It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? Eric and I find ourselves back in Thailand after 2 weeks in Vietnam with a renewed perspective on Bangkok and traveling in Asia. You all read about the culture shock we experienced in getting to Bangkok, and some of the difficulties we experienced in our arrival. Neither of us realized the how different Asia was going to be to anywhere we’d been before, and I think that was what made the biggest impression on us when we first arrived. We found some parts of Bangkok to be so behind and difficult to deal with, and some to be even better than what we have in San Francisco (think the metro system).
Now, after having travelled to Cambodia and Vietnam, we’re looking at Bangkok with new eyes. This is the most developed and advanced city we’ve been in in Asia-I mean, getting around Bangkok is so much easier than Pnomh Penh, Saigon and Hanoi it’s laughable. As we strolled from the airport rail link this morning, and transferred to the Metro system, walking with an easy step into the train station, we realized how good Bangkok has it. No haggling with thieving taxi drivers here, charging you 3x what it actually costs to get the airport-of course, you could be doing this, but finding alternative ways in from BKK is easy. Let alone the fact that some cities that are the most visited in Vietnam have NO way to get to the town from the airport (which is 30 km away- 19 mi) except taxi. It was really interesting to compare all the different cities we visited and see where each country is at in it’s development.
The utter devastation and destruction that Cambodia went through with the Khmer Rouge is so recent that it has really pushed the entire country back in the development of it’s cities and infrastructure. It’s a wonder sometimes how they get by. Vietnam is another story, where a socialist republic and an extreme level of poverty are keeping the country stagnant. It’s a difficult time for everyone, but we’ve seen Asia economic viability in the past and certainly Vietnam could partake even more in this development. But it’s just not there. In Ho Chi Minh City, the second biggest town in Vietnam, there’s no metro system whatsoever. Even the train lines that run throughout the country, only run on one track, so when you are traveling a distance comprable to that between San Francisco and LA (673 km/403 mi) it takes approximately 24 hours. With one train track, everytime you encounter a train coming the opposite direction, you have to move off the track so they can pass each other. This usually takes anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes; when this happens 4 times in one train trip, it can really delay your travel. This is just one example of the types of systems that could be improved or streamlined, that should be important as a majority of the population gets around by train, but aren’t…. Don’t even get me started on the traffic… yet.
We’ve arrived at the island of Koh Samui in Thailand, after 48 hours of travel by plane, bus and boat. We had about 5 hours of sleep collectively over that time. This meant we slept for about 17 hours yesterday. Today we’re going to rent a scooter and explore the island. We’re staying at the Freehouse Bungalows, and are enjoying the rustic quality of the cabins, and the fact that it’s right on the beach!
We visited 5 places in Vietnam so I think the best way to share our experiences is by writing a shorter pieces about each place. I’ll start on my next post.
Also, if you look on the right hand part of this page, you’ll see that we’ve connected Eric’s Flickr account. If you click on these photos, it will take you his Flickr page where you can see his most recent photos from our trip (it only allows 200 at a time)! I’ve also installed the RSS widget if you’d like to subscribe to the blog it’s a little easier now.
For now, here’s a short video of Eric and I on our scooter in Nha Trang, Vietnam.