Vignettes of Southeast Asia

What I’ll remember most about our four months traveling through the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

  • The surprising amount of liquid in a fresh coconut.
  • The complex dance of traffic without streetlights.
  • The lingering pungent smell and taste of durian.
  • Eating ripe mangoes on a boat with my hands, juice running down my arms, and washing off by diving into the ocean.
  • Finally feeling confident crossing the street and watching the motorbikes part around me like Moses and the Red Sea.
  • Watching the big red coin of a sun dip behind mountains and palm trees.
  • The crushing humidity, and more so, when the humidity breaks and Asia feels like a warm summer night back home.
  • Riding a motorbike on every street, road, and dirt path on a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand, and eventually, crashing it and the fading purple-to green-to yellow bruise shaped like a fried chicken leg.
  • The usefulness of 7-Elevens in Thailand. Step up your game, America.
  • The pineapples, the mangos, the mangosteens, the dragon fruit, the lychees, rambutans, and longans, the pomelos, the tamarind, the jackfruit, the coconuts, the bananas. The fruit, the fruit, the fruit.
  • Monks on buses, on boats, on Bangkok’s sky train, on planes, everywhere pops of orange.
  • The fireflies pulsing in trees on the banks of a river in Cambodia.
  • Avocado shakes: sweet, creamy, perfect.
  • The specific, distinctive smell of Southeast Asia: charred meat, the sour sweetness of rotting garbage, orange dust rising off of dirt roads, salty sweat, overripe fruit, citrus, smoky incense, raw meat, sewage, fresh basil and other spices.
  • People five to a motorbike.
  • Spidery banca boats, graceful longtail boats, all surprisingly loud.
  • Reveling in the luxury of sidewalks after two weeks in the congested maze of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
  • Lounging on a beach, cocktail in hand, watching the sunset over the Gulf of Thailand on my birthday.
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