Month: February 2013

Slices of life

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For our final full day in Luang Prabang, Karel and I meandered through the old town and visited one of the ancient temples. We stopped for a cooling drink on a terrace overlooking the river and watched people crossing a rickety-looking bamboo bridge (which gets washed away every year during rainy season), two young monks…

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How to ride an elephant

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For our first full day in Luang Prabang, we started at the ethnology museum. There are three major and several minor ethnic groups that comprise the population; we learned a bit about their origins, clothing, and cultures. Then we drove out of town to a beautiful waterfall, where we swam in the limestone pools. On…

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The Mekong

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After our arrival in Laos, it was a short trip upriver to meet our boat, but we very nearly didn’t make it when our songthaew stalled on a hill and wouldn’t get going again. Somehow, the driver managed to restart it, and we got over the crest of the hill and rolled into a spot…

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Parallel Economics

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Before leaving Chiang Mai, we walked in the old city and enjoyed a few temples. It was a long ride from Chiang Mai to the Thai-Laos border, through an increasingly rural landscape. We broke the trip up with a stop at a cashew farm and another at Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, also known…

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The Train to Chiang Mai

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The next big adventure was getting ourselves and our luggage across the street to the central rail station during rush hour. Terrifying. We boarded our train and soon we were creeping, crawling, and lurching along the tracks toward Chiang Mai. The train moved very slowly and stopped frequently, but that was all accounted for in…

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Our Indochina trip starts!

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Our first excursion was a ride on a long boat on the Chao Phraya River and one of the canals that Bangkok is famous for. It was a nice glimpse of the old Bangkok, although the waterways are no longer the main thoroughfares of commerce through the city. After that we visited Wat Pho, where…

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The Big, Big City

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Bangkok has between eight and nine million people—about the same as New York City, where I lived when I was very young. I sort of expected it to be an Asian version of New York, but instead it feels even bigger, noisier, dirtier, and more chaotic. This is really surprising to me, because New York…

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Twenty-First Century Asia

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Our friend Jaa welcomed us at the airport in Bangkok and, after a brief visit to a local market, drove us to her house near the outskirts of the city. We took a short break to freshen up, then headed over to her mother’s home, nearby, to meet the family and have dinner. While Jaa’s…

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Back in the mountains

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That evening we were treated to a home-cooked meal in the home of a local friend of our tour director. The food was fresh and delicious. After that, we enjoyed another jam with the band at the restaurant. In the morning, we began our return trip to the southern part of the island, with a…

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Tragedy Of The Commons

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Five of our group opted to rise before the sun, walk the short distance down to the beach, and hire two motor-driven, outrigger canoes to see if we could spot any dolphins. There were four to a boat, so Karel and I shared ours with another couple not from our tour group. We glided out…

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Not quite so beautiful

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In the tropics, the trees are prolific litterbugs. As we’d walk down to breakfast, we’d always see the staff tidying up the gardens and grounds, but no sooner had they carried away a bushel of leaves and twigs and husks and blossoms from under one tree, than a little breeze would bring down another basketful….

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Jamming in Bali

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After the hike we moved on to the north coast tourist town of Lovina. Karel and I wandered down to the beach to find dinner. There was a restaurant called Sea Breeze that we’d heard had live music, so Karel brought his guitar along, just in case. Sure enough, there was a band of four…

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Pilgrimage

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Our vans climbed high up into the mountains, encountering rain showers along the way, and crossed the rugged spine of the island. Then, with the weather clearing again, we descended steeply into a huge, ancient crater. We arrived at a bare bones hotel and went to bed early to get as much sleep as possible…

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Life in Bali

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When you drive through Bali, you can see much of the commerce crammed up against the pavement, and get a sense of what’s important to the people here. Besides restaurants, hotels, and a few other touristy things, I have the impression that 80% of the Bali economy is devoted to religion. All the beautiful arts…

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Rain at last

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Over the next few days, we traveled by minivan to the highlights across the central part of the island, along with our tour director, drivers, and fellow travelers. Often we had local guides to take us through a village or park. At the first village we visited, just outside of Ubud, we were invited into…

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Welcome to Asia

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Karel has been to Japan, China, and Thailand before, but Bali is my first experience of Asia. When we left the serene confines of our resort—this time in daylight—every sight and sound and smell was a novelty to me. You can read about Bali on Wikipedia, but here are a few factoids for context: •…

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Drenched in Bali

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It was dark when we arrived in Denpasar, but we could tell instantly that we were in another world. It was very warm, but not unbearably so; however, the humidity was around 90%. As we stepped out of the air-conditioned jet, we were instantly covered with a sheen of moisture, and we haven’t been dry…

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Australia: First Signs of Culture Shock

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Travel day; we had a few hours in the morning to upload photos and check email at an internet café before heading to the airport. While Karel worked on that, I had a nice conversation with the girl at the desk, another Scottie on a work visa having a great time living in New Zealand…

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More impressions of New Zealand

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The pine trees in New Zealand were designed by Dr. Seuss. The ferns were designed by Stephen Spielberg. New Zealand reminds me, in some ways, of the US when I was growing up. I remember when farms were small, roads were narrow, retail shops closed by dinnertime, when we kids ranged from one end of…

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Queenstown: Boulder On Steroids

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People living in Boulder often lament that Boulder would be absolutely perfect, if it only had a beach. If you want to see what that looks like, go to Queenstown, which is nestled between high mountains and one of New Zealand’s largest lake, named Wakatipu. Like Boulder, Queenstown is overrun with young and athletic types…

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