I've visited Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, with a bulk of time spent in Vietnam and Laos. I've been moving in counter-clockwise loop sometimes taking short flights to skip boring stretches of the road and save time. There is an approximate map of my route on my main website - mostov.com. Altogether I've been traveling for 2 months (although most people from my office seem to be convinced that I've been away for much longer :)
In Cambodia, which I visited with my parents, I've seen the splendors of ancient Khmer civilization (Angkor Wat) and the extreme poverty of
Khmer's modern descendants. In Vietnam I was was impressed by the rapid economic growth, excellent tourist infrastructure and the
entrepreneurial activity in the society which on paper is described as "communist". It is not, most of the places, particularly in the South,
look and feel more capitalist than California. With private enterprise thriving, you'd never tell that it were the Communists who won the war
in 1975. Vietnam was also the most exotic country on my list - there I could see the most of weird customs and costumes. In Hanoi I was
joined by my girlfriend and together we continued to the north of the country, region called Sapa, near Chinese border. The attractions of
Sapa are spectacular scenery and exotic hill tribes, people famous for wearing funny hats and for sticking to their centuries old lifestyles.
Then we went to Laos - a quiet pressure-free country, great place to have Beer Lao and try 1001 recipes in which sticky rice is the only
ingredient. Laos is also excellent for hiking, kayaking, visiting Buddhist temples and simply for chilling out and enjoying slow-paced
rustic life. While in Laos, we hooked up with people who build treehouses in the jungles and subsequently we spent 3 days on a giant
fig tree, 40 meters above jungle floor. There we shared the house with Willy - the resident gibbon. The place was brand new, owners put it up only in December and therefore this experience was very unique, only a handful of people had done it before us.
Finally, we had few days to unwind in Thailand, on the beach. Not on Southern Islands, damaged by tsunami, but in Pattaya, near Bangkok.
There is nothing exotic about this place, it's simply a cheap beach resort of good quality, a watersports heaven combined with a giant
entertainment center, the ultimate fun city, the 42nd Street, Copacabana, Miami's South Beach, Las Vegas' Strip and New Orleans
French Quarter combined.
All together I took about 2500 photos, few hundred of which I'll eventually post online. Several albums have been already posted, and every
week or so I'll be adding more:
Most common questions I am asked are: "how was the trip?", "did you like it?"... And I have difficulty in answering these questions because I
don't know how to separate my experiences as a tourist and observer from my attitude towards what I've seen. I enjoyed the process of traveling - the diversity of experiences, the freedom from routine. I was impressed by many sights, both natural and man-made, I met many fun
people, I sampled good foods and wines, played with exotic animals and tried unusual activities.
But I also encountered lot's of poverty, corruption, incompetence, unhygienic living conditions, disturbing customs, pushy street vendors,
dirty children... I guess many of these things seeped into my notes, because one keen reader surprised me by saying that most of my notes have negative feel. It was a strange observation because most of the time I felt very happy with the way the trip was going. After thinking of this paradox I came up with two plausible reasons why negative tales could have prevailed. Firstly because bad experiences make better stories. If I travelled from point A to B without encountering any obstacles - this would have been an uneventful trip, boring to write about and likely boring to read about as well. Second reason why stories might have negative feel is because many things I've seen in Asia were indeed not pretty.
Yet "seeing" is only a fraction of total traveling experience. The important thing is that whether I liked what I've seen or not - I've always enjoyed the process of "looking".
Finally people ask: "Where are you going next?"
I don't know yet, time will tell.