December 1, 2006
- I was back in the third world after being in Hong Kong and Shanghai. It was time to readjust and brace myself for the
hoards of people who would want to give me motorbike rides.
- There is an overwhelming disparity between rich and poor. I noticed this especially in Phnom Penh. Some of the houses
were quite extravagant.
- You hear about Thai food. You hear about Vietnamese food. But you never hear about Cambodian (aka ‘Khmer’) food. Let
me tell you…it’s great!!! In any case, I can’t wait to seek out the cuisine from these countries when I go to restaurants at
- You will never hear more offers for a motorbike or a tuk tuk than while traveling through this region of the world. It is wise
to tell Thailand tuk-tuk drivers that you do NOT want to have stops in between (as they will take you to stores and
factories so they can get commissions). Many will then turn you away. But you will eventually find one. One thing that
worked for us was telling them we had to get to an appointment in ten minutes. Granted, it was the truth. But if it wasn’t, it
still makes a great excuse to give them.
- I feel like I have regained some of my Westerner celebrity status that I had while I was in China. Every time a child says
‘Hi’ their face lights up when you wave and say ‘Hello’ back. It is sooo adorable!
- There were soooo many Western chains in Bangkok. I had to think ‘Where am I???’ They even had Bud’s Ice Cream of San
Francisco stores in Thailand. San Francisco doesn’t even have these any more! They also had Swensen’s (which we do still
have back at home) ice cream shops.
- I no longer believe 7-Eleven is an American company. I am convinced…by the number that I saw out in Thailand…that it
originated there and made it’s way over to the New World. There is no exaggeration at all when I say that there was one on
every block. McDonald’s isn’t even as common!
- The malls in Bangkok were some of the nicest I have seen…anywhere! Any designer store, it was in one of these malls. In
addition to amazing food courts and restaurants. Oh, and spas. And I will also note the excellent air-conditioning they
- They serve fried chicken at McDonald’s in Thailand. Is it just me or is this pretty crazy???
- Siam Reap is entering the world of 5-star tourism. Many new resorts are opening up in addition to posh boutique hotels.
There are also hip cafes and restaurants scattered through the main part of town.
- It is so nice how restaurants in this part of the world give cool, wet towels before eating. So refreshing! We even got one with
a piece of lemongrass in it that we were to break before using so we would have the pleasant aroma.
- Words can’t describe the tropical produce in this region of the world. Many of these fruits are intimidating as it is near
impossible to figure out how to eat it without being given a lesson. Luckily, I got this lesson in the Maldives so I was ready to
go! I am really going to mourn the loss of not having access to these fruits in the future.
- Everybody does a little bow when you enter a store or buy something in Thailand. They even do this before taking a
boarding pass at the airport.
- In regards to Buddha… we learned that a person should never be higher than his statue. People should also never be higher
than a monk; therefore, it is necessary to kneel. Your feet also can’t face Buddha.
- I was given ‘good luck’ by a monk when he tied a white-string to my wrist.
- Thai Buddhas: We learned they have three poses – meditating, reclining and the ‘stopping’ pose (almost like telling
themselves to ‘stop and relax’). Any other position isn’t a Thai Buddha.
- Angkor is so much more impressive than I ever expected. My favorite temple there was Bayon. From afar it doesn’t look
like much. But up close, it’s pretty darn awesome.
- There is only one way to travel between Siam Reap and Phnom Penh…and that is by boat. Of course, you could take a bus.
But you would be stupid to not splurge and spend the extra $15 to see the floating villages and such that are along the river.
Oh yeah…and avoid the horrible roads (or so I have heard that they are horrible).
- There is no need to book travel internally before you arrive. It is too easy to find cheap flights to/from places. Most of the
time it makes more sense to fly versus taking a train. For example, it only cost me $20 more to take the one-hour flight
from Hoi An/Danang to Ho Chi Minh City than to take the 18-hour overnight train. Especially since I was a bit limited on
time, I gained a day by choosing that option.
- Traveling through Vietnam allowed me to learn so much more than I ever knew about the Vietnam War. I am doing this
trip in large part to learn about countries’ histories. One of the best ways to be exposed to the tragedies of the war was at
the War Remnants Museum. I really could not believe my eyes. And then it, of course, brought to light the current wars
going on in the world and how many people are suffering the effects of those.
- I can now say I have shot a gun. I did this while at the Cu Chi Tunnels. It was an MK-16. My poor ears might be damaged
for life after shooting my round of ammo (despite wearing protective ear thingies). It’s important to hold on to the gun
tightly because it kind of pushes you back a little.
- Singapore is beyond clean. A receipt flew out of my hand and I literally ran five meters in order to retrieve it. There are
signs posted everywhere of fines for all sorts of things. I think all countries should inflict fear into people. It could make a
- There are so many contrasts between Thailand and Vietnam. Thailand is so much more developed and, therefore, more
expensive and Western. Vietnam had relatively no chains and was made up mostly up locally-owned shops. I also felt that
Vietnam had so much character versus Thailand. I am aching to go back!
- Going to Hoi An is a must when going to Vietnam. Clothes are well-made quickly and cheaply. Just bring pictures from
magazines back home and they will re-create the article of clothing! I think I might make a trip back there just to get
clothes made. Well, I will take advantage of the spa treatments, too, while waiting for my clothes to be altered.
- Speaking of spas, a person can get pampered to death in this part of the world. Spas are so cheap and they offer every type
of treatment imaginable. Some of the spas are very minimal and others are beyond hoity-toity.
- A person really learns a lot about recent Cambodian history while in Phnom Penh and going to S-21. Incredible that
genocide was occurring here so recently. And even more incredible that Pol Pot (who was the head of the Khmer Rouge)
was alive up until 1999 and was never charged with anything.
- Want to buy books? Reprints of almost every book are created out here. The quality is nowhere near as good as the real
thing…but hey, they’re cheap! They have travel guides for every country and most best-sellers.