Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
37Trip End May 10, 2007
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By the time I left Vietnam, I was ready. In all seriousness, the Vietnamese are the loudest Asian's ever.
I must say through the real stinger of my trip in Vietnam was my night train crossing over the 17th Parrallel. I paid extra to have a sleeper (soft) with 4 people. But, what I got instead was stuck with 5 Vietnamese men in one cabin for 15 hours, who spoke NO English and a bed that was as hard as cement. Oh, and I should mention that they all smoked cigarettes religiously and starred at me for hours on end.
I met up with some great people on the last leg of my trip in Hanoi and on my last night, myself and two super cool Canadian girls checked into a 4-star hotel and treated ourselves to haircuts, Vietnamese style. For six dollars, I got a wash, cut, and dry, and the hair dressers had a field day with their 4 - yes, count them 4- straightening irons on my head of curls at once. While I am happy with my cut, one of the girls walked away with an Vietnamese mullet - which is just too funny, but she was seriously a good sport about it! And, trying to rid my wallet of dong myself and a mid-aged Californian women on a Buddhist pilgrimage with Thich Nhnat Hanh, spent the afternoon at a spa getting facials before I took off for Malaysia.
I should also mention my super touristy trip to Halong Bay. There, I mentioned it. That's it, it's a bay with some cliffs and caves, and a whole lot of tourists and pearl hawkers with lighters.
It was about 1 a.m. that morning when I cleared customs at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia. When I boarded the flight I had a weird feeling as I kissed my fingers and touched the airplane upon entry (a habit I've always had to ensure a safe journey.) Take off was a breeze until my airplane starting dramatically dropping in altitude at a rapid rate and being flung all over the place in turbulence. This was not fun and the Chilean man who was sitting next to me was crossing his heart and praying to Mary. I looked out the window and there we were, smack in the middle of a lightning storm - bolts of lighting lighting up the sky and here we are a giant metal bird flying in the middle. I seriously thought it was the end of me. But, clearly it wasn't and I landed in the middle of a great cultural mix of a metropolis. Muslim, Chinese, Indian, and Malay all rolled into one and one too many McDonald's.
I was thankful to meet a nice Chinese Malaysian after being dropped off in Chinatown alone at 2 a.m. He was nice enough to walk me through the dark alleys to my hotel. I know how to pick the people I ask for help and directions - call it a savvy travelers knack for kind, knowledgeable helpers.
My hostel, which I booked online is disgusting. K.L. is known for being the worst place in SE Asia for budget backpackers and with reason. The entry was in covered in terrible tag and my room smells like the Hari Krishna came through and left behind the stale smell of incense and cigarette smoke. Well, I must admit that I am paying the most I've paid yet for accommodation for the worst accommodation I've yet to stay in.
But, K.L. is pretty cool and what would any white Jewish girl do who is alone in a predominately Muslim country? Go to the mall! I found my way to the shopping mecca of Malaysia and spent the afternoon climbing the tallest twin towers in the world, seeing a movie, and eating at California Pizza Kitchen (you have no idea my excitement at eating a BBQ Chicken chopped salad.)
And, in other news, I should plug AJWS and my work with PNN at some point. I am very happy to announce that after spending 8 months at PNN helping them to identify international donors, that PNN is now $30,000 richer due to me! PNN was awarded a grant by the Open Society Institute. It just made my day all the more better, knowing that I am about to come home having left behind something for PNN and having had a VERY successful fellowship in Thailand.
I am now off to drink tea in the Cameron Highlands and for those of you who know me, you know I am a tea fanatic, so I am thrilled to crawl through yet another jungle in Asia, just to pick some tea and drink it fresh!