Coming from Vietnam, Laos was exhilarating and exhausting experience. In the small town we got out of the bus (the guys and girls from spain and me)we realized that there was a festival with dragonboat race going on and it was difficult to find some accomodation – we finally managed to find a nice place on the other side of the river, so the only remaining problem was getting some money: There’s nothing more horrible for a westener than having no ATM. Luckily there was a bank office which could do cash advance on credit-cards and currency exchange butnot before the next day. The on-going transport down the Namou river was by boat. The North-east of Laos is really beautiful and pristine than the parts down southwards.
I did some nice trekking, had some nice food (although most are variations of rice meals, many snacks are Thai-imports and so a bit more expensive than local things) and got to know some nice people there.
On my way south down the Namou river by Kajak, I not only experienced the influences of a food poisoning on my body (bloody chicken foot) but also heard about and saw the influence of a Chinese/Lao dam building project on the local environment (there probably will be a forced resettlement of local communities along the river).
In Luang Prabang there was talk about how bad the french managed their colonies – no longlasting infrastructure was built, no investments in health and education were done. Who is still wondering why a lot of people dislike french people nowadays (although I know some real nice people from there). The food poisoning stroke again and I had to stay in the city, which has nice and ugly parts for another week before heading to Thailand by bus.
was pretty straightforward. Crossing a river, getting a 15 day visa and looking for a bus to the next bigger town (the bus driver’s even ask you when they pass by).
My first stop was Chiang Rai a not so small town in the North east, which has some art offerings around the city (Black House and White Temple) and a market with big food court in the evenings in the center. I also got to lnow that there’s a tourist strip where it only took me a couple of footsteps from a buddhist temple until a woman ran up to me, grabing my arm and asking »Happy massage?« – »No thank you«.
Heading south my next stop was the provincial city of Nan – I only got to know about it by a good friend, heads up to him – which is an old city (although »thai modern« in a lot of streets) with nice temples and countryside, as well as what is really important: Not so many tourists around and really good food. I stayed there longer as planned, got to know some nice people & places (stay at the Nan Guesthouse), but ate probably way too much.
After Loy Krathong I headed down to Bangkok over Sukkothai, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi (ugly cities but some objects of historic interest) to be in the capital for the King’s birthday and for doing some shopping of course.
The relationship of the Thai’s to their king is really interesting as well as worrysome to me. The birthday was fascinating, just to see all this masses of yellow dressed people but then in another part of the city seeing not much of what was going on in other parts of the city. I had some nice dinner with friends and I ended up staying in Bangkok longer than planned. I also got my Myanamar Visa there before heading to
by train. The only reason for this detour was that I wanted to see Angkor Wat and this was what I did for one day.
The two other days I spent wandering around Siem Reap which is way too touristy for my taste, but if you easily want to stock up your Dollars you can do so via the ATMs there. Leaving Siem Reap in the morning by plane, I landed some time later in
in Malaysia. For me it was one of the more fascinating cities in Asia. I especially liked the culture mix there which is obvious in arts, architecture, foods, language and the people. Visit the Islamic Arts Museum to see that Islam also has a highly intellectual side. The two days I had in the city I mainly spent roaming around in parks and museums before heading to
which was one of the most fascinating places I’ve visited so far. Not so much regarding the landscape but all the experiences I had and because I learned to calm down there, although I had a strict but flexible 2 weeks plan. I stopped worrying and love being constantly on the move. Moreover I experienced a lot of very nice and lovely people, even if there was sometimes a spoken language barrier.
What I fear most right now is that a further opening of the country to tourism will have a negative effect on the people and culture like one can see in other asian countries. Right now they already have serious problems with waste disposal: The state should make immidiate efforts in environmental education and invest in proper waste disposal facilities – if not I fear, there’ll be not only big health but also long lasting serious environmental problems. For me it’s easy to say because I went there, as a tourist, did sightseeing, bought packaged goods and drinks (although I put the waste into bins, which is like throwing it in the river later) – who am I to judge?
Leaving again via Yangoon, which would have been a way better investment than (still) building an characterless , spacious layouted capital which is incompatible with the belief of modernity which it’s build upon, I got back to Kuala Lumpur, where I took a bus to
which is the perfect symbol of a modern city. The space is little and precious, problem solutions smart and the streets (which could also be transformed to a race track, but you know that) clean. The downpoint is, that there’s just the part of the soul missing, which make some other asian cities so great: In Chinatown I had the feeling everything was just too orderly, there was chaos, noise and also some of the intense smells missing, which I usually associate with chinatowns.
Via metro I arrived directly at the airport, where a cheap Jetstar flight (around 100$) took me to my next destination: