April 24, 2007

Reflections in California

I feel good. After a long and arduous flight, we arrived in Los Angeles. We are staying at my Dain and Marleta’s apartment. I thought the jet lag was not immediately evident. We spent this past week with them. It is great to see your kid after six months, especially since Dain so rarely returns to the Midwest. We talked, and went out for dinner most every night. Betty cooked a couple of time. The coop-de-resistance was the Easter ham and sour cream potatoes. Yes, we knew that Easter had come and gone two weeks ago, but Dain and Marleta did not seem to care. Plus, I had not had a real ham in almost a year. It was great.

I called my cousin Steve and asked him to visit with us in Santa Monica. Meanwhile Betty’s brother John had made plans to come down to Santa Monica to see us. Both of them showed up on Thursday. I had a great day visiting with Steve. Betty made pad thai that evening and we all ate together. Steve returned to Victorville and John stay in Santa Monica until Sunday.

Reflecting on our trip through Asia:
We visited seven nations: China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. They all had their pluses and minuses, but some were far more enjoyable than others. China and Thailand were my favorites and Cambodia and Laos were merely OK, while Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore were good places to visit.

China was the most interesting. It has the friendliest people. The ease of travel is high with great air, train and bus transport. The accommodations were good, but not the cheapest. The food was tasty and not too expensive. And when we needed it, we could always find a McDonalds. The only draw back is language, but with a good phrasebook this problem can be overcome. It is a place that we certainly wish to return. It piqued our curiosity about the rest of northern Asia.

The place that we liked most in all of SE Asia was Chiang Mai. The city is just the right size. Accommodations are very inexpensive. It is easy and cheap to rent a motorbike. There are plenty of good restaurants that offer a wide range of prices and cuisines. The positives of Chiang Mai put Thailand on the top of our enjoyment list. Like China Thailand has great roads and good intercity bus transportation. The trains are very cheap, but not a nice as the ones in China. Another big plus for us was great broadband internet services not only in cyber shops but often in guesthouses and hotels.

Vietnam is a mixed bag. Only the cost of the visa was high, everything else was very reasonable. There are lots of great tourist services, mainly because there are so damn many tourists. The people are fairly private or introverted, and so they appear to be the least friendly of the countries we visited. Hanoi is a better city to visit than Ho Chi Minh City. Based on what we know now, the only things that we would have done differently here would be to spent more time in Nha Trang and in the Mekong delta.

In my mind, there is no difference between Singapore and Malaysia, except the higher prices in Singapore. So, when I speak of one, I am also speaking about the other. Malaysians are the friendliest people in SE Asia. It is also the most expensive place to visit. Due to lack of large numbers of tourist, the tourist services are weak. They have the most advance infra structure in SE Asia. Bus and train transport is good and easy to use. There is not as much to do and see in this part of SE Asia.

Cambodia is in expensive. The road and bus service between Phnom Penh Siem Reap are good. Hotel and guesthouses are inexpensive, clean and comfortable. Life is slow and comfortable. The temples at Angkor were wonderful. The rest of the country is very underdeveloped, meaning poor folks and a poor infrastructure. Laos was a lot like Cambodia.

We learn a lot every time we go someplace. We learn about the people and places. We learn about how to travel. As to people and places, the number one lesson we leaned on this trip was that everything we ever had been told about China was a big fat lie. As to travel the greatest thing that we learned about was couch surfing. I am sure that we will continue to be member of couch surfing community, because it opens doors to know a place and its people in a very real and intimate way.

Betty and I will be traveling in the next year. You can expect to find many new stories as we find new places to visit. Tomorrow we will be back in the Midwest. Before we return to the road, I will occasionally update this BLOG with a story and photos.

Posted by bill at April 24, 2007 12:31 PM