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Published: September 30th 2006
I arrived back in China again yesterday morning, and I'm happy to be here. As much as I love the food in Thailand, the people in Cambodia, and the beaches in the Philippines, China has so much to offer. Plus, being in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, means that I'm also in the area that has some of the better Chinese cuisine. Though I suppose that I like Hunan and Cantonese dishes, too.
Since my last entry from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I spent three days in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, which is the country's only deep water port and for me was essentially a trip to the shore. Unfortunately, the weather was not entirely cooperative, and I only spent one day out of the three really on the beach. I did find a nice place to eat, called Moon Shack, and I had a decent place to stay (GST Guesthouse) that had fans, cable tv, a private bathroom, and two beds for $5/night. They had run out of single rooms due to the Khmer's holiday weekend, but they charged me only for a single anyway. There's not much else to say about the place, except that I did have good crab and a barbecued seafood dinner. And of course, more Amok which is really a delicious dish. I spent a lot of time reading on my porch and watched a few movies on HBO in my room. And of course, some time on a lounge chair on the beach.
From there I decided to return to Phnom Penh because it was going to be much less expensive to get to Bangkok from there, plus I enjoyed the city. I spent one day there and then took off the next morning to Bangkok.
About 9 hours after I left Phnom Penh, our bus arrived at the Thai border, when, to my suprise, I heard someone calling my name. It turns out that Ashley and her companions were also at the border on their way to Bangkok. They should have left hours earlier, but their bus broke down and never picked them up that morning from Siem Reap, and the replacement minivan that took them to the border got a flat tire. So their travel time was nearly as long as mine, even though they started off about 350km closer! But by that dumb luck, we ended up on the same bus to Bangkok after we crossed the border. That bit of luck made sure I wouldn't have to try and get in touch with them in the massive City of Angels.
We stayed at the New Joe guesthouse near Khao San Rd, and I ended up sharing the double room with Jeremy, while Ashley, Anna, and Kenny shared the triple. Only, the double room only had 1 bed, but at least it was really big. While the next day touring the sites, I spent a few hours making phone calls, catching up with e-mails, and sending some more postcards. Then I decided to walk around a bit on my own, before going back to the room for a bit.
I met up with Rachel and her friend Ashley (the one I met the last time I was in Bangkok), plus a couple of other exchange students studying at Thammasat in Bangkok for dinner at thsi vegetarian restaurant just north over the bridge from where Khao San is, then met back up with the other Ashley from Singapore (Ashley Allen), and her crowd. She and Jeremy and I went to the Shell Station bar and had a drink before calling it an early night. A funny story from that day - I was trying to figure out how I would get to the new airport, since nobody really seemed to know. I happened upon a stall where they book shuttles, and asked when the last one to the new airport would be the next day. Another guy who was just walking away had apparently asked the same question, and told me that the woman working there had just told him that she didn't know the answer yet. We got to talking, and it turns out he was going to be on the same flight as I was. We introduced ourselves, and Zack (which is his name) actually also turns out to be from Oakland, and has been a swim coach for a number of years but has returned to Asia for his 8th time - this time to find work teahcing English so that he can do more travel than he could do as a swim coach.
The next day I had breakfast with Jeremy at my favorite Pad Thai restaurant, the 40th Years Restaurant across from Tuptim Bed and Breakfast on Rambuttri Rd, and ran into Zack again. And then again a few hours later when I went to the tourist info kiosk to ask about getting to the airport. And then again when I went to dinner with Ashley, Kenny, and Anna. And of course, again at the airport. We decided we didn't need to set meeting times or points since our paths kept crossing anyway.
The rest of my last day in Southeast Asia was spent getting a haircut, a massage, and a little shopping. Then getting really frustrated when I couldn't find the stop for the number 556 bus that should have gone to the airport. After about 30 minutes of waiting, I finally gave up and decided to take the A2 airport shuttle, which would have been much more expensive, but at least I knew where it was, and it was 11 at night and all I wanted to do was get to the brand new airport that had only opened for the first time a few hours earlier and check it out. Well, just at that point I met a couple of Japanese guys who were also going to the airport, so we decided to split a taxi instead. That worked out well - the fare was reasonable, it only took about 30 minutes to get there, and I had someone to talk to and get to know on the way. Funny how my travels always seem to work out just when it looks like they won't.
Flying on one of the first flights out of Suvarnabhumi (su-wanna-poom) Airport - which by the way is really nice - I was sure that I should arrive at least three hours ahead of my 3am flight just to be sure my bag wouldn't get lost. Of course, they didn't open check-in until 1am (2 hours ahead), and even then there was a huge tour group that had one person checking in for the other 50 or so ahead of me, so I didn't check in until 1:30. But it was ok, I still had a window seat to sleep in.
I arrived in Chengdu yesterday, and after a few hours of getting adjusted to China, got back in the tourist mode and visited the Wenzhou Temple. I realized when I was there that I hadn't eaten anything since dinner the night before, and it was already about 3pm, so I went to the vegetarian restaurant in the temple. Of course, I ran into a couple who I had met earlier in my hostel and joined them for lunch. Then last night hug around the hostel, being tried from not really sleeping the night before.
I woke up early this morning to go to the Panda Adventure - a breeding and research institute that has about 50 giant pandas on site, I think the largest collection anywhere. I saw some of the youngest pandas, only six weeks old, plus a few juveniles and adults, and also some red pandas (that look sort of like racoons). Then I came back and hung out and walked around the city with a few of the Israelis I met here at the hostel. Now I'm just waiting for Ryan, Nick, and Joon to arrive from Shanghai.
I'd like to upload pictures of the last few weeks, but haven't found a card reader or good internet cafe, so that wil have to wait.
Tomorrow I think we'll be of to the west on the road to Tibet (though we'll probably only make it as far as Litang). I'm sure it will be amazing, as I've heard some great things from the travellers I've met here.
A lot of love to you all - I'll be home soon.
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