|For almost as long as I can remember, gramicci shorts have been my uniform. They are comfortable, durable, and even stylish enough for the likes of a slob like me. But in the past couple years, I've had a hard time finding the right size, color, style combination (not to mention recent inconsistencies in fit).
Enter Hoi An, Vietnam. This place, which was one a major trading hub with the Portugese(?), has clothes shops on every corner with quite persistant sales women. Wearing my ragged gramiccis through the market yesterday, I got talked into having a replacement pair made for me. I was skeptical of the whole endeavor. But lo and behold, I return today and was knocked off my feet. My new pair is so like the old ones, it is uncanny (minus the tears and holes, of course). I commissioned another pair on the spot.
On top of the satisfaction of getting such a great pair of shorts, the transaction felt good because I knew wearing my clothes were coming from. Over at his blog, Saxtor mentions his concerns on globalization, esp. as it affects the clothing industry. While I don't share his point of view entirely, bypassing all the middlemen and corporations that are usually involved did give me a sense of everyone involved getting a fair deal.
Time will tell on the quality and durability of the purchase, but in the mean time, I've made a friend in the seamstress and I've got a great story to tell.
|Wednesday December 13 2006||File under: travel, Vietnam|
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|Some years ago, Jule and I were in New Zealand and had the opportunity to try out a little thing called sand sledding. Being the stingy young 'un that I was (yes, folks, I say was. You got a problem with that?), I opted to watch instead of joining the masses hucking themselves down the hill looking like they were really enjoying themselves. Ever since, I have kind of regretted not joining the fun.
Well, Vietnam has given me a do-over. The white sand dunes outside of Mui Ne aren't quite the same as those at 90 mile beach in NZ, but they were nonetheless spectacular. And while I ended up with pockets full of sand and completely out of breath from trudging up the dune, the sledding was totally worth it.
|Tuesday December 12 2006||File under: travel, Vietnam|
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|For you food lovers out there, I've got a doozy. But first, a quick note.
I'd like to apologize about the negative tone of my previous couple posts. They aren't necessarily a reflection on a change of attitude towards traveling, as some have suggested. It is more just that travelling isn't always sunny. I have tried to do my best to keep this blog that way, but I must have let a couple slide. (Actually, just that one, because the Christmas lights one was actually a happy one that was just poorly phrased.)
After a long day of travel yesterday, I woke up this morning on the beach in Mui Ne, Vietnam. (Okay, not technically on the beach, because the sand fleas would have gotten me, but close enough.) To celebrate a new country, currency, and culture, I went out for a big breakfast. I ordered a tomato omelette, fresh orange juice (no ice), and a pineapple pancake. (I was hungry). The omlette turned out to be huge and come with prolly 3 sliced tomatoes and 2 baguettes. Then came the "pancake", which was actually breaded, deep-friend pineapple slices, served with sweetened condensed frosting of some sort. So good, yet so unexpected. Tea was thrown in as a freebie, with the total bill coming to 37,000 dongs (quit that snickering), which is about $2.50. After nearly 3 months of traveling, this is the first real cultural breakfast I've experienced, and I loved it.
|Saturday December 9 2006||File under: travel, Vietnam|
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Leave it up to the Americans (in this case, at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh) to bring in that special Christmas cheer. And to top it all off? Why Alvin and the Chipmunks singing "Please Christmas Don't Be Late", of course.
|Friday December 8 2006||File under: travel, Cambodia|
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|Dear Fellow Traveller,
It sure is amazing that we're here, eh? To be in Phnom Phen, halfway around the world, getting to experience this totally different culture: We really are so lucky. I hope you share that sense of amazement with me. In addition to seeing this oh so different culture, it has been great meeting you, my fellow travellers. For sharing your travel histories, as well as information about your home countries and lives, I want to say thank you.
I do, however, have some beef. I share it with you not only to get it off my chest, but also in hopes that you will listen and consider what I have to say. After all, my experience travelling is affected by what you do, both from direct interactions, and in indirect ways (how a community welcomes travellers greatly depends on how previous travellers have acted in the past).
For starters, the Lonely Planet is a guide book, not a rule book. The next time I hear "but the Book says...", I think I might go insane. I have nothing against Lonely Planet. Its information about schedules, activities, accommodations, and maps has been helpful in the past. But it has also been dead wrong. So do me a favor, dear traveller: pass a day (or two or three) without carrying around the Book. Choose an accommodation based on the look and feel of the place, rather than words written by someone else over a year ago. Take a chance on a place that wasn't included in the "things to do" list. But most of all, please stop quoting the suggestions and cautions from the LP as ones of your own or those of your friends. If it is in the LP, it is not insider information.
Secondly, if you choose to take advantage of nothing else of the culture here but the cheap beer prices, please keep quiet and try not to do anything stupid. Since we keep exactly opposite schedules, I suspect I will never meet you, which is all for the best, I guess. But please have the courtesy to realize that some people are here for more than the $.50 Anchors or the $3.00 buckets, and act accordingly. Cultural exchange is a two way street, and please don't litter it with your vomit and curse words.
That said, I know I speak to only a percentage of you travellers. We all have our own reasons for being here and our own agendas. I will do my best to respect yours if you return the favor.
|Thursday December 7 2006||File under: open letter, travel|
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|So I've spent the last few days exploring the ancient area I am calling Angkor. You would think after a couple days exposed to loads of information on the place, I would at least know what it is called. Well, there are a bunch of temples (Angkor Wat, Bayon, etc.) that are organized into cities (Angkor Thom, etc.) But for the purposes of this, we will call it all Angkor.
I decided to do Angkor slowly, rather than rush through it like many tourists who seem to all follow the same itenerary from some book. I bought a three day pass (for $40) with plans of not necessarily doing 3 full days, but having that option. It turned out to be a great plan. I went up at around 9:00 each morning, and spent the day looking at various temples, enjoying lunch, and reading.
One day, I rented a bicyle and rode the 12 or so kilometers up to the temples. After heading out to some of the less visited, less restored temples and trying (but failing) for
a geocache, I'd say I rode a good 20 miles at least. (Probably a good thing to burn off all those calories from my ice cream habit.)
Needless to say, the experience was awesome. There was so much to see, from the completely restored temples to awesome carvings to long undisturbed temples. Yet again, something so long looked forward to doesn't disappoint in the least. Yeehaw!
|Tuesday December 5 2006||File under: travel, Cambodia|
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|Isn't it just like me to find the circus folk where ever I go? Well sure enough, in the biggest little city in Cambodia (Battambang), I've found one. The story behind this one goes like this (I think): A dude started a school dedicated to bringing more art to Cambodian life. It was funded by NGOs and the like. It took a hiatus during the whole civil war thing, but afterwards, it was back to action. Since then, it has grown to be almost financially independent with the proceeds of the various arts (painting, circus, music, etc.) partially going back to the students and their families in hope of convincing the families that school is worth sending your kids to.
I arrived early to get a good seat and was immediately swarmed by children. In an attempt to entertain them until the show started, I busted out all my tricks (pulled my thumb off, made a flute from my hands, snapped in various ways, disappearing quarter, etc.). This just pulled in a larger crowd, and some of the kids didn't even want to give up my show when the real show started. Anyway, it was a great cultural experience. Who would have thought d-list magic tricks could forge such an international bond?
Coming soon: The temples of Angkor. How excited am I? This excited.
|Monday December 4 2006||File under: juggling, travel|
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|Each December, SAS Airlines offers special deals on flights to Europe. There are loads of restrictions, and the price seems to get worse and worse each year, but it still prolly the best deal around. Their schtick is everyday, the deal is on for only one city. If you miss your city of choice, you miss the deal. Basically, it is $199 each way from Seattle (or $175 from D.C., NYC, or Chicago) with some taxes tacked on. Generally, the restrictions are that you have to travel in the cold months (Jan - March, I think), and you can only stay 30 days or so.
Jeff and Amanda used the deal to go to Madrid in 2002 and Lara and I mimicked their trip in 2003. Each year, it has been a fun diversion for me to check what city they are offering. I thought I might share. As compensation, if anyone takes the deal, I expect a postcard.
So the link is: http://christmas.campaign.scandinavian.net/us/ (or click here for the non-flash site.)
Oh, and thanks to Saxtor for doing the legwork on this one. Yet again he rises to the call of the Interchallenge.
|Saturday December 2 2006||File under: travel, links|
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|Battambang, Cambodia is the country's second largest city, I'm told. You wouldn't think it, though. The main streets in town are named No. 1, 2, and 3, and there is hardly a building over 3 stories. As far as "cities" go, I'll take it.
The downside to a small, off-the-beaten path city is that diversions are few and far between. (I've been spending an inordinate amount of time in internet cafes here, both keeping cool, and filling up the time.) But one thing that is unique to this area is the bamboo trains. These are cobbled together bamboo platforms balanced atop train axels hooked up to an engine. They can be easily disassembled in the case of an oncoming real train or to pass each other en route. It is really a great use of the otherwise seldom used tracks.
Having heard so much about these, I had to see them. I hired a moto driver from my hotel to take me. We meandered through villages and rice fields with him providing helpful tidbits along the way (Battambang rice is supposed to be the best in the country!). When we got to the "station", they built us a car, and me, my driver, and the taxi all loaded up. The ride took 20 minutes over some pretty rusticrailway lines. It was great. Halfway through the trip, we had to stop because there was another "train" on the tracks. It turns out, they were filming a movie. So I sat and ate some fresh coconut ice cream as they finished up their shot and carried their train from the tracks. It was really a great way to see something unique and to see the wonderful Cambodian countryside.
|Friday December 1 2006||File under: travel, Cambodia|
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If I ever wrote a book about automotive transportation in southeast Asia, I think I might call it Following the Horn. I thought up this title as my bus was barrelling through morning Phnom Phen traffic with the horn blaring about 80% of the time. I've spent a lot of time listening to how the driviers (whether bus, taxi, or moto) use their horn. They use it to say "move!", "I'm right behind you", "It's safe to pass me", "It's not safe to pass me", "You're going too slow", "Thank you", and just about anything else. Different drivers use it to different degrees, but enivitably, you feel like you are truly being led through traffic by your vehicle's horn.
The more I think about it, the more fun it would be to write a book like this. You could have a chapter named Hello Moto about the prevalence of motos, esp. moto taxis and their overaggressive drivers. Now that's what I call carpooling would be a chapter containing images of some of the most overloaded cars, trucks, and motorbikes that you have ever seen. The pictures for the chapter called The 100cc Family Car would be great, yet somewhat disturbing to mothers of young children. Necessary Daredevil would recount how transportation in SE Asia is often an at-your-own-risk type affair. Even crossing the street is a stunt worthy of Superdave.
Maybe it would have to be mostly a picture book. Which means this post shouldn't be a pictureless post. But it is, because I ain't no Ansel Adams. (Heck, I ain't even a Josh Root.)
|Thursday November 30 2006||File under: travel, transportation|
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