Sensing the end….

Wow! Last night lying in bed, I realized I’m down to two weeks left in Southeast Asia. I actually started to cry! I’ve had an incredible time and certainly, it’s not over yet. Luckily, my foot is feeling better and I’m ready to take on Bangkok with a vengence!

While I’m killing some time waiting for my night train to Bangkok from Chiang Mai, I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on my journey so far. I’ve learned a lot – like for instance, that I love pineapple shakes! Why can’t I make these at home – you can bet, I’m gonna try! There’s a million things I could list that I’ve learned about myself and you can bet in the future, I will blog about that! But for now, I really want to focus on what I’ve seen and felt here in SE Asia.

Mostly, it’s been a roller coaster ride for the senses! Let me explain!

The smells here are amazing and yet, not always pleasant! One minute it’s the smell of all the beautiful flowers and greenery that grows here. Then it’s the myriad of foods they cook here – curries and noodles and chicken and pork. The smell of cinammon is often found here. And then, there’s the smell of the street – garbage rotting and the always present smell of sewer water. And let’s not forget the dreaded durian fruit. You simply cannot describe the smell. The best I can say is that it’s a combination of sweaty socks, armpits, and possibly a hit of pineapple thrown in. It’s horrible! And yet, these people love this fruit…I can not bring myself to get it into my mouth! Sorry!

One of my favorite photos!

From the hot, sandy beaches to the crumbled, torn-up sidewalks, experiencing SE Asia is a challenge to even the healthiest feet! The concrete in Bangkok goes on forever. But in Malaysia, it’s a miracle to walk down any sidewalk without falling in a hole or tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Penang is simply the worst – I could never look up when walking in Penang – I always had to look at the sidewalk! The holes and loose bricks and uneven walkways were a constant threat! And the feel of icy cold water everywhere during Songkran in Chiang Mai – wow! The winner though, hands down, is the feeling of motion here. The ferries, trains, buses and minivans are not for the faint of heart! Dramamine is my friend!!

The sounds of SE Asia are amazing. The sleek Skytrain of Bangkok is barely audible. But outside the Skytrain, the sounds of touts is never-ending. Someone is always selling something and farangs (foreigners) are always the target! In Koh Samui, the sale is about MA-SSAGE?????? That’s how the girls say it…with a long delay in both syllables and as if asking a question. In Kuala Lumpur, the horns and constant traffic are only matched in volume by the Call to Prayer broadcast over the speakers strategically placed all around town. The greatest sound…the quiet Kob Kun Kaa (thank you) spoken by a Thai with the little bow of the head and the prayer-like position of their hands!

Padthai, banana pancakes, fried bananas, mango sticky rice, and of course, my favorite…pineapple shakes! The taste buds are always on overload in SE Asia. There are many things I didn’t try because I don’t like spicy food. But the things I have tried that I like, I just can’t seem to get enough of them! Pineapple shakes are my absolute favorite – I think it’s because they are so light and yet, so sweet! Last night, I tried fried bananas and they are awesome. The chicken and pork satay is always good when walking around….nothing like eating meat off a stick! Even western food is interesting…..nothing tastes quite the same! In Penang, I tried the Nonya style of food – way to spicy for me…but certainly an adventure!

By far, the eyes have the most to absorb here although the nose is certainly the runner-up! I could never be here without a camera because describing the beauty amid all the chaos that is SE Asia would be impossible!  The magnificent skyline of Singapore seen from the Singapore Flyer, the beauty of the southern Thailand lagoons and limestone formations and white beaches with crystal clear water, the serene and surprising National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, the silent parade of monks walking through hectic and never-stopping traffic of Bangkok – none of these things can be described without photos!  And certainly, the people of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, working, smiling, living life just like we do in America.

All of these things will soon be a distant memory for me. I’m so glad I have the photos to help remind me of the smell and feel and sounds and tastes of SE Asia now that it’s getting near the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too through what I’ve written about, but hey, I still have two weeks in Bangkok!!! Get ready for more!!

Cheri 🙂


Some thoughts about travel….

Stacy, Jillian, Zamina, and Emily - 4 best roommates EVER!

When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends on them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life.”  Paulo Coelho   The Pilgramage.

I just finished reading this book and was struck by many of the passages and so, I’ll be using them for the next few blogs. The book is basically about one man’s journey on the Camino de Santiago of course, but many of the passages reflect my own thoughts about travel and at times, about life in general.

How often I’ve had the same thought but could never, ever express it as eloquently as Mr. Coehlo does in his book. It’s amazing how I’ve become attached to my backpack and the things I have with me now. Yes, most everything can be easily replaced while travelling, but it’s really more a matter of keeping close to those things that are mine from home. I have a little cross with me that my Aunt Sandie made…I like knowing that it’s in my bag, along with a few other special items. But I am especially careful about those things that provide me with security while traveling – my passport, money, bank cards, etc. They ensure me that I will always have a way to head home if I need to or provide me with shelter and food in the event of an emergency! A simple moneybelt becomes a security blanket!

I’ve found too, that I am more open to speaking with others. It’s necessary for survival for all travelers! We learn from each other – which hostels to stay in, which to avoid, how to get the bus from here to there, etc. And we are a comfort to one another when we need to be. When I was in Melaka, Malaysia and Sonia arrived from Penang, she was crying and upset about her journey on the bus. Just a few words from me and we were soon out walking at the night market and enjoying dinner together. I’m sure I will need that shoulder one day too and I have no doubt that someone will be ready to comfort me. It’s just the way it happens.

When I got here to Krabi, Thailand, I was hot and tired and frustrated from the mini-van ride which quite honestly, just about made me puke. It was an awful journey. On top of all of that, I found out the only bunks left were the top ones! Truthfully, I felt like that was going to be my moment. But unbelieveably, the girls I’m sharing a room with offered to trade…several of them! And so, the gods offered up this little favor in the form of wonderful roommates! And yes, it IS an episode I will remember for the rest of my life. To Zamina, thanks for trading bunks…you are a sweetheart. And to Stacy, Jillian, and Emily… are absolutely the most wonderful roommates….you all make me smile!

What great gals to be around!

Travelling truly is like a rebirth. I’ve forgotten over the years how wonderful people can be. It’s as if I’m looking at all the world through new (and wishfully younger) eyes!