Greetings friends, family, and fellow adventurers from a balcony in Hue Viet Nam!
Since my travels will hopefully last a good year or so, the plan is to send an email once a month to my "adventure list" (that's you) to share some stories, ask for input on next steps, and remind you that for more info on my adventures you can always check out the blog: www.whereintheworldismunny.blogspot.com
I left Jackson on March 16th at sunrise. I landed in Bangkok well after sunset on March 17th. My St. Patrick's Day was considerably shorter than I would have preferred, but the ticket price was worth the sacrifice. I recovered from jetlag in the company of a family friend who lives outside of the city, who was quite generous in her hospitality (and being from the hospitality state, I know these kinds of things). My general route from Bangkok was south to the beach, then double-header overnight trains to the north of Thailand before crossing over into Laos and down the Mekong. From Vientiane I flew to Hanoi to meet up with a DC friend, Sarah aka the Shaman, and we're currently working our way south to Saigon and then over to Cambodia. It'd be impossible to share with you everything, so I'll just give a cliffnotes version of some of my blog entries:
- I am approximately twice the size of the average Asian. It's a good thing I don't have a body-image problem because this place would certainly aggrevate it. It does, however, make for comical transportation situations - like the time the Vietnamese man wanted to sit in my lap for a 4 hour journey, or the train where I couldn't even crawl on my hands and knees in my bunk, or the public bus where I had to "stand" in the aisle but the ceiling of the bus was maybe 5'5" and I'm 5'10".
- The scenery is unreal. From limestone cliffs that drop right into the ocean, floating down the Mekong, cruising through Ha Long Bay, to exploring caves that could fit a full-size rugby pitch. It's a wild place (and becoming less and less so these days) and amazing to explore. I have much more to say on conservation and environmental issues, but I'll leave that note for personal conversations.
- My math skills are going to be stellar when I get back. Forget NCLB, we should just send kids abroad and give them a wad of cash and see how long they make it. It was $1 USD for 31 Thai Baht for 8,400 Lao Kip, and 18,500 Vietnamese Dong. I still think it all looks like Monopoly money. I did, however, pay someone one million dong (roughly $50) the other day though and I felt like I was in the mafia.
- Asian toilets. It's like those puzzles in third grade where you're given 3 objects and a task you're supposed to complete. Here it's a hole that looks kind of like a squashed toilet, a bucket of water, and a hose. No flush button, no toilet paper. Yeah, it took me about a week to figure it out.
- A Vespa is a family-friendly vehicle. Yes, if only my parents had visited Vietnam before they bought that station wagon, all of our family trips could have been carried out on a Vespa. I indeed saw a family of five riding a Vespa (seemingly comfortably) in Hanoi.
I return to the States in mid-May and set off on my wedding-palooza road trip. Roughly I'll be taking the East Coast by storm in late May and June and then the West Coast in July and August. I'm still scheming up ideas for the Fall so if you're off to somewhere wonderful, or have a great idea - let me know!
Hope all is well wherever this may find you.