"Travels in the East" thedouglas's Profile

Love Affair with South East Asia

We are a slowly shrinking Aussie family, who live near Brisbane in Queensland - the best state in Australia. All bias intended.

The kids have all travelled in Europe - UK and Ireland too - and not too sure about Asia initially, but an easy love affair has been forged, especially for the girls, who love shopping - as girls do. Youngest enjoyed an ordinary sort of school trip to Turkey, Greece and Egypt in 2008, and has itchy feet again. Eldest enjoyed a few weeks in New Zealand in January. The travel bug is a contagious as well as inherited one!

Our most recent holiday found us exploring Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, with a leisurely finish in Singapore, where we treated ourselves to two nights at the world famous Raffles Hotel. This was mum's time to console herself after the nest emptying, and brace herself for return to home and work.

Bangkok - Our home away from home.

I just love Bangkok - every last bit of it we have explored. I would love to live there one day. This has become a serious goal. I choose to stay in Chinatown, and I wander around quite happily during daylight hours from early in the morning, for the local markets, and then up the crazy corridors of Chinatown Sampeng Lane and surrounds during the day.

The temples, tuktuks, ferries, markets, massage, food, smells and, last, but by no means least, the people, are all things I miss when its been too many months since a return visit.

I also love to travel further afield of Bangkok, of course, particularly up to the Thai country, around Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and surrounds.

Myanmar

Visiting Myanmar this year was the fulfillment of a long dream, after looking at the seemingly mystical photographs in my many books on Asia. While there were a few small hurdles, due to poor planning, it was a treat to visit this country, experience the culture, and visit upon many of the intoxicating sights Myanmar hosts. There is a different relationship with visitors here - with plenty of curiosity and wariness, as well as the usual Asian hospitality.

The mysticism evoked by the beautiful verses of "Road to Mandalay" was part of the allure, as well as a huge interest in visiting the beautiful temples - old and new. From the glistening majesty of Shwedagon to the massive fields of ruins in Bagan, the country has an aura all of its own.

Laos

I have made two visits to Laos - which is rapidly becoming a premiere destination in Asia. What a difference a year makes! The highlight of the recent holiday was a trek, for which I almost required a personal physician -taking me up into Hmong and Khmu villages. With the development happening in the tourist regions, hard to fathom that many of the hilltribe folk rarely see outside the immediate environment of their own and neighbouring villages.

As always, one of the true delights was meeting the children of the villages, and taking books, pens, pencils and small gifts. So little can bring such smiles. The Green Discovery Company has a policy of taking small school texts into the villages we visited - which were also accepted with grace and shared excitement.

Cambodia

Angkor Wat - truly a wonder - first trip whetted the appetite, and we've returned for a second helping. Certainly can't rule out future trips to this majestic place.

The second trip took me to Phnom Penh, and a better ground trip along the Tonle Sap.

We all love Cambodia. The gentle, smiling and welcoming people, who have suffered and lost, and who have such limited resources and quality of life by our standards, were a major highlight of the experience.

On my second trip, I found out about the "Carry for Kids" programme to the Sunrise Children's Village orphanage in Siem Reap (also in Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh) - and carried in 45kgs of things for the orphanage in Siem Reap. A great visit to this wonderfully caring place.

The peddlers, beggars, "tour guides" all a big chuckle - and many fond memories of the discourse with these people. Good experience for the kids, trying to develop tolerance for persistent behaviour which would not be seen or necessary at home. Wish we had half their initiative and survival resources.

The groups of mine victims in bands playing music at the entrance to some of the temples was often a timely reminder of the historical "bigger picture" of Cambodia.

Singapore

We've had two short visits to Singapore, the most recent for a few days at the end of a 5 week holiday. We indulged ourselves by spending this at Raffles Hotel. I drank more than a few Singapore Slings, for purely promissory purposes, for many of my VT friends!

As expected, the hotel was a blissful experience - from the standard of the rooms, service, personal touches, meals and general facilities of the place. Something well worth the cost, and a perfect way to wind up a backpacking venture.

Have Packs - Will Travel

I've learned to travel light - especially when I've had to clamber up vertical sandbanks, lug onto trains, walk the plank on and off boats, heave onto the tops of buses or just traipse around looking for accommodation, with holiday worldlies. There's something nice and easy about a pack that you can sling on and go anywhere.

Before I create an impression of being too virtuous when it comes to female dodads and travel - we always start and finish our tripping around in Bangkok. Thats where the "real" luggage is stashed - oh, and the shopping.

The Family

Only the baby one at home now. Emily and Richard both moved interstate at the beginning of 2007 - to pursue their dreams. Richard to the Australian Defence Force Academy to start his career as an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force - and Emily, to something completely different - Victorian College of Arts, in Melbourne, to do her second degree and further her acting training. Lucy is being chained to the bed until further notice, but she finishes school this year. A move to Melbourne is on the cards for us this year.

I certainly hope that this is not the end of our family travelling days - and I can lure them back home for some more shared adventures.

  • Intro Updated Jan 3, 2009
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