The 4000 Islands are in the very south of Laos, where it borders Cambodia, so Cambodia was naturally my next stop. We boarded a bus to Siem Reap and the SEA nonsense quickly began. We were herded into two minivans for the border, which was only about 15 minutes away. These minivans actually weren’t too bad, but of course they weren’t the ones we’d actually be riding in for the long haul (noticing a pattern here: nice transport for the beginning, then switch to awful transport…maybe because if people saw what they paid for before they got on, they’d demand money back or something?). The border was a typical hilarious chaotic shitshow of nervously handing over our passports, short barked orders, and not knowing what’s going on. The entrance visa for Cambodia was $37 (for the US). I’d heard that you should only hand over exact change, because if you handed over $40 for example, they’d probably invent some “fee” so you didn’t get money back (welcome to Scambodia, as I’ve heard it called). Strangely, after getting our visas, they kinda just pointed us in a direction to walk, and we walked for a couple minutes through these empty parking lots towards a bunch of stores (the “pickup spot” I guess) that probably should have been a lot closer to the crossing point… That was a little strange, and probably an accurate introduction to Cambodia.
Hey there again! I guess last time I left off, I was about to leave Vang Vieng to head farther south in Laos, by way of Vientiane, first. The main goal was to do two motorbike loops in central and south Laos, but I’ll get to that later. If you want to go south, especially by common bus routes, you’ll almost certainly end up going through the capital, Vientiane. I had heard pretty dismal stuff about it, but figured I’d give it about a day’s worth of attention, which I think was a good choice.
Welp, despite my promise to do this more frequently, here we are. Two months in and number three. Womp womp.
Let’s see, I guess I left off in Luang Prabang…
The next day was a big one. My two friends and I agreed to get up early to see the sun rise from Mount Phousi, which is a huge hill in the middle of Luang Prabang with a temple on top. I would’ve liked to see sunset there too, but one of my friends had gone the day before and said that it was a shitshow mob of tourists, and that you see more of a see of cellphones than the sun itself. However, get up at 5AM and…you’ll definitely have less company up there. So we did that, and were climbing the hill around 5.50AM or so. We actually passed some people and monks coming back from the giving of the alms ceremony thing they do on the streets in many Laos cities. Getting up that early to do pretty much anything always feels pretty cool. You can be doing something fairly mundane but it’ll feel like a mission because you’re awake when it’s dark, but on the “other side” of the day. But it felt especially cool climbing up these steep stairs through the trees before sunset. Anyway, we finally got there, panting from being out of shape travelers, and it was already getting light enough to make out the city. There were only maybe…2 or 3? other people already there, which was cool. We all sat in mostly silence, happily watching it get lighter, and occasionally whispering to each other. However, soon enough, a fairly large group of tourists came up talking pretty loudly and even shouting to each other. A girl, one of the ones who had been up there before us, noticeably winced and then moved away to a different area with a worse view, to get away from them. I…kind of don’t get it. I get if they want to talk to their friends, but they can still do that quietly, right? Anyway, enough kvetching.
Let’s see, where did my rambling last leave off…
Ahh, in Pai. Well. Let me actually finish up there. Pai is a cool place, but towards the end I had pretty much exhausted what you can do there and seen all the dreadlocks and elephant pants I needed to. There were a couple smaller things I hadn’t seen yet, but I was at the “diminishing returns” part of my stay there so it seemed like I should push on from there. To do that, there are a few options. Pai itself doesn’t have an airport (I think..? Maybe the jungle swallowed it or something..?), so if you want to make a big jump, you could go back to Chiang Mai and then fly pretty much anywhere. Otherwise, you can go by land. There are a few ways to go, but a common one is heading to Laos.
When I left, I pictured having enough time and energy that I would be writing little blog posts every two days or so. To be honest, I still have the time; I could definitely set aside 20 minutes every couple days and blast something out, but my laptop is usually locked away which adds another hurdle to getting myself to do anything.
So! Lemme try and run through things pretty quickly. The day I left, my mom (hi mom, my lone reader!) really helpfully drove me to the train station at some ungodly hour like 5AM, where I got the MTA train to GCT. From there I had to get a bus (the “Airporter”) to JFK. Despite being “from New York”, just going like, 2 blocks over from GCT to the bus stop somehow confused me and made me realize how little I know NYC at this point.
As I’ve alluded to in a few previous posts, I’m about to travel. On Wednesday morning, I’ll get a plane, via a layover in Doha, to Bangkok.
I plan to blog about it a bit here, but I don’t want to turn this into a travel blog because, to be honest, I usually kind of loathe them. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s a personal thing (like a diary/journal/etc), or one that’s basically just for friends/family, that’s totally cool in my book. However, I get the feeling that with a lot of them, it’s someone who’s having great experiences and really, really wants you to be excited for them too. But…at the end of the day traveling is basically a thing that only the person doing it is experiencing, so it’s kind of lame to expect others to be as into it as they are. People trying to make it as actual travel bloggers for a living are often kind of the worst. I mean, I’m not gonna lie: on some level it’s definitely envy I have for them, and if they can pull it off, well, good for them I guess. But it does feel very self indulgent of them, and the market (of people wanting to essentially get paid to travel and write about it) is obviously so saturated that it seems like they often get a sleazy/annoying vibe.
I’ll keep this one (relatively) short because I have lots to do and said most of the stuff in the first vegetarian post, when we just started.
Welp, we finished our month. We ended it with a massive meatfeast, eating (IIRC) about five different animals, so we pretty much undid any good we did for the world. Oops.
Anyway. The month wasn’t too hard at all. I didn’t “miss” meat at all, though I’ll say that my mouth may have watered a bit more than usual when I’d bike past Wings Over Providence on the way to my friend’s house. By far the hardest part was going to a restaurant, as I talked about before, where there would be just very few satisfying vegetarian options.
After making the worst fuzz pedal ever and Orange Ya Glad (which was fine, but didn’t add quite as much as I wanted and adds a weird buzz even when you’re not playing on some speakers), I just wanted a normal fuzz pedal. After doing a bit of reading, I found that the Red Llama overdrive pedal (by Way Huge) is a classic, and after watching a few YouTube demos, it seemed good (to be honest, people are crazy about the “different” sounds of various fuzz/distortion/overdrive that various antique/obscure transistors or configurations will give you, but they all sound pretty similar to me, and I suspect people think they’re hearing differences more often than there actually are).
This is a fun one.
It’s also a testament to how nifty and easy it is to quickly whip up a project with Arduinos, provided you have enough of a “critical mass”, as I’ve called it before, of other stuff that you might end up needing.
How was this one born? Well, there was a Halloween grad student party our school was throwing, on a Friday night. It’s… honestly, really the type of thing I, or any grad student, should go to. We’re mostly isolated from other grad students, and these parties have typically gotten pretty raucous when I’ve gone to them. However, that night, I really wasn’t feelin it. I got home from work/the gym kind of late, hadn’t eaten, and the party was downtown. I think it might’ve also been raining or something, adding to the “I don’t want to go out” side of the scale.
Here, I’m beginning my ML journey by reading: A. C. Mueller and S. Guido – Introduction to Machine Learning with Python, 2017
These will very much be just random notes, thoughts, and questions on the book as I go along.