CS&W’s Graceless and Rude National Character Survey

Time to raise some ire. Based on strictly personal experience, here are some stereotypes that are sure to offend. All in good, clean fun. I think I’ll add more as they occur to me. Feel free to irritate your own chosen ethnicity in the comments.

NATIONAL CHARACTER

Finland: Stubborn. Not malevolent.

Germany: No excuse for the disappointment that is their food.

India: Does luxury well. Wealth disparity allows this. High end more affordable for tourists than elsewhere.

New Zealand: Permanent slightly perplexed look. Sunburnt. Buggy eyes.

Pacific Islands: Collective motto: “Don’t hurt me please.” The ukelele and all its music is the cause of this.

Paraguay: Important only to Paraguayans. Who are sweet and all, sure. Still.

Scotland: Paternal. Strong men will take care of you. Like it or not. Ireland has some of this.

Thailand: The world’s consistently strangest names. Like Kejmanee Pichaironnarongsongkram. Except possibly

Turkmenistan, whose leader is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

Turkey: Tirelessly gracious but with a useless language shared by no one but Central Asians. In Turkish, as often as not the “G” goes away. “Erdogan” is pronounced “erdo-an.” A “C” with a cedille, “ç,” is pronounced “dj” like George. Çiragon is “Jiron.”

USA: Groupthink. If you want, you can really think things through and work out what you think. But you have to do more than ‘like’ things on Facebook. Why bother? Your tribe’s news channel can think everything through and tell you.

Vietnam: Wiry. Persistent. Shake hands with tight grip. Prim. Barefoot.

Christmas in Bangkok

We got about eighteen hours this time in Bangkok and found it sweaty, trafficky and polluted as always, and also as always, serving up some great food. This is how it looks in every direction as far as the eye can see.

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No sign of the tens of thousands of protesters here at Siam Square. The hotel lady said they’re based around the Victory Monument, about twenty minutes by car, but she reckoned there wouldn’t be many of them today because they have to work.

That’s some revolutionary fervor.

I know we’re tardy making our first trip through Suvarnabhumi Airport since it’s been open some seven years already, but it’s a welcome shiny replacement for the rambling old Don Mueang airport. Only trouble is it’s about a half day outside town by Bangkok traffic just like Don Mueang was.

So today it’s Bangkok to Gangtok, the air portion courtesy of Druk Air, Royal Bhutan Airlines. I’ll have a report.

One more thing: No trip to Bangkok would be complete without dropping in on Miss Puke. She’s alive and well.

MissPuke

 

Next Stop Saigon

We’re off soon for a bit of holiday travel – our fifth visit to Vietnam and third to India, with a stop in Bangkok in between. It’s been five years to the month since our last visit to Vietnam and we’re chomping at the bit to get out into the Mekong delta again. We’ll be spending time in Saigon, the floating market towns of Cai Be and Can Tho and the waterways in between.

You can’t beat Vietnam for photo opportunities. These photos are all from the Mekong delta, from previous visits.

Our destination in India is the former kingdom of Sikkim, nestled between Nepal and Bhutan, and sharing a northern border with Tibet and the high Himalayas. It’ll be our first time there.

We’ll write about it all here.

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There are hundreds more photos in the Vietnam Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

Two Guys, Bitching

It's not all idyllic beaches. And it shouldn't be. All those glossy magazines aimed at people who collect beautiful beach destinations and pretentious lists of the world's best this and that (and you know who you are Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler and Islands) aren't for people who are out to see the world as it is.

It's refreshing to have run across two seperate blog posts this past week that run counter to the cliché. In Heaven and Hell in the Phi Phi Islands, Patrick Smith takes to task a lovely spot on the Andaman Sea that he writes has been ruined by backpackers.

I'm sure he's right. We passed through Phi Phi in 1995 and completely loved it. But even in 1995 the little isthmus of land adjacent to the arrival docks was showing signs of coming ruin. Smith suggests that in the intervening fifteen years, Thai tourism officials have used the light touch that has made Pattaya all that it is today. In 1995, at least, Phi Phi was beautiful:

Phiphi

The other refreshingly honest article is called The Tragedy of Nepal 2011, in which Andrew Hyde finds "a developing nation with deep problems becoming worse by the month with tourism hastening the poisoning of the well." We writes that "A deep depression hit me about an hour into my visit to Nepal and lasted for the first two weeks."

We've been in Nepal twice. The first time we were charmed by the country but alarmed by the pollution that hung over the Kathmandu valley. The second time we stayed at Nagarkot (described this way, "At an elevation of 2,195 meters, it is considered one of the most scenic spots … renowned for its sunrise view of the Himalaya including Mount Everest as well as other snow-capped peaks of… eastern Nepal.") and never saw a single mountain through the haze.

Everyone knows the developing world has its problems. Seeing them shouldn't ruin your travel experience. To the contrary, when you're back home it's most rewarding to have gone and seen and to be able to understand. I salute Patrick Smith and Andrew Hyde for their honesty.

(On the other hand, if I picked one of those expensive, delicious Aman Resorts (1, 2) out of one of those glossy magazines, I wouldn't want it to rain while I was there, either.)

See the Thailand Gallery and the Nepal Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.