The ancient history. These cultures have intermingled, fought together against outside enemies and also against each other, and influenced each other since what seems like the beginning of time. As a result, architecture and religion came together in some really amazing ways over the centuries.
Cham Towers near Quy Nhon, Vietnam
Phra That stupa in Vientiane, Lao
Buddha statues in Si Satchanalai, Thailand
the story on the wall at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The markets. Not the shopping markets - but if you've been reading you know that already. We're talking about the fruit and vegetable markets that are usually surrounded by food stalls.
Hoi An, Vietnam's lunch market
Sapa, Vietnam's veggie market
Kampong Cham, Cambodia's fruit market
Phnom Penh, Cambodia's Russian market
The critters. We spent a lot of time outside over the last six months, so we saw some pretty amazing critters. Butterflies of all shapes and colors, giant spiders, patient snails and grasshoppers, tiny geckos...
... lizards large and small...
... crazy jungle bugs...
... urban snakes...
... and one scorpion hung by its tail in Nong Khiaw
(yep, it was still alive)
The jungle bugs were the best. (They always are.)
The lush green even in the midst of otherwise dry, dusty villages.
terraced rice fields in Sapa, Vietnam
our backyard in Viang Veng, Lao
hiking in Koh Tao, Thailand
view from Kep National Park, Cambodia
And of course, the warm, friendly people and the kids screaming "HELLO!" everywhere we went.
Gia, SuSu, and Sang from Sapa, Vietnam
cute Misato at our Thailand farmstay
Mr Cherin from ThreeJ Guesthouse in Kamphaeng Phet, Thailand
our HFH Cambodian team leader Samvitey ("Raymond") from Phnom Penh
We especially appreciated the warm welcomes in the non-touristy towns and villages like Buon Ma Thuot, Quy Nhon, Oudomxai and Kamphaeng Phet. (And all of Cambodia.)
With the yen comes the yang, so here are five things we won't necessarily miss about SE Asia, in no particular order...
The hot. OMG THE HOT. It was no dry heat either - it was all humidity all the time. From March through August, temperatures ranged between 30-40C (that's about 85-105 for you US folks); add 80-100% humidity and you get OMG THE HOT. Didn't stop us from spending lots of time outside...
Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
Nong Khiaw, Lao
And that's about the time we stopped taking pictures of us sweating like pigs. But it went on through the end of Cambodia, and we never did acclimate to it - our last day in Bangkok, we ate lunch at an outside market and dripped with sweat the whole time.
The noodle soup. It can be quite tasty sometimes, and also quite photogenic, but more often than not it's quite plain and certain nutrients are consistently lacking.
our first noodle soup
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - March 2014
we ate a lot of these too
(gotta do what you gotta do sometimes)
our last noodle soup
Bangkok, Thailand - August 2014
I'm pretty sure our bodies suffered from all the noodle soup. We had to work really hard to balance our vitamin intake, and even still this usually meant juices from the grocery store which were usually heavy on the sugar. Even milk has lots of sugar here. Really looking forward to a sugar detox soon.
The long bus rides. They were never actually comfortable, and the levels of "uncomfort" varied from A/C sleepers with hard short beds, to A/C buses with narrow seats and no leg room, to buses with no A/C and incredibly hard seats.
our first "sleeper" bus to Dalat, Vietnam
oscillating ceiling fans, one of the greatest inventions
Buses were often loud, one way or another. Many had TVs which blared atrocities like karaoke videos or Jackie Chan movies. And almost every bus had a horn and a driver who wasn't afraid to use it - nonstop. Thailand was the only country where horns were a rarity. As a result the rides could be pretty stressful at times.
border crossing bus rides were always stressful
no matter how many times we did them
But the scenery along the way and the amazing bus decorations usually made up for all the "uncomfort."
Clarence enjoying a little buddy time on the bus to Battambang, Cambodia
The plumbing. We had no problems adjusting to the showers-with-no-bathtub and occasional squat toilets.
What killed us were the bathroom sinks with detached plumbing underneath. Brushing your teeth or hand-washing laundry became an exercise in keeping your feet dry because the sink drained directly into the floor. Sometimes there was the illusion of plumbing but sometimes they didn't even bother.
the pipe to nowhere -
Shang Hai Guesthouse in Battambang, Cambodia
The rented bicycles. Apparently it's a rule in SE Asia that bicycles for rent must have half-pumped tires, no gears or malfunctioning gears, and short seats that make your knees ache with every pedal rotation. We still managed to have fun on these bikes...
our first bike rental in Hoi An, Vietnam
not even thinking about climbing that mountain in Nong Khiaw, Lao
goofing in Sukhothai, Thailand
fun with signs in Si Satchanalai, Thailand
... and we've vowed that any bike we purchase when we get back to the US will have these exact specifications.
So that's our SE Asia wrap. The amazing definitely outweighed the mildly annoying, and we were usually able to laugh through the mildly annoying anyway.
If you've been to any of these SE Asian countries, leave us a comment with something you miss (or don't miss). We'd love to compare notes!