After a 14 hour drive from Inle Lake to Yangon, a 2 hour flight from Yangon to Bangkok, and a 5 hour flight from Bangkok to Beijing, I find myself sitting in Beijing International airport for my 6 hour layover before my final 13 hour flight and 2.5 hour drive home.
In total I have currencies from 6 countries in my wallet. 4 Visas from Thailand, and one for each of the following, China, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
I have learned how to say “hello” and “thank you” in all of the languages, although the ones from the beginning of my trip are already a little hazy already. Somehow I managed to not get dysentery or malaria, although I still have another week of taking malaria pills and the flight home, so the jury is still out.
I fed monks and monkeys, survived driving streets of Myanmar(although I am sure this still took years off my life), spontaneously combusting TV’s, wading past floating fecal matter, and holding 10 foot long holy snakes.
It has been a great trip, but I am tired and ready for home.
Something I didn’t touch on very much were the stories of the people in Myanmar, knowing that anything going through the internet was being watched and not wanting to be held captive leaving the country by the Junta I kept my stories minimal.
First off was the Burmese travel agent, who told us of countless friends and family members who have disappeared into political prisons over the years. The most alarming was that of a friend of hers, who being a public defender was assigned by the Junta to a case he didn’t want. The case was for a man who was without a doubt guilty in the eyes of the Junta. Her friend, by doing his assigned job, reluctantly defended this man only to be arrested with his entire staff and without trial thrown into prison.
The cities are filled with street kids who’s parents had been killed or arrested. People speak softly to us knowing that anyone could be listening. Most tell us if they had weapons they would fight, of course they have nothing. The live in fear, without hope, going through the motions of life. Their only purpose to have food for the day and a roof over their head at night.
The people have been really interesting along the way.
Bangkok is like any other city where the people are short with tempers, and quick to ignore, but at the same time has a chaotic busy charm to it.
Cambodia the people are genuine but their exploitation of Siem Reap is going to cause financial difficulties due to the surplus of hotels and the overcharging of the tourists.
Laos is charming with beautiful mountains, but the culture of downtown is already catering to the west way to much and in a few more years all of the natives will have sold out to foreign investors who may find that the draw is gone now that they are there.
Myanmar was filled with absolutely delightful people, who shared their stories, many of which will resonate with me for years.
I was getting tired of the lack of any organization though.
Lines have no meaning in Asia, I have never been pushed around, out of the way, or cut in front of more times in my life. It was a constant everywhere I went.
The final straw was when I went to the bathroom and waited in line with other westerners for a urinal or stall to open up in the bathroom. Yet, two Thai guys walked right past us and tried to grab the next open stall. Tired and needing to go to the bathroom, I yelled at him in English, he got the point and let me go first as he mumbled something in Thai, I did my best to mockingly repeat what I thought were the same words back at him. It was childish but it felt good after being so drained.
I know it is a cultural thing, but it is one thing about the culture I am not going to accept, just like using a bucket of water instead of toilet paper and the lack of western toilets. If I see another hole in the ground with a bucket of water next to it for cleaning ones self again it will be to soon.
What baffles me is that they would rather squat on the floor , most likely covered with urine and feces, in a dark room with numerous creepy crawlies than just go behind some bushes. I would say it is for sanitary reasons but most of the sewage dumps right into the local watering hole anyway, which they then proceed to wash their dishes and bathe in.
I am also glad to get away from the heat.
My first leg of flying home is the longest time in the last three weeks that I wasn’t damp with sweat and stunk of BO. It would have bee even more enjoyable if my neighbor on the plane had decided to bathe and use deodorant before sitting next to me. Normally I would say he smelled about a week old, but after experiencing south east asia, I have to say it could only be a few hours. As Matt said, it is not that deodorant doesn’t work here, its just that you would need to douse your entire body.
We really do take so much for granted in the US. With people even believe jobs are beneath them. Here if you don’t work, you don’t survive, someone else isn’t going to pick up the tab. A painter in Bagan said in a good week he sells 4 paintings, we were buying these paintings for $1-$6 USD. Kids were ecstatic to receive a shiny sticker from Brooke or a pen from me.
All the while our country of excess and wealth continues to under appreciate the luxuries and freedoms we have. Then complain about such petty things as the increased price of gasoline, which mean, only in the tightest budgets, a small change in our lifestyle.
It is a shame more Americans don’t travel beyond our borders, if they do, they mostly only make it to western countries, which culturally may be slightly different are financially similar. It definitely gives you a greater appreciation of the opportunities our country affords every citizen.
Overall this was a great trip but my future trips will hopefully be something with less heat and humidity…Until next time.