Tag Archives: SE Asia

Friends met and made along the way . . .

Aloha Thailand!

Aloha my friends,

Thanks for hitching a ride on this leg of my journey. I’ve enjoyed having your company.

Where am I writing this? I’m in Tokyo’s modern and amazing Narita airport at a lovely and free internet access “cafe.” (That’s in quotes because the only way I see to get coffee, or any other beverage, is via one of those automat machines–like you see at rest stops along France’s highways where I drank many of them with Dad back in our month-long trip, with Mom and sister Hannah, in the Fall of 1999. And I don’t have the local currency for making a purchase . . . but of course they’ve thought of a solution for that, I’m sure, but coffee’s not on my list of beverages right now. The next plan of action is to sleep and try and get in sync with Hawaii’s time and day zone . . . )

After about a 5 hour layover, I’ll hop on the next flight to Honolulu. When do I arrive there? 10:20 a.m. on Sunday. What time and day is it here now? 7 p.m. something on Sunday. Cool how that works. Due to my frugal and practical nature, I don’t arrive on Kaua‘i until Sunday evening (using HAL miles). So, I reckon I’ll take a bus to the beach in Honolulu for a dip and a shower. At least that’s the plan, I’m open to however it unfolds. This “live-in-the-moment-and-keep-my-eyes-and-ears-open-to-all-possibilities” (or litmakmeaeotap®) form of travel has served me really well the past many months.

In moments of daydreaming, I’d imagined that I’d write a “*SJ’s streaming consciousness thoughts and rambles about SE Asia” kind of something. But, at the moment, I’m not feeling it, so I’m not going to. (Okay, some of you are groaning that I already have with my long going on about coffee machines in France and the trip with my family ages ago . . . ) Granted, I may change my mind (or not : ). That’s part of the beauty of following my heart; when it comes, it just flows. If it doesn’t, then I do something else. There’s always something else.

Kay den, ’nuff of that.

Love and blessings to you all. May the light always shine on you; may you always be surrounded by friends (even when you’re “alone”); may you feel peace and happiness from the top of your head to the tip of your toes; may you enjoy each and every day on your journey of life, the best darn gift each and every one of us has been given.

***Sat Nam.


With my gal pal, Chela, who gave me a ride to the Kaua‘i airport early one morning at the end of May.
I had a long layover in Taipei. Prospective English lesson clients? Maybe.
Class #100 at the CELTA English language teaching school in Bangkok.
During the horrible third week (while passing through and/or over the CELTA wall), we couldn’t calculate how much to pay at lunch! And it was easy math!!!
A smart and friendly student from Japan on my right; Isky, the talented actor from Kuala Lumpur, on my left.
The winners of fellow CELTA student Suelin’s very original and unofficial awards (SJ, Alvin, and Isky, short for Iskander).
Moi with my Bangkok Kundalini yoga instructor, Sunderta.
The 12 trekkers from Denmark, France, Taiwan, Spain, and the United States, who first met in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
My first pals at FLO: Rick, the cameraman; Emily, the troll; and Kate, the giant.
With one of my students while at the beach with FLO (Future Light Orphanage). Recognize him from the dinner out in Phnom Penh?
And with another wonderful FLO student (who recently graduated from high school and started her advanced education course this month).
The fun summer gang of FLO-fans one evening in Phnom Penh.
One of my favorite students . . . okay, who am I kidding, they were ALL my favs!
Dani and Andrew, fellow FLO volunteers, returning “home” after a fun “getaway” to Phnom Penh.
Some of my younger friends at FLO. (Enjoying an apple, thanks to many of YOU !!!)
She’s the most natural teacher . . . and she’s a talented artist; she gave me a cool going away card that she made.
My friend Dani stopped over in Phnom Penh for one night (after visiting Siem Reap and before heading to Ho Chi Minh). FLO’s wonderful chef, and my dear friend, Chancy, and I dropped everything to join Dani for dinner. That was how I found the perfect restaurant for when I would later accompany eight FLO students to dinner in the city. Look up the Friends restaurant in Phnom Penh for more info.
Remember when I wrote about that amazing last day at FLO when many of us went to the Pagoda? The little guy on the right is the boy who took my hand during our walk to and from the temple. : ) Aren’t ALL three boys vibrant!
Oh, what a special day that was!
And I love this shot too much to not include it in my “wrap-up.” It embodies so much of what FLO is about.
Did I tell you about the storybooks that my older students made? They were as varied and as fascinating as the Ss. “Were there recurring themes?” you ask. Yes.
Making friends (or the wanting of friends). Giants (fighting giants, killing giants, running away from giants). Poor people (who need help, who I want to help but can’t, who I hope to help someday, who I want to come to school with me, who have no food). And magical animals or people (who do all k i n d s of things!).
Yes, I think the storybook project was a success.
We ended up doing the second of two scavenger hunts early on the Saturday morning when I bid FLO adieu.  Why? There was a powerful monsoonal rain the previous afternoon. It worked out well; I was able to pass out all their learning materials (their notebooks, storybooks, tests, etc.) AND give them lots of prizes which I’d gathered. There were even enough lollipops for all the little kids who were hanging out with us. (Thanks Dani, Sean, and Kai!)
How very special it was to look these dear human beings in the eye and know that our bond is eternal. Just the right number gathered for a very personal, unhurried, and precious farewell.
And then I began my “travels” . . .

My new friends from Australia (by way of Ireland) and Canada (Laura, Nick, and Leta respectively). We biked together and shared a tuk tuk in Siem Reap (when visiting the many ancient temples).
Here I was with a beautiful young lady from Laos who was taking her visiting parents on an excursion.
The beautiful young couple from Israel (who found me in Hanoi somewhere and somehow early, early one morning) with our trek guide.
The lovely lady on the left made my delicious (and expensive by Vietnamese standards : ) coffee; she was the only “game” in the market (and she’ll do well)!
I had planned to meet Nat (and her friend, Gerry) the previous evening for dinner, but I went to the wrong restaurant (I initially met them on the boat trip to Ha Long Bay). “If I’m supposed to see them, I will, ” I thought to myself. And sure enough, I did! Yeah, I love those synchronistic moments too. : )
On the boat with the “cook” who made my dinner one evening in Hue (with her son).
Remember the “locals only” café in Hue I told you about? Here we are again.
I met these friendly childhood friends from London while touring Ha Long Bay; we ran into one another in both Hue and Hoi An. While in Hoi An, we decided to share both delightful conversation and a delicious dinner.
A few evenings ago in Bangkok, I met up with some of my fellow CELTA graduates; we ate at a place called Cabbages and Condoms. Yes, condoms. Look it up on-line; it’s a cool place with a good cause (and a tasty restaurant). Yes, it was great to see them again. They’ve all gotten good jobs (yes, teaching) in Bangkok!
Michele, my longtime friend who with her husband, graciously shared their Bangkok home.
I spent all day yesterday at a Kundalini yoga retreat doing white tantric yoga; it was amazing. The exercises are done with a partner. Meet my new friend, Japnan; she’s a beautiful young lady (my nephew Jo Ryan’s age) from Taiwan. Being a self-motivated person, she has her own business and is able to work from her home. Good for her! And she has the most beautiful dark brown eyes. It worked out perfectly that the retreat took place on my last day in Thailand (and SE Asia).

That’s me looking up at the ceiling of Bangkok’s Sunvarabhumi airport early this a.m.; or am I really looking down? What do you think? : )

Aloha Thailand!

*One entry was going to be: Vietnames Airlines, the Big Save of SE Asia, i.e. short line, long wait (thanks Tones for that tag line : ) ; it’s one of his classics.

Another? Cheapest place in SE Asia per my informal survey? Vietnam
(Also, didn’t see nary a McDonalds or Starbucks in **Vietnam, did see one KFC there though, in Hanoi, right in a major tourist area and intersection. There are a zillion KFC’s in Thailand and Cambodia btw; they L O V E KFC in those two countries!)

And another, it’s very L O U D in SE Asia, even in the countryside. Sometimes at FLO (in the middle of nowhere really), it would be SO loud as the neighboring communities blasted out their this’es and thats with the wind. (That was one reason I loved Luang Prabang so much; it was quiet there; it felt so much more restful than in other cities.) “Okay, what about LA?” I can hear you ask. “And NYC? And Detroit?” (Detroit? I’ve never been to Detroit. lol Always thought it’d be nice to visit Augie and Rose though.) Alright, got it; we Americans have very loud places too.

Things like that is was I had been imagining that I’d write . . . but not now, maybe another time (or not . . . I’m not making any promises one way or another).

**Didn’t see one KFC or chain restaurant in Laos, but I was only in Luang Prabang. Don’t know about Vientiane and other areas.

***Sat Nam is similar to namaste, which most of you know.
The following was copied from a website I found: http://www.kundaliniyogablog.com/-2006-11-12-sat-nam-definition/

“The Mantra Sat Nam

Sat Nam is a mantra commonly used in Kundalini Yoga and amongst its practicioners. It is frequently repeated three times at the end of a yoga session. But what is the importance of Sat Nam, what does it mean.
I’ve heard the following interpretations for Sat Nam via my Kundalini Yoga instructors:
  • Truth is my identity
  • My identiy is Truth
  • My True Self
  • Truth is our identity
It has been called the process of naming ones self Truth. It can be used similar to Namaste, (the divine in me aknowledges and pays tribute to the divine in you.) Where the “Truth” is the divine.
Being one who likes to get to “Source” info, I decided to do some further research into the nature of Sat Nam. I made an assumption that Sanskrit is a rather root dialect and that “Sat Nam” in Sanskrit would provide supplemental information on the nature of Sat Nam.
I found this Sanskrit Dictionary, and looked up the words, Sat and Nam.
  1. being
  2. real
  3. that which really exists
  4. the real existent truth
I’ve seen it written that Sat means Be, or more apprpriately Be-ness. Which would be the essence of being. (HPB’s Secret Doctorine) I suspect some careful analysis would find an interesting correlation between Be-ness and emptiness. (For those of Buddhist faith)
but onward to Nam.
  1. To bow
  2. To submit or subject oneself
And so one is bowing to Truth, to Be-ness the essence of being.
And the active interpretation of Sat Nam emerges.
Sat Nam
And for those of you who read this far, this just came in today’s “calendar” email from Julie Redstone:


To experience God one must live in the present, 
for it is in the present that new experience arises.
Let go of thinking and be in the moment.
It is in each moment that God may come to you.

July in October

Hi Everyone,

You take a step back and then two forward . . .

I dug through my backup hard drive to find some shots from the three day/two night trek I took in July north of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We were a group of twelve from all over the world: Spain, Denmark, Taiwan, France, and the U.S.


Taken in the hangout area at the first of the two “homestays.”
The john.
Flushing system.
We 12 shared this large room.
It turned rainy.
! ! !
Stopped for a chat.
With this wonderful weaver.
And her friend.
Stopped by a school.
And a village.
Walked through rice paddies.
Swam in mountain pools.
Drank Chang and listened to the local musician (singular).
I bought a few things from her.
Part of what we saw along the way.
The gang.
The 3 fun Spaniards.
Rode on an elephant; it wasn’t nearly as nice as in Laos. This guy was hungry! And they wouldn’t let him eat.
The last part of the trip was floating downstream on a bamboo raft; this group had WAY more fun than my group! We were much too calm and tranquil. : )

Off to a yoga retreat for my last 2-nights in Thailand and SE Asia.


Hue, Vietnam, pronounced like curds and . . .

From Ha Noi I flew to Hue. It’s a small town a bit north of Danang (which was an important in the Vietnam, or American, war).

Stayed there 2-nights, and this is what I saw/did . . .

Taken from a boat.
This boat. The lady came running beside me, “Come on boat; come on boat. Only . . .”(about $5) But I’m hungry and am going to eat. “I can cook for you.” For the same price? “Yes.” Talk about feeling like a cheap American! But you (I) never know what’s a fair price for them and what’s a rip-off for a tourist (me). I hopped on the boat; they immediately drove the boat to the other shore (so that she could go to the market for food.)
Their son.
The grinds. Noodles with morning glory (greens). And an omelette with onion. Not too bad. I was hungry.
The next morning I rented a bike and took off to find a place for breakfast. But first, I was led down an alleyway to where I found a “locals only” café. On the river. With HBO on the muted television and jazz on the sound system. “Nice,” I thought. I had a deep rich coffee with thick condensed milk (for a fraction of what it was in the restaurants for westerners). And, I had conversation. Lots of it. With these two girls. When I could tell that they were dying to speak English with me, I invited them to join me at the table. Occasionally they had to hop up to work, but soon they’d plop back down for a bit more of this and that. Who are they? They’re both 21-year old university students studying agriculture. We exchanged emails . . .
And after breakfast it was time to head off and find the pagoda which was about 3 km away from the town’s main attraction: a citadel.
But first, a stop at the local grocery store.
Talk about a large selection of rice cookers!
You can read about this car . . .
“Why in the heck did you take a picture of this toilet, SJ? And why include it in your glob?” Notice the shoe prints? Yes, someone stood on it and then used it . . . There are stand-on types of toilets in SE Asia that are raised to about the same height as our sit-on® type . . . reckon the last user preferred to stand. Much more sanitary, don’t you think?
The monks don’t appear to wear saffron robes in Vietnam. They were moving stacks of wood from the back of the truck onto the other side of the fence.
This looks a lot like the boat I took a ride on the afternoon before.
School kids’ bikes.
Having a PE class of some type. “HI!!!” they were waving.
And now to the main attraction in the town of Hue.
It felt a bit like an Angkorwatwannabe.
The costume storage room.
Hey, what’s he doing here?
Back to the lovely hotel room to find the next place to rest my head (was looking for a place in Hoi An with a pool . . . my budget? $30 and below, found one for exactly $30). How much did the room in Hue cost? $15. That’s with air con, a TV, and a private balcony. The one I’d originally booked was $12; I figured it was worth 6 bucks extra to have a lanai for 2-nights. : )
Oh, what a wonderful dinner it was! I’d read about this restaurant in my Lonely Planet guide book, and then I just happened to pass it . . . and when I was hungry and looking for a restaurant!
The restaurant staff was watching Vietnam Idol.
Time to leave some more things behind. First, my skirt (the one I was wearing when I was riding the elephant, I just couldn’t stand to wear it one moment longer). It’s somewhere in Laos. Second, my purple purse. It’s somewhere in Northern Vietnam. Remember? I gave it to the little girl I bought my new purse from. Next, these two shirts. May they continue to have exciting journeys as they venture forth into their brave new world. (Yes, I agree, rather dramatic for a couple of well worn shirts!)
We were the first picked up for the four hour and four dollar bus ride to Hoi An. We chose the front seat, plenty of room to keep all my bags with me. “Brave to ride up there!” an Irish woman who’s lived in Australia for 10-years said to me. “Why?” I asked. “You’ve seen how they drive here!” “But it’s not as bad as in Cambodia,” her husband added. And I agreed, the bus driving was a bit (a bit) more mellow that what I’d experienced in Cambodia.
Leftovers. Made a perfect breakfast!
Stopping for road work.
We had a 30-minute break mid-way.
Happy Feet. Happy Bat Angel. Its first time on the beach!

It was a lovely 2-nights in Hue. Next came another of my favorite SE Asia towns . . .

Catch you soon on SJ’s bat angel channel.



Hanoi at a quick glance

I only stayed one night in Hanoi . . . it warrants a longer visit.

Another time!

I found a nice hotel room with a little balcony overlooking the street.
The view.
The church. Locked up for now.
I just liked how that moto was rigged.
Found one Larry! But I was too full to have a taste.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
Leading to the Jade Island (on the northern end of the lake).
A common site in SE Asia (outside temples and at private altars).
Thinking of you, Teri!
Not sure what those ball things were.
Went to the 5 p.m. show after arriving at 4:15 ! Thanks for the tip, Jane.
Didn’t buy one . . .
So many Vietnamese children are eager to practice their English.
A touch of Hawaii.

And that’s all of Hanoi.

It’s an amazingly vibrant (i.e. busy) city.
I arrived there first on the 29th of September, just in time to share a minivan from the airport into the old city with 9 other travelers (and meet the connection for the night train to Sapa).
Next, I arrived early one morning by train. How early? Around 4:45 a.m.! Yep, that’s early! The nice and quiet German family (with whom I shared the compartment) didn’t disturb me in my sleep. When I got up and looked outside (as they quietly whispered and took their time collecting their things), I saw that practically everyone had left the train! I grabbed my two backpacks and handbag and made like a banana. Rather than a taxi, I decided to take a moto (scooter) to the street where I was to be at 8 a.m. for the trip to Ha Long Bay. Almost nothing was open! But thank goodness it was only almost; I spied a hostel on the same narrow road in the old city that looked open. As I was giving my *20,000 Vietnamese Dong (yes, Dan, you read that right) to the driver, I heard a voice call out, “So you decided to take a moto!?!” It was the husband of the nice Israeli couple I had shared the train compartment with on the way to Sapa, and with whom I had hiked one of the two days.
“What are you guys doing here?”
“We’re checking in to this hotel.” (There was a nice hotel adjacent to the hostel.)
Cool! After I stowed my bags with their luggage, we three took off on a short walk to the lake; together we eyed the many people exercising–even saw a group doing laugh yoga! They lingered, and I headed on to my rendezvous for Ha Long Bay.

OMG was that ever fun!

Hi Everyone,

From the first time I heard that you could sign up for training as a “mahout,” I wanted to do it.
Okay, it’s a touristy kind of thing; it’s not “real” as in you’re not really becoming an elephant trainer. But still, the chance to get in the water with an elephant and give it a bath was too intriguing to not do.
I had practically given up on it though since I didn’t know when it would fit into my itinerary.
Once I arrived in Luang Prabang and realized that this was the place to do it, I was so jazzed and thankful that I had the opportunity.
The following are my “selects” from the experience.
And the main thing I want to tell you? They’re much softer than I expected. *Squooshy, even. I talked to my elephants (both of them). Could they understand me? I have no idea, but their ears were flapping! : )
May you too have a wonderful elephant experience some day (if you so desire).
Aloha mon amis,


The Elephant Village was on very pretty grounds; some people stayed several nights.
Our guide demonstrated how to get onto the elephant (and the oral command).
And then we each got a turn to practice!
This is when our elephant ride began.
It was very muddy due to monsoon rains.
Yep, I jumped at the chance to ride on the elephant’s neck!
C’est moi. Je suis très contente. (i.e. happy!)
We went through what I believe is a teak forest.
There were some water buffalo to spy along the way.
 We went down a very steep hill.
That nice couple is from Belgium; they’re traveling for 13-months via bicycle! They plan to ride back to Belgium! First, they flew to China to begin their trip.
Then we were back where we started.
Almost, but not quite, an hour.
We could feed the elephants if we wanted.
They eat a lot!
After we had lunch, it was time to bathe the elephants; the young lady on the left is from Germany. I had so much fun talking with her, her husband, and another couple who just happened to also be from Karlsruhe (where the first couple lives).
This nice gal is from England.
And then it was my turn . . .
My guy loved to go underwater!
He/she did this several times!
And then I accepted the challenge to try and stand on the elephant’s head.
I made it!!!!
Yikes! What’s that guy doing?!?
And then it was time to dip under again.
Waz up?
Takin’ a bath! That’s what!
The mahout helped us all get out of the water safely.
Next, we took a boat ride down (up?) the Mekong River. Monks like the river too.
A little fun gal pal time.
Then back down the river.
Someone shared. :  )
It was pretty flat and calm.
There was a **gaggle of these critters!
We got over half an hour to hang in this pool; by golly if it wasn’t one of the nicest pools I’ve been in–ever!
Aloha Elephant Village!
Bye for now everyone!
*This is how my dictionary spells it. Me, I say, “Squooshy.”
squashy |ˈskwä sh ē; ˈskwô sh ē|
adjective ( squashier , squashiest )
easily crushed or squeezed into a different shape; having a soft consistency : a big, squashy leather chair.
squashily |ˈskwä sh əlē; ˈskwô sh əlē| adverb
squashiness noun
**Same dictionary:
gaggle |ˈgagəl|
a flock of geese.
• informal a disorderly or noisy group of people : the gaggle of reporters and photographers that dogged his every step. (i.e. a disorderly bunch of crickets)
ORIGIN Middle English (as a verb): imitative of the noise that a goose makes; compare with Dutch gaggelen and German gackern.