A few random thoughts in no particular order.

I don’t like Lonely Planet guides. I never have. There, I said it. I have used them for years for many countries, usually because they were the only game in town. This year I downloaded chapters for Delhi and Kolkata for reference. I never even looked at them on the computer while we were there. The guides are bulky, set in uninteresting typography with out of date information and too few photos for interest. A good example is from 2002 when Francois and I spent a month in Japan and 12 days in Kyoto. On the next to the last day we saw a postcard in the hotel with thousands of amazing orange gates We wondered where it was. It turns out in was the Fushimi Inari Shrine and we had missed it. I’m sure the information was in the guidebook. But somehow we missed it. We saw the temple the next day.

So with reluctance this summer, I bought the Angkor Wat guide. Surprisingly it turned out to very helpful. They have redesigned the format with color photos and typography. The guide book is well written, the maps are good and the size is small enough to bring with each day and use as reference. It’s about time! But be forewarned, don’t believe everything the guidebooks tell you. Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset is very crowded. You will be sharing the experience with about 5,000 other people.

The floating market is not pleasant. It’s a tourist trap, highly controlled and expensive. A boat takes you past homes of the Vietnamese people who live there on floating homes, as you snap pictures. They are probably wondering what we find so interesting about their daily lives. I think an equivalent example would be a tour bus driving through your neighborhood, with tourists taking pictures of you while you wash your face, mow the lawn or do your laundry. Then the boat stops in the middle of a huge lake as 2 smaller boats speed towards you, containing families with the smallest children holding snakes, which look huge compared to their small bodies. Instantly I moved to the opposite side of the boat shouting “no snakes! no photos! I think I should have just screamed “Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf@#!#!g snakes and this motherf@#!#!g boat!”

I guess the boat incident wouldn’t have happened if we had used a guide during our time in Siem Reap. We had planned to do so. We loved out guide in Bhutan. We had been on guided walks in Delhi and Kolkata. Many friends had suggested their guides. We had emailed one and he assured us he would pick us up at the airport. But when we arrived in Siem Reap, he wasn’t there. We waited for a 1/2 hour before taking a taxi to the hotel. We called him when we got to the hotel and he told us he had a death in his family and wouldn’t be able to help us. So we decided to go it on our own with just a tuk tuk driver. We ended up loving just being on our own, going when and where we wanted. Sure, we might be missing out on certain information and facts, but it was alright. We saw all of the temples we wanted and decided to try and see the floating villages that our friend Sherry loved. But a few details got lost in translation so we ended up at the floating market and not at the village. I think when traveling you have to go with the flow. Sometimes things work perfectly and other times they don’t. Some things can wait until the next visit.

I love traveling. I love traveling with Francois. It’s been a very good trip over the past month. We’ve had so many experiences and met new friends. I’ve felt good. I love that I can forget that I have an incurable blood disease. It’s been a bit of a strange year since February. I guess distractions are good instead of constantly being reminded of my blood count and worrying about what the future holds and how many years I have left to enjoy life.

The kids selling souvenirs outside of the temples have been annoying but funny. “photo me” “one dollar, only one dollar” You try and keep a sense of humor while being bombarded with broken english. We saw a tourist leaving with a scarf covering her entire head and torso. One little girl kept asking us to buy bracelets. Francois told her that he wanted to buy her bicycle and how much was it? “200 million dollars”. I asked her what would she do with 200 million dollars. She answered ” I will go to country you” We rarely bought anything from them, but the kids would always give us big smiles and pose for our pictures.

One response to “Observations”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Can’t even explain how fun this has been!