The Good, The Bad, and The Awesome: Post Trip Thoughts

Two weeks of travel are sometimes hard to summarize, particularly with the amount of variety that can be packed into those two weeks. Summarizing months of travel? Interesting. I have been getting this question a lot, especially now that I am back in NYC, What was your favorite part? Some asked me what my least favorite parts were as well. I will do my best to keep this post brief as I have been starting to get retrospect of my trip in the weeks to come.

The Good
The most awe-inspiring time I had was hiking through Patagonia, specifically the W trek in Torres del Paine (Hiking Pt 1 and Hiking Pt 2). Carrying that stupid heavy backpack and being unable to divide up labor and goods be damned, the scenery was just incredible. There were some parts of the hike that did not have scenery, and I greatly appreciated those as well, but the majority of the hike did have spectacular views of the park. I went in January, which is prime hiking season for this part of the world as it is most likely to have good weather. Most photographs that you see on the internet have the sun added to the background.

That said, Patagonia is extremely temperamental and I was extremely lucky to have amazing weather for the majority of my hike. This does not mean it was not windy. The sustained winds down there ,even in the best of times, can knock someone like me over, especially given the backpack. No, the backpack does not "ground" you at all. Physics dictates that it provides more [uncontrollable] surface area to press against you.  Grown men that had come back from the day preceding my trip said it was the worst experience of their lives, so as I said, it's quite temperamental. Had been unlucky to have gone the week earlier, this blog post would have gone very differently. But I didn't. It was amazing.

Romanticizing and having forgotten some of the painful parts of the trip, this is something I would like to do again. Hopefully seeing the French Valley next time and splitting up the gear.

*Even though it was a five day W trek, my route was a bit different from the two standard ways that most people who are camping/hiking/bringing gear approach the Torres del Paine. Contact me if you need any suggestions or would like to get the details of my trek.

The Bad
Thailand. I have mixed feelings on the country. While it is poorer than the US, I have a hard time classifying it as "poor." The conundrum that I faced was this: from a tourism perspective, Thailand is probably the most popular country of southeast Asia. This popularity comes from Aussies, Kiwis, Europeans, and Americans. With the amount of money and tourism flowing into the country and the relatively smooth relations with all of the above countries, I expected more. I never fault a country for not speaking English. Japan's English language skills were among the worst of my travels, but as a society, the Japanese amaze me like no other. However, for Thailand, given the reliance of tourism income unlike Japan, Thailand's grasp of English was sub-par. On average, the English skills in Myanmar [Burma] well surpassed those of the Thai in the service industry–probably the most surprising thing I encountered during my travels.

Moreover, I can't help but feeling like a free cash dispenser when traveling through most of SEAsia, but particularly in Thailand. I understand that this aspect is inevitable: tourists pay higher prices than locals. In tourist areas, I understand increasing the price of goods uniformly for all consumers or providing services like car service at a premium because the local community does not participate in this part of the service industry. The part that drives me the craziest about it is the fact that this is not a norm to Thai culture. Thais do not bargain with Thais at the market, at least, not nearly at the same level, rate, or frequency. I spent a lot of time at markets doing shopping for food and clothes. When a Thai person was trying to buy an umbrella in the rain there was just one price. This happen repeatedly and with many items and shopkeepers in the markets. Oh, and hospitals.

Eventually, I resorted to buying only after I saw how much a Thai person had just paid for an item. Thank you, buyer of the pink and brown umbrella, for telling me that the price I'm being told is the same as your price. The government/patron donations have enough money to lather temples in diamonds and gold leaf, but not enough so that all of the country lives above the poverty line.  'All of that is just part of the experience' works only for one travel experience. Despite the amazing food and beautiful landscapes, with the phrase that kept popping into mind being 'They should know better,'  I am not sure that I will be rushing back to Thailand any time soon.

The Awesome - Bring on the Ramen
 Despite many shortcomings that locals and expats have bestowed upon me, Japan still remains as THE highlight of my trip in terms of watching how a society operates and what it produces. The Japanese have created a society where Japan is a preview of what is to come in the future for the rest of us (hopefully) in terms of technology and efficiency. I will not short Japan on content, but stopping here for now is the best. Japan deserves its own article. Or three.

These are just snippets of my thoughts post trip. There many photographs and notes to sort through and more that I would like to add, on travel, logistics, and experiences.



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