SE Asia 2009

FAQ

Where did you go? Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia.  I didn’t make it to Singapore.
Did you go by yourself? Yes.
Why did you go? Why not? I love traveling and was getting burned out on work, so it seemed like a good time for new travels to new places.
How long were you gone for? Two months.
Did you keep your job? No.
Are you going to get your job back? No. This is forward progress, I don’t plan to go backwards.
How did you pay rent? I didn’t have rent. I lived out of my car for a month before leaving, staying with friends most of the time. It was great!
When did you decide to do this? I wanted to do something like this a long time ago, several years, but I decided to finally do it earlier this year, maybe like February.
What’s all this about you getting engaged?! I asked a wonderful Vietnamese girl to marry me while I was in Saigon.
What!? You asked some random Vietnamese girl to marry you?! No, I had known her for years beforehand. This was the right time, the right place and the right girl. :)
Did you bring her back to America with you? No. American immigration is not at all what the poems claim. I have an entirely new outlook on the whole procedure. It’s incredibly biased against poor countries and individuals who don’t have large business interests in America.

The long story

Decisions

At the beginning of 2009 it became evident that parts of my life were not going the way I wanted them to.  Recent changes at my employer had left my career going in the wrong direction and taking a heavy toll on my spirits.  I needed a change.  I decided to quit my job and go to Asia for a while.  For how long I didn’t know, nor did I know what I would do over there, or even where I’d go, those details would be worked out over time.  I just knew I needed a change, so I made it happen.  Over the course of several months I helped my employer hire a replacement for me and help train him as I planned my trip to Asia.  At the end of May I had my last day at my job and on that same day I flew to Saigon via Tokyo.

The Current Plan

I had originally planned something vaguely like this…  Fly to Saigon and spend some time in Vietnam with my friend Tien.  From there I wanted to travel through Cambodia, Laos, back to Thailand, south through Malaysia and down to Singapore, then back to Saigon to catch my plane back to America.

The Actual Experience

I got to Vietnam and was greeted by Tien and company.  We spent a few days in Saigon and then headed back to Tien’s home town.  Tien sent me off to Ha Long bay for a week but was unable to go with me.  I missed her greatly while I was there and on the plane back to Saigon I made a big decision.  I asked Tien to marry me when I got back to Saigon.  From there I did travel to Cambodia, Thailand and Laos by myself because Tien had no passport.  When she finally got her passport I went back to Vietnam where we celebrated our engagement, then went to Malaysia for a week.  We spent one final week in Vietnam together with her family and then I came home to make arrangements to bring my fiancé to America to marry me.  This is ongoing as of this writing.

My 39 hour day

By the time Monday morning rolled around I had slept away over half of my weekend while doped up on NyQuil and Imodium. I was finally starting to feel better on Monday, so much so that I decided I was well enough to drive to CO. I think I may have said goodbye to Brianna and Lily while I was still asleep, but Terresina was still there. She was sick too, from a night of drinking. I gave her my sympathies and a farewell and headed out to have lunch with Rob. It was a glorious San Francisco day that made me not want to leave, but I did.

At 3:30pm I headed off across the Bay Bridge. It had been so long since I’d seen it and they had done a significant amount of work on the eastern span in the time I was gone. I’d really love to photograph it during construction. You can’t even see it when you’re driving because the barriers on the side of the bridge are so big. I was soon off into the hills with the windows down and the music up and began enjoying my drive quite a bit. I remembered other times I’d taken that drive, particularly July 2nd a few years ago when I left at the same time of day to drive all night by myself as I was doing again.

I had been traveling to new places for so long and experiencing new things that I hadn’t had much time to let things settle in properly, but as I drove over Donner Pass this began to happen. The familiar feelings of the mountains and the open road were great and helped me sort through some unsettled thoughts in my mind.

I caught a scent in the air that reminded me of Double Dragon.

The sun set as I passed through Reno without stopping; the light was beautiful. I continued thinking about the past. I began thinking about all of the other drives I’d done between San Francisco and Colorado Springs. The trip when Andreas hit the rabbit in the middle of the night on the ice. The trip when Zach and I had to drive hundreds of miles through a snow storm and had to sleep in my car at a rest stop in the middle of Wyoming. The night I drove it alone in my convertible with the top down. The time Fava and I drove out together and he drove back alone. The time when Shawn, Beth, Jeff and I picked up the hitch hiking pro mountain boarder in who had run out of gas in the middle of Utah in the middle of the night. The time I flew to Salt Lake and Vince picked me up and we drove back on the snow in his Legend. The time we got lost on our detour to Las Vegas. The time we all laid down at the side of the highway and gazed at stars. The time Olivia hit a dead deer with my car. The trip when Gabe and I stopped frequently to take photographs.

Yeah, I’ve done this drive a lot. I just wish it was shorter than 1300 miles.

At about 8:45 PST I was cruising along listening to Rancid and I noticed I was feeling really good health-wise, like I was going to be well very soon. I felt awake and on my game for the first time since leaving Japan. Just as I was realizing this I saw lightning strike way in the distance ahead of me, and just after that I saw a meteorite shoot across the sky towards the sunset. I wondered if the Perseid meteor shower was coming soon.

Tuesday morning at 1:30am PST I was greeted at the Utah border with a sign telling the death toll of I-80 for 2008 and so far in 2009. As beautiful as it is, Utah has never seemed all that welcoming, and it’s things like this that really highlight that fact.

At 2:40 I saw another meteorite as I was looking for a gas station. Salt Lake City has hidden its gas stations but I used my GPS to find one that was a mile off the highway, exactly where it shouldn’t be. It was closed. I found another one though, and then found my way back to the highway with my GPS telling me turn right, turn left, recalculating. As I got onto the highway it said told me to continue driving for 430 miles. So I did.

Wyoming Wind Farm As the sun was peaking over the horizon I came upon a wind farm in Wyoming. I pulled over to photograph it and was delighted to find a dirt road that led me nearby the bases of the windmills, so I spent a long time photographing them. The sun was well above the horizon when I left to find breakfast in a nearby town. The coffee I got with breakfast was terrible though and I was nearly out of gas so I stopped again and got some snacks for the road and good coffee. This little convenience store that was tucked away outside of town was convenient indeed as it was the first place to offer truly free wifi. I caught up with some friends and told Nate that I’d be in his city within 3 hours, then headed back onto the highway.

The sun was high in the sky and was hot and I began to get sleepy. I thought about pulling over to take a nap since I hadn’t slept at all on the drive yet, but when I looked for a place to nap I realized that Wyoming around I-80 has no trees as far as you can see. There was no shade anywhere and I sure as hell wasn’t going to nap in a hot car so I just kept driving.

I made it to Colorado, followed my GPS through the somewhat familiar streets of Fort Collins and out onto I-25. Then I noticed that I was in Colorado and the drivers here are not to be trusted and so I got on my guard. I looked at the highway though and thought that maybe if Colorado would build a highway wider than 2 lanes people wouldn’t seem to drive so terribly here. Maybe they would even get along on the road.

When I got to Nate’s house he wasn’t home. I couldn’t sign onto his wifi either, and I had no phone service, so I was in a predicament. I went to find free wifi and couldn’t find it for the life of me. Everything was protected. Even the coffee shop didnt’ have wifi and the surrounding nets were all protected, including the library. I eventually drove a long way to a coffee shop that I thought Nate would be at, but he wasn’t. In fact, nobody was because it was out of business. Like a gift from God though, I was blessed with an open wifi signal and I used it to check facebook where I got a message from Nate telling me he wouldn’t be home and I should go to his office on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder.

Boulder was different than I expected. It was more like a normal tourist Colorado mountain town than I had imagined. It was clean. Even the hippies were clean, which was weird. It was rich and expensive and had lots of nice things and people who owned nice things walking around talking and riding bikes and shopping. It’s definitely an active place. It seems like a place for people who love the activity of city life but don’t like the city.

I went into Nate’s office and met some co-workers of his. Then I went to their meditation room, or something like that where there were pillows and Tibetan prayer flags, and tried to take a nap but I couldn’t sleep even though I’d been awake for over 28 hours by then. Instead I did online things, made some plans, called Fava, played with cameras. Then we went out for dinner.

It was me, Nate and his buddy Chris who had just gotten back from traveling around Japan, Australia and New Zealand for 3 weeks. We had a good conversation about traveling and some of the interesting differences and awesome experiences that go with it. When the bill came I thought we were in Malaysia, but in fact the price was in dollars and really was that expensive. I remembered a life I used to live where I had a job and hence had money and had no cares about spending $30 on dinner every day. I need to not do that right now.

Nate and I cruised back to his apartment, which I’d never seen before, and chatted a little before I realized my clock was an hour earlier than it was and thought that we should go to bed. Nate went to bed but then I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up and wrote this. I am next going to write Tien, then I am going to shower, and then I am going to get a good night’s sleep that will be a proper finale to 39 consecutive waking hours.

A sick friday, catching up with the 4211 girls

Friday I woke up sick as a dog in Rob’s place. I had full on flu symptoms on top of the ongoing digestive problems and was not a happy camper. I slept well though, amazingly. I took a shower and played online a little while Rob kept sleeping. I decided to look up H1N1 symptoms and saw that I had most of them, so I thought I should take this more seriously just in case. I left Rob sleeping and went to find breakfast and medicine. I loaded up on NyQuil, ate a banana and drank some Odwalla Mo’Beta.

I noticed I was near Brianna’s house so I went over there. There was an older Asian lady in the entryway where I thought Brianna’s new place was, and I thought I might have the wrong street. I got out my phone and it signed onto her wireless network so I knew I was in the right place. I don’t have cell phone service in the USA yet, but I used Skype on my iPhone to call Brianna. She said she was at work and wouldn’t get off for many hours.

I was feeling ill and was getting tired so I parked my car on a quiet street and went to sleep. The sun came out so I drove to Golden Gate park and found a shady area under a tree near a public restroom and slept for several more hours.

I headed back to Brianna’s place around 5pm. Shortly after I got there she showed up with a big smile and gave me a big hug. We went inside and she made me some green tea and a snack while we talked about what had happened in the two months that I was gone. Her new house was really cool. She shares it with Lily and Terresina, but they weren’t home.

Lauren called and then came over. She had just recently gotten back from a three week trip to Australia. We caught up a bit while Brianna talked to some boys on the phone and then showered. Terresina showed up around 9pm. She had two new tattoos and a heavy gold chain around her neck.

One of Brianna’s boyfriends came over with a bottle of tequila and Terresina and Brianna made dinner for all of us. We listened to Corinne Bailey Rae and talked and drank and and a good old time reminiscent of dinners at 4211. The three of them went out to party in Mission and I stayed home on the couch to sleep off my illness, the medicine in full effect and doing its job of alleviating symptoms. In a new apartment but on the same old couch I hoped to get a good night’s sleep.