From America to Asia

Beautiful patio. Green bushes growing in the center. This used to be a brewery. Now it's a language school!

Right, so this was the Americas!
But maybe I should tell you what happened. So here it is.
I left Neiva by Bus and went to Bogota.
Everybody had warned me, 'Be careful!' they said. 'It's dangerous!' they said.
Well, nothing happened except some very expensive and not very good food.
After 10 month in South America I had gotten used to boring and quite often, bad food. Expensive was new.
I am not a fan of big cities and Bogota is no exception. It's cold and rainy. Probably because the place is way up in the mountains (2600 meters above sea level).
It's a huge city (more than 9 million people) and traffic is crazy, just like in all big cities.
I visited the the old part of town called Candelaria. There I found a house which belonged to the very first beer brewer in Colombia. But he gave it up to create a language school. The beer doesn't exist any more.

I also had a look at the Cathedral. In there I found an old fashioned giant pipe organ. I was lucky enough to arrive in time for a little concert. Various people played overtures and fugues by Johan Sebastian Bach which is something one doesn't get to hear everyday.

I only stayed 3 days in Bogota and then flew to Los Angeles in the US of A.

The arrival procedure was very different to anything I've experienced before. First I had to deal with a robot which scanned my passport and compared it to my face. Then it took the finger prints of my right hand and gave me a sort of receipt.
Passport and receipt in hand I queued up in a sort of underground, low roofed hall, like thousands of other people.

An officer at the far right suddenly started shouting at some little old women,
'You can't speak English? Why do you come here if you can't speak English?'
I don't know what she replied it was too far away.
Soon it was my turn.

The man was kind of polite, I guess. First he asks me about the numerous stamps in my passport and then proceeded to scan all my finger prints. Next he wanted to know where I would stay and took down the address of the place I'd booked and then I was allowed to enter his country. One needs to bear in mind, all this happened after my ESTA application – which had cost of € 89 – had been approved. Without that ESTA thing one doesn't even get onto the plane.

Arriving in the US was like stepping into a movie. As I waited for a taxi a voice informed me and everybody else, 'The white zone is for loading and unloading only!'
My taxi driver was from Ethiopia. He informed me that in LA he didn't notice any racial problems but going out into the countryside it was quite different.
I hadn't asked but he volunteered that info anyhow. This in itself told me how much the US still needs to work on its racial problems.

The next morning I went exploring. The first thing I noticed was, people don't walk.

There were plenty of cars and traffic jams and everything but no pedestrians.

LA homeless people

The few walkers I saw were apparently homeless people and most of them were really big (as in fat) and seemed to have serious mental problems. Some were muttering to themselves, others were shouting at the world in general and one guy was talking to a lamppost.

I had breakfast in the Grand Central Market.
It's not really a market but lots of 'little' food stores. Now here were plenty of people and I got to listen to their accents and the rather peculiar way a lot of them talk .
'Oh my gawd' everything was 'literally cool' and 'totally awesome'.
All food came on -or in- plastic and there was a lot of it.
Later, I went to buy some jeans and asked a shop assistant for help.
'Oh my gawd, your accent is like totally awesome, are you British?' she said.

I spent 3 days in the US and then flew with Korean Air to Hong Kong via Seoul.
The food they served on the plane was the best I had in a long time. Food in the Americas isn't necessarily bad but it's boring and tasteless. Meat's usually having the flavour and texture of shoe soles.

Hong Kong is crazy! There are too many people and too many buildings. But tech stuff is relatively cheap. My phone had been dying slowly and it was time to put it to rest. I spoiled myself to a new one with millions of pixels and tons of RAM. The next day Google announced it will suspend all dealings with the manufacturer of this phone. So I went out to drown my sorrows in beer.
Surprise surprise, beer in Hong Kong is about 10 euros a pint. My sorrows just splashed through the puddle and life carried on.

I spent a week in Hong Kong and then took a plane to Hanoi.
Vietnam is not really a new country to me but I had forgotten how mad their traffic is. There are no obvious rules. Anything goes!
The locals believe if you can walk to a place you can drive a motorbike there. The pavement is for selling stuff or parking motorbikes. Look at the vast variety of herbs, seeds and spices.
If you want to walk, well, find your own way.

A shop in Hanoi selling herbs, spices and seeds

 

I didn't stay long in Hanoi before taking the train to Vinh.
Vinh is a much smaller town and the traffic is not as mad but there is very little tourism and it's very difficult to communicate with the locals. They never had a reason to learn another language. But people are friendly and try their best to understand a stupid foreigner.
The sights are rather different, as well. A butcher like this is quite normal. Look at her face. It's been a good day.

 

 

KTVs are common in south east Asia but this is the most outrages one I've ever seen.
These places are a mixture of karaoke, bar, hotel and brothel. No respectable business man signs a deal without celebrating it in a KTV.
Buying or selling a house, getting a loan from a bank or being promoted are all valid excuses to go and party in one of the VIP rooms of an establishment like this and celebrate with everybody involved.

15th of June, 2019

Going direction Cambodia, Pakse is sort of half way between Thakek and the border.
Pakse is a small town with no apparent center. I did ask people for the center and was told I am in it. But the coffee is really good, like everywhere in Laos.
Having coffee and watching the monks doing their early morning walking meditation is a nice soothing way to wake up.
Traditionally monks weren't allowed to talk during their walking meditation but then people started to give them worldly goods (like food, cigarettes, phones, tablets, washing machines, money etc.) and asked for blessings in return.
Over time it became a walk of collection rather then meditation.