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How was the trip?
I always find this question to be mundane.  You can never really explain how the trip really was.  An “amazing”, “great”, “horrible”, or “alright” never really suffices.  Nonetheless I’ll attempt to go into a bit more detail here.
The trip was “amazing” in a way that I can’t say about my previous trips.  There was such highs and lows for me on this one compared to my prior travels.  I’d experienced the usual lows of travel before (i.e. – homesickness) but nothing like this trip’s actual sickness.  The Swine Flu was my low point in all my travels.  First the actual sickness itself was worrisome.  There was the night in Phnom Penh were a numbness suddenly spread across my upper body while at dinner and was pretty damn scary.  Then that night of no sleep where I threw up all-night and sprawled out on the tile floor to keep my temperature was a big downer.  I couldn’t tell you if I was more concerned with myself, or what Duncan would have to do when something happened to me – as I was certain I would loose consciousness that night, and have to go to hospital.  Poor Duncan would’ve had to drag me down the spiraling staircase from the fifth floor.  Second there was the mental low-point of being locked in quarantine for a week.  I’ve never been in that sort of vulnerable position where any form of power as an individual you may have had been taken away.  I was essentially at the mercy of the Vietnamese government, and got pretty much what I expected from a Socialist government: screwed to various degrees.  My passport was taken from me so I couldn’t go anywhere.  I was not given any food/access to food in over 24 hours.  I was given a “promise” that they would contact my embassy giving them my whereabouts/information (never happened – embassy contacted by my father who I got a hold of via email thanks to my friend Minh’s computer in Ho Chi Minh City, along with my fellow border-quarantined friend Vuthy who called up my embassy upon his release).  Then there was the boredom of the Ho Chi Minh City quarantine hospital with nothing to do for all those days.  I spent so much time staring at the ceiling, that I actually pondered my life, “getting things in order” or “putting it all in perspective” so to speak.
Then there was the euphoric high’s encountered.  Duncan’s favorite day (my #2) was the sailing around Halong Bay.  My personal favorite was our private trekking tour (us two along with the guide).  The silence/relaxation of being out in the Thai jungle walking is something all should experience.  It was a pretty grueling walk, which made the end (the waterfalls) all the more enjoyable.  Factor in the fact we had them all to ourselves and it truly was a high I wish everyone could have taken part in.
It was something both Duncan and I had to see in our lifetime and we did.  The only thing that let us down slightly was seeing just how touristy it was.  It soured the experience ever so slightly.  The tubing in Vang Vieng was the eye-opener for us.  While a fun experience, there were barely any locals around.  The entire town was comprised of hippies or frat boys: two types of people that I can’t stand.  Thinking back on it though I don’t think it’s really possible to get a genuine local experience no more.  Everything is a money grab – I’m not using figure of speech here either.  We did not have one experience where a local was genuinely concerned for us.  Everybody had the same motive when interacting with us: get money out of us in some way/shape/forum.  It’s kind of depressing how the people of Thailand (in particular out of the four countries) have literally whored themselves out to the travel industry.  It makes me wonder if they ever appreciate the finer things in life any more, or if money/citizenship is all they ever think about any more.  With all that said there were a lot of genuine connections made with fellow travelers: from the Dutch couple, to our four Toronto friends, to all my “Swine-Friends”, to our fellow passengers on the boat in Halong Bay.
On the whole it did not disappoint and was a really enjoyable trip.  It easily surpassed any of my previous travels.

Knife incident
Since I’ve been back a couple people have asked me about the knife incident in Bangkok (as per my Facebook status change), so I will give a quick little overview of what happened:
We decided to go back to the Red Light District to see one of the infamous “Ping-Pong Shows”.  We had heard they were quite humorous, and I have previously seen one of the sex shows in Amsterdam that was quite funny, so we figured we’d go out of a laugh.
The only warnings we had been issued were in regards to what to expect and what to check for before entering.  Expect a lady to blow darts through a tube out of her Vagina, which would be aimed at a balloon held in your hand (yes, this happened, and we were horrified that she might miss and hit one of our arms with a flying dart)!  Expect a lady to launch ping-pong balls from her (this also happened).  In regards to what to check for, we were only told to make sure there was no cover charge (there wasn’t).
So, after making sure there was no cover charge, up a shady-staircase we walked to an upper floor where the show was to be held.  It was our first in a string of disappointments: it was basically a run down strip-club/bar.  The second atmosphere sucked (only four people in the crowd).  Third, the girls were downright nasty: stretched stomachs, scars on stomach’s from pregnancies, hairy your-know-what’s, chunky girls, and to make matters worse the “ping-pong” lady was an old-wrinkled lady who looked around 60.
We quickly decided the Heineken would be our first and only beer of the night, as we wanted a speedy departure from the establishment.  So as usual in these sorts of establishments, the girls crowded us as asked if we wanted to buy them drinks.  Both of us (multiple times each) said, “No, in no way/shape/forum would we consider buying you drinks.”  Surely enough 5 minutes later they returned with drinks.  Seeing this situation was looking bad we downed our drinks and went to pay for our two beers (priced: 100 Baht each).  The lady behind the bar dropped us a bill for 4000 Baht: 200 Baht beers, 800 Baht “viewing fee”, 3000 Baht lady drink.”  Of course we told her to F-off, in no way would be paying 4000 baht for this garbage.  Then three “wanna-be goons/thugs” stepped forward from the door in an attempt to threaten us.  We told her we didn’t order the girls any drinks, so she called over the girls.  We asked which one of us said we’d buy them drinks, and they all just stood there looking in to space (none of them said a word).  So we turned back to the lady and said that we’d pay our 200 baht and leave.  One of the dudes stepped up to me again as we went to leave.  Then I said “you know what, I think we’ll just call the cops to sort this out”, to which the lady replied “Okay we’ll call mafia”.  Me and Duncan looked at each other with a big smirk on each of our faces, knowing full well these people could only ever dream of reaching mafia status.  So we said “nah, nah, your not mafia, it’s okay we’ll call the cops,” so the dude stepped up again.  Here one of the dudes pulled a knife to show from his pants.  The lady said, “Okay, you pay 2000 baht.”  Me and Duncan huddled up and figured the 2000 baht (our original estimate on what the ENTIRE NIGHT would cost us) would be nothing to avoid either the trouble of having to go to a hospital, or to fight our way out, or to fill out reports at a police station.  So we dropped the 2000 and left the place steaming mad.  We stormed around the market telling vendors/more ping-pong shows where to shove their offers for a while.  We then decided to head back to 7-11, buy some beers, head back to our hotel and drink the night off.  To me the night just reiterated the fact pussies are the only ones who carry weapons on them.

What’s next?
Life –
I’ve been back for 4 days now enjoying the comforts of home/Canada.  My first run had my lungs burning – they weren’t used to such clean air after the 2 months of exposure to the pollution of Southeast Asia! I dropped 15 lbs on the trip, so I’ve been trying to keep that up with 07:00 runs every morning.  Sleeping in my own bed has been just what I was hoping for (except for the second night back when I woke up in a disoriented slobber-covered panic not knowing where I was).
I figure I’m going to take a week or two off to wind down and get healthy again.  My health took quite the beating on the trip and I had some heath issues even up to the final week in Bangkok.
After that I’ll start the job search (and my introduction to the “real world”).  I’ve decided to turn down the teaching ESL position in Korea.  The experience has shown me I couldn’t handle spending an entire year of my life immersed in an Asian society with all its particular cultural traits (many of which irritate me – namely the infatuation with comics and to act like children through all ages of ones life).  I’m pretty much open to staying in Toronto or moving back to Vancouver.  I wouldn’t say I prefer one city over the other as of now, but it all depends on the job I can (hopefully) get.  If I cannot get a job I really like, then I will likely take a lower-end job for a short while to save up money for more travels later in the year.

Travel –
Duncan has already said he wants to do our originally planned trip within the next 2 years: Central and South America.  The route was to fly into Mexico City, work our way down through to Panama where we would hop on a flight to Bogota.  From there we’d explore Columbia before hopping on another flight (to avoid the rebels/paramilitaries of the border-regions of Columbia) to Peru.  From there we’d explore the rest of South America (spending the greater portion of time in Brazil) all the way down to Argentina, where we’d hop on a flight home.   This trip is probably ranked #1 on my list as of now, but:
#2 – India + Nepal.  We’ve already got a 3-4 week itinerary planned for this one, mainly done by bus and train.
#3 – Africa and/or #4 Middle east – I’m looking at something along the lines of South Africa all the way up to the middle east.
But as far as all of these go, my #1 priority now is a career.  If I get a job I love, and can’t get the vacation time for these trips, the job takes priority.

Thoughts on Blogging while traveling
It’s time consuming.  I liked doing it, but learned there are more efficient ways to do it.  I didn’t bring my laptop, as I didn’t want to be worried about it getting stolen or broken in the wilderness.  With that said, it seemed like everywhere was laptop friendly.  The Internet café’s were horrible to blog at.  First off the connections were horrible, and there was always a 3-7 second delay on typing through the WordPress browser.  Add in the feeling like your on the clock (for the minutes you paid for), along with the fact the keyboards were often broken/sticky and there really wasn’t the ability to legitimately look at (let alone edit) what your typing.  The connection speeds at the net cafes wouldn’t permit the uploading of pictures let alone videos.  Furthermore most of the computers themselves didn’t have access to USB jacks, so you often couldn’t connect your camera even if you wanted to.  I think I’d do it again, but next time I’d bring my laptop.

Pics and Vid’s will be up shortly.

  1. Jennifer Holbrook
    September 3, 2009 at 15:00

    Glad you’re back on Canadian soil safe and sound. Take some well-earned R&R now. It was lovely following your journey, traumatic though it was in some places, on your blog. Relax,enjoy,and then start looking for work. Glsd to have you back allin one piece!! Luv Grandma

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