ron rothman.ron rothman
selectively conformist

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 26: Khao Lak

by Ron
No comments yet

Traveler’s Tip of the Day: When getting your hair cut in Thailand, don’t ask for it to be cut “short.”

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 25: Khao Sok to Khao Lak

by Ron

After a few more hours of kayaking this morning (had some great wildlife sightings), we headed to Khao Lak for the final leg of our trip. We’re now at a 5-star resort just north of town, on a sparsely populated tract of white-sand beach. The contrast from last night is stark–we no longer need a flashlight to get to the bathroom. And instead of last night’s rudimentary, cold-water shower, we’ve got a teak-and-slate-appointed bathroom with a 2-person tub and 2 shower heads.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 24: Khao Sok National Park

by Ron
No comments yet

Besides kayaking, we’ve been doing some trekking here. Today’s hike was through a deep limestone cave, through which two different streams run. Thousands of bats, dozens of cave crickets, several large spiders, a few cave toads, and water deeper than our heads. At some points, I had to swim with one hand, trying to keep my other hand above the water (in that hand were: my [non-waterproof] flashlight, and our drybag, which held our [non-waterproof] camera.)

Definitely one of our trip highlights.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 23: Khao Sok National Park

by Ron

Today we arrived at our quaint “floating bungalow” in the remotest corner of Khao Sok national park. This is the third bamboo bungalow we’re staying at on this trip–and not the only one that hasn’t been on solid ground. :-|

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 22: Siem Reap to Phuket

by Ron

When we checked in for our flight to Phuket, the boarding passes which were printed had the wrong destination on them. No problem; the check-in attendant just crossed out the wrong destination and wrote in the correct one. I considered crossing that out in turn and writing “Hawaii” instead, but Sara convinced me that it wouldn’t work.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 21: Siem Reap (Preak Toal)

by Ron
No comments yet

I spent the day at the Preak Toal bird sanctuary. (Or, more accurately, I spent the day traveling to and from the Preak Toal bird Sanctuary today.) Sara was sick, so I went alone, and alone I was: the only other visitors were a group of Cambodian university students on a science class field trip.

A very expensive, long day. I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to serious birders. (More on this when we get back and flesh out our travelogue.)

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 20: Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

by Ron
No comments yet

It was a fun day, but it’s been an unpleasant evening. Sara has some nasty food poisoning–from some jackfruit she snacked on this afternoon, we think. Doesn’t look like it’ll let up any time soon. :(

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 19: Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

by Ron
No comments yet

Last-minute change of plans this morning–we took a detour to visit Beng Mealea, the “Jungle Temple,” which was only opened to tourists in 2003 (after it was cleared of land mines). Today, with the native flora encroaching into and intertwining with the half-toppled stone structures, the temple looks like something out of an Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider movie (which, incidentally, was filmed at Angkor).

Sadly, though, Cambodian authorities are misguidedly clearing the jungle from the site. What they don’t seem to understand is that the jungle they’re clearing is the very thing which gives the ruins their unique charm; when they’re done, Beng Mealea will be “just another” excavated temple on the remote outskirts of a city that certainly doesn’t need any more of them.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 18: Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

by Ron

The ruins of Angkor are… overwhelming. We spent the entire day exploring it by remork (cousin of the tuk-tuk), and we’ve barely scratched the surface. The thing is, we haven’t even seen the main temple yet (which is a bit like visiting Agra and not seeing the Taj Mahal first)–we’re saving that for tomorrow, when we’ll have an expert (and highly-recommended) local guide with us.

My personal highlight: the Bayon temple, with its 200 Khmer faces extruding from the sandstone walls, their smiles mysterious, beautiful and eerie.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 17: Luang Prabang to Siem Reap

by Ron
No comments yet

Just arrived in Cambodia–how different from its neighbors!

I’m not sure which of today’s events is more exciting:

  • using our Cambodian e-visas (ugh, people with regular visas got through immigration faster than we did; though, presumably, they spent more time/effort getting their visas than we did–at least they better have!), or
  • the delicious french fries we had with dinner. (Indeed, we ordered french fries several times in Laos–they’re always made to order and have been invariably yummy.)

(Yes, today was pretty uneventful.)

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 16: Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang

by Ron
No comments yet

Returned to Luang Prabang today by public bus. Tomorrow, we fly to Cambodia.

This afternoon, I finished reading Cambodia: Report From a Stricken Land, which almost made me cry–partly because Cambodia’s past 30 years have been so horrific, and partly because all of those horrors were man-made, and avoidable. I’m feeling emotional about visiting a place and a people that has suffered so much, so recently. It’s akin to visiting someone in mourning: What do you say? How do you act?

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 15: Nong Khiaw

by Ron

Tonight, our hosts held a Basi (bah-SEE) ceremony–funded happily by us–in honor of the new year. Several of the village residents came to enjoy the eating, singing, dancing and most importantly, the drinking. We consumed large quantities of lao-lao, a Laotian home-made rice whisky not unlike moonshine.

When they asked us to sing a song of our own, we were somewhat at a loss. We chose to perform Ose Shalom and The Irish Rover…. not exactly representative of American music. We think it confused them.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 14: Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw

by Ron

Today we headed north for a two-day stay in Nong Khiaw, via a 6-hour boat ride on the scenic, blue Nam Ou river.

Our hosts in Nong Khiaw arranged the ride for us; this morning, they sent their friend to walk us from our hotel to the dock. A “gourmet homemade lunch” was to be included with the ride, and our escort handed us 3 plastic bags as we boarded the small boat.

In one bag was a pair of sandwiches (baguette sandwiches are a popular street food in Luang Prabang). In the second bag, two containers of fried rice. In the third, a pastry box from “Joma,” the local fancy coffee shop and bakery (think Starbucks).

We thought, “This lunch sure is eclectic. But gourmet and homemade, it ain’t.” Disappointed but hungry, we dug in. First the sandwiches, then the fried rice. (Actually, the food wasn’t all that bad; we’d just expected (and paid for) more.)

Finally, we peered into the pastry box. Four large muffins. “Wow, how much do they think we eat?” we thought. But Americans do (justly) have a reputation for overeating, so we didn’t think much of it.

I had a taste of muffin, and while I didn’t really care for the muffin body, the chocolate chips on top satisfied the one craving I’ve been having on this trip–cocoa. Sara didn’t want any, so muffin by helpless muffin, I scraped the chips off the top and shoved them into my mouth. When the “Muffin Massacre of the Nam Ou” (as they call it locally) was over, we left the decapitated muffin stumps in the box, closed it up, and put it back into the plastic bag for disposal when we reached Nong Khiaw.

We arrived, were greeted, and had a lovely and very memorable stay with our hosts, Marko and Chan. But more on that in our travelogue, after we get home. The salient point here is that, when we arrived, all of our bags (including the plastic bags) were carried off the boat for us. Our luggage turned up in our bungalow; the plastic bags (quite expectedly) did not.

At dinner this evening, Marko and Chan were talking about their favorite Luang Prabang eateries. Then they mentioned Joma–home of their “favorite chocolate muffins.” They told us how whenever they can, they have their friend send them a box of those muffins from Luang Prabang. (Oops.)

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 13: Luang Prabang

by Ron

More cinnamon buns for breakfast. (Doubled up this time–bought two. :@) )

Had a very Seinfeldian moment. I was negotiating with a boatman for passage across the Mekong river (we wanted to take a short hike to an underground cave temple), and when all was said and done, we were paying more for the ride than he initially offered. (I’m usually an effective negotiator–ask Sara or Danielle; but dealing in three currencies–Lao kip, Thai bhat, and U.S. dollar, all three of which are readily and interchangeably used here–tripped me up!)

P.S., Today we were able to post a random handful of our trip photos.

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 12: Luang Prabang

by Ron

Woke up early (6am) to see the “Saffron Circuit:” the striking procession of Louang Prabang’s 500 orange-robed monks as they walk through the Old City to collect their day’s food from local residents.

But my true motivation for getting up early was the freshly baked cinnamon bun I devoured after the monks’ morning ritual. Best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had–ever. (Perhaps the one benefit of Laos’s French occupation.)

» Southeast Asia Trip, Day 11: En Route to Luang Prabang

by Ron

We got married (again) on the picturesque Mekong river today. (I would marry Sara every day if I could.)