On the road again! It felt strange flying to Bangkok after spending February with family and friends. I have seen a lot in the past 3 weeks. Right now I am at a beautiful tropical beach called Thong Nai Pan on Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand. I've been here for the past week recharging my batteries and resting up for India. I'm trying to psych myself up for the intensity of India. I think Bangkok was good practice.
Three weeks ago I flew into Bangkok and spent a day being taken by the tuk tuk drivers. They drive you around to some buddhist temples and stop along at their brother's taylor shop and then to their sister's jewelry store. If you want to go to the Grand Palace, they lie and tell you it is closed. It was a good way to get a feel for Bangkok however. Everybody was in on the scam. Regular people on the street rope you into this, even a guy praying at one of the temples. It's as if the whole city meets each morning and goes over the plan. The coordination was impressive. You quickly learn in Bangkok that anyone talking to you is trying to get your money. Good practice for India. I did see the Grand Palace as well which is a beautiful complex of temples in the middle of Bangkok.
After a day in Bangkok, I flew to Luang Prabang, Laos. This is a sleepy little town on the Mekong River. It was the capitol at one point and was the religious center. It still has many beautiful buddhist temples. I spent a day walking around discovering the various temples which are very quiet and hidden among palm trees. The monks are still active and they take care of the temples. The townspeople take care of the monks with daily food deliveries called alms. They had an open air market each night and a little ally way with local food vendors. I spent each night there eating great food and talking with fellow travelers. I also took a boat ride up the Mekong to a cave that had hundreds of small buddha statues.
From Laos, I headed to Siem Reap, Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. I flew in at night and you definitely notice the complete absence of light. However, Siem Reap does have these huge tourist hotels. Angkor Wat was very impressive. The various temples were built from the 8th Century AD to the 14th. Most were constructed within 40 years! They are sandstone and that made the construction and carving easier, but still, that's a lot of manpower. The carving on the walls are very ornate ( and some very well preserved ) and tell the Hindu and Buddhist stories as well as depict many of a particular era's events such as the various wars. I was surprised to learn that India had such an influence in S.E. Asia ( many of the temples are Hindu and the Buddhist temples have Hindu influence ). The big tourist thing to do is be at the main temple, Angkor Wat, at sunset, and I did that. I also rented a bike one day and road around the Grand Tour where you ride from temple to temple. You see a lot of the local people that way. The kids would run and try to keep up with you for as long as they could. I was also impressed with the sales skills of the locals. Man, if you could harness that sales power . . of course you'd have a problem with child labor laws. They would try to sell you post cards, books, food, cold water, etc. and when you said no to everything they'd say, "You want nothing?". "Yes, I want nothing." "Nothing costs twenty dollars ( with a sly smile )."
Then it was off to Ho Chi Minh city to see my friend and former colleague, Vince Wong. Vince and I worked as a sales team at Synplicity before he left me for a Vietnamese girl, Quyen. It was great to meet Quyen and their 2 year old daughter, Connie. It is worth going to Ho Chin Minh just to see the motor scooter culture. The road is stuffed with scooters. It has to be seen to be believed. Everybody rides one. Whole families are on them. I actually rode on one to the clubs one night. I saw a girl holding hands with her boyfriend and they were on two scooters. After the bars close, people are flirting with one another while on scooters. I was impressed with the scooter society.
The last 7 days have been spent sitting on this beautiful beach, reading, swimming, and eating great food. It is a small beach, part of a small cove so the water is calm. There are many palm trees and white sand. Getting to the beach is pretty funny. You have all the S.E. Asia travel types ( dread locks, tattoos, nose and other assorted body part piecings, etc. ) together at this pier where you arrive to the island. The local Thais are there to catch you like fish getting caught in the fishing nets. Luckily I got caught by a cool woman who steered me to a great bungalo resort at the end of the beach called White Sand. I met some fun people and we had a few fun nights at the bars on the beach. It was always an adventure walking the length of the beach and the gauntlet of the wild dogs. They were harmless, but they had to "protect" their turf. Several times our chairs and us in them got in the way of their pack politics. Many many Gemans here, about 75%. I met no other Americans in 7 days here. Come on guys, you need to join me out here! I overhead a dinner conversation one night between Germans and French griping about Americans. The French guy said we are like a teenager, we think we know it all. I suppose they know it all. Give me a break . . plaaaeese! I did a dive at a place called Sail Rock ( a wall dive ) and saw big schools of fish as well as great coral. I also enjoyed watching the daily fishing boat pull up to the beach in the evening and the Thais who run the restaurants go on out and get the local catch. Walking in the soft sand at day and under the stars each evening was nice too. Not much else to report from here. I leave for India tomorrow.
Posted by Craig at March 24, 2004 01:15 AM