Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. --Bruce Lee
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Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia '08

Dan and I left Australia on 24 June 08. We flew to Bangkok and have been exploring SE Asia ever since. Thus far we have been to Thailand (twice), Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. We will return to Thailand for a few more weeks before heading to Taiwan, and then eventually to Hawaii and Seattle for the holidays.



04 Aug 08 - Myriad Memories of Laos



I leave Laos with myriad memories -- 3rd world roads and 1st world wine bars; beautiful gold Wats and half-naked children; butt-aching slow boats and air-conditioned shopping malls; mud strewn jungle paths and deliciously grilled jumbo prawns; lost in the river fellow travellers and safron drapped monks in internet cafes. The memories are convoluted -- some beautiful some tragic.

For Dan and I, Laos was about friends. We entered the country with our Scottish friends Lesley, Bing & Jackie. Together, we all endured the slow boat and took our first shots of lao-lao (local firewater). I will never forget the trek to the hill tribes that we all did. Partly because of the beautiful scenary and the ever smiling chldren, but more so for the mud we waded through and the time Bing slipped cutting her nose on a barbed-wire fence. That will be worthy of a laugh for years to come!

When the ladies left, Dan and I joined our friends Lisa and Shane in Vang Vieng. It was my birthday and they surprised me with a bucket drink and other goodies. In V.V. we went kayaking. The landsape was gorgeous and the rapids swift. It was one of many fun activities we participated in there.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Laos. We just wish ALL tourists in Laos when we were there had been able to go home. Instead, FIVE drowned in FOUR separate accidents. Tourism is new in this developing country. They simply do not have safety standards in place yet. So if you go to Laos, do enjoy blazing a tourism trail, revel in getting off the beaten path, and let your eyes feast on the virgin landscapes... but MIND YOUR OWN SAFETY and always wear a life-jacket on the rivers.




25 Aug 08 - R & R in Thailand

This time our stay in Thailand was all about a little R & R!!

We "rested" in Nong Khai, in the Northeast corner of Thailand. Most people pass through this town, but we ended up staying a week!! We loved our hostel with its views of the Mekong river, and Laos beyond. We also enjoyed biking around town and finding the hidden gems -- like a giant Buddha on a roof of a building or the amazing and a bit surreal Statue Park. But I must admit, one of the biggest draws was... Starbucks!! Dan and I were ready for a few days of just sitting and chilling. It was great.

We "relaxed" in Pattaya, in the Southeast part of Thailand. Our main purpose in going here was to attend the ROUND TABLE WORLD CONFERENCE. We had a great time meeting Tablers and Circlers from around the world. This photo is of us with a couple attending the conference from England. Check out the "who are we" link to find out about this fabulous Charity / Social groups.

In between the R&R we toured Bangkok and got some business done. The National Palace in BKK is nice and Wat Pho was amazing. Both are highly recommended for any stay in the city. We also learned the bus system as we raced around town to get our Vietnam Visas and handle other business. The more time we spend in Bangkok, the more we like it.

14 Sept 08 - Communist Vietnam?

So what exactly does it mean to be a "Communist Country"? We are not sure, but one thing we know is that we are not going to learn about "Commie" ways in the Vietnam of today. Vietnam is a vibrant, fast and fabulous country. It is filled with friendly people and entreprenuial business owners. It also has a ton of good local beers -- that are sold for penneys! If this is what it means to be communist, Dan and I like it.

We spent three weeks in Vietnam going from HaNoi in the North to Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City) in the South. In between we hit Halong Bay, Hue and HoiAn. And in order to leave the country we did a two-day cruise of the MeKong River, eventually crossing into Cambodia.

Each location had its own charm. HaNoi was as energetic as a city comes. The kind of place where just crossing the street is an adventure! But it also has hidden pleasures like roof-top espresso bars and entertaining water puppet shows. Halong Bay is all about natural beauty. And we enjoyed kayaking and beach combing here.

From Hue we did a tour of the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ). It once again proved to me that I will NEVER understand war. A bit more fun, was our tour of the Perfume River with our new friends Bruce and Sue. We were impressed by the Kings' tombs and even more so by the amazing lunch our boat owner cooked up for us.

HoiAn is, according to the guidebooks, the "place in Asia to have clothes made". We obliged and had shirts, shorts, and dresses custom made. In Saigon we toured the Independence Palace and learned much about the way the Vietnamese interpret the "American War." Cruising along the MeKong we passed riverside villages and even bought coffees at a floating market.

Although we enjoyed the sites of Vietnam, to me, the country will always be about the people we met. From being invited to a party feast hosted by our hotel on our very first day, to talking to our tour guide about life in the country as we cruised the MeKong, I enjoyed each and every person I came in contact with. The Vietnamese are open and welcoming and just down right fun. In addition to the locals, this was a country where we really got to know other travellers. Especially, the great group from our Halong Bay tour!!

24 Sept 08 - Cambodia - wonderous and sorrowful

We never really know what to expect when we first visit a country. No matter what you read ahead, or learned from TV and news, prepares you for what a country is really like.

For example, most of the travel guides about Cambodia describe it as a country full of corruption, tell you to attach everything you own to you at all times, or else it will be ripped off you by roving motorcycle bandits. The truth is that I have more safety concerns when going to a mall in the states.

Angkor Wat - is the largest religious building complex in the world! Even when compared to the Vatican, it's bigger. Wow! While all of Europe was in the dark ages, incredible complex communities were being built. It will take your breath away in two ways. The first is its astonishing beauty. The second is in all the walking you'll do to attempt to see it. To give you an idea of size - the smaller temple of 'Angkor Wat' has a wall around it 4 kilometers in length, with lakes called 'moats' that makes the moats in Europe seem silly small. And Angkor Thom is significantly bigger.

Abruptly in 1975, Cambodia closed all communication with the outside world. For four years - borders were permanently shut and NO communication came out of Cambodia. Twenty-six percent - which was 2 million - of it's own citizens were then silently systematically exterminated. Cambodia's cities were emptied, and the entire country went back to the Stone Age with no electricity, no schools. If you wore glasses, had any education, sang a song, were an artist, or ever lived in a Cambodia city, you and your family were exterminated.

What amazed me the most... is that the people who were left. They should have a right to say they were violated and the world "owes" them. In New Orleans, when a natural disaster struck - lawlessness took over - and many to this day have never returned to New Orleans. But in Cambodia, we were met with friendly, honest, hard working people. They have learned somehow, how to move past the past, and are building a new future. A future that doesn't include the corruption and muggings we were warned about.

We look forward to returning to Cambodia again.

Wandering around Southeast Asia - 2008

Dan and I left Australia on 24 June 08. We flew to Bangkok and have been exploring SE Asia ever since. Thus far we have been to Thailand (twice), Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. We will return to Thailand for a few more weeks before heading to Taiwan, and then eventually to Hawaii and Seattle for the holidays.

Is this the end of our travelling? No. We are hoping to have enough energy to do one more trip round the world, settling back into a normal life in 2010.

Here's where we've been so far in SE Asia...

Location

Start Date

Duration

Information

Bangkok, Thailand 25 Jun 08 2 days The Starting Point
Kanchanaburi, Thailand 27 Jun 08 5 days A lovely town on the river Kwai
Bangkok, Thailand 02 Jul 08 1 days In-transit
Chiang Mai, Thailand 03 Jul 08 16 days Dan does a Thai Massage course
Pai, Thailand 06 Jul 08 6 days Shyla does a solo side trip and gets Dengue Fever
Chiang Saen, Thailand 19 Jul 08 2 days meet up with our Scottish friends. Mahout Dan and his four wives
Slow boat down the Mekong River, Laos 21 Jul 08 2 days First day fine... second day - could these seats get any harder?
Luang Prabang, Laos 22 Jul 08 6 days Hill tribes, temples, and lao-lao!
Vientiane, Laos 28 Jul 08 3 days The Laos capital city has a nice Wat, and a few good wine shops
Vang Vieng, Laos 31 Jul 08 4 days Kayaking and biking plus bucket drinks with Shane & Lisa (Happy Birthday Shyla)
Nong Khai, Thailand 4 Aug 08 8 days Chillin out, R&R plus a very surreal statue park
Bangkok, Thailand 12 Aug 08 8 days Site-seeing and getting some business done
Pattaya, Thailand 20 Aug 08 4 days Round Table World Conference
Bangkok, Thailand 24 Aug 08 3 days Collecting our Vietnam Visas
Hanoi, Vietnam 27 Aug 08 6 days Enjoying Hanoi and cruising Halong Bay
Somewhere in Vietnam 2 Sep 08 1 day Sleeping on the night bus
Hue, Vietnam 3 Sep 08 3 days DMZ & Perfume River tours
HoiAn, Vietnam 6 Sep 08 6 days Having clothes made and seeing My Son
HoChiMinhCity, Vietnam 12 Sep 08 2 days Reunification Palace and City Sites
Chau Doc, Vietnam 14 Sep 08 1 day Slow boat to Cambodia via MeKong River
Phnon Phen, Cambodia 15 Sep 08 4 days Royal Palace, National Museum, Central Market & Happy Hour at the Foreign Correspondents Club
Siem Reap, Cambodia 19 Sep 08 6 days Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and all the other Angkor-villes
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 25 Sep 08 3 days Petronas Tower & Hands-on Science Museum
Penang, Malaysia 28 Sep 08 7 days Strep Throat then Hari Raya & the best Mexican Restaurant
Langkawi, Malaysia 05 Oct 08 2 days Nice beach and duty free alcohol
Penang, Malaysia 07 Oct 08 2 days Backtracking to get one more meal at our favourite Indian and Mexican restaurants
Ko Samui, Thailand 09 Oct 08 2 days Thai island paradise... nope -- more like Mall of America surounded by water
Ko Phangan, Thailand 11 Oct 08 10 days Full Moon Party and secluded beach
Hua Hin, Thailand 21 Oct 08 4 days Sandy beach, excellent food and Thai boxing
Bangkok, Thailand 25 Oct 08 11 days Back to our base with friends Lisa, Shane, Nick, Kyrene, and David
Kaohsiung, Taiwan 05 Nov 08 2 days Travel to Taiwan and sort out rental car
Tainan, Taiwan 07 Nov 08 1 day Old capital of Taiwan filled with historic sites and a fabulous budget hotel
Mountains of Taiwan 08 Nov 08 1 day Morning bike ride in Tainan followed by a drive to an aboriginal town to see how the locals used to live
Antung, Taiwan 09 Nov 08 1 day Hike to an open air hot spring, followed by a torturously slow mountain drive, to finally reach a hot spring haven
Jaoshi, Taiwan 10 Nov 08 1 day Another slow drive, this time along the coast, led us to yet another hot spring town
Taipei, Taiwan 11 Nov 08 3 days A wonderful big city with great food and interesting culture
Honolulu, Hawaii 14 Nov 08 2 days Recover from jet lag and see the Pearl Harbor museum
Maui, Hawaii 16 Nov 08 7 days Relax with Trever and his family at the pool plus snorkle with turtles, play card game war, eat mahi-mahi and drink nice wine
Hilo, Hawaii 23 Nov 08 4 days Catch up with Uncle Don and family
Lake Forest Park, WA 27 Nov 08 6 days Thanksgiving with the Esko family and a celebration of our EIGHTH wedding anniversary
Flint, MI and LFP, WA 03 Dec 08 5 days Dan in Michigan with his family, Shyla in Seattle with her family
Saginaw, MI 08 Dec 08 9 days In Michigan catching up with various members of the Bare family
Lake Forest Park, WA 17 Dec 08 9 days In Seattle for the Christmas holidays
Portland, OR and LFP, WA 26 Dec 08 5 days Dan in Portland house-sitting, Shyla still in Seattle with her family and friends
Portland, OR 31 Dec 08 1 day HAPPY NEW YEARS!!


Update thru 31 Dec 08

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