As for me, I selfishly continued on my individual vacation by heading to Bangkok
. When I landed in Bangkok, it was a completely different experience than when I was there a bit over a month ago. This time, I felt as if I were back in America. I literally gasped when I saw a Starbucks. I hadn't realized how untouched the places I've been were until I saw the long-reaching arm of major multi-national companies from America and elsewhere anchoring the Bangkok airport. Not to mention the absolute gleaming walls, floors, signs, trash cans...everything. I probably looked like a Clampett fresh off the hillbilly farm the way my head was swiveling, taking in all the glamour and shine. And, it was so cool and air-flitered...felt like I was in a giant test tube. I didn't realize I'd become used to dirt bus stations and one-windowed, broken down airport check ins....did I tell you that in Vientiene, they could not check in multiple flights at once? They said the baggage would get messed up...they literally had to check every person and their luggage for one flight at a time!!! The flights themselves are beyond reproach....hot towels when you first sit down to freshen up. Then the headsets and free TV are offered. Finally, you are fed no matter the duration of the flight. I was served a full breakfast on the 1.5 hour flight from Luang Prabang to Bangkok, lunch on the 2 hour flight from Bangkok to Singapore, and finally dinner from Singapore to Bali. However, I must confess that I couldn't resist the lure of the Western food at the airports. Someone sat next to me and just like the 'new car' smell ignited my senses, the smell of Western french fries sent me scouring for the source of the smell like a bloodhound
. You see, even French fries must be prepared in a particular way. I was lured in Luang Prabang and Thakhek to try the 'french fries' on the menu...but they were served not fully cooked and swimming in their own grease...yeah, not yummy at all. So, I cracked and ate McDonalds. It was freaking delicious.
I also saw rain for the first time in 34 days. It has literally been hot sun for over a month straight. Not one wink of a drop but it was pouring in Singapore.
It's a little frightening to think that I've become so nonchalant (although I did book a hostel beforehand) that I just showed up in Bali with no idea about the currency or a map...I didn't even manage to bring my hostel confirmation. I sure don't have a guide book....but I should get one since I have several weeks here...and let me tell you, Bali is Western. Wow. I thought I was in Seattle or Chicago with all the upscale restaurants and shops.
Anyhow, all is well now. The hostel is really nice. I lost another hour (16 hrs dif from PST and 14 hr dif from CST) so I better get to bed. Happy Valentine's Day!!!
Pre-dawn departure...ahh, I love those. In the chill of the morning, riding in the tuk-tuk with wind whipping at me, I got to see the meditative walk of the monks on their rounds to recieve alms. How humbling to see the donors kneeled on the cold pavement, in the dark, with their offering of freshly made rice, waiting unti the monks come to them. It was so dark that the people waiting could not see where the monks were. They were simply there waiting, like a kid at a bus stop. Every morning this ritual is completed and the monks are completely dependent on it for their breakfast. Can you imagine if every morning we were asked to prepare food and then wait to give it away before dawn on the cold street??!! Obviously, the whole experience highlighted the unselfishness and religious duty the donors felt.