Fair warning: this is going to be a lot darker than most of my posts here. I’m going to shelf my usual feeble attempts at pithy humor, because it doesn’t feel right when discussing the horrific and ongoing plight of the millions upon millions of Syrians that have been displaced from their homes by the increasingly brutal civil war being waged in their homeland.
Visiting Southeast Asia without seeing Thailand is like reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but not The Hobbit, eating chili without any jalapeños (or a proper roux base, for that matter), or listening to all of Highway 61 Revisited, but skipping “Like A Rolling Stone.” It may not be your favorite, but it’s a central part of the experience, and perhaps the most well-known part of it at that. Without it, it’s hard to fully appreciate the big picture.
Anyway, I babbled enough about Thailand as a whole in my previous post. Here are some pictures:
If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent countless hours entertaining yourself by scanning the great @_FloridaMan Twitter feed, which highlights some of the day’s more outlandish news stories with the phrase “Florida man” in the headline (“Florida man sets car on fire in McDonald’s parking lot in dispute over dessert;” “Florida man arrested for throwing dog poop at pregnant girlfriend”).
Just me, then?
SOMEWHERE IN NORTHERN LAOS – It’s nearly two-thirty in the morning, and I’ve been on this damned “sleeper” bus for almost five hours now. I’m not sure why sleep is so elusive on this particular night; maybe it’s the fact that the mountainous road from Luang Prabang consists of nearly one hundred straight miles of steeply ascending and descending switchbacks with no real respite before the barely-paved road finally straightens out somewhat after Vang Vieng, or maybe it’s the fact that this area carries a certain notoriety for the restive Hmong tribes that live in the surrounding hillsides and are known to carry out occasional attacks on buses due to an ongoing conflict with the government.
Travel for even a day in nearly any Southeast Asian town or city with more than 200 residents and you’ll quickly become familiar with the ubiquitous tuk-tuk, the most common and cost-effective mode of transportation for locals and travelers alike (non-motorbike category). Finding them isn’t particularly difficult; in fact, it’s generally as simple as walking down even a slightly busy street, and waiting for the catcalls from eager tuk-tuk drivers to cascade towards you from seemingly every direction:
To celebrate my last days in beautiful Laos, I figured I’d finally get around to posting some pictures from Vietnam (at this rate, I’m hoping to get pictures from Laos uploaded sometime before the end of the current Obama administration). I’ll hold my thoughts on the sometimes-contentious reaction that being an American inspired in some of the more rural / traditional parts of Vietnam for another post; overall, it was a fantastic experience with great people, amazing food, and lively cockfights.
Back in South Korea, we paid a visit to Tongyeong, a southern port city famous for its chong mun gim bap: fermented octopus mixed with a variety of local spices, held together by a delicate seaweed wrap. While it was pretty good, we ended up ordering roughly two pounds of the stuff, stuffing it into my backpack, and bringing it along on a 6k island hike – because picnics are fun! It’s been nearly two months, and I’ve still yet to rid my bag of that foul, hot octopus stench.
But I digress. This is a story about buses.
Spending six weeks in China was an unforgettable experience to say the least. It was a great opportunity to get an inside perspective on the world’s newest superpower — to gauge the political pulse and feelings of locals, assess future growth prospects and hurdles, and so on. Also, the dumplings; my god, were those good. I’ve briefly touched on each of these topics in previous posts, so I’ll spare you any further commentary (read: bloviation) on them here.
Rather, before moving on from my China-centric posts, I want to share what was perhaps the single most memorable part of China for me (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but only slightly): the hilarious public service announcements that can be found in most Chinese bathrooms. There’s no single theme present. Some are from a government-led campaign to, er, improve accuracy in urinals, some focus more on what you can and can’t do in a given bathroom, some are borderline inexplicable and feature pictures of dying men being carried to the hospital and/or peeping toms. It’s really just a potpourri of hilarity and questionable translation.
Anyway, I’ll just let these pictures speak for themselves:
Here’s to you, hostel rat.
While other travelers may choose to stay in hostels because they’re, you know, cheaper and generally have friendly-ish, English-speaking staff that provide useful tips and tricks for getting around a given area, you know better. You’re above that amateur-hour backpacker BS, that’s for sure!
Remember that time that I predicted I’d be blogging here “roughly two to three times per week?” Yeah, about that…
Anyway, I figure I’m probably due for an update. I’m writing this from the Chengdu airport, waiting to board a flight to Kunming: our last stop in China before moving on to Vietnam. China has been an experience, to say the least. We’ve covered a ton of ground, met lots of interesting people, eaten some incredible meals, and, of course, ogled baby pandas.
Since I last wrote from Xi’an, we’ve made our way down the west coast of China (via Shanghai) and moved inland, first to Guangxi province, then further east to Yunnan province, and then slightly north to Sichuan province, where I currently sit. Instead of my usual, barely legible wall of text, I figured I’d instead share some photo highlights from China: