One of my favorite blogs, Bad Astronomy, recently posted pictures of the Space Shuttle Discovery preparing to dock with the International Space Station. The picture was taken and uploaded on Saturday by Paolo Nespoli, an astronaut currently stationed on the...station. To paraphrase Bad Astronomy, he is able to take pictures from space and upload them to the internet for millions worldwide to see, all in nearly real-time. As BA noted, the future is now.
So, I have arrived and am more or less settled. This took forever to post, and I apologize. At first I had no internet, and now I have gotten busy. To begin with, here is a link to a few pictures (have to copy/paste it): EDIT 2016-04-09: changing to link.
I don't have time for a full update post at the moment, so I'm just going to copy/paste some stories I've been typing up for people about my first month here.
Headed to the airport in minutes. I meant to write more this morning, but got distracted. I met the actor Aki Aleong at my hostel, who got kicked out of the Marriott. He was in an episode of the Outer Limits, and also an ambassador on Babylon 5. I told him what I studied and he called me a book jockey. China has finished strong. In the next week or two I will try and get a few more posts up about the last days.
I'm now in Hangzhou, which is an hour or two outside of Shanghai. I arrived this morning on a night train. One of the good things about the night trains is that you give the attendant your ticket, and then she comes and wakes you up when your stop is next. The last time this was necessary I got about 10 minutes and had to rush. That meant that when I was woken up this morning, I rushed like a fiend to get my stuff together and get to the door.
FINALLY! The Chinese government has an iron grip on information control in the country. For some reason they deem both Facebook and my blog as potential security risks. Not a football blog called "freedomblogging," however, which kind of makes you hate their system all the more for its illogicality.
Thankfully, I have found a program called "Freegate," which gets you around government blocking. And guess who developed it--the US government!
I'm in Hanoi, have fallen slightly behind on posting. I'm leaving this morning for Nanning, China. I've heard that very few people speak English in China, so I am planning on it being a test of my new-earned traveling skills. The other day I went to a snake restaurant, where I pulled the beating heart from a snake and ate it. I had expected something pretty hardcore at a snake restaurant, but not quite THAT hardcore.
Two more nights in Cambodia, and then to Vietnam. I took the bus to Phnom Penh this morning. The bus stopped at two roadside food stands. The first had crickets. I asked how much for one, and she tried to give me a whole cupful. Nooooo, no no no. Just one cricket. The vendors wanted to give it to me for free, but I paid 15 cents. They were pretty tickled.
Ahhhh the tuk-tuk: Ubiquitous rats of the road. Assailers of the senses. "Tuk-tuk?! You want tuk-tuk?!" I had never heard of them before I left, but boy do I know them now.
For the uninitiated: a tuk-tuk (pronounced took-took, as in "the tuk-tuk took me to a cookbook nook") is just a little cart that gets pulled behind a motor cycle or little truck that you sit in. Sometimes it's only big enough for two, sometimes it's big enough for eight.
Fewer tourists, the people don't try and scam you at every opportunity, less humidity. All of which makes it easier to appreciate the country.
On the way out of Vientiane the markets had baguettes of all sizes leaning up against the stalls alongside the typical south east Asian food and wares. My first stop outside Vientiane was Vang Vieng. The little town sits across the muddy Mekong from sharp stegosaurus mountains.
The final night at the last hotel, albeit creepy and sweltering, passed without any parts of me being taken and wrapped in plastic. Phew. That morning I caught a boat to the mainland and caught a night bus to Bangkok. I paid for a shower at a hotel and booked another night bus to Vientiane, Laos. I arrived this morning. It is even hotter here, but less humid, which is (kind of?