Sunday, August 21, 2011

I've returned . . .

only to depart again on Saturday. I'm know, I'm sorry about my blog but I don't feel too guilty as it means I get to leave Jakarta again.

The most striking result of being away for a full month is the horror at coming back. It was fantastic to see my friends upon my return, especially "the girls". I was smart in coming back several days before I was due in to work as I was a disaster (more to follow on that).  Jakarta remains unchanged.  The traffic is a total catastrophuck and current construction projects are still in the works, the bugs are out in force, the pollution is worse than I remembered and Jakarta is, what I now officially deem, a cultural wasteland. Both Vietnam and Cambodia were filled with wide, smooth sidewalks, parks and green spaces, museums, theaters, historical sites.  There was traffic and I know Danielle, my traveling buddy, was surprised by the amount and fervor of it, but it was comparatively light. Her observations about the trash/pollution were about the same.  She noted how bad it was, and all I could think was that it wasn't even close to as bad as Jakarta.

It always hard to return from vacation to the routine.  The same old place, same work, same students (as my school year runs February to December, not August to July like a normal school), same activities, same options, etc. Part of my love for travel is the novelty.  Seeing new things, trying different foods, making yourself go out and be involved in a new city day after day. I would imagine avid travelers all find that part of the infectiousness of the travel bug's bite.

My general impressions of the trip:
I love Viet Nam, short of Saigon. I also loved Phnom Pehn and I'm hoping to get back to both shortly.

I loved the food in Viet Nam.  It was fresh and full of veggies, unlike fried and perpetually chili covered Indonesian food. The variety wasn't huge but I could've eaten the same two or three things everyday. You don't have to be careful of coffee grounds in your cuppa java. The beer was light and basic, but also very cheap. There's also bia hoi - fresh beer.  It's made daily without preservatives and each batch tastes a little different. A deal at $0.25 per pint.

The people were great in Viet Nam and Cambodia.  There were three distinct groups I met: travelers, locals and expats.  Nearly everyone was helpful, some exceedingly so.  The hostel staff in Ha Noi went above and beyond, other travelers were interesting and friendly, even in Cambodia where I found people less friendly they were still very helpful. I put on my taxi driver/ojek man blinders and wasn't harassed excessively.  I even got relatively lucky with taxis.

The scenery was incredible in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Sumatra.  In my short time I saw big cities, small towns, villages, beach, inland, deltas, riverfronts and highlands. Everything was such a lush green that the camera couldn't accurately portray the vivid color. The blue waters were like an exquisite bath. Clouds mysteriously rolled over the tops of mountains, though they were much too short to be considered so by my American standard. There was a little pollution on land, air and sea, but not a distracting amount.

Travel in other Asian countries is much easier than in Indonesia.  Maybe because of the sheer number of tourists that are hitting continental SE Asia and have been for over a decade, the transportation options are plentiful, easy to navigate (haha), and cheap.  I know Indonesia is an archipelago which presents unique issues of passing from island to island, but I can't give them a pass even with a handicap.  Day buses, night buses, mini buses, trains, night trains, planes, cars, motorbikes, taxis, and rental cars. All can be arranged on short notice and with little English.  The longest ride I took was an eleven hour sleeping bus from Hoi An to Nha Trang.  I slept ten hours of it. The options make it easy to go see something else, change cities/countries, and stay on budget. If you can't be asked to sort it out yourself there are tons of tour companies. Your only decision is when and where to go, they'll sort the rest.

I was ok traveling with someone. Historically, I travel alone.  Often friends want to go but can't. I genuinely like traveling alone.  I'm not intimidated by other people or by my own company. I was actually worried about being with someone else so many consecutive days.  two and a half weeks with Danielle and five days with a guide of my thirty total days didn't leave many for me alone. All considered, it was a fair match with Danielle.  We had a few very mild rough days but I have no major complaints. We didn't kill or abandon each other before her departure. Nor did I dismember my Indonesian guide on Sumatra.  I was very happy to have a couple of days to myself when I got back though.

Enough for today.  I'll do my best to keep these blogs from running away from me in length.  I'll try to arrange my blogs by city and get nearly caught up before I go if possible. Hope you've all been well and flourished in my absence.

1 comment:

  1. So happy you loved Vietnam. Let's catch up after Lebaran. I'm off to spend 9 days in VN. I do love my Saigon hehehe. Heading to Nha Trang for a few days too.

    I really don't cope with Jakarta at all. I just can't get into it and my life here is miserable. At least after reading this i don't feel quite so crazy. :)