Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Journey Seems like a Dream

I am currently in Toowoomba, Australia with my Mum and Nikita. My little sister is no longer little, she is in her second last year of school and is pretty much a full blown human. My mother is well and currently in the process of movement, a new job requires relocation. And me, well...I'm here! I'm here right now in front of the machine and that's all I've got. Since I last blogged a tremendous amount of activity has occurred and no longer is...I passed through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and then arrived here in the land down under almost a week ago. It feels as if the journey was but a dream though, everything here and now is so real that 5 months of gallivanting from Europe to South East Asia does not feel real...and all I've got to show for it are a couple of Tattoos, some t-shirts and little nick-naks here and internal journey of course is a different ball game and the experiences will always exist in the fibre that binds my body and prevents me from falling apart. And I was honoured to have made some new friends along the way, I met some people who have made my smile stretch from ear to ear and generously shared time and space with such fervour and love for which I'm eternally grateful.

I shall try and share some stories and thoughts about the trip though, for it really did happen and I'm an altered human due to the wonderful journey that enfolded upon a whim. I succeeded in having a journey that took me to me and exposed me to new worlds and humans, new thoughts and experiences, new sights and energies, new food and emotions...There were ups and downs! There was sobriety and delusion! There were tears yet an abundance of laughter, silence and noise, darkness and light, fear and bravado and I was there for it all and came through the other end with a smile on my face and health in my system!

I wrote an email some days ago and decided to cut and paste parts of it, so here are some snippets:

"From China I headed down to Laos where I was swept into the relaxed and peaceful world of the Laos people. Things don't move very fast and things don't happen very quickly. A boat trip said to take 5 hours could take 8, a bus trip said to be 9 hours could take 16. There was no rushing and things just flowed and happened when they wanted to. In Laos there are places with no cars and the only way to access them is by boat. Once there the one road is shared with cows, pigs, chickens, children playing games and fellow humans on feet. People greet each other simply because they pass each other on the street and if in the know a simple greeting could take a few minutes because there is time for such interaction. The nature all of a sudden became subtropical and lush, giant butterflies fluttered about, leeches squirmed in the bushes, trees hovered above seemingly touching the sky and the different shades of green presented a pallet for the eyes delight. Wide and generous Smiles hopped from face to face and an acceptance of life's treasures sat secretly behind each face. Here Buddhism too had a hold of the people yet a simpler less ritualistic existence for the monks was evident (no mobile phones and fancy cameras were owned by the Monks as they were with the Tibetan and Chinese Monks). Barefoot they walked about begging for alms and spreading loving kindness and tranquility in their paths. Trips on boats along the rivers were for me a highlight, sitting in a boat and watching the world go by around me...and the world being one of wild tropical nature. Monkeys swinging in the trees and birds swooping about! The food was also a treat, tropical fruit shakes everyday, coconut water flowing at every corner, vegetables grown in rich soil not contaminated by pesticides or too much high technology, a tomato smelling and tasting like a tomato. A banana without the powdery taste of been plucked to soon from her tree....mangoes....dragonfruit....lychees.....hmmm....

Vietnam was a complete change from laid back Laos....all of a sudden things got faster and more efficient and organised. People became a bit less smiley and more determined to get their dollar from you, you who are just a tourist and a source of income. Beneath the strong exterior though one can always find the human and they too were good people even if they wanted you to believe otherwise at times. Communism became more apparent and red flags waved at every corner, especially in the North, around Dien Bien Pho (where they defeated the french) and Hanoi. Up in the North I visited a place called Sapa that was very chilled and relaxed in comparison to the rest of the county and there one could get lost in the mountains walking for days through different villages where the hill tribes of the H'mong people (and other tribes) live. Rice paddies dominated the landscape and the temperatures were cooler. The rest of my time in vietnam was along the tourist route and I traveled with a young man who lived to Party so together we partied from the North to the South. We ate some of the most delicious and fresh Vietnamese food...always the best food coming from the streets rather than the restaurants. We visited sacred sites but were often disappointed because a lot of it was done up post the wars and therefore had a feeling of being slightly fake and designed purely for the tourists enjoyment ... this was not always the case...just often! Halong bay was a highlight though, the Limestone Islets protruding out of the water were a sight and a half and cruising along on a boat to see them was pretty special. Very touristic which is expected as it is Vietnam's Eiffel tower in many ways so no escaping that.

From the Hustle and Bustle of Ho Chin Minh City I returned to tranquility, in Cambodia. It is the poorest of the South East Asian Countries and despite been so close to Vietnam and Laos was a new world once again. It's own history, it's own story and it's own way of doing things. The people too looked different and had a general different vibe to them. More smiles yet not with the same relaxed nature as the Laos. There are endless possibilities to volunteer ones services in Cambodia from being a presence in an orphanage to teaching English to local entrepreneurs. I didn't get involved with anything but met many who had and said it was an experience worth doing over and over again because in that way one is able to really connect to the people rather than simply purchasing food and accommodation from those running businesses. I had planned to speed through Cambodia over to Thailand but ended up staying almost 3 weeks. I met some really lovely people and just had to stop and breath after the wild partying adventures in Vietnam. There I spent time by the beach and entertained the many children selling what ever they could to the tourists in order to earn some cash. I let them paint my nails, give me massages, make bracelets and slowly but surely take money money money...being bombarded by children selling stuff was something I experienced only in Cambodia and it was pretty intense because they were business savvy and used the fact that they were cute kids to their best advantage, they would play on cuteness and if that didn't work they would try for empathy, "i need to buy new school uniform", "I have no parents" was a tough things deal with for me...especially cause I've worked with kids for the past 4 years, kids the same age as them...but again new experiences.

The ruins of Angkor Wat were pretty impressive and after 3 days of exploring that ancient Kingdom I was exhausted from all the stimulus. There were not so many tourists when I was there and I felt overwhelmed, I can only imagine what it must be like in Peak season! But they were amazing. In particular what stood out was the power of nature. The strength of the trees to burst through stone and engulf such big structures in her vines and roots. having a tree growing over a wall was just phenomenal!"

Until next time....

Love and respect