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Location: People >> CS For All Ages >> 50s+ Travellers
Katie travelling alone in South East Asia - Can you keep me company?
Well as some of you know from my posts to Dave's "Thailand" thread and Sheryl Harawitz's " Vodka as a Carry On" thread, I am currently in Thailand.
I arrived in Bangkok on Friday and plans were for Sheryl to meet up with me here today for a four week trip through Cambodia and Laos. After Sheryl's planned return to NYC on November 16, stage two of the SEA trip is/was to meet up with Tim and others for another four weeks in November before flying home to Whistler and my new grandson for Christmas.
Unfortunately, Sheryl had to cancel out on SEA at the very last minute. I didn't want to breach her privacy but she posted on the vodka thread today that her mother suddenly became seriously ill and she has to remain in New York.
So all of our thoughts go to Sheryl first and then, hopefully some of you can keep me company on this thread and provide me advice and guidance in figuring out my next four weeks. Hopefully stage 2 of my trip will unfold as planned but who knows.
I have to admit that I felt a little at sea when Sheryl told me the news on Saturday but now I am looking forward to making new plans for one traveller from scratch.
DAY ONE TO FOUR
So far Bangkok has been a sensuous montage on speed: colours, noises, smells, heat, atmospheric thunder storms, flashing lights in the night sky and more all flying by as I try to get oriented in this mega-city.
Today went to China Town which is 100x larger than China Town in either NYC or San Francisco. Travelled there by river boat down the muddy Phraya River roiling with languid fish and bulbous floating vegetation; ate delicious street food of uncertain origins sitting on an overturned wooden crate; saw more plastic trinkets than my mind can conceive of uses for, stumbled on a beautiful little temple smoking with incense cloistered down a narrow alley and dodged direction-challenged motor bikes as they tried to run me over on the side walk.
Tomorrow I am going to two major wats (temples) then to Khao San Rd. (backpackers central). I will finish off my day with a 90 minute "no-extras" (non-sexual) massage at the Ruen Nuad spa.
On Wednesday off to Kanchanaburi, three hours north of Bangkok for some hill trekking, elephant riding and more temples of course.
And after that ........???????
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worried about you. sent many messages to you on CS and on SKYPE. No reply. Are you ok?
Judy - sent you 2 pms which it appears you never got. Tim also said he never got an answer to some pms. Will re-send.
Thanks to the rest of my supportive correspondents.
@ what kind of extras does the spa offer.
Helga - I'll let you know after I come back from my massage this afternoon but I think the extras may include the "oily obsequious" characters that Cadence refers to above.
Ha this is a good sign. I'm getting my sense of humour back. Ha ha. Listening to Robert Plante and Allison Krause on Raising Sand. Music is a good companion.
"Music is a good companion."
So's the internet!
For those of you who have asked - my first Thai massage:
My masseuse was a tiny Thai woman with legs as thin as flower stalks. Now I know who wears size 0 jeans.
But what a front ! That delicate little woman was as strong as a sumo wrestler. Within minutes she had me begging for mercy. I was face down for the first half of the massage but I swear she was walking on my back. I just floated out the front door after 90 minutes of pummelling and releasing all of my Bangkok stress. Truly Wonderful.
So happy to have escaped Bangkok. I strongly advise - fly in and then fly out as quickly as possible. With its five-storey high elevated transit system, it is too much like Blade Runner for my liking. Tim from Coventry can legitimately say "I told you so". Tim, next time I will really listen to you. Promise.
For the last three days, I have zoned out in a wonderful little resort just outside of a town called Kanchanaburi - famous (at least to us Westerners) for its' position on the River Kwai (it is really the River Mekhlong but the river was re-named by the local council as the River Kwai in order to lure tourists in following the success of the Alec Guinness movie.
Went to the elephant sanctuary yesterday. With al of my conflicting emotions - that needs a separate thread.
Today scaled the hills of Erewan National Forest Park in search of the seven increasingly inaccessible waterfalls. Physically challenging even for the young but I made it up to the summit and was rewarded with the most beautiful five storey 7th waterfall. Swimming in the cool waters at the bottom of the cascade with beautiful fish nibbling at my toes.
But it was the trip back down which was REALLY tough.
To celebrate making it down in one piece, I am sitting pool side with a very nice Gin and Tonic.
Coming back from Erewan in a taxi, my toothless driver driver playing and singing Rhinestone Cowboy at full blast.
Tomorrow - off to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Then Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.
Didn't know donuts created healing...
@ you were such a long time coming back.
George so nice to know you missed me. I miss you too.
Francoise - glad you are enjoying Thailand with me. Please stay for the rest of the ride.
And now that Sheryl is on her way to join me here, this already good trip can only get better.
Off to the Bridge over the River Kwai whistling the iconic tune. Does anyone know if it has a name?
Thank you for the word pictures of your travels. I just played Colonel Bogie on UTube. What a great film that was.
Glad that Sheryl can now join you. It is such fun to share planning.
I hope that you meet local CS members.
An English CS is coming next week and French one in November. Both speak several languages.
Be well and enjoy and I look forward to seeing you in London in December,
Fun to hear how you are faring on your trip. You are my "travelling idol". :)
After three wonderful days in Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat, Sherly and I are moving on to Phnom Penh tomorrow which is likely to be especially interesting due to the funeral of King Shianouk. The monks who are usually cloistered until November, are out in full force chanting prayers, burning incense and accepting offerings in parks and temples.
Travelling the Cambodian country side today shining with flooded rice fields as green as hope. Past mud-bathing water buffalo, white horned bulls wandering into the oncoming traffic, spider markets operated, it seems, by hordes of beautiful six year olds speaking a few phrases in seven languages selling their mother's creepy crawly snacks, silk farms, the Cambodian People's Party headquarters, homes on stilts,mud, a thousand street-side temples, oxcarts, giant pictures of the newly dead king, fabulous street food stalls, tiny uniformed school children riding gigantic outsized rusty old bikes and twelve year olds driving motor cycles, crazy Phnom Penh "rush hour" traffic and the royal palace lit up and surrounded by tens of thousands of mourners in funereal white or saffron robes.
I love Cambodia.
Are you going to Kampot? There's an old French resort there that became a battleground during the k'mer rouge time...and then some islands to the SE that are fabulous. Good to read the reports!
Witnessed the worst of the darker side of Cambodia yesterday - 3 years, 8 months, 20 days: 3.3 million dead during the reign of Pol Pot. Bone fragments and teeth still surfacing after the rain. 70 % of the surviving women were widows and childless. Only seven doctors left in the entire country. Shattering.
Sheryl's daughter says that we are Lucy and Ethel, not Thelma and Louise. Well as the red head of the duo at least I know I am Ricky's wife. .
I said Lucy and Ethel too! lol
Cambodia is a wonderful country, but the dark side is just that...DARK very DARK!
A counter-point to Patty's group travel experience.
Sheryl and I are travelling with 6 other adventurers on an Intrepid tour called Angkor Trails. Our companions are: a married couple from Tasmania; two thirty-something guys from Melbourne; one woman from New York and a young woman from Winnipeg, Manitoba (that's in Canada).
The Tasmanian couple have been married for thirty five years and are madly in love. She makes all of the decisions and he loves being looked after. It works perfectly for them. They have just joined Couchsurfing and invite everyone to Hobart.
Simon, 30 years of age, is a chef from Melbourne and totally ADD. He loses his passport, wallet, underwear and other important stuff on a daily basis. We all look after him. And then he looks after us by telling us what to eat, how our meals might taste better with one or another exotic sauce and what SEA beer might pair best with our food.
And his buddy Gavin, a financial advisor and orphan at 17 years of age, looks after Simon with great patience and affection. They drink, eat and socialize with the locals with enormous pleasure.
Angeli is an architect from Winnipeg who designs sacred places - mostly Ukranian Easter Orthodox churches. She is ecstatic about every temple and pagoda. She is a serious, thoughtful, exotic young woman.
Fotini is a management consultant from New York who, like me, has quit her job to travel for a while. She is travelling with a backpack which weighs at least 300 lbs but that does't stop her from buying every souvenir she encounters.
Each and every one of our fellow travellers is a kind, open, tolerant and interesting soul. No whiners, no prima donnas.
It doesn't always work but our little travel family is wonderful.
Patty - wish you were here.
Great pictures! Food seems delicious...
Katie, It sounds like you have encountered one awesome group of people. Enjoy every moment.
Another amazing day.
For the next few days, Sheryl and I are in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) but now under communist rule.
Went to the Cu Chi tunnels today: an underground complex spread over 200 kms on three levels sometimes as deep as 15 meters under the countryside leading into Saigon. This was the base (described in the site pamphlet as a "holy revolutionary base") of the Cu Chi leadership, a local Viet Cong militia who engaged in brutal or heroic resistance against the Americans. Feel free to choose your own personal propaganda point of view.
As you walk through the forests above and crawl through the tunnels below, the air reverberates with the sounds of AK47s from an on-site gun range where happy tourists fire off round after round of real bullets. Totally surreal.
On the way to the tunnels, we stop at a local market where rats are butchered for food and the heroes of the resistance live in palatial mansions.
In the city, Versace, Dolce and Gabana are for sale and these stores are full of locals, not tourists. Sheryl will post some city and country-side pictures.
Q. Which images do you think represent the true face of communism today. I am very confused.
We are battening down the hatches in NY waiting for hurricane sandy to hit sometime tomorrow. The bad news for us on Long Island is that it is also a full moon with high tides. we were supposed to evacuate and we decided to stay and ride out the storm at home. We did bring grandma to higher ground. We evacuated last year,kids,dogs.supplys,blankets etc and it took us days to be able to return home. I just really hope we keep power.
I just lit a candle and put it in the window for you: can't get better luck than that!
Keep us posted.
@finding the positive - wonderul stuff
Oh God David - my positivism comes from my existential point of view. I am no Pollyanna. No definitely I am definitely more of a Monty Python - always look on the bright side of life kind of absurdist.
Safe trip for Glenn. Thanks for going to the front.
It's a whopper: we'll have to do what we do best: stick together.
We'll wait and see...this sucks...
@ Tran - George, not sure what you are referring to.
Went to the War Relics Museum yesterday. Three floors of horrors with the Vitnamese telling their side of the story of the war with the Americans. Don't want to generate controversy but wondering about George's comments above. Were the same mistakes made in Afghanistan and Iran by both Canada and the United States?
Great report, Sheryl!
I appreciate you being the author of my Armchair Adventures.
Re; feeling guilty over relatives in NYC: send them bountiful love.
That's the most generous gift in helping them.
@a whopper size can of worms - Yes Sims, I thought long and hard about veering off the travelogue side of our trip. I try not to be provocative but I couldn't come to Cambodia and Vietnam and ignore the history anymore than I could visit the southern US and pretend slavery had never happened.
But the question I really meant to pose was why the U.S. got into the war in the first place. Not a challenge. I just want to know what the men and women who put on the uniform thought they were fighting for.
On the way to this perfect little beach resort where we are now staying, I read an article in this month's New Yorker(thank you Sheryl) about the War of 1812. (The belligerent Canadian Conservative government has spent more than 25 million dollars this year making a couple of ridiculous TV commercials about how a tough little bunch of Canadians gave the big bad Americans the boot in 1812). Anyway the main question posed by the New Yorker article was why the U.S. got into the 1812 war in the first place.
The article's author says "As a great evil - a war calls out for some kind of theodicy - for an explanation of why it happened and what it meant. But the War of 1812 frustrates the desire for such answers. Its origins lie in a concatenation of misinterpretations, crossed signals, and false hopes. Its end is no less obscure.
Same thing 145-50 years later I guess.
Cadence et al - we met an American/ Vietnamese here (won't reveal in which city or provide any further details because this conversation may be censored). He is doing extremely well here financially. His kids are being home schooled through a Stanford University program and his son's grade ten history books were seized because they contain anti-communist propaganda. He is facing some very severe propaganda penalties.
So yes Zoe and Flaminia - thanks for the information but living with the censors isn't quite as easy as using a VPN to log onto Facebook.
I just received this from a Canadian...talk about crazy Americans...
Spot on, Patty.
I'm ordering up a Cascadia flag and will fly it, hopefully gathering some curiosity and support for others to join us.
Ok - back to the travelogue.
Note #1 - Ninety percent of the traveling population in Vietnam gets around on a motorcycle or scooter of some sort.
To date, I have witnessed the following configurations on a motorbike:
1) A family of seven - two adults, one teenager and four very small children (I swear, the flying Wallendas could not have pulled this off);
2) One man with a full-size washing machine strapped to his back;
3) A woman breastfeeding her child (ok she was just the passenger so no prize);
4) A man with a live full grown German Shepherd sitting very quietly in his lap;
5) A family of three plus 2 full pig carcasses;
6) And ho - hum - too many cycles to even mention carrying enough boxes/packages to fill a Fedex truck.
I am not making any of this up.
Note #2 - After a dusty, hot, bone crunching five hour bus ride through mist covered mountains on our way to the Dalat hill station, I just said to Sheryl "Ok, let's clean up and go out to dinner". Sheryl's response - "Screw the clean up. Let's eat."
Note # 3 - our hotel room has a jacuzzi and is number one on Tripadvisor in Dalat. It is costing us $12.50 each but it comes with a full bacon, egg, fresh fruit and amazing coffee breakfast so I guess we won't complain too much.
@ how can the price of Western food be so low?
Darrell - it's only western food in the sense of being a typical western meal - none of it of course is imported unlike our back home "western food".
The fact that the chicken and pig are out back and the oranges are in front of the little stalls we often eat at explains a lot.
But we did have a very expensive drink today - weasel coffee. Weasels eat the best coffee beans. Their scat is gathered and the coffee beans are picked out, shelled and then roasted.
MMMM good. But 5x as much as a regular fabulous Vietnamese coffee.
had to catch up reading... but see that you (both) are enjoying your travel experiences up there, which makes me couting the days to our next destination
Keep enjoying it Katie (and Sheryl), and always smile back when they smile to you :-)
guess you guys are still traveling. When are you coming home? Sounds like a wonderful trip. Godspeed.
Thanks Sheryl for the offer to stay at your place. I wrote down your phone number. Hey,you never know!
I have downloaded (uploaded?) a few pictures on my profile pics section (South East Asia folder) for anyone interested.
That Sheryl sure has weird tastes. Posted a pic on my home page today of her breakfast: pumpkin soup, garlic toast, peanut butter, boiled egg,Laughing Cow cheese and Vietnamese coffee to wash it all down.
Not that the tomato omelet that I had wasn't available !!!!!!!!
Both of us glued to Twitter, CNN and NBCnews.com watching the results.
Dorothea - thank you so much for your compliment about a photographer's eye but alas you also noted my tech dummy's Achilles heel. I don't know why some pics came out upside down.
And now Sheryl and I are off to 3 days in Halong Bay - snorkeling, kayaking etc.
Katie & Sheryl: enjoying greatly your reports and pictures.
Thank you for sharing!
@ Tim, you shouldn't have worn any make-up. Dorothea - so funny except that Tim is a VERY handsome masculine kind of man who needs no mascara whatsoever.
Yes Sheryl, Tim and I met up this morning. Last night, we had each waited 45 minutes at the 7/11: Tim at the right one, me at the wrong one.
And for all of you who have read the "travelling alone ???" thread, I almost didn't make it to Chiang Mai. Sheryl and I got along like a house on fire. When she returned to NYC thought I didn't want to travel alone and might as well return to London. But fate intervened. Couldn't get a cheap flight back to the UK. so I thought I would give CM a try. So glad I did because Tim is here. Both Tim and the city are great. What more could I ask for????
Going to do some writing here, a little yoga, a few massages, eat some great street food. Last night I had the best dessert of my life - deep fried coconut. I intended to share it with Tim but when he " didn't show" I ate it all myself.
Another sublime day. For those of you who are unfortunately NOT in a sublime place today, breathe deeply. Give yourself a break..
Swa di ca (Thai hands together in prayer pose phonetically).
My lovely masseuse just corrected my pathetic Thai. that should be "Sa-wat-de ka."
Every night, I say to Sheryl with the greatest sincerity "This has been the greatest day of my life since yesterday".
Tonight, over a bottle of very good French wine I said with the greatest sincerity " this has been one of the greatest days of my life" - no bracketed limitations.
In the Imperial City of Hue. The most awe inspiring Imperial tombs. The most peace inspiring temples. The most beautiful civilized city on the banks of one of the world's most beautifully-named rivers - the Perfume River. In a six star hotel which costs $30 each.
And tonight, the most sublime French/Vietnamese fusion food in Les Jardins De La Carambole - a five course opera in my mouth.
@ Katie...I wouldn't expect you to stay on the straight and narrow and provide us with a mere travelogue - just not in your nature (I've known her for a long time).... always questioning and open to a discussion of some of the harder issues. It keeps me stimulated and using more of my brain cells. There's been an incredible amount of "stuff" going on in our area (Toronto) around the war of 1812.....soon over thank heaven!