September 30 2002: I left for three months in Southeast Asia. I had originally planned to go back to the Silk Road, this time in Central Asia, but I had uneasy visions of arriving in Tashkent or Teheran just as Bush bombed Iraq. Then Malaysia Airlines came up with a great deal on air fare, and the more I read about Southeast Asia, the more attractive it became.
I traveled solo in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, and joined Intrepid tours in Laos and Cambodia. After some soul-searching I skipped Myanmar, sickened by what I read about the government, but aware that there are good arguments both for and against honoring the travel boycott requested by some of the democracy activists.
Gleaming, modern cities and wooden houses on stilts; whisper-quiet metro trains and open-sided songthaews; pancake-flat paddy fields and jungle-clad hillsides; tropical heat and winter cold -- Southeast Asia was awash in contrasts. Some constants -- the travel was easy and the people were friendly. I missed the mountains from 2001, but was mesmerized by the temples at Angkor and at My Son, learned to snorkle in the Perhentians, and met my first leeches in northern Laos. And much more.
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