April 30, 2007

Day 62 - Roigan

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On a warm LA night last October, six friends sat around a picnic table eating Thai food and making grand plans.

The dream was that we would all meet in Bangkok on April 4, 2007. We talked about laying on secluded beaches, trekking over waterfalls and sipping Century Changs until the sun came up. Kari and I left that night saying how amazing (and how unlikely) it would be to all meet on the other side of the world, seven months later.

On Wednesday, April 3, two friends boarded a plane in St. Louis with Bangkok as it's destination. A few hours later, another friend boarded a plane in Los Angeles. On the morning of the fourth, Kari and I hopped on a bus in Cambodia that would arrive in Bangkok 15 hours later. And waiting to pick us up was another who moved to Bangkok recently.

Today, the six of us walked across the street and jumped into eighty degree water. Cheers to making things happen...with your friends.

April 29, 2007

Day 72 - Bangkok

[We've been traveling for over two months now. I know neither the date nor what day of the week it is. I think traveling has accomplished one of its purposes in us.]

Imagine the biggest water fight you've ever had, then times that by a thousand and you'll begin to understand the kind of water fight we've been in since we arrived in Chiang Mai for the Thai New Year. From morning to night everyone in the entire city is throwing water using whatever means available. I've never seen so many super soakers, squirt guns, ice water barrels, river water buckets, and hoses in my entire life.

So what this means for anyone in Thailand during Songkrat, the Thai New Year, is that you're soaked for three days straight. It doesn't matter whether you're eating meals, shopping, using the internet or sight-seeing, you do it all with water logged clothes on. Words can barely shed light on the experience we've had over the last week.

Day 75 :: Krabi

"Don't believe anything only because it has always been believed or because the majority believes it or because it is said by a famous person. Not even blindly believe my teachings. What you have fully comprehended and experienced yourself - only that believe." -- Buddha

April 25, 2007

Day 77 :: Koh Samui

[For the record: We haven't worn socks since China.]

Only 28 hours by bus from Chiang Mai is a little place called Railay Beach. It sits along the west side of Thailand on the Adaman Sea. The only way to get to these beaches is by a long boat; no land entrance exists. The sand is white, the water is aqua and the cliffs are breathtaking. You can even walk between Islands when the tide is out.

This is where we've been for the last week.

We found a cabana for $4.50 a night. We spent one day snorkeling off uninhabited Islands. Another day was spent kayaking in and out of caves and finding secluded beaches. And this morning we hiked into a lagoon, which seemed out of this world. It was surrounded by five-hundred foot cliffs on all sides and the only way to get to it was by lowering yourself down the cliffs by ropes. The rest of our time was spent eating curries for $3 and laying around. It was absolutely perfect.

Our Beach:

The Lagoon:

A few more photos can be seen here.

April 22, 2007

Day 79 - Koh Samui

[Did I mention that after traveling through China, Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand was pure luxury? The freeways have actual lanes and cars instead of cows. From city to country, the homes are made of concrete instead of wood and tin. You can even get little pieces of heaven like Reeces Pieces and nerds. It's like going from Tijuana to San Diego less the suburbs and the San Diego Chargers.]

Since our last post, we have moved on to Koh Samui, an Island off the Eastern Coast of Thailand. As we've done nothing but lay on the beach, we've been able to notice something quite fascinating:

All the westerners are trying to get darker while the Thai people are trying to get lighter.

The westerners on the beach are covering as little of themselves as humanly possible (some cover nothing at all, which is often much more disapointing than you would think). On the other hand, the Thai's are wearing long sleeve shirts and carrying umbrellas. The westerners are buying tanning lotion to speed up the process. The Thai people are buying whitening cream. They can even buy a product called pink nipple cream in order to enhance their whiteness.

Could this be because people everywhere always want to look different than they are? Or is it because in Thailand, the darker you are often means the poorer you are, while in the States it's usually the opposite? Or are there other reasons why pink nipple cream and dark tanning oils are sold on the same shelf?

April 10, 2007

Day 42 - Hoi An

...On our quiet alley in Hanoi, we fell asleep to a woman screaming. We woke up to a baby wailing. Turns out, her apartment had become a maternity ward...

We recently spent four perfect days in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital city. It's a wonderful place, full of history and loaded with scenery. The Old Quarter actually reminded us of some of our favorite parts of Sydney (except for the giant rats and the billion motorbikes). We've since moved on, but we wanted you to see what we saw.

A few more photos can be seen here.

April 9, 2007

Day 44 - Na Trang

Sitting in a cafe in Hue, I can't help but think about the war. Better said, I can't help to continue thinking about the war, because when you are an American traveling in Vietnam, it's hard to think about much else.

The "American War" - which ended only 32 years ago - left a heavy mark on this land, not only physically but socially as well. For example, our tour guide who led us through the Demilitarized Zone (a stretch of land on the 17th parallel that divided North and South Vietnam) not only fought in the South Vietamenese army but was also sent to a re-education camp after the North Vietnamese Communist captured Saigon. The landscape our guide showed us - a dense jungle during his childhood - was now an open field for miles around. The Americans dropped so many Napalm Bombs in the area that the entire jungle was obliterated. Even today, huge bomb craters still carve out the country-side.

As we travel, people everywhere - from our tour guide to the restaurant staff to kids in the villages - speak clear English, partly because of the American presence here. Yesterday, as we rode our motorcycle to a secluded beach, the children chased after us calling "Hello! Whea aw u frum?" As our bike flew past, we flashed the peace sign back to them and shouted,



American War Base in the DMZ, an area that was once a dense jungle:

Young rubber trees the government replanted after they were wiped out from Napalm bombs:

One of many gravesites for the soldiers of the War. Nearly three million Vietnamese died during the War:

April 7, 2007

Day 47 - Nha Trang

[I withdrew 2,000,000d from the ATM today. I'm a millionaire and I must admit, I do feel a little different.]

Trapped: Stuck on a 12-hour bus ride, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Vietnam, with a 104 degree temperature feeling like your head is going to explode.

That was me. That was Wednesday night.

Scared: Stumbling into a Hospital with no idea what to do because every sign is in Vietnamese, thinking you have Malaria.

That was us. That was Thursday morning.

Out of Place: A Doctor placing you in a dusty bed in the corner of the ER, room temperature around 90 degrees, and people all around you are vomitting or spitting up blood or convulsing or screaming, including two men who seem to still want to kill each other, despite having almost done so already.

Still Thursday.

Relief: The blood work comes back, malaria and dengue fever are not found, and a minor throat infection will follow for the next four days.

That was Thursday. Now it's Sunday. I'm doing better.

Kari's been sick since Friday.

April 6, 2007

Day 50 - Mui Ne

So Kari had a massage yesterday. Immediately after she paid her 80,000 dong (US $5), she started to wonder if she had made a mistake. All of the girl "masseuses" were surprisingly sexy, wearing hot little outfits and short little skirts. She decided to ignore her insticts, and she undressed and layed down on the table in her room. Naked and alone, she spent the next 15 minutes...waiting. Finally, a girl in a tiny black dress peaked in to see her, then ran off giggling. Then, another girl came in, started the massage, then ran out. Naked and alone for another 5 minutes. Then finally, a third little hottie came in, showed her obvious annoyance that Kari was a woman, and began the massage. By this point, Kari understood. The girls at this spa obviously make their money from the "bonus" parts of massaging men - but it was too late. Kari was stuck, already naked, being massaged because the place couldn't turn people away in order to keep their "professional spa" image. The sexy little number then straddled Kari's naked body, massaging in a short skirt using her knees and her other body parts. The 60-minute Swedish massage lasted all of 25 minutes and was definitely NOT Swedish.

Kari came home confused and distraught...the place had come highly recommended. By who? Me. I went the day before and had the best massage of my life.

April 3, 2007

Day 53 - Saigon

[Our most treasured traveling posessions: 1. Timex Expedition Watch - You have no idea how many times a day you need a watch when you don't have a cell phone. 2. REI Pillow - For 12-hour bus rides at night, 44-hour train rides and when the hostel is pillowless. 3. REI 55+ Sleeping Bag - Seriously needed because most places we stay seem to have bed bugs or mosquitos or both]

One of the benefits of traveling the way we are is that everything can change at a moments notice. Like on Wednesday morning when we boarded a bus thinking that after 12 hours we would be in Saigon. After five hours, our bus stopped for lunch at a little town called Mui Ne. It was a beautiful place, on the beach and cheap.

We never got back on the bus.

For $8 we got a bungalow just a few steps from the South China Sea. The water was at least 75 degrees and the weather was perfect.


Our Beach:

Our $8 Room:

Mui Ne Fishing:

Mui Ne Beach:

April 2, 2007

Day 57 - Saigon

[Today we committed an unspeakable act. And in doing so, we broke a core rule for backpackers. We had KFC for lunch. It was so damn good.]

There's a famous saying in Vietnam. It's printed on t-shirts and spoken from Saigon to Hanoi.

"Same Same, But Different."

In our three weeks here we have traveled through every major city. We spent time at beaches off the beaten path. We stumbled into an ER one day. We've visited War sites and the museums that followed. We've read books about Vietnam and learned of her history. Even this week we rented a motorcyle and spent two days riding around the Mekong Delta. We rode 350 miles in all, racing the sun on our first day out only to find ourselves on a remote dirt road at dark, looking for a place to sleep. And now we're in Saigon, enjoying a city whose name was once on all of America's lips. It's yesterday's Baghdad.

Each place we've been, every adventure we've had, has been a thoroughly Vietnamese one. This is a country filled with French architecture, American menus, and Chinese habits. And yet it is unique in every way.

Same same, but different.

A few more pictures can be seen here.