Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vacation! Vacation! Vacation!

I know it's hard to get excited about my vacation since, well, I've basically been on a vacation for the last three months. And well, some would argue I've been on vacation for a year and a half. That said, if you can't get excited for me going on vacation, be excited for Huyen.

Over the last 11 days Huyen took her first trip outside of Vietnam. Her family was nervous to say the least. My family was nervous too but perhaps for the first time ever, I could say my mother wasn't the most nervous mom. Our itinerary was quite simple: two days in Bangkok and then nine days in Myanmar (please insert your Seinfeld, "It'll always be Burma to me joke." here).

There's nothing controversial about going to Thailand but I know there's lots of differing opinions about traveling to Myanmar. I can't write the blog without weighing out the pros and cons of going to a country with a horrible human rights record as well as an oppressive government. My timing was, well timely, with Aung Suu Kyi being sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest the day before I departed for Yangon. I obviously deplore the treatment of Aung Suu Kyi and understand many people's feelings that that alone is reason enough to boycott the country. However, I don't believe that ignoring a country is the way to enact change. I personally think that visiting somewhere and meeting people and having them see the freedoms you enjoy is a way to help spark change. Aung Suu Kyi herself even recently changed her stance on tourism saying that she thinks it might help draw attention to the oppressive military junta.

In all the pro-tourism literature I read, there was one thing that was unanimously said: don't use government industries/packages/tours/etc. Besides paying my visa fee, exit fee and archaeological fee (50% supposedly goes to the archaeological sites) all of the money I spent was put into the hands of private people: hotels, food, taxi drivers, etc.

But my Myanmar entries are a few days away. As a teaser though, I can tell you that traveling in Myanmar was one of the most interesting experiences I've ever had. But first some fun was to be had in Thailand....

Huyen and I flew Air Asia together to Bangkok. You know your girlfriend is REALLY ASIAN when she wears a surgical mask on a plane:

And you know your girlfriend is REALLY REALLY REALLY ASIAN when she wears a surgical mask on a bus too:


We stayed at Ko San Road -- AKA the cheap backpacker area -- which, despite the thousands of tourists, was a great place to get pad thai and amazing fruit shakes.

(PICTURE: Huyen with her first ever pad thai.)

(PICTURE: When not sleeping, I average a fruit shake ever 180 minutes.)

After eating and sucking down liquified mango, Huyen and I wandered around the city checking out temples and hordes of tourists all wearing the same tank tops with Thai beer logos on the front.

I'm luke warm on Bangkok but it was really exciting for me to see Huyen in another country. Huyen was pretty wide-eyed at all the tall buildings and the infrastructure of the city itself. To her, Bangkok was like how Vietnam would be in the near future.

Traveling was quite exhausting for Huyen so at the end of the day I treated us to foot massages. Huyen fell asleep approximately 82 seconds into her massage. Ah, money well spent. After the massages we drank two Thai beers (the tank tops brainwashed us) and listened to some live music on the street.

(PICTURE: Beer and cards = good times.)

It was a great start to the vacation...minus the fact that the singer played some pretty depressing songs that he probably thought had good meanings. For example, Phil Collins "Just Another Day In Paradise" which is about homeless people. Here's a little video of the massage and music:




video