Well, I am just over four months into what is now going to be a seven month adventure, and it remains an adventure. In fact, SE Asia has upped the ante with respect to the adventure factor, but nothing so serious that I'm not fully enjoying it all.
I am writing from Luang Prabang, in northern LAos, after having arrived in Laos on Dec 5th. Before that it was close to two weeks in Thailand, some of which is now chronicled in pictures in three new entries. The pictures from the rest of my time in Thailand are with some of my luggage in storage in Bangkok, as I went "lite" for my time in Laos and Cambodia. As for pictures of my time thus far in Laos, well there are here with me, but I've either been in places far enough of the beaten cyberpath that internet access either didn't exist or was VERY slow, or I've been busy doing and being and not wanting to take time hanging out in an internet cafe for many hours. So, for the first time in almost a month, I took some time to send some news from Indochina.
While I am sure that Dale would remind me that I missed the real Thailand of two decades ago, what this late bloomer has seen has been pretty amazing. Old meets new, impoverished meets the wealthy, third world begins to get a tatse of first world, and a number of other cliches to try and describe this region. Thailand is definately further along the path of development, and that shows obvious signs of good and bad consequences. Laos is a much quieter (but not necessarily less noisey) and less developed place, and that too shows obvious signs of good and bad consequences (at least with regard to my set of values). So much to tell about the big and small snipets of life I've seen and experienced in these two countries, but many more to go out and see and experience. So, here are some highlights:
- landing at Koa San Road in Bangkok, the "backpacker's" haven, where there are more freaks than a Dead show and you can get just about ANYTHING you want - from pirated versions of CDs and traveling guidebooks, to fake dreadlocks, to real (and really big) tatoos, to great food, to even better traditional Thai massages - to you name it.
- Bangkok, with all of its noise and pollution and amazing temples and beautiful people and all stripes of life.
- Loy Katrong Festival, held every year on the full moon after the end of the monsoon season, where literlally millions of small floats with flowers (mostly orchids) and lit candles and incense are placed on the waterways of the country (including the big river running thriugh Bangkok. I happened to have the good fortune of joing a Thai family (via a connection with my found friends Lyman and Susan)for this festival, and going to a part of Bangkok where Lyman and I were definately the only farangs )foreigners) around. Sorry, no photos on hand to share.
- my first forray into the wilds of Thailand, with a four day trip to two national parks - Khai Yo and Nam Na, the former a few hours northwest of Bangkok (where I spend a great day seeing 53 different species of birds, many of which were VERY colorful), and the latter in nothern Thailand (close to the Laos border), where I spent a day walking in elephant and tiger habitat (there were siogns of elepahnt everywhere) to see a pine forest (which I did not expect to see in SE Asia).
- visting the world famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, and having quite an emotional experience as the feel of the temple, the friendliness of both the locals and my fellow travelers and my growing amazement at the world brought me to tears at one point. (see journal entry)
- a two day trip to Ayuthaya, where I spent a day checking out very old temples from the 14th century (see journal entry)
- A fun train ride to Chaing Mai in nothern Thailand, and more wats and getting a sense of nothern Thailand. (see journal entry)
- My eight hour bus ride in a very crowded bus (I now feel like I have had a quintessential "third world bus ride")to the Thai/Laos border.
- crossing the Mekong River into Laos; the Mekong River, I've heard about it for years, and now I've seen it (it's about 500 yards from me as I write this).
- A two day boat ride up the Nam Tha river in western Laos, a river where in two days I saw five other farangs, and they were a surprise to me. IT was just me and my guides and lots of villages and villagers on the riverbanks - it was an awesome experience.
- And now I am getting kicked out of here (it's 11:00, and they are closing), so I need to sign off. More soon, or later.