Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday five: things we will miss about SE Asia.

As we enter this whole new world of Nepal for a month and start to make amazing new memories, we wanted to pause and mention a few random things we will miss about SE Asia. In no particular order, they include...

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

And like the countries in South America, each SE Asian country we visited claims to have the oldest "this" or the most precious "that", and everyone claims that they ruled the whole territory back in the day. The perspectives were fascinating.

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

We loved the fruit markets in Central Europe and we loved the addition of food vendors in SE Asia.

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

The natural beauty in each country was really stunning.

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...

Dalat, Vietnam
(March 2014)

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam
(April 2014)

Nong Khiaw, Lao
(May 2014)

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

Sometimes there was a makeshift drainpipe that hung over the balcony. Those were our favorites.

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!


  1. sounds just like Southeast Georgia.... almost - what's the shrimp situation like there?

  2. We had a really good time in SE Asia when we hitchhiked there 5 years ago, great memories!
    Lovely photos, guys!
    We would like to invite you to participate in the next edition of our Travel Photography Competition. Every week we publish 3 winning shots on our website and write a nice bio with a link to the photographers' websites/FB/G+/Flickr pages etc.
    We will send you the link to the competition on Twitter! Have a great day!