HOT INFO On The Road

from Japan

December, 1999 - Jan 2000

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam

Email #1, Dec 10, 1999

To all my family and friends,
Hi, I finally made my way here in Saigon, Vietnam, from Seoul. I was really nervous first but people are very nicer than I thought and I liked it here already. It was really an adventure to find a nice guesthouse but it worked out ok. I got to the downtown this afternoon and one Vietnamese guy has been taking me to EVERYWHERE with his moto(motorcycle) all afternoon. It started to rain in the evening and got really chilly. After we went around the town, we decided to have a dinner at the small place and I paid for 2. It was no problem paying for both of us but I felt a little bit strange, but it's not a big deal.

There are many bikes and bicycles and "muccha" dusty... Probably the inside of my nose will be full of dust... Anyway, while having the Pho(Vietnamese noodles), I met a Japanese guy who's been travelling all over for 2 months and I'm gonna meet him and his friends at the cafe. I'm planning to cross the Vietnam to Cambodia by land(by bus for 7 hrs.) and he's been there so he is going to give me a very useful information on that. i haven't seen any Japanese people all day so I was a little wondering what if I couldn't meet any Japanese people... I have to go now.

This is more likely my diary! Sorry about that! I hope to talk to you soon. This place is next to popular cafe and cost me $3/min. Gotta go!
I'll keep you all updated!

love you all,

Email #2, Dec 16, 1999

Hey, I'm still alive and I know that everyone is pretty worried what's going on with me. Thanks! well, things are getting great down here and I was on the 3 day Mekong delta tour. there were over 30 people all over the world and shared a room with a woman from Scotland. She's really nice and fun to be with. If anyone of you are coming down to Saigon in future, I would really really recommend to go to the Mekong delta. it is very different from up in Saigon and it's a nature world. Every time we were on a boat, kids are just running along the river and waving at us. The kids are so amazing, they're smiling and screaming, "Hi!" I saw many things that I cannot explain with words but only thing I can tell you is that it's well worth coming back down again on my second trip.

So far I met over 10 Japanese and French, American, Scottish, Swiss,
Australian. Some people I got to know here in Saigon are going to Cambodia about the same time as I do so I might bump into each other in Phnom Penh as the down town there is pretty small. If you have been there before might know, but there's a beautiful beach about 3 hours by boat down in Phnom Penh. It is called Sihanoukville. I met a Japanese guy whom I told you about in my last mail is originally from Okinawa and he told me that he thought that it is much pretty and nicer in Sihanoukville than Okinawa. Well, I can't miss it! It's only 3 hours by boat. and then I'll take a another boat to Siam reap via Phnom Penh. to see the Angkor Wat is the one of the main thing of my trip so I'm really looking forward to that. I've heard it's very pretty at sunset and sunrise. I think I'll fly from Siam reap to Kuala Lumpur. I should have made my return flight from Bangkok.....
Oh, well...I'll see if there's any seat left on the flight from Bangkok tomorrow.

You all might worried about the situation in Vietnam but actually I have nothing terrible thing happened since I got here and so has any one. It is pretty safe if you act very smart. people are driving crazy like that in China but except that, it is all ok. I haven't met any Japanese travelling alone though..... People in here are so nice and tourists from everywhere are so nice. But you'll see many kids come begging. It is very hard not give anything to them but if you give them something once, you'd feel like you have to do it every time they come to you. One girl wanted a pen and of course Ii had some pens but I didn't give it to her. She just kept saying "pen is good, pen is good...." And I wondered how old they stop doing that....

The Japanese gut I told you that I would met that night, he's a college student(21) and lives in Osaka(originally from Okinawa) and he's really a funny guy. And one night we met other 2 Japanese boys(23). They've been travelling for a month and have been to north part of china and Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam(they left yesterday). they were soooo crazy(and young....sometimes I can't catch up with sad.....) and talked about things in Cambodia and they only stayed in Phnom Penh for 15 hours.

Anyway, I can never end this talking so I'll close here. next 3 days, I will just hang around the town or sit at the cafe making new friends or something. Iit'll be a very relaxing day. ok, I'll talk to you later this weekend or from Cambodia.


Email #3, Dec 19, 1999

Hey, guys! Thanks for your mails!
Actually, I'm still stuck in Saigon(ha, ha, ha!). It is very stupid of me and you'll find it again this time. It's going to be a very long story so I can't tell you right now but I'm going to Phnom Penh on Monday morning and will get there by evening. It takes about over 5-6 hours to get there by bus and takes long at the border. Everyday, there are about 20 people going and coming by land. So it's not that dangerous. I met a couple from England who is staying the same hotel just came from Cambodia by land. They told me that the road was terrible in Cambodia side so don't eat too much before you go! It sounds fun to me!! It's been great meeting new people and becoming friends and I just don't want to leave here. I met French people and they're already in PP so I'm going to meet them again in PP and then after we're going to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat together. Those French people are soooo funny. They speak a little English so we use many many jestures when we talk. Sometimes they couldn't explain in English, they're just sooo irritated and start speak French and say, " did you understand, Reiko?" One guy's name is Claude and when I met them at first time in Mekong Delta, I heard he told a Vietnamese girl that his name is Jon so I just think that that's his name, of course! But after a few days later, I found out that he just telling them his name is Jon because people here cannot pronounce his name, Claude, correctly so he just made up an easy name! It was funny because every time I said to him, "hi, JON, ca va?", he looks like why this girl thinks I'm Jon......

Anyway, about Cambodia, I heard that there is a very nice beach in south called Sihanoukville. (did I tell you before?) If you have a chance to travel Cambodia, you should go there. Unfortunately, I really don't have this time so I have to plan second trip to go down. When you travel with no plan, I think that you should stay in one place for long and not visit many places for short period of time. It's pretty waste of money and you'll miss the good part of the place and meeting people.

As you know there are many people begging. At first I just wanted to leave this place. This is my first trip to Asia and haven't seen those things in my life even if you know from TV or newspapers. I just couldn't see those people but now I think that it happens and this is life. Kids are really adorable in this country. In Cambodia, the situation is worse so I'll just accept what I see.

I couldn't go to Cambodia so the boy at the cafe took me out yesterday. He's 24 and really cute! He likes me very much(!) and he changed his holiday and took me out to countryside by motorbike. I've never visited local people in countryside and I met his family and they fixed me a dinner, which was really gooooood, as you can imagine. I made some "origami" birds for kids. they just kept looking at me and when I say 'hi' in Vietnamese, they just laughed! Vietnamese language is very very difficult. There are 6 different tones while Chinese has 4.
On the way back from his house, which is about 45 min. by bike, we got into a traffic jam! You cannot believe this. It was a small road in countryside so of course there's no signals. And I have no idea what in a world was going on but 100 of bikes and motorbikes were just stuck. All the dirty air(exhaust fume) is coming out of trucks and motos and inside my nose must be black! We were stuck there for about 20 min., and we finally made our right turn(actually we pushed his moto), I found 2 men waving his wooden stick and telling us which way to go and everything! I just couldn't believe it. Vietnam needs signals not the traffic men! And I think the percentage of people with lung-cancer must be much higher than any other countries...... After we took 3 hrs. ride, our hair is really sticky and messy and I'm sure it was impossible to comb .... I took a nice shower right after I got back to hotel. I washed my close as well and the water became all BLACK! Very nice... I had a really good time with him.

In here, you can get the Lonely Planet on Southeast Asia(this edition) for less $6! I paid over $30 at the Kinokuniya book shop in Japan! Very cheap here!

People I met so far is leaving this place and I miss them a lot.... I met some Japanese but I didn't really get to know them well. Some are ok. I'm glad to get to know people from other countries and i can visit them sometime in the future.

Ok, I have to go now. I don't have anything to do today so I'll just sit in the cafe so that maybe someone can find me and have another chat!

Talk to you later!

Email #4, Dec 21, 1999

Hey, you all! Here I am in Cambodia!
I left Saigon at 9am and arrived in Phnom Penh at 6pm. It took us about 2 hrs. to get through the border. It was really cool to walk between the border because it is a between-country, no where else. It was about 60m.

I met a girl from Israel, Limos, on the bus(there were 12 people on the bus) and we shared the room. $5 for double with bath. PP city is quite small and you can walk around if you really want to see the city.

There are a few things I'd like to tell you. Cambodia is one of the poorest country in the world, as you know. There are so many kids and about 7 year-old girls are holding 2-year old babies whose stomach are swollen from the shortage of nutrition. I saw some of them without legs and arms and many people without legs on the wheelchairs. People in here is much thinner and darker than those in Vietnam. But surprisingly, the city is more modern and cleaner than Vietnam. We came from Vietnam so things seem very much expensive.

I went to look around the city with Limos and a man from Israel also. And I saw a VERY horrible, sad and furious things over here today. I have no idea what you feel about it but I'd like to share it with you.

(I'll just start writing it very simple.)There are some museums related to which the Pol Pot had done. At the place called Killing Field which is 30 min. away from our hotel by moto, you'll see over 8,000 skulls arranged by sex and age and you can see them through the clear glass. There are many mass graves left untouched. The Pol Pot killed over 17,000 men, women, children and babies from 1975 to 1978. And they tortured them at the prison called S-21(Security Prison 21) which was used be a high school. It is terrible and I cannot write about it any more.

We shall never forget those people who were tortured and killed for no reason. I'd like to give them a pray and to hope that they will have a good life next......

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to Siem Reap(takes 8 hrs. by bus from PP). The French guys I told you about before are staying at the same hotel(Narin's Guesthouse) and I met them this morning. They're also going to the S.R. tomorrow morning but they"re taking a boat, which is $22/takes only 4-5 hrs. We'll stay at the same hotel, which is run by the same family at Narin's. The people at the hotels are very very nice although the food are quite expensive.

Over here it becomes dangerous from 8pm, so we'll just stay at the hotel as most of them do. One day in PP is enough for me. We've seen all the things we wanted. Most of the time, US dollar will do. Entrance fee of those museumes are about $2, which is VERY expensive becase the room is $5/double/night.

I'm not sure if I can e-1-mail you again from S.R. I heard that S.R. is very beautiful place frommany people and Japanese I met last night. I can't wait to go! They said that they might go back to S.R. for the millennium.

Ok, I have to go. The internet cost in Saigon is only $0.03/min. (really cheap!!!!) and here, $0.06/min. ($4/hr).

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas! I am very grateful for being there for me.....

I love you!!!!

Email #5, Dec 30, 1999

Hey, how are you all doing? Actually, I'm still stuck in outside of Japan. I decided to stay for the New Year's Eve here in BKK!

I haven't written you for a while so I'll tell you a little bit of story in Siam Reap. I went there by boat with David and Claud(French), which took about 4 hours. SR is very nice and beautiful place. I went to Angkor Wat 3 days and saw both sunset and sunrise. Especially the sunrise is extremely beautiful and very romantic..... I cannot describe it with words.... Some temples have ruined and need to be fixed and actually some Japanese construction company is there to fix them. The things are very expensive compare to those places I stayed. The internet, for the examples, cost $2/5 min. and $4/10 min. I stayed at the very nice family-run guesthouse called Smiley's Guesthouse. The people are very very nice and all food they serve are just excellent!!!

On the 27th, I took a boat and pick-up truck to the border to Thailand with Limos(from Isreal). It took 3.5hr by boat and 7hrs. by a pick-up truck and a mini bus. It was freezing on the boat.....!

I think this internet cafe is closing now. I'm the only one in the room so have to go.

Talk to you soon...


Email #6, Dec 31, 1999

Hi, I'm still in Bangkok and decided to have my new year in the island in the south called Ko Samet with Isabelle(French). It's about 4hrs. south from BKK by bus and cost me about $12(2way). We're leaving BKK tomorrow morning and I am coming back on the 2nd and take another bus to Thai-Malaysia border, which takes me about 12hrs.(about $20).

Isabelle met a Swiss girl who has a bungalow in the Ko Samet and if there is no room for us, we can stay in her room!(maybe free????).

After visiting Vietnam and Cambodia and now in BKK. This is very tough for me to adjust the life style over here. Where we're staying is a 2min. walk from the Khao San, which is very quiet because there is a wat(temple) right in front of the guesthouse. There are many many tourists everywhere and I miss the atmosphere in those other 2 countries. That's why I decided to get out of here for the new year's eve and go down to the tropical nice island. Many people say that it would be very fun and will have a big party in BKK but I'd prefer more quiet place.

This morning, I went to the Royal Place and Wat Pho. There are so many tourists there and so noisy and we were very tired. And the temples themselves are very different from the one in Cambodia and Vietnam, which is very gold and shiny. And now I'm in BKK and saw all the shiny temples, I realized how Angkor Wat was so incredible and great. I've read in a book before I left which said that after you visit Angkor Wat, all other temples are not so impressive. Exactly.... I really really recommend all of you to visit Angkor Wat. I cannot tell you what and how exactly but I'm sure you would feel something spiritual when you go there. The Angkor Wat is the great.

Actually, I'm ready to go back home. This is a funny feeling to me. Usually when I travel, I just don't want to go home and stay where I am forever but not this time. I think I visited Cambodia and I feel my mission is over. So I don't want any more temples or wats. I want to relax on the quiet beach. I can't wait to have the Millennium in the Ko Samet! It's going to be a great moment for everyone of us!

I stay in Ko Samet for 2 days and come back to BKK again on the 2nd of Jan. and take the another bus to Hat Yai(nearby Thai-Malaysia border). I hope to see the very country side on the way and think back about my trip and then meditate......

I'm not sure if I have time in Kuala Lumpur but I think I'll spend one night in Hat Yai or Pedang Besar in Malaysia if I have time.

Ok, I think it would be my last mail from the road. As for Limos(from Israel) is going to India in the middle of Jan. and Isabelle is going to Ko Samet with me and going down to Ko Samui. My trip is almost over but I'm not very sad at all. I've seen many things and learned and felt many things. When I get home, I'll work on the job-hunting, otherwise I'm broke... Oh, and then, I'm going to visit my sister in Maldives for 10 days, which sounds very.......! But I'd like to go to Nepal and Tibet next time for a few months.

Ok, thanks for reading the long mails every time. Thanks for writing me back. I'd like to thank to all of you for being there for me as friends.

Wish you all a happy Millennium!!!!

Love always,

Email #7, Jan 04, 2000

Hi, how are you all? Commet ca va? Did you all have a nice new year?

I'm back again. now I'm in Kuala Lumpur waiting for my flight. it's been a long long trip up from bangkok all the down to KL. I left Ko Samet at 11:30am on the 2nd for 4 hrs. and then took another bus to Hat Yai(a small town near Thailand and Malaysia border) from Bangkok for 16 hrs. I was so tired just sitting on a bus for so many hours..... it still goes on.... and then i took another local bus to Pedan Besar(the border point) for 1.5hrs. It was heavy raining and had to get on a bike with my heavy backpack but fortunately it stopped in 10 min. lucky! Crossing the border either from Thailand or Malaysia is very very easy. all you have to do is fill out the form and then get through a few gates. it takes you only 5 min. To cross the border by moto(a bike), it cost you 30B(about 80cents). it was so easy to do it that I cannot believe that I was already in another country. I have to take another bus to go down to KL. The bus leaves at 6:00pm and arrives in KL at 4:00am the next day. The bus was amazingly comfortable and was too nice for backpackers. There are many Moslem people in Malaysia and women are wearing a scarf on their heads. while waiting for the bus, I met a girl from England, Joe. Another companion! we stopped at the small town called Kangar for 2 hrs. to have something to eat. There are many Moslem people serving Indian food. it was so cheap and was great! $1 is enough to fill you up. I cannot explain this well in English but these people have a custom that they cannot have water or meal during the daytime from Dec. 9th to Jan. 8th. How do you call that? They can eat food or drink after sunset till sunrise the next day. The time we had a dinner was around 6:30pm and people are just waiting for the sunset and are staring at their food in front of them on the table. we were the only one who were eating and even felt kind of sorry for them. It was very strange. at 8:15 we headed to KL again. the road was very smooth(sure!) and we finally made our way to KL on time, 4:30am. We were sort of hoping to get stuck in a traffic jam or something and arrive KL late so that we could sleep till late and also it'd be easier to find a guesthouse. But (unfortunately!?) he woke us up at 4:15am and we walked around the Chinatown to find a GH. A couple of buses were arriving at the same time and we saw some backpackers on the way. As we expected, the guesthouse we were heading was closed so we decided to have a coffee at the Indian restaurant. my backpack was very heavy and I just didn't want to carry around any more..... We met another guy from London and we chatted together. around 7:30am, I went to check the GH again if it was open and fortunately I found the owner walking up the stairs with a backpacker so I just knocked the door to open up the door again. We were lucky otherwise we had to wait till 9:30am. we took a dorm room for 3(there are 4 beds in a small room), which cost $2/person. We were all desperate to take a nice shower so as soon as we checked in we just ran into the shower. I haven't washed my face over 24 hrs.... I was going to back to sleep after a shower but the room was so stinky and I didn't want to put myself on the stinky bed after the nice shower. So we just went out have a breakfast at the McDonald's and came to the internet cafe. in here, it costs you about $1/hr., another cheap place! Joe is from countryside in England and it is quite hard for me to understand what she's saying. oh, well....

It's been really busy since i left home and I've always been thinking about the next place and walking around the town so it was very nice to lay down on the beach the last couple of days. just listening to the sounds of waves and trees in the wind. Reading books and talking about girl's things with Isabelle. I'd really visit her, David and Claud in France. And she insisted me to make a promise to visit her in Paris this summer at the moment of the millennium! it was not fair! I told her I'll think about it and I'll try.

This is rare to me but i am ready to go back home. The reason is that I'm going to Maldives to visit my sister from 15/1-24. She's working at the hotel(an island) called Sun Island Hotel which is located in very south of Ari atoll. Looking forward to seeing her again and some diving! It would be fantastic for sure.

I'll talk to you when i get home! I'd like to go to Nepal and Tibet next time so if you have any information on them, please let me know! Wish each one of you this year will be a great year! Thanks a lot! Keep in touch!

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