We’ve returned from our trip to Thailand – ten days of beaches, rainforests, and more fruit smoothies than you could possibly imagine. It was a great adventure and a nice chance to see another side of Asia while we’re in this part of the world.
I made a few observations in between longtail boat rides and endless bowls of curry, which I can now share with you as my field-tested advice for travel in southeast Asia. You might not find all of these tips in your average travel guide, so pay attention:
I consider myself to be somewhat of a self-reliant introvert, a dangerous classification that manifests itself in a “just let me figure it out by myself” mentality. Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in a foreign country; whether traveling or just taking care of business, it’s always preferable to work things out on my own. Ask for directions? No way, just give me a map! Ask someone else to take our picture? Nope, I’d rather devise an acrobatic/engineering feat of epic proportion to steady the camera and propel myself into the picture a split-second before the self-timer releases. I’ve got it, thanks.
This past week, though, I was reminded of just how great it is to rely on the help and expertise of others. This may not sound like rocket science to you, but believe me… it’s a real revelation to me.
We wanted to take a weekend trip while my mom was visiting, partly to get out and do something fun but also to help her experience more of Japan than just Nagoya. After briefly considering a few options, the decision to take her to Kyoto was a relatively easy one. Kyoto served as the capital of Japan for nearly 1,000 years and, even though it no longer holds the political role, it still retains its place as the cultural nerve center of Japan. After all, it’s not easy to shake off 1,000 years of history.
This weekend we took a westbound train across the mountains to visit the city of Nara. Having been the capital of Japan from 710-784 (no, I’m not missing a digit there, I really mean the 8th century), the city is rich in history and cultural heritage. It was difficult to really get a grip on the scope of the history – I was contemplating this as I read the sign in front of the Five Storied Pagoda explaining that the original building was built in 700-something, but regrettably the one before me was a reconstruction dating from 1400-something. In the 1400s, my country was still an unknown “New World”, possibly off the edge of a flat world – and here, they were already rebuilding massive structures of historical significance. Incredible.