some postcards. Eventually, they lost interest when they realized we were not the tourist types they were hoping for, and it was doubtful we would be buying anything. Today we hiked to Jinshaling lodge which is a government run place. It was nicer than Impression Inn which didn’t make a huge impression on anyone except, the girls, with their non-functioning toilet. It was nice to arrive early enough to spend a couple hours hanging out and sharing some laughs over beer and Pringles.
IMG_0365

Black Dragon Pools

IMG_0272
Today we hiked through a national park area, through steep canyons up to the Black Dragon Pools. It was beautiful, lush green contrasting with the grey rock pools and dark water. A splash of colour was also provided by the yellow rubber boats and inflatable toys, however, it did detract from some of the natural beauty.
IMG_0257
After checking out the Black Dragon pools, we had a local guide take us off the trail and out of the canyon which lead us further into the wilderness, over streams and through forests. It was a stunning walk and a nice change of pace from the wall. Along the way we came across, beautiful rock formations, one in particular known as the Hole to Heaven. We walked through a little local village and even got to meet some local 4 legged friends. We ended our hike at the highest waterfall in Beijing province.
IMG_0317

16km Pit Viper Day

image
We experienced lots of varied terrain today, everything from gently sloping dirt roads, off the wall bush whacking, crumbling verticals and shear cliffs. I saw a huge brown snake curled up only a few feet from where we were sitting and taking photos on the wall. We have now discovered that this is a most likely a Pit Viper, a poisionous snake found in the hills west of a Beijing. Betty Ann managed to snap a picture before it slithered back into a whole in the wall. The rain managed to hold off today, but there was lots of fog and clouds changing through the mountains and changing the view every few minutes. I got to try Phil’s Google glasses today which was pretty neat. They felt pretty techy and futuristic. The sun came out at the end of the hike today, and i celebrated with some good ol’fashioned bubble blowing!
image
My legs are feeling pretty stiff now as I sit on the bus for our 3 hour transfer to our next lodge. I am praying that i am incorrect in my assumption that all of China sleeps on box springs and tonight, finally, the bed will have a mattress that isn’t quite so firm. Jet lag is also interfering with the quality of my sleeps, it was another 3am morning. I was hoping the Chinese medicine i drank last night which was a concoction of herbs and a decaying lizard soaked in 68% alcohol would have helped with the sleep but no such luck. It did work for Mark and he then proceeded to channel various Silence of the Lambs characters, much to Tina’s distress. Having a great time laughing with, and getting to know, my IBD Adventure teammates. It is a light and playful energy, despite sore knees, burning thighs and occasional horror movie references.
image

Ancient Badaling Wall

image
As we were driving out of Beijing towards the wall, the sky turned dark, really dark! It was 10am in the morning and it seriously looked like the middle of the night! We arrived at the gate of the ancient section of the Badaling Great Wall where we were going to start hiking when the sky opened and the rain started pouring down. We had to wait when we got to the wall because it is steep and the rain would have made it treacherous. The plan was to hang out for a couple hours and hopefully the weather would improve. Some of our group decided to brave the rain and explore a bit of the wall anyway, then it got worse! Pitch darkness, lightening, flooding rains, unlike anything I have ever seen! I was having recollections of passages from Revelations in the Bible! A rescue mission with headlamps was organized to go collect half our group who were caught in the pitch darkness on the wall. The storm cleared in about an hour and we had lunch along with a huge game of hacky sack in the parking lot while things dried out.
image
Finally, by about 1:30pm we were able to start our 6km trek. It was quite steep in places and we went through several watch towers. The clouds hung around which made it hard to see to much of the surrounding scenery but i am glad it wasn’t sweltering heat like i had imagined it to be. It was also nice that our Chinese friends were able to join us for this part of the journey. All in all the first day on the wall was exhilarating, between the crazy weather and the thrill of bum sliding down broken, slippery sections of rock.
image