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asia blog
Friday, 28 September 2007
The Last Entry
Now Playing: End of the trip

Well It's hard to believe that I am making the final entry into this Asia Blog.  This trip and the preparation for this Asia trip has consumed my life for the last two years.   The journey far exceeded the expectations.

I think Joyce and I covered as much of Asia as we possibly could in four months.  Both of us would like to return but I don't think it will ever happen.  The one huge dissapointment of the trip was not going to Myanmar.  Had we gone when we first arrived in Chiang Mai Thailand we could have gotten in and out before the demonstrations broke out.  We had planned to visit India and go to the Taj Mahal but again our plans were interrupted by civil unrest in Agra India which is where the Taj Mahal is located.

So now Asia is behind us and South America is ahead of us.  We will be starting a South America blog some time in the future.  We would like to start our South American trip one year from now.  Maybe the second week in September.  All the backpackers and families will have went home to school or back to jobs by the end of August and that means less crowded and lower prices.  We will be visiting Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Ecuador.  Not sure how we will work it all out.  If we begin in the Patagonia region of either Argentina or Chile we will be arriving there in their spring time and we can work north with the weather.

To anyone who has read any of our ramblings I hope you enjoyed reading along.  I learned a lot about the whole process of travel and keeping information posted.  For one it was much more difficult than I imagined it was going to be.  I did not realize how many countries block personal web pages.  Every country we were in had internet access but most of them had some kind of filter.  I did learn about proxy servers but they operate so slow that it is hard to post anything other than text with them.  A proxy server is a server that is usually located in some country with very liberal laws.  You access the server though a webpage address.  Once hooked into the proxy server you can access the internet anonimously and you can access websites that are banned in whatever country you happen to be in.  The proxy server webpages address changes often because the governments are constantly searching for them so they can block them.  One proxy server I used in china was  I'm not sure it is still in operation.  As I said countries are always watching for proxy servers trying to put them out of business.  Even the US government tries to end proxy servers because they fear terrorists can use them.  Hopefully in future travels I will be able to do a better job of keeping things up to date.  

So it's been fun.  Some time in the future I will be starting a blog called /southamericablog.  Right now I know almost nothing about the countries we will be visiting.  I am going to have a busy year, there is a lot to learn.

Posted by mendotraveler at 8:04 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007 9:21 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 25 September 2007
We traveled four months to eight countries.  We ate whatever and wherever the locals were eating and we never got sick once.  Not one time did we even feel the slightest bit nauseaus.  The longer we were in asia the more we learned about what and where to eat.   When we first arrived in China we were hesitant about eating at the roadside cart style eateries.  We noticied that the locals ate there more than at the big restaurants.  Of course price was one of the reasons but we discovered the most important reason people ate at the little roadside stands.  At the big restaurants with the hidden kitchens you have no idea what you are getting.  Is the food fresh?  Is the place clean?  As I said you have no idea because you can't see what is going on.  Not the same with the food stalls.  Everything is right there in plain sight.  You can look at the vegetables.  You can smell the meat or fish.  You can see the condition of the utensils used to cook your food.  You can watch your food being cooked.  So with that flash of brillance we changed our eating habits.  We began eating almost exclusively at the food stalls along the street.  The exception to this was breakfast.  We could eat asia style food for lunch and dinner but we wanted to start or day with a western style breakfast.  The guesthouses and hotels we stayed in all came with breakfast.  You had a choice of western breakfast or asian breakfast which was a bowl of noodles and vegtables.  Western breakfast was eggs in whatever manner you preferred and bread and butter and jam.  You choose coffee or tea.  So knowing how people here in America feel about eating in foreign countries I thought I would pass along this bit of information.  Four months and eight Southeast Asian countries, eating with the locals and never a problem one.  We were back in the states one week and I got the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had.  I thought I would not live to see the morning.  So I just thought I would pass that little tidbit along to all you smug Americans who actually believe your food is safer than everyone else.  You might think about first of all where does your food come from.  How much of your food has additives that were manufactured in China?  Having spent a month in China we would only eat at the food stalls where we knew what we were getting.  We cannot openly buy medicine from Canada but your government will not demand that all foods have listed the country of origin and/or the additives and where the additives were manufactured.  Personally I have came to believe that if you don't know where it came don't eat it.

Posted by mendotraveler at 6:59 PM EDT
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Sunday, 9 September 2007
Six degrees south of the equator
Mood:  a-ok

We are back in Kuta after spending a few days in Sanur.  I have to say I like Kuta better.  Easier to get around and more things avialable.  We took a drive into the mountains and down to the town of Singajara which is on the North side of the island.  Very few tourists, mostly farming.  they grow a lot of spices here on Bali.  I am trying something new today.  Well it did not work so I will just post some pictures








Posted by mendotraveler at 11:06 PM EDT
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Friday, 7 September 2007
More Bali
Mood:  not sure

We spent the day today doing nothing, well thats not quite true.  we managed to hang out around the pool half the day.  This tourist business is hard damn work but someone has to do it.  We booked our flight home.  we are coming home on a United flight from singapore to Hong Kong to San Francisco.  We will get into Sf on the 15th 16 hours and 30 minutes after we leave but time wise we will arrive Sf just 2 hours after we left Singapore.  I have a couple of good sleeping pills left.  Was going to post some pictures of Bali on here today but didn't get to it.  Will post some pics tomorrow.  Bali rates as one of the two top spots on this trip. 

Posted by mendotraveler at 6:40 AM EDT
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Thursday, 6 September 2007
Bali Bali Bali
Mood:  hungry
Now Playing: Bali for 9 days

Bali Indonesia.  We arrived here a couple of days ago and are in our second hotel.  The hotels here are incredible bargains. As a matter of fact just about everything here is an incredible bargain.  Most of the tourists here are Aussies. It is only a three and a half hour flight here from Perth. The tourist business in Bali has suffered terribly since the bombings.  Before the bombings there were seven direct flights a day from Perth to Bali, today there is one.  the hotels are mostly empty.  We paid twenty seven dollars for an incredible room in Kuta.  We are now in Sanur which is a little less touristy thean Kuta but not by much. Again we have an incredible room for twenty seven dollars. You cannot move on this island without being approached by a hawker or tout or kid selling or begging.  The people are not at all helpful to a tourist and see the tourist as a pocket full of money.  the only place that I have seen that was worse than Bali for pushy hawkers and sales people on the street was Egypt.  Bali's income is dervied from tourism but they are killing the goose.  Everywhere you go or stop in a car people run up to the car before you can even get out and start shoving junk in your face begging you to buy from them.  Some of the crafts and art being sold here is beautiful but we have no room for anything so it will stay here.  Just as well because we already have too many things that once home looks completely out of place. 

We are going to be here until the 13th then we will fly back to KL and we already have our train tickets to Singapore.  We get into Kl about five pm then go to the train station and leave on the ten pm train to Singapore.  We get into Singapore at eight thirty in the morning.  We have not gotten our plane tickets out of Singapore yet but I am working on getting out on the 15th.  That will give us one day to see Singapore and one day should be enough as Singapore is just another big city.  We met a guy in Vietnam who lives in Singapore and has offered to give us a quick tour when we get there. Hopefully we will be out on the 15th and due to the time changes we will be home on the 15th.  We have to start planning our south america trip....Next post I will put pictures of Bali on.  I have to say Bali is a very beautiful island.  Bali is south of Jakarta Indonesia

Posted by mendotraveler at 7:07 AM EDT
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Saturday, 1 September 2007
September Already
Mood:  energetic
Now Playing: Where has the time gone

Wow where has the time gone? It is hard to believe it is September already.  we still have a lot to do and see and it seems the time is flying.  We have again changed our plans.  We do not think we are going to India now. there is a continued problem with unrest in Agra and we just seen no reason to find ourselves caught up in something or someplace we cant easily get away from.  So looks like the TM is out.  We are in an internet cafe because again our hotel has no internet service.  KL is a little behind times when it comes to the internet.  We changed hotels because the one we were in was across from a pub and everyone partied out in the street until four or five in the morning.  We found a guiet place called the Mandarin Pacific.  It is a little more expensive but includes breakfast.  Kuala Lumpur(KL) is a very diverse city.  It has the old right along side the new and every nationality and ethnicity and religious persuasion you can imagine.  Kl is without a doubt the most diverse city we have been in in asia.  We are going to the petronas towers tuesday.  Petronas towers until 2004 was the tallest building in the world but now one in Taiwan and one in Dubai are both taller.  You have to get a ticket to go up to the walkway between the two towers, that is on the 42nd floor and is as far up as you can go.  It is free but they only give out 800 tickets a day so you have to get there by seven in the morning or you cant get a ticket.  Thats all for now


Posted by mendotraveler at 11:12 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007 9:37 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Brand new day
Mood:  energetic
Now Playing: Still going

I'm back.  Seems I was very down about Burma but that's past.  We have our tickets for Kuala Lumpur for tomorrow the 29th of August. One day ahead of our visa's expiring for Thailand.  The excitement is back and I think there is still a magician or two out there somewhere that has a trick or two for us.  So now it's KL and a bit of Maylasia then off to Bali Indonesia.  (Nice thing about Malaysia and Indonesia is neither of them require a visa prior to arrival.)  Malaysia does not even require a visa, just a stamp in your passport.   With the way things are right now that is as far out as I want to commit myself to.  There are a lot more miles and many more places to see before we head for home.  Suprise! I always thought India was a visa upon arrival but now I find it has to be applied for prior to arrival.  That means finding the India consulate in KL and filling out papers then giving up our passports for the four or so days it takes to get the visa.  So get to KL tomorrow, go to the India consulate start the process.  We will not be able to leave Malaysia until we get our passports back.  Should work out just right.  We will fly to Densapar Indonesia (Bali) and spend some time in Bali.  If I commit myself to a certain date on my India visa then I will not stay too long in Bali.  I understand that is a real problem because people fall in love with the place and just keep staying one more day.  So if we fly from Densapar to Jakarta Indonesia they should have inexpensive flights to Delhi because it is closer than KL or Bangkok.  

I have to ask Bangkok to forgive me for being so harsh in my opinion of the city.  It is still a large city with a lot of problems but it is not dirty and not really too polluted considering the amount of traffic and people.  There is not the warmth in the people that we experienced in Chiang Mai.  The warmth of the people in Chiang Mai was exceptional.  Bangkok still has an incredible amount of things to do and see.  We went to places that I had been when I was here before in 1963.  The places had changed very little though the number of tourists has increased a hundred fold.  Here are a few pictures of Bangkok.



Posted by mendotraveler at 6:49 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2007 8:49 AM EDT
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Saturday, 25 August 2007
Mood:  down
Now Playing: Where to next

We are in Bangkok.  We flew here from Chiang Mai on the 24th and it is now the 26th.  We stayed at the Asia hotel the first night.  A upscale very touristy place.  Hotel was two thousand baht a night which is the most we have paid for a hotel on the entire trip.  The food and drinks in the hotel were very expensive so we moved a short distance away to the wendy guest house.  Seems to be our kind of place.  We will see about doing some of the tourist things today.  The klongs or canal and the floating market.  Maybe do a temple and the palace.  We are probably burned out on temples and palaces.  I dont care how elaborate you make them after awhile they all look the same.  We walked around the neighborhood.  It really reminds us of China.  There is a large department store near here.  Half of the store was devoted to food courts.  Asian people are really into eating.  You just cannot imagene the variety of food they consume.  We stopped in a Swensens ice cream place and had a bananna split.  I dont think we have taken a picture since arriving in Bangkok.  I cant say as I really care much for the place.  Bangkok is a large dirty polluted city that has too much traffic, too many tourists and too little warmth.  When people smile here I'm not sure they are smiling or snarling.  We told ourselves we would avoid the place but we are here anyway just because we can't make up our minds where we want to go next. Not going to Burma has really messed up the plans.  The problem is it seems everywhere we want to go is really just very tourist oriented.  Bali, Taj Mahal, ko samui and Kuala Lumpur are really  just  extensions of touristy Bangkok.  I think the adventure is gone.  Maybe it's time to come home.  Seems for me the magician has shown us all his tricks.  Think I will check flight prices out of Singapore to home around the 15th of September.  That should give us time to  catch a train to KL, fly to India for a couple of days for the TM then back to KL off to Bali for  a few days then back to Kl then train to Singapore for a couple of days and home.  Everyone says Singapore will empty your wallet faster than europe will.  A beer in a pub there costs around ten US dollars. We met a fellow in Saigon that lives in Singapore and he offered to give us a little help in getting around there.  Think we will take him up on it. 


Posted by mendotraveler at 7:05 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 September 2008 5:37 PM EDT
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Monday, 20 August 2007
2nd Aug 20th entry
Now Playing: Question

I have a question of anyone who might read this blog.  Is there anything you would like me to write about or post a picture of that I have not done so yet? 


Posted by mendotraveler at 4:06 AM EDT
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Saturday, 18 August 2007
Strange Trip
Now Playing: Border of Burma Laos Thailand

I probably get hyped a lot more than I realize but occasionally it is so blantantly obvious that it is insulting.  Maybe saying this I first have to wonder if I have been on the road too long and am becoming either to cynical or just bored with all of this.

I have been waiting all week to go to Mae Sai which is on the Burma, Laos, Thailand triangle or an area called the golden triangle.  Every since I was a young man I have heard stories of the golden triangle and the opium and smuggling and the outlaws.  Now I realize that those days are long past and the area has been civilized but I expected to find at least a small reminder of those days of Burmese warlords and opium smugglers and outlaws with guns in their waistbands. You can go to Tombstone Arizona and Deadwood south Dakota and see some museums and buildings dedicated to those wild west days.  Not so in Mae Sai, it is now a very poorly executed tourist attraction in an area that really has nothing to attract tourists.  I was told that here is the place where you can find all the cheap smuggled goods.  The CD's and the bootleg copies of Windows XP.  What did I find but row upon row of glass beads being pushed as Burmese rubies and row upon row of plastic and aluminum stage jewlery being pushed as the real thing.   The cd's and bootleg windows xp is as much price controlled by the Thai mafia there as it is in Chiang Mai.  Well we will be going to Burma soon and maybe things will be better there.  Thailand is just too damn civilized.  Here are some pictures from our trip.  

 This is actually the triangle.  The river is the Mekong river.  We are taking the picture from Thailand.  On the right of the river is Laos and on the left of the river is Burma.

These are known as the five baht kids.  There really are hill tribe people living in these mountains.  They really are extremely poor. These are the people who used to cultivate the opium poppies. The government stopped the open cultivation of poppies and since that was the income of the tribes and since the hill tibes are called hill tribes because they live in the hills where rice or other crops are almost impossible to grow there had to be found something for the people to do.  Tourism was the answer.  We will bring the tourists to see how poor you are and we will pretend to make all these crafts that are really machine made junk imported from China.  Granted there are some honest hand made products but if you saw the number of identical perfect items any sensible person would have to start adding the number of tribe people plus hours in a day plus time to produce these items by hand and either you have to be extremely naive or your arithmetic has to be extremely poor if you think all these identical products are produced by hand.  These days of computer ran stitching machines can turn out this stuff by the truckloads in a day.   Anyway since obviously not everyone can sit around pretending to stitch embroideried doodads they had to have something for everyone else to do.  The kids just gather around the tourists, who are absolutely horrified at the abject poverty the people are living in,  and beg for five baht.  "You give me five baht"  "You give me five baht"  The children have been taught to maintian a pitiful and sorrowful look on their poor little faces as they gather their five baht and if the tourist has no small change they might get lucky and get twenty baht notes.  The village is maintained to appear vey impoverished.  Do you think the tourist would so readily hand over all that money if they saw a new Toyota pickup sitting in the driveway or watched some kid doing their homework on a brand new flatscreen desktop computer.  I doubt it.  So some of the people actually live in the grass huts but most go home to their house at the end of the day.  I imagine the conversation going something like this.

"Hi honey I'm home"
"Good dinner is just about ready.  How was the day?"
"OK but god you cannot believe how stupid some of these tourists are"
"I'm sure they are.  By the way the new Plasma TV came today"
Like I said I have been on the road too long.  Anyway here are a couple more pictures of the women in the villages



Posted by mendotraveler at 7:52 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 September 2008 5:44 PM EDT
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