Nepal was struck by a massive earthquake last week, the second in less than a month. While we were in Nepal months ago, our first post about our adventures published the same day as the first earthquake. We have many more tales to share about our time in Nepal - about the people we met, the stories they told us, and the culture and landscapes we witnessed. It seemed inappropriate, however, to post more blogs about our adventures in the darkest period immediately after the earthquake. We will return to those stories, but first I want to share a few thoughts about travel and forming emotional connections to other people and places.
Kelsi and I set out from Boston six months ago and this seems like an opportune time to reflect on the trip thus far. Although on the blog we’re still posting stories from India, I write this from a café/bar on an island in Vietnam. Vietnam is our last stop in Asia and we soon be flying back over the Pacific. We have lot more stories to share from India and the rest of Asia, so expect more of those to come after this post, but for now I take a moment to look back.
One of the most difficult things, if not the most difficult thing, we've seen while traveling is children begging on the side of the road or hawking souvenirs at tourist sites, which is very common in Asia (outside China and Japan). Each time we are approached by a child it is a painful experience. Painful because the kid is cute and probably does need help, but we have a strict rule that we will only offer them is a smile and a polite "no thank you."
Thailand brought us our first encounters with health care systems outside the United States. For several years, I have had kidney stones at about the rate of one per year. However, since we left on our trip, I have been having them more frequently and so far have passed five or six stones. I have so far on our trip been fine without medical intervention, but our first night in Bangkok I had one that was more painful than any one I have experienced before. Given the increasing frequency of the kidney stones, we decided it was time to see a physician.
Off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea lie the Similan Islands. The clear waters, unique underwater rock formations, expansive coral reefs, and diverse aquatic life frequently lands the area on top ten lists of the worlds best dive sites. Going into the holiday season, Kelsi and I knew that it would probably be one of the times that homesickness would strike the hardest. The best way we could avoid it, we figured, was to make sure that we had planned really engaging activities. So on Thanksgiving we found ourselves on our first liveaboard scuba diving trip at the Similan Islands, our first scuba diving after our certification course.
Ever keeping an eye out for things that Boston could do to improve its subway and public transit rider experience as a member of the MBTA Rider Oversight Committee, several aspects of the Bangkok subway and skytrain system were of note to me. This growing system has several of the rider friendly features I have seen in other Asian public transit systems that the MBTA should consider adopting. This is a pretty nuts-and-bolts discussion of the system, so if you don't have a particular interest in public transit it might be a bit dry for you.