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To Southeast Asia and Beyond

kevin-rutherford

To Southeast Asia and Beyond

By Kevin Rutherford

When I first found out that I had been accepted to study in Hong Kong, I was excited to be able to go to the other side of the world. This then followed the inevitable, “Okay, now where do I go after the trip,” thought. Fortunately, some of my other classmates thought the same thing, and we decided on first visiting Vietnam. After a short trip to Hanoi, we walked around the city, viewing the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh and walked around to various temples in the city. After walking around and dodging motorbikes (including pulling a friend back from almost being hit by one just minutes after leaving the hotel), we made our way to a water puppet show, which was based on traditional Vietnamese water puppet history.

img_2835-cr2The next day, we visited Ha Long Bay, taking four hours to travel the ninety or so miles through each little village on the way. Taking the local roads, we were able to witness life in Northern Vietnam. Upon arriving at the bay, on a tour bus filled with many jovial tourists from around the world, we boarded a ferry and were fed while travelling through the rocks. At one point, we disembarked and were able to go on a row boat and also were able to see within the caves. After re-boarding the boat, we entered into another cave and were able to cool off a bit. Following that, we made our way back to the mainland, where we were able to take a bus back to Hanoi. It was on this bus trip that we met people from many nationalities, including Indonesia, the United States and Korea.

Following this, I decided to meet up with a friend in the city. Throughout my travels, I had not run into a Burger King, Popeye’s or Dunkin Donuts. Suddenly, I was in Hanoi and found all three, plus many more, all within a small square. After deciding to eat at a KFC, we walked around a lake and went to dessert at a local café that my friends and I had stopped at the night before, but did not visit.

The next day, my friend and I took off for Cambodia, to visit Siem Reap. After arriving and taking a tuk-tuk to the hotel, we met Isaac and headed off to dinner where we were treated to a show. Following this, we woke up the next day and headed out to see many temples. While at first they were interesting to see, they eventually began to look the same. That night, we visited a night market and I was able to start successfully bartering for goods.

The second day was followed by a sunrise tour of Angkor Wat, which had us getting up quite early. Fortunately, this also meant we were able to beat the crowds and end by noon. After a short rest, I decided to take a visit to a killing field museum. While it was set at a Buddhist pagoda, over ten thousand people were buried on the grounds, providing a sobering take on what American interventionism in Vietnam indirectly did to Cambodia. The other interesting thing was noticing that there were very few old people in Cambodia, above the age of sixty. While it would be easy to ascribe this to them not being outside in summer the reality had to do with a sobering legacy of the Khmer Rouge.

Following this, I made it back to the hotel and woke up the next day to go to Thailand. This was then followed by a quick trip from the airport and seeing various Buddha’s in Bangkok, before getting caught in an intense downpour. The next day, we also went out and saw more pagodas, as well as various government buildings. This also provided my first experience in a taxi, as we had mostly used Uber to get around in various places. After spending some time in a hospital trying to hail a cab to the hotel, we noticed our driver started taking some interesting detours on our way back, to the point where he easily doubled our fare. Thus, we also experienced our first taxi driver scam in Thailand.

After an unsuccessful attempt at going to the bar featured in The Hangover, we made our way to a local restaurant and eventually ate some incredible ice cream. This was then followed by preparing to leave for home and taking my first solo Uber ride, which was a tad terrifying once I realized that he loved to speed.