Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Up Kim Jong Il

Upon booking my trip to South Korea, I added the DMZ to the list of places to visit. So the day after I landed, I board the bus and headed up to the heavily guarded border. Passports & clothes were checked at two different check points (can't look like slobs to the North Koreans and lose face) and the rules of no pointing, photos in most areas and drinking were explained. This photo is of one of the South Korean guards. Most are university age as all men are required to serve for two years. I think they post the ones that look most menacing at the DMZ. They stand in ready position and look totally bad ass. The mics on the table is the division line between the two countries. South Korea on the left and North Korea on the right. This is capitalism at its best.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One more coupon store..... Death Star!

Today was an interesting day around Bangkok. We managed to get around for about 2$ all day which was a lot of places but it came at a price.
The morning started with a lovely lady helping us find our way to the bus, which turns out we took the wrong way but the point is that after we mentioned we had been to Phuket, she asked me why I wasnt tan. What the lady didnt realize is I am tan and that I can be a whole lot whiter.
The next was our score of a tuk tuk. 40 baht all day for all the places we want. But turns out that required us stopping at tourist trap stores and spending time walking around so he could get his coupon. By the last store, they kicked us out. Guess it was obvious we had no interest in buying suits or dresses. Who would have thunk.
Our day also consisted of visiting loads of Temples. Yup more of them. I am offically on a temple boycott.
The final part of the day included a trip to the night market. After unsuccessfully trying to find the knock-off wallet I wanted, I scored something I didn't want in the first place. A ninja star! I was laughing and he offered me a price, then a better price, then I realized I could get it for next to nothing. I won. For 3$, I am the proud owner of a ninja star. Just need the ninja outfit to go with it. What am I going to do with a ninja star you ask. Well 1) pray it doesnt get taken from my checked luggage (althought TSA did let me through with cuticle and childrens safety scissors) and 2) do something awesome with it! Maybe I need to be a ninja for Halloween.....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Can I Get A New Page Please!

Today we crossed back into Thailand. The last stop on the southern asia tour. On foot. After losing my paper clip, I have not been able to force the border officials to stamp the pages I want. And instead, the countries are piling up on one page. I think they do it on purpose. Anyways, after, we picked up another bus which drove us down the road where we were forced to stop at places that offered 10+$ lunches before cramming into a van and driving onto Bangkok.

Ruins, Ruins and more Ruins

Day starting at 4:30 to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Worth it to miss the crowds. We rented a tuk tuk for the day and even went far up to Kbal Spean to go for a hike and see the waterfall. The rest of the time was ruins. Lots of ruins. But at least the scenery was beautiful.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Genocide and Dress-Up

The trip across the border to Cambodia was a harrowing experience. There was nothing resembling a queue and instead were just masses of people waiting around waiting for their name to be called.
Touring around Phnom Penh. We visited the killing fields were many were buried into mass graves. The most amazing thing is how much they want to preserve everything and keep alive the memory. They even have a bin for clothes that continue to surface.

We also toured the National Museum and got to play dress up.
Also USD is accepted everywhere. The ATM machines even dispense it. Although unlike Vietnam who only worked in hole dollars, they actually give Cambodian Riel.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And they shot the pots and pans

Cu Chi Tunnels. Just outside of Ho Chi Minh were the pride of the Vietnamese and most likely the bain of the Americans during the war. These complex and narrow tunnels provided shelter to the Vietnamese from the "crazy, killing Americans". They shot "the women, they shot the children, they shot the ducks, they shot the pots and pans, they shot the chicken and they shot the Buddha." Aside from being able to crawl through these tunnels which are severely small even though they have since been widened, we got to see the destroyed US tank and the boobie traps they used. The informational video proudly talked about the Vietnamese man and woman who received medals of honor for killing Americans and destroying their tanks. Overall, I think it's fair to say, unlike most Americans, they have not forgotten about the war.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Try and Beat It

In Ho Chi Minh. $3 for a mani/pedi. I dare someone to beat that. Although we still have Cambodia next.....

The Spotless City

Singapore. The city that is also the name of the country that is very well off for such a tiny island.

While we did not go to any beaches, there was plenty to do around the city. We visited museums which explained why "Raffles" is in many names and meandered through tropical parks. All of which were surprisingly but nicely quiet and unpoulated. Perhaps this was in preparation of the next day of the Youth Olympics. These are the mascots. Lyo and Merly. They are lions. Who are based off the famous Merlion and well lion is in the name of the country Singapura.

Lastly, the subways were immaculate like the rest of the city. Take a note Philly. They were spotless, didn't smell like piss and actually went places.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Asia: Building Replica Landmarks From Around the World

In traveling through Asia, more than once we have come upon some familiar sights visited in past travels in other countries. It turns out Asia does more than knock off designer clothing and accessories.
Japan: The Eiffel Tower....Tokyo Tower
Malaysia: Seattle Space Needle....Kuala Lumpur Tower
Stone Hedge......Acutal Replica of Stone Hedge
Even the large, solar clocks from Jaipur were spotted.

A Time Machine to India's Future

Kuala Lumpur. That would be in the very under-rated and little talked about Asian country of Malaysia. This major city was a complete surprise for this traveler. While my expectations and thoughts were about zero because of my severe lack of knowledge of this country, I have been blown away by the thriving city and strong population of Indians and muslims residing in this beautiful country which has left the country with an Indian/Asian mix of culture. It feels like a cleaner, more developed India. The kind of India that Americans want to experience without the hassle of maneuvering and smelling the third world. While I'm sure the economic success of KL is not a complete indicator of the country's prosperity, the wealth of the city was such a surprise. If Malaysia has the population count to compete with China, they could give China "a run for money"!
Day one of traveling, we explored the city via a "hop-on, hop-off bus" which was a life saver for us to fully capitalize on our two days here.
Soon enough we will be boarding a train for Singapore. Can't wait. Choo! Choo!

Monday, August 9, 2010

What's with the random dead sea animals?

Phuket, Thailand.
The beaches are beautiful here and catered to the tourist. For 100 baht or about 3$ you can rent a comfortable beach lounger for the day and have vendors parade around food, clothing, accessories, bags, ice cream and aloe rub downs all day. And even the food is not ridiculously priced. 1$ for an ice cream. what a steal!
Aside from the beautiful beaches, this trip seems to be plagued with random dead sea animals washed up on shore. This time was a very bloated puffer fish washed up. Thankfully no disection this time.
Thailand also has a distrubing amount of 7-11s. At one point, I saw two across the street from each other followed by one every block there after.
The restaurants boast a lot of foreign food. Burgers and fries seems to be more common than Thai food; a sad bi-product of a very tourist area. Even the Thai food is nothing special and the good stuff as usual is found in the little hole-in-the-wall places.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Babbling Brook While You Pee

My trip here in Japan would not be complete without a write-up on the toilets. The other day I finally got up the nerve to press the many buttons on the toilet at school out of curiosity. And yes, the toilet cleans sprays your tush clean with water. No manual hose like India. And it even dries your tush too! In some bathrooms, sounds are played to simulate a babbling brook to help either mask your toilet noises or help inspire you to go. I'm not entirely sure which one.

The school portion of my trip is done and tomorrow i head from the confusing, non-grid, non-named streets of Japan to the beautiful beaches of Phuket. 5 Months of vacation is starting and I am very excited.