Category: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, 2018

Reflections on Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

February 5. Generally, in reflecting on the terrific trips that Carol and I have been privileged to taken the past, I remark on how grateful I am to have been able to take the trip and my determination to continue these trips as long as I can, because you never know how long you’ll be able to do that. After this trip, I feel that same way, but with a different and renewed sense of gratitude and a deeper appreciation of my ability to continue these trips.

While I don’t want to get over-dramatic, this could have been our final trip. The accident we had in our van on a downhill road was serious. Had it played out only a bit differently, it could have been fatal. To say that that realization is sobering is a bit of an understatement.

Karl’s handling of this accident was spectacular. He remained calm. He focused on the extent to which people were injured and offered an alternative to individuals of going back to Bangkok. Personally, when we reached Luang Prabang, he accompanied me immediately to the hospital to be examined. His excellent handling of the accident, I believe, was responsible for everyone in the group dealing with this in a way that avoided anyone freaking out over it, which could very easily have happened. Kudos, well done, Karl.

So, while the accident had a major impact on the trip, it did not ruin it. We were fortunate that the accident preceded two days in which we were floating down a river, so the amount of physical exertion was less than it might otherwise have been.

The trip was very good, but, to me, it was too ambitious in its scope. In attempting to cover three countries (four, if you include Myanmar), we wound up not covering any of them in depth. Karl said at the outset that we would be traveling through three different countries and that, by the end of the trip, he hoped we would understand how they fit together, related to each other. I do not think that this hope was realized.

Angkor Wat and the surrounding area was clearly the centerpiece of the trip. Unfortunately we emerged with little understanding of what we were seeing historically, artistically or culturally. It may be that Karl could have presented this himself. If not, we should have had a guide to do it. When we return home and are asked by friends about Angkor Wat, we’ll be able to describe only the spectacular sites we saw and what we may have read about those sites in our own. That’s a problem.

My real feeling is that the trip should have been just Cambodia. That is what Karl knows best. He has lived there for many years, has a Cambodian wife and there is plenty there to occupy a full trip, which would give folks an in-depth experience of and understanding of Cambodia. Karl could have included visits to some of his NGO clients, which would have been of great interest to many people. I’ve suggested that to Karl, so perhaps future travelers will be able to experience this.

I want to mention a few trip experiences that stand out in my mind. I am doing that without going back over my blog, so I’ll be hitting what was particularly memorable to me. In the process, I’ll be omitting several palaces and pagodas. Most of these were interesting enough and worthwhile, but they are not what sticks in my mind. For me, that’s true on every trip—it’s not the buildings that matter most.

The Pink Panther, pole dancing and kick boxing in Bangkok (it’s surprising how little of that Carol and I do in Chicago).

Visit to the long-neck women village.

Early morning with the monks in Cambodia (even though my photos were lousy).

Walking, and seeing life, along the river in Phenom Penh.

S21 prison and the Killing Fields. You don’t come away humming a tune, but it’s important to see.

Night market in Phenom Penh.

Long village street that we walked down before getting on the boat in Cambodia that offered a glimpse of village life.

The Angkor Wat experience, including, especially, the first evening visit to the Victory and Death Gates, and the visit to Ta Prohm (particularly because Karl got us there early enough to avoid the Chinese hordes).

Going to Karl’s house, meeting his family, having Karl and his wife cook a meal for us and seeing the young dancers he invited to perform for us (this was a truly special evening).

The group was a very congenial assortment of folks. As always, one relates better to some than others, but, on the whole, they were excellent travel companions.

Best was that I had my favorite travel companion with me, Carol. At first, she was not going to go on another (damn) photography trip, but she backed off of that when we enticed Robert and Joseph to come along. Then she was going to join us after half the trip, but decided she’d do the full trip when Karl assured her that the two days on the river would be calm. Finally, a day or two before we left, Carol said, well, maybe she’d just take my old camera along. And I have multiple shots to prove that she was into taking photos on the trip.

Thanks for joining us and especially to the many who commented on, or emailed me about, the blog. Sorry for technical difficulties I had along the way. I realize that in my last several posts the photos did not load (even though they show up on my copy). If I can figure out why those photos refused to load, I may do another post of just photos. Actually, if you have time to go back to the previous few posts I think you can now see the photos.

To prove that we’re home, here’s Judson’s greeting of Carol.

Carol and I take off again in two months for a trip we’ve been looking forward to, with great anticipation, for two years.

Reflections on Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

  • susie Kiphart

    Amazing! Glad you are home. It’s a good thing you started blogging. Can you imagine trying to remember all this without a good record?! Next trip will be great too as you will have one of your favorite relatives!!!

  • Julie Heifetz

    Arnie,

    You gave us so much to see, learn, ponder on this trip. And also a recognition of what can happen on travels—even here at home, it’s true. But hopefully in Chicago you can navigate the system and understand the language better than in a foreign country. I’m grateful you and Carol and your travel companions are ok and feel the awesomeness of traveling the world outweighs the risks. Welcome home.

  • lauri pollack

    Loved coming along on your wonderful adventure. Thank you.

    Hugs,
    Lauri

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