Welcome to the travel diary of John Shanchuk and Ravi Krishnaswami. Thrill to their adventures as they run screaming mad through Southeast Asia for three whole weeks!
> Jersey City, USA - Tuesday, May 23, 2000 at 07:51:07 (PDT)
Well. It's 10:51 am.
We're packed, and somewhat ready for
the 14 hour flight. Cards, sleeping drugs, books, peanuts.
Next stop Tokyo.
Our itinerary, for those interested:
24 May--Arrive Tokyo, Japan
30 May--Arrive Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
05 June--Arrive Bangkok, Thailand
09 June--Arrive Panang, Malaysia
13 June--Arrive Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
15 June--Arrive NYC, USA
See ya soon. we hope.
- John and Ravi
> Tokyo, Japan - Wednesday, May 24, 2000 at 05:35:56 (PDT)
Well we made it. Japan Airlines is the best airlines ever. Food was good and the stewardesses were better. Each seat has it own little flip up TV including a little game system, unfortunately not working today. The worst thing was that the economy class seats are much too narrow for this fat american ass. I was wedged in there and unable to move for 14 hours. Ouch. The green tea comes highly recommended though (Andy--you'd be in Tea heaven here--I just bought some yummy iced green tea out of a street vending machine--delicious, cool AND refreshing.)
Tokyo is great so far. From what Ive seen its an amazingly colorful city, overloaded with logos and advertising and ultra-style conscious, but somehow it seems all seems more fun. Anyway, we're gonna get dinner, then I'm gonna crash hard in our cozy hotel room. stay tuned.
- John Shanchuk
> Tokyo, USA - Wednesday, May 24, 2000 at 05:42:05 (PDT)
We're hanging out with Raji, and I'm practicing my japanese. "Excuse me" and "sorry" seem to come in handy the most. And I can't figure out these weird phones yet.
Shibuya is like times square crossed with st marks place.... huge diamondvision displays next to noodle shops with only three tables.
jet lag is fun....
- Ravi Krishnaswami
> Tokyo, Japan - Sunday, May 28, 2000 at 11:19:35 (PDT)
first , my sincere apologies if you're annoyed about getting spammed everytime john and I have something to say about our trip. Just thought this would be a nice experiment in cyberpostcards.
So its 3 am in Akasaka and John and Raji and I just had a huge korean barbeque feast. Oishi desu!
We spent a couple days in Kyoto, which is filled with Buddhist temples and japanese gardens. But of course the highlight of that trip was our last night in a hole-in-the-wall Okinimiyaki joint (japanese pancake/omelette filled with meat or fish), drinking with some musicians we met (a banjo player and a shamisen player). The place maybe fit four stools.
Although this country may turn us broke, its filled with really excellent people and the most amazing public transportation I've every seen. Long live shinkansen!
hopefully we'll post some pictures soon, but for now its time to get to bed.
- Ravi Krishnaswami
> More Kyoto Pixs:
> Our hotel, was more traditional styled Japanese Ryokan. Sparse, but clean and affordable.
> the Hair Saloon. Go Engrish!
> Around one of the famous temples we visited, were what seemed like MILES of these "grave" shrines, covering hills and valleys.
> Around one of the big touristed temple complexes, Kyomizu, there were tons of school kids visiting on field trips from surrounding towns. I liked that each different school class was marked by different colors or kinds of hats. We had alot of fun talking to them, and were asking us a million questions. One class had an assignment to speak in English to tourists (us!) and write down their responses. This girl was a trip. She had us both cracking up. I think we were thrilled to finally be able to speak English to someone!
> "prayer knots"
> Despite what you might think, considering Japan's cultural link to the US, it was hard as hell to get by armed with just a japanese phrase book. This was the only restaurant around we could find that day where we could communicate at all to order. Ravi checks it out and it looks good.
> More Tokyo and Kamakura Pix:
> Hanging out with some music people (Kenta, and I forgot the other guy's name) that Ravi was introduced to. They were really nice and showed us around, inluding taking us record shopping to some of their favorite spots including a weird undergroundy place where Ravi bought a pirated copy of the Beach Boys' unreleased album, Smile.
> Raji looking very tough-guy on the streets of Tokyo. He's a real softie though.
> Of course we had to have a Sushi feast--so we went to this excellent all-you-can-eat Sushi place, and boy did we!!
> A night out in Tokyo--at a place called the Clip Joint. Raji is a regular and we drank and talked to lots of the Patrons. We stayed VERY late. These girls lived in the Tokyo equivelant of Staten Island or New Jersey, and slept in the bar because public transportation doesn't run all night and cabs are prohibitively expensive. Raji, thinking of somewhere for them to stay...
> We took a day trip to a near by tourist beach town, called Kamakura. We had a good time there, and I especially enjoyed seeing the famous "Big Buddha" which is a giant bronze buddha, cast in 1252. It was once surrounded by a temple, but that was washed away by a tsunami, leaving just the big buddha standing alone in the plaza. Afterwards we took a walk along the beach, which was scenic, but cold and windy. Raji got out his kites. We all got pelted by flying sand.
> Sumurai Ravi and Ultra-John.
> On our last day in Tokyo, we meandered around the city to some areas we hadn't visited, including Ikibahara which is kind of like Times Square, filled with LCD screens and electronics shops. Click here to play the Ikibahara "Where's Wavi" game! We were browsing around in one of the many electronics shops, when lo and behold, in came a group of Sumo wrestlers. I just wanna let you know that they are nothing like you I expected--no Hulk Hogan or the "Rock"--and not the big fat dopes people here are likely to make fun of. They were HUGE men, towering over everyone. I never knew Japanese people get so big. Also they were wearing brightly colored silk robes, their hair was slicked back in samurai-like top knots and they were all manicured and perfumed. I was pretty much in awe of them. They headed into the shop, and headed straight for the DVD section where they browsed the Japanese porno. I took some inconspicuous photos.
> Saigon, Vietnam - Tuesday, May 30, 2000 at 20:59:52 (PDT)
Ground zero in 'nam. Its hot, humid and terribly crowded. We got in last night on a vietnam airlines flight from hong kong (actually the airline was excellent) and brought to this little joint called the Oriole hotel, where the people are insanely friendly.
We ended up hanging out with a girl from Richmond, VA, who decided to pick up and move here to teach English. The poor girl hadn't eaten in a week because she didn't want to venture out at night by herself (and from the looks of this place, I'd say that's a smart choice). So we brought her out of her cave, so to speak, and hit the "backpacker ghetto" neighborhood called pham ngu lao. Its a densely packed two blocks of cheap guesthouses, cafes, cybercafes, bars, and lots of Auzzie and Kiwi backpackers. Too many. And here's the weird thing: at least two bars were simultaneously playing a compilation of Police songs. I guess they really like sting.
So we had some vegetarian fare and talked to numerous folks selling zippo lighters, photocopied books, cheap paintings and massage. We went to a bar afterwards, shot a game of pool and observed some very strange expatriates.
Today we're going to check out the Reunification Palace(which used to be the headqu rs for the South Vietnamese government) and some other noteworthy places in the city. Tomorrow we may rent some motorbikes.
oh, and as is customary in a communist country, the hotel proprietor must call the police every night and tell them our whereabouts.
see yas. internet is cheaply available here, so you'll be hearing more.
- Ravi Krishnaswami
> Saigon, Vietnam - Tuesday, May 30, 2000 at 21:06:09 (PDT)
We made it.
This place is completely wacked.
It was pouring rain when the plane landed and everyone crowded in a bus that took us to the terminal. Went throught customs where we were supposed to declare all cultural materials for inspection--so as not to injure the Vietnamese morality.
The cab ride was insane, weaving between motorbike, cyclos, and bicycles. People wearing plastic bags. Kids playing soccer on the sidewalks kicking puddles.
We havent really seen much of Siagon yet. From what I have seen the buildings looked tacked together and looley stacked on topof each other. Surprising that most of this city can stand.
The people here seem really friendly, but dont really approach us unless they are selling something. If you even attempt the simplest Vietnamese phrase like cam o'n (thank you) they seem completely shocked (and amused at your unavoidably terrible accent) that you even tried speaking Vietnamese.
Last night we walked over to the backpacker ghetto and I was very surpised how many foriegners there were. Im assuming they were mostly American. I think we saw more white people there last night then the whole time we were in Japan combined.
It was a very strange scene. Its 11:00am here now and we still havent mangaged to venture very far from the hotel. I spent much of the morning trying to learn some Vietnamese phrases from the woman at the hotel. The whole staff has been very friendly. The coffee was tres bien.
Guess you'll be hearing more soon. We'll try to post some pix.
- John Shanchuk
> Saigon, Vietnam - Wednesday, May 31, 2000 at 07:02:37 (PDT)
Hey. Im back. Most of you have probably been sleeping. We however smell of a strange mix of burnt oil and deisel fuel. We ended up hiring 2 cyclo drivers to take us around the city today for 2 dollars an hour. The two guys (I dont know how to spell their names) took us on a long tour around the city. We went to a market in Cholon that was squeezed into and around a colonial pavilion. We went to the Reunification Palace, which was the headquarters for South Vietnam in the American War. Everything was left as it was when the n vietnamese tanks rolled in and forced a surrender in 1975. The best part was the basement bomb shelter/bunker with control and communications rooms and maps where the operations for the south were carried out.
I've gotten much more acclimated to Saigon after today. Not quite the shot it was last night. We are meeting the two cyclo drivers back at the hotel at 9 pm (now) to go to a vietnamese club that has some local music.
Tomorrow we are probably going to get a car and drive (with our guide) down to the Mekong Delta and some towns around there.
all for now. see you soon.<