Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Back from Southeast Asia

My friend Mike wrote me on Facebook: "You've gone strangely silent. [Your] last post was Jan 10."

Thanks for noticing, Mike, and sorry not to have posted anything about what I've been up to.

Sarita and I left about noon on Wednesday, January 12th, for an almost-three-week tour of Southeast Asia. We flew from Denver to San Francisco, then, after a four- or five-hour layover, from San Francisco to Manila, Philippines, where we were forced to endure a seven-hour layover due to a missed connection, then on to Singapore, where we arrived Friday evening at about 6 (3 am Friday Denver time).

We spent Friday evening with friends, Saturday in Singapore, then boarded the Oceania M/S Nautica for a cruise up the coast of Southeast Asia--a one-day stop in Koh Samui, Thailand; two days in Bangkok; a one-day stop in Sihanoukville, Cambodia from which we drove by taxi four hours each way up to and back from Phnom Penh (pronounced p-nom pen), Cambodia's capital and the site of Tuol Sleng, the Genocide Museum of the Khmer Rouge; then on to Saigon (two days), Da Nang/Hoi An (one day), and Ha Long/Hanoi (two days), Vietnam; a day in Guangzhou/Canton, China, and, finally, two days in Hong Kong--from whence we returned home Monday, over the course of a 39-hour day, only about 24 of them being awake.

It was a most eye-opening experience; one of the most significant international trips of my life so far. I hope to share a lot about it over the next few weeks, assuming not too much else comes up to push my blogging aside.

I have much to say about what we saw and heard. I also did a bunch of reading of some very interesting books during the travel times and our approximately four sea days.

More about all of these matters in days to come.

For today, however, besides telling you where we've been, I thought I would give you a taste of one of the more remarkable transportation experiences we enjoyed.


I'm still learning which technology to use when.

I had my cell phone with me most of the time, even though I couldn't send or receive messages, either by phone, email, or text. But I suddenly realized the phone might be able to make some decent videos--something my still camera cannot do.

Happily, it worked.

So, strictly for your viewing pleasure, I have edited three short clips out of my first approximately 2 1/2-minute clip of traffic in Saigon.

We were stopped in our van while our driver and guide asked a policeman how we were to get to our destination since the street signs suddenly said "One Way" for automobiles-- . . . one way opposite to how we were going. (And lest you wonder, we had been traveling in the direction toward the camera; so all the traffic heading toward you in these clips is traveling the direction we had been going. . . .. Oh. And you wonder what the policeman said? "Ignore the sign. Keep going.")

Okay. With that as background, I share three videos.

I made the first one about 18 seconds longer than it needed to be, just so you would get a feeling of what the vehicles look like in Saigon, and how traffic moves everywhere we went in Vietnam. If I had cut out the first 18 seconds, I thought I would be unfair.

So. Get accustomed to the movement of traffic, and then, about 18 seconds in, look for a guy in a white shirt and riding a greenish-blue motorcycle coming in from the right hand side of the frame. Notice how he makes his way, smooth as can be, right across the tide of traffic flowing against him.

This is absolutely normal in Vietnam. One hundred percent normal.

Of course, considering that a bicyclist and another motorcylist follow him ought to prove the point:

Just to prove how normal this is, enjoy the next two clips.

The first one was shot beginning about 30 seconds after the clip I just showed you. Watch how the couple make their way up the flow of traffic away from our vehicle. Then notice the casual bicycle pusher crossing across but still "with" the flow coming toward us.

And then, finally, this one that shows four more motorcyclists making that--what to these American eyes, at that early part of our trip, appeared "impossible"--left-hand turn across and through traffic coming from the right. Not to mention, of course, the casual pedestrian making her way across the street as well. . . .

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