Going Vegetarian?

Returning home after a long trip with a totally different cuisine has been an interesting experience. I didn’t get sick once while traveling and I ate some bizzare stuff. No fried spiders though – thankyouverymuch. The first thing I did upon my return, before even getting to my parent’s house, was to get a double cheeseburger from Mustard’s Last Stand in Evanston. On the trip I only once ate at McDonalds and it was to make things less complicated rather than to splinter the group I was traveling with. Mike ordered a burger in Krabi – I’ve never seen a patty so small! So one of my cravings was a Mustard’s double-cheese. Not more than an hour after I ate it – it was WWIII in my stomach. Apparently the burger didn’t get along with the Korean food from the flights nor the ~4 weeks of Thai/Vietnamese/Cambodian I had been eating! In fact, my system hasn’t been digging the food I have been putting into it since I’ve gotten back. Then my Mom sends me this NYT article… its quite fascinating, actually. I had never thought about the full impact that our “meat factories” have on the environment…

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms… if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year… estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption
New York Times

Read the article, its something that we should all be aware of!

Sorry about the lack of updates. I’ve been about as lazy as one can be upon my return. I guess after 4 weeks of non-stop activity, slowing down and resting a bit isn’t such a bad thing. I’ve now got a Sunday deadline to sort through my pictures as my parents, Greg and Mila will be coming over for a slideshow. They should be uploaded soon after!

Pictures, videos and panoramics – oh my!

Mike was kind enough to ship me DVDs of the pictures I had downloaded onto his computer during the trip. Now that I have them together, the totals are as follows:

Pictures: 2,065 (5gb)
Videos: 242 (2.34gb)
Panoramics: 17 (32mb)

Obviously the panoramics were the easiest to sort! They don’t come across very well in the slideshow above, so go ahead and click on it to get to the full-res pics. Be sure to zoom in and pan around – lots to see! In the mean time – I have lots of data to sort through, wish me luck!

Snow in Seoul

We landed in quite the snow storm here in Seoul. I took a picture but am unable to get the damned card reader to work on this computer – and it costs me 10 min in credit to log onto a different computer (of course, it doesn’t say that anywhere). I’m about to get on the last leg of my journey and within 14 hours I’ll be home! I’m both excited and sad… its a strange feeling when a trip like this ends. I’m sure I’ve forgotten how to work! I think I’m going to start with a Mustard’s burger… and for dinner Eduardos. Then, sleeping in my own bed! Too bad its going to be subzero temps in Chicago tomorrow! That will be quite a shock to my system!

ㅑ’ㅡ 해ㅑㅜㅎ 새 쇼ㅔㄷ 랙 ㅁ ㅠㅑㅅ ㅑㅜ ㅏㅐㄱㄷ무, ㅠㅕㅅ ㅠㄷㅊ면ㄷ ㅑ ㅊ무.

Thats what happens when I hit the wrong button on the keyboard. Heh.

Ok – off to gate 17!

Sunrise, sunset

Angkor Wat

We woke up at 5am our first morning in Siem Reap, our Tuk Tuk driver was waiting for us outside the hotel. As we drove towards the temple the chilled wind whipped at us through the open cab of the Tuk Tuk. Many others were doing the same – the Tuk Tuk lights dotting the road in procession. We arrived in the thick of the night – only the stars provided light. We followed a group that had flashlights, crossing the enormous causeway – not realizing where we were or what lay around us, only dark shadows. We decided on a spot where we could sit, away from the bigger crowds. The outline of Angkor Wat blocking the light from the stars. As the sun slowly began to rise, the details of the temple began to emerge. The colors were astounding – and every person had to catch their breath at the sight – not a word was uttered. The colors were continuously changing providing a sublime backdrop for what we were about to explore. Nothing could prepare me for the wonders of Angkor – in two days we barely scratched the surface. As the sunrise slowly revealed Angkor to us – so too will I slowly reveal it to you.

With the sunrise comes the inevitable sunset. This is the period I have reached in my travels as I now take the long journey home. Though the sun sets on this journey – it will be a part of my life forever.

Crossing Cambodia

After 3 days of traveling by boat we have made it across the Cambodian border. Tierra firma at last! Nothing about the tour of the Mekong was as described, but we realized this in short order and made the best out of it. Crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia border by boat was an experience in itself! As one of my fellow travellers said, in good company any trip can be enjoyable. However, the 1 hour bus ride from the boat landing to Phnom Phenn has to be the worst road I’ve ever been on! (not counting the road up to the volcano in Ecuador, as it wasn’t a main road) It has been quite the experience. We have another bus ride ahead of us at noon – 6+ hours to Siam Reap. I imagine Ill sleep most of the way as we had a late night.


Saigon Nights

First night in Saigon went from calm to crazy very quickly. I ended up walking to a restaurant that the hotel had suggested, and it was PACKED. They ended up seating me with a family of three. It was a bit odd eating at the same table with a family I couldn’t communicate with, but the food was fantastic! They left fairly quickly, and others arrived. I think the amount of booze I drank that night has erased my name memory! Hopefully they come to the blog and remind me! But the husband and wife were from Malaysia and Northern Vietnam – his uncle from Malaysia, but living in the UK, and a Southern Vietnamese friend. We had a blast hanging out and talking about Vietnam! Then a few of us went out to a couple of clubs – it was nuts! They headed home and I took a cab and ended up at a local “tourist” bar – where I befriended and Austrian and an American expat. When I ran out of money (I didn’t bring all of it with me, thank god!) I headed to the other local tourist bar and met a few French and brits! I have no idea when I got back, but I had to ring the buzzer and wake up the staff. Oops! Suffice it to stay, LATE start yesterday. But I saw Paul, an expat from North Carolina, and he asked if I would like to hit the cafe. I hopped on his motorcycle and off we went! It was called “Cafe Windows” – and was the place to people watch. I stuck out like a sore thumb with shorts and hiking shoes! We then took a tour of a few districts in Saigon – the income disparity is quite obvious once you get out of District 1 (the city center). One of the districts reminded me of Miami, FL! We ended up getting Indian food for dinner (I was in need of something completely different) and I hit the sack early as I was exhausted. Woke up early this morning and took a boat ride up to the Cu Chi tunnels. Fascinating! Now I’m back and in need of USD for my trip to Cambodia! Apparently the local currency is worthless and everything is done in USD. I leave early tomorrow morning for a tour of the Mekgon Delta, a family stay, then a boat ride up to Camboia! Internet access might be sparse, so it might be a while until I post again. Thanks for all the great comments! Glad that you guys are enjoying following along!

Expensive taxi ride!

I’m in Saigon, at the hostel and all is good (and free internet no less!). The first “snag” was when I got to immigration and they said that I had to get into another line for “visa on arrival” – this, after already waiting 20 min. No big deal, glad I printed my passport photo ahead of time (see TK, it was worth the wait!). There are no ATM machines inside the airport – and the exchange places wouldn’t take my travelers checks (anybody know what they are good for?!). I had just enough USD to pay the $25 passport stamp. So a taxi driver asks me what I’m looking for. He says there are no ATMs at the airport – but the lady inside said there was one just outside. When we got to it, it wasn’t working. In hindsight, I should have checked to make sure it was plugged in! He then said he would take me to the hostel for $15 (~225,000 dong). This seemed pretty expensive to me – but he and the LONG line for metered taxis convinced me. He stopped at an ATM as well. After getting to the hostel, and being very pleased that they had a room (with A/C even!), they said it should have cost me only 70,000 dong. D’OH! Oh well… at least he took me to the right place! Time to explore a bit of Saigon and get some food!

Swimming with sharks

Im hoping this post gets through. The hackers are back and threatening to take down the blog! Im thinking that I pissed them off by posting the fix. I just finished backing it up, so Im keeping my fingers crossed!
My last day in Phi Phi was fantastic! Found a Reef Shark while snorkeling – it was REALLY fast, have a 2 sec video of him… awesome! Then met up with the Finns to hop on they ferry to Phuket. I stayed in Patong beach last night – and was pretty dissapointed. Beach was beautiful – but the town was gaudy at best. I was accosted multiple times by “lady escorts” (at least I think they were all ladies!), the shop owners were obnoxious as well. I ended up getting street food (delish!) to get away from the seedyness. Wish it wasn’t my last impression of Thailand!
Now at the airport waiting for a flight to Bangkok then on to Vietnam!
Almost forgot. I lost my guidebook yesterday too… but ound a bookstore and took digital pics of the pages I needed! What can I say, desperate times call for desperate measures! .