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IndiaThailandCambodiaVietnam - Page Text Content

S: Brian and Colin's Excellent Adventure

FC: Brian and Colin's Excellent Adventure 2012

1: Basics: This was a five week adventure for me. I took my last medical school rotation off and was able to travel to India, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The original conception of this trip was devised between Chad Bettencourt and me immediately following (or during?) our trip to Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize in the summer of 2009. Itinerary: On March 30th, I actually left for New York City to party and stay the night. The night of March 31st, I flew from JFK to London Heathrow and had a decent layover. Then, I flew from London to Delhi, India. I arrived in India early in the morning (6AM). From there, my path was as follows (literally around the world): - Delhi-Varanasi-Delhi - Delhi-Agra-Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Jaipur-Mumbai - Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) - Phnom Penh (Cambodia)-Siem Reap - Bangkok (Thailand)-Ko Tao-Ko Phi Phi-Bangkok - To Korea to JFK return flight

2: Delhi, India

3: This shows the street where we stayed. The general region is called Paharganj, New Delhi, and we stayed at the Smyle Inn. I think this picture captures the city feel pretty well. There are a lot of people crowding around and often pushing people out of the way because of the traffic. The yellow automobile is called a Tuk-Tuk, and it offers you taxi-like services. There are also a lot of different shops on the streets selling different things. The smells and pollution aren’t captured well in this photo, but I think it’s not difficult to imagine how polluted a city of 16 million might be. My father (or I) describes India as an assault on the senses. Smell: incense is frequently encountered in every shop and home, curry smells interesting, there is sweat, pollution, and other things. Taste: curry is intense. This one is obvious. Feel: Indians have a different idea of “personal bubble” wherein there is none. Thus, people will push you out of the way even when there is clearly a way to walk around. Hearing: Tuk-Tuks constantly, constantly honk and yell at you. Sight: the colors, oddities, and other things are pretty overwhelming. Public urination is not bad at all—I’ve publicly urinated in a number of places in the USA. But public defecation takes it to a whole new level.

5: I arrived in Delhi alone and basically spent a day to recover from the jetlag. The next day, I went on a city tour wherein a personal driver showed me all the sites from 9AM to 6PM or so. The pictures to the left show the main city fort, Humayun’s Tomb, and Lotus temple. More pictures from the tour are included on the next page. The pictures on the next page show the Qutb complex, India Gate, and a temple. The tour was a bit frantic because I only got something like 20 minutes to see a site. There were a lot of sites to see and then a lot of Delhi traffic, so I had to rush a bit.

8: Varanasi, India

9: I then flew to the city of Varanasi. Varanasi is on the west bank of the River Ganges (also called Ganga) in Uttar Pradesh, which is in more eastern India. It is the religious capital of India and generally believed to be 3000 years old or so (not a typo). Varanasi is the holiest city and a pilgrimage site for Hindus. It was apparently the place where Buddhism was founded (Siddhartha Gautama gave his first sermon), and also where many of the Jains of Jainism were born. Hindus believe that bathing the Ganges remits sins.

13: The main activity to do in Varanasi is to take sunrise and sunset boat tours down the Ghats. A “Ghat” refers to one of the 80+ series of steps leading down to the holy river.

14: These two pictures are a part of the burning Ghat. Basically, the Hindu people believe the river washes the bodies from sin, so a ceremonial last bathing before cremation allows release of some kind. | There are cremations 24 hours a day at two main Ghats. The wood is treated to prevent bad smells. I think the tone of having visible cremations 24 hours a day is a sobering one.

16: The streets of Varanasi are a pure maze. A legit labyrinth. The city is fricking old, so it’s hard to criticize the poor city planning. Honestly, it’s the craziest city design I’ve ever seen. Also, there’s cow dung everywhere because cows are allowed to roam free.

17: I started hanging out with these Portuguese girls. They were really cool. We visited a Hindu temple and it was truly a cultural experience. Dozens (if not hundreds) of people were crowded into this little space where six or so altar-like things were stationed. The people would move about and offer different sacrifices to the idols. It was very interesting and hard to describe.

19: There were a lot of holy men roaming the city. They would generally just pray and ask for money. I think it was really unique to have such a spiritual vibe everywhere.

20: I started hanging out with these Danish girls. It was really helpful for me because one of the girls needed to go to the hospital to get a foot x-ray (pictured). I accompanied her and got to see a private Indian hospital, including the ER, a clinic, and even a ward floor. I’ve been in a number of different countries to see hospitals, and I think it was good for me to see the Indian system. The girls saw an Orthopedic surgeon who trained in England. I think she was fine.

24: Colin Malloy arrived to Delhi at the end of the week, and I flew back to meet up with him. We originally met back in high school and even played in a band together called Ninjas of the Kremlin. Colin absolutely loved India. He is a percussion major, so the first thing we did was to send a set of Tabla drums back to the United States via FedEx. Next, we took a train to Agra, which is southeast of Delhi. Trains in India are worth mentioning and showing (see above). They are extensively well networked and also allow you to sleep in a “sleeper class.” Generally, they’re pretty old, and it is a bit difficult trying to figure out how to buy a ticket.

25: Agra, India

26: In fact, the number one reason I had wanted to go to India (and had planned the trip) was to see the Taj Mahal. Most people had told me that the Taj Mahal and its greatness can’t be accurately depicted in a photograph; I agree with this statement. Built by Shah Jahan in honor of the death of his third wife (giving birth to their 14th son), the Taj is actually centralized around a tomb. I guess I never wondered what was inside the Taj. It turns out the outside is more impressive than the inside. We woke up for a sunrise entrance to the Taj (after I couldn’t sleep due to bedbugs in the hostel). It was definitely worth it. If, for no other, it was great to go at sunrise so fewer tourist would be around. You can get some cool viewing angles of the Taj Mahal because they rope off different areas like the fountains in the middle of this picture.

31: Jodhpur, India We overnight-bused from Agra to Jodhpur, the blue city. The reasoning behind the blue paint is actually mainly due to the heat and bugs. Colin was pretty pissed arriving at Jodhpur because his camera was lost/stolen on the trip over.

32: The Mehrangarh Fort is a pretty cool attraction but a steep climb.

34: Jodhpur also has some great markets. This is one of my favorite pictures. For a long while, I had attempted photographing a big part of Indian culture that is hard to capture: saris. Snuck this photo in. I think they’re looking at some bracelets or something. The next page has sari pictures from other parts of my trip.

37: This photo is of a man named Navin from a governmental, price-controlled spice shop. Truly the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced traveling happened in this spice shop. Basically, Colin and I walked into the basement of this spice shop, which Navin owns. As you can see from the picture, there were numerous curries and things to buy. I told him that I was looking for a gift for my mother. After two sentences of dialog he asked me if we were from America (based on my distinct accent). I said yes. He grabbed my arm and said, “FromTigard?” Now, this was remarkable on many, many levels. Firstly, I guess the reader should note that Colin and I are actually from a small suburb of Portland, Oregon, called Tigard (we graduated from Tigard High School in 2003). It was remarkable, though, because we hadn’t even said we were from Oregon. And even to guess Tigard (a suburb of less than 100k) was ridiculous. This was literally within the first four sentences of meeting. He stated, “I sometimes get this sense.” He then went on to guess our ages (“You are between 25 and 27, one right in the middle?”) and gave Colin a medicine guessing that he had an upset stomach. Truly amazing.

38: Jaisalmer, India

39: Our next adventure brought us into the Indian desert on the India-Pakistan border to the town of Jaisalmer. The town is quite small, and the main reason to go would be for the Camel Safaris. Camel Safaris are literally just treks into the desert on camel with guides. There are multi-day trips, and we spent two days on our Safari with the gentlemen pictured above. Honestly, it was incredibly uncomfortable to ride the camels. Perhaps because of the homemade saddle or the gait of the camelI’m not sureColin and I both used impressive head wraps and hats to protect from the scorching heat and UV. The camels were really huge and awkward. Look at the next picture to see the weird angle their knees and ankles bend when they lie down. Also, it’s hilarious because camels will just wander off if left alone.

40: Two of these photos (bottom right) were from desert villages that we visited. The villages were quite small with something like 40-60 people living in them. I believe they were subsistence farmers without anything like cars, etc. The truly unfortunate part about that is that the Jaisalmer region hadn’t seen rain in four years. It rained, though, the last day we were there, so maybe we’re good luck.

41: Mumbai, India | We flew out of Jaipur, India, to Bombay. We didn’t do much in Bombay except walk around. By this point, we were both pretty worn out. Colin hadn’t eaten in 4 days (except for perhaps a Cliff bar or some crackers for a meal) and I was subsisting on a half cup of rice or something per meal. It was pretty rough.

42: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

43: I like this picture because it captures the interesting carrying method and number of mopeds both in the same shot. Our travels through Vietnam were a bit short due to the time constraints of blitz travel. We only managed to spend two days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) before needing to move onward. Vietnam was completely different than India. The sights, sounds, and feel of the two locations were not comparable. Vietnam felt like it had a lot more money, also. It was cleaner, had a lot more mopeds, and had less English. I really enjoyed Vietnam and wish I could have spent more time there.

44: Something also should be said regarding Vietnamese cuisine. Pho is one of the main Vietnamese dishes, and it is quite tasty. I think the cuisine in India can be summarized as curry plus rice equals meal. You really couldn’t get away from the curry in India. Vietnam seemed to have a bit more variation in cuisine and was quite delicious. You can see in this picture and from Colin’s expression, though, that Colin missed the Indian food.

45: We visited the Vietnam War Museum for a couple hours. Honestly, the museum was littered with propaganda and anti-American sentiment. For example, four walls of the museum are covered with 8.5x11 cutouts showing how many different countries were against the war. An entire section of the museum is dedicated to the Agent Orange aftermath and atrocities of the war. Even though the opinions might be biased, I got the real sense that the war greatly increased the suffering of humanity on both sides. I think the pictures of civilians (especially women and children) being murdered and tortured is hard to stomach, and rightfully so.

46: We also visited the Cu Chi tunnels, which were created by the Viet Cong. The tunnels served as hiding spots and an extensive network for food, supplies, and living quarters. We were also shown a large number of various booby traps to kill American soldiers. The Cu Chi tunnels were significant in hiding the VC. Typically, VC would live in the tunnels during the day and scrounge for food at night.

47: Phnom Penh, Cambodia | Cambodia was really cool. I wish I could have spent more time there. I think one thing that really strikes visitors about Cambodia is how friendly the people are. I certainly found this to be true. I think the people are physically quite good looking, as well. They have this peculiar brown tint in their hair, which most East Asians don’t have. Our first stop was Phnom Penh. It is the capital and largest city in Cambodia.

49: Our time in Phnom Penh was mainly devoted to visiting the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. If you are reading this, please, please take 2 minutes and (re-)familiarize yourself with this atrocity by reading any reference online. I didn’t know much about it until I visited this site, but the Khmer Rouge killed approximately 2 million people (a third of the Holocaust) during the mid-1970s. Trials to prosecute those responsible are few and far between and are still continuing into 2010 and beyond. In a sentence: the Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime that targeted professionals, intellectuals, city dwellers, people suspected of being involved with foreign governments, Ethnic Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese, and others. The most haunting sentence I heard on the tour is that the killers stopped using bullets because that was too expensive to execute so many people, so they bludgeoned them to death instead. There is also a tree called “Killing Tree” where they would bash children’s heads in to death so that they wouldn’t grow up to take revenge. The following page contains pictures from Choeung Ek. I couldn’t take too many pictures of things because it was emotionally overwhelming

50: Mass grave of 450. One of many. | During the rains—to this day—clothing from dead bodies still comes up. | DDT sign. | This tower is filled with skulls.

51: Siem Reap, Cambodia

52: Siem Reap is one of my favorite cities we visited. I really liked the people and being able to walk instead of taxi places. The main reason to go to Siem Reap is for Angkor Wat and other temples. Known as the Angkor Archaeological Park, there are over 400 square kilometers of 9th to 15th century temples. The temple in the previous picture is from the “Tomb Raider temple” because Tomb Raider was partially filmed there. Legit tree.

54: Angkor Wat is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of the gods, and dedicated to the Indian god Vishnu. It was built using sandstone by King Suryavarman II as a funeral temple in something like 35 years. There are many architectural marvels regarding this temple such as the use of sandstone without cement, the moat built around it, the fact that Cambodia is monsoon wetlands, how quickly it was built, etc.

57: At our hostel, we met this girl Miho who is from Kyoto, Japan. She was on a multi-month trip to Southeast Asia and then wants to go to Australia for a year to work. Her story and how we began to hang out was a bit funny. She was traveling and met this guy in Vietnam or Cambodia in a hostel who is a bit older. As it turned out, she did not actually remember his name but referred to him (not to his face, probably) as “Old Man.” So, she told us this story where she met “the Old Man” in a hostel in Vietnam/Cambodia and he wanted to start hanging out. And so then they were coincidentally coming to Siem Reap at the same time and this is where we met them in the hostel. I met the guy and he appeared to be 55-65 years old or so (significantly older than the rest of the hostel guests). So it got more awkward because the Old Man wanted to hang out with Miho all the time. She had just gone with him on a day-long tour of the temples. Then, he had wanted to get a massage together, and Miho was a bit disturbed because they had a single transparent sheet separating their two massage tables. And then she could overhear him saying, “Oh, she’s not my girlfriend but I want to marry her.” Awkward! Anyway, I had asked Miho if she wanted to go to dinner with us, and she seemed quite eager to leave the presence of the Old Man. Miho will meet us again later in this story, so remember her.

58: Bangkok, Thailand

59: Colin and I only toured the Angkor Wat temples for one day. We did not see all there was to be seen. People typically do an “outer loop” or “inner loop.” Each loop takes a whole day. We did the inner loop. There were certainly more temples to see. Anyway, we then took a minivan to Bangkok, Thailand. Featured in this photo is Khaosan road. Basically, Khaosan is a short tourist trap of a street with bars, restaurants, hostels, and hotels. Everyone on the street is a tourist pretty much. And people are selling random stuff like offensive t-shirts and the like. And there's a lot of Pad Thai carts. So I love Pad Thai. Love it. One time I ate Pad Thai three times in one day. This is a picture of a Khaosan road Pad Thai cart where you can buy the dish for $1.70 USD.

62: During the day, we went to visit the temples of Bangkok. They have probably a dozen temples, which are very different than the architecture we had seen in the other locations. There are a ton of Buddha statues. Then, we met back up with Miho as she was coming through Bangkok and went to the mall. We also went to an art gallery. Muy Thai kickboxing is popular, and we saw some kickboxing. You can see from the food picture that I really do like Pad Thai.

64: Koh Tao, Thailand

66: We took an overnight VIP bus and then boat to the island of Koh Tao. The island is quite small and the main reason to visit is for the fantastic scuba diving. We enjoyed the beach life and also went scuba diving two days. One thing that I might not have mentioned is that our blitz travel was necessary because Colin’s flight was a week earlier than mine. He had more like 3.5 weeks compared to my 5 weeks. So he probably would have stayed longer than two days in Koh Tao before leaving, but he only had enough time to get PADI Open Water certified before needing to get back to Bangkok to fly to the United States. I had gotten my Open Water certification in North Carolina before going on the trip, so I just went diving for fun. Unfortunately, going underwater and being on a boat prohibit much photography. I have some diving pictures (not underwater) in the Koh Phi Phi section.

67: Colin left and I spent a little more time in Koh Tao. I started hanging out with this girl who is from Burma. Apparently there are a lot of refugees from Burma working in Thailand (Koh Tao especially).

69: I’m definitely a beach-over-mountains type of guy. The beaches here were pretty good. The water was nice and warm and you could go snorkeling, as well. The shot on the left features a soccer match (see goal post) and a number of long tail boats, which are a distinctive feature of Thailand. They’re just wooden boats with a motor in the back. At night, there are fire shows wherein people wield swinging lanterns or staff objects of fire. I only included these because I love the photos. Just increase the ISO and boom. No photoshopping or filters here.

71: I started hanging out with these Canadian girls and there was a funny story regarding a rabies vaccination that is probably better told in person than in writing. But, oh well, I’ll try. So these girls and I went to have a couple drinks with these British dudes. And one of the British guys had been bitten by a puppy during the day. Really small bite that didn’t even really leave a mark. He went to the clinic to ask about a rabies shot and they told him not to worry. He shared this story and it turns out one of the girls in the picture is a nurse and I’m some sort of silly medical student. So, we told him that it would probably be best to get the shot since $5.00 is definitely better than like dying from rabies. He wasn’t really convinced, but we kept making the argument that it’s a lot easier to get a shot and live than not and die. (It turns out 100% of untreated rabies cases are fatal—a fact I told him a couple times). So he got really scared and might have even had a tear come to his eye. The girls and I went to the bar and he and his friends went to dinner and the clinic. We later saw the dudes at the bar and the guy was freaking out because the clinic again denied him the vaccine. They wouldn’t even let him see the doctor or whatever. A little fact came out, though, in our second conversation at the bar. It just so turns out that he hadn’t told us that he had gotten the rabies vaccine already back in England before coming. Whoops! We pretty much laughed about it for the rest of the night. And he drank a lot to wash out his tears. Joking.

72: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

73: I then had the terrible experience of going on an overnight boat + bus to Koh Phi Phi. The overnight bus was extremely crowded and hot, which is why I say it was so terrible. But Kho Phi Phi was pretty nice. The beach limestone formations in the pictures are what you find if you do a Google image search for “Thailand beach." Apparently, it’s where they filmed The Beach with DiCaprio or something. Never saw the film, but they kept talking about it. Anyway, the main reason I had wanted to go to Koh Phi Phi was that the guidebooks all say that Phi Phi has awesome diving and beautiful beaches. I’d probably agree.

75: I went scuba diving another two days. Again, it’s really hard to get photographs of my scuba diving adventures because you’re on a boat and diving into the water kinda poor conditions for a camera. I will say, though, that the scuba diving in Thailand met my expectations of what I had imagined. These were my first dives outside of the four dives in the North Carolina quarry when I got Open Water certified. I haven’t told many people of what originally prompted my interest in scuba diving. It’s an odd story: So, I did an away rotation at Johns Hopkins in Otolaryngology during my fourth year of medical school. One of my sub-rotations was in the facial plastics side of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. I was working in this private practice office in a clinic setting of one of the Hopkins surgeons. It was pretty much what you’d expect from an elective facial plastic surgery clinic—they covered nose jobs, face lifts, skin therapies, botox, and the like. Everything was paid for out-of-pocket. Thus, the clinic was really rich. And they had so much money that there was a flat screen television in every exam room. One of the flat screen TVs played a DVD on loop, and that DVD featured underwater shots of fish and coral and things you see scuba diving. While the doctor was doing a botox injection one day, I was just watching the DVD of the fish and thought to myself, “I should go scuba diving.” So then I got certified and went to Thailand. Oh, and I met two people on my last day scuba diving from Portland!

76: Bangkok, Thailand | I went back to Bangkok to catch my flight. I had a day to see the temples and the city and enjoy the end of the trip. This picture is from Temple of Dawn.

77: Surprise! I met up with Miho again. Apparently she needed to go to Laos on a visa run. Thailand typically offers two week visas, so you have to leave the country and return if you want to stay. Miho and I went clubbing in one of the main party districts of Bangkok. Bangkok has a pretty nice nightlife scene. It’s also known for its “lady boys,” so you have to be careful if you’re scoping chicks.

78: I knew it was time to go home when I saw this man wearing a Duke basketball t-shirt. I was like, “Whoa,” and stopped him. I asked if he had heard of Duke or basketball or even Duke basketball. He didn’t speak English and looked back at me seemingly perplexed. I then told him I went to that school and described how crazy it was since we were in Thailand and the university is in America. He walked away confused still not speaking English.

79: On my last day, Miho and I went to the Jim Thompson house. His story is legit crazy. So homie was an American out of Delaware that fell in love with the Thai culture and such. He moved to Thailand to re-invigorate the hand silk trade and did a pretty good job. In Bangkok, he made this complex of houses in traditional Thai style and even imported some of the houses from around the country. He also collected a lot of art and generally was well respected. Then, one day, he went hiking in Cambodia and mysteriously disappeared.

80: My last story comes from the Bangkok airport. The Bangkok airport is my favorite airport in the world. Among many other awesome entities, it features these LaZ boy recliners (pictured above). I sat down in one and met these four Vietnamese girls kind of randomly. I asked what they were doing and apparently they had been trapped in the airport for two days, living what was something like the Tom Hanks film The Terminal. From what I could tell the Vietnamese airline had blocked their ticket on Friday and the ticket counter closed Saturday and Sunday. Thus, a Monday or Tuesday flight was the best option available to them. So they decided to stay in the airport and supposedly lived in these chairs for the couple of days while they were trapped.

81: My itinerary home went something along the lines of 6 hours from Bangkok to Seoul, Korea, leaving at 1:30AM; a 30-minute layover; a 14-hour flight from Seoul to JFK; a 4-hour layover; a 2 hour flight from JFK to RDU. And the guy on the 14-hour flight didn’t quite understand the common law of the land that in an airplane you get half the arm rest and shouldn’t cross your legs so as to have your foot kicking the person next to you and your arm crossing the half-way invisible boundary to elbow the person next to you constantly for 14-hours. Apparently they don’t learn that rule in Korea. The first meal I had on return was a bacon-cheddar cheeseburger. And my ride home was my good friend Donna who also brought me to the airport.

82: -=FIN=- And thus concludes my journey of flying literally around the world (JFK-India-Thailand-Korea-JFK). I’d like to thank my mom for the donation of her 185,000 frequent flyer miles. I’d like to thank my grandma Ruth for her financial support. And I’d like to thank Duke for engineering a curriculum that would allow a fourth year medical student to take a 5-week vacation while still being in school. And then I graduated 6 days later. Life win. The remaining photos are unsorted. Live hard. Love hard. Dream big.

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