I’ve finally posted again after a long, long hiatus. Traveling must be the excuse. (click the slideshow below for the larger, Picasa version)

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I’m finishing up a month and a half or so in India, which has been mostly work and some wandering and play thrown in. My colleague and friend Conor and I did a several week stint in the lab testing emissions from autorickshaws, which dominated the first 3-4 weeks. I then extended my trip for a few more weeks to try to get a little groundwork laid for another possible project here later this year. We’ll see what happens.

Most of the trip has been in Delhi – a mad, mad place. I’ve enjoyed my stay here, largely because I’ve lived in a very comfortable relaxed environment in South Delhi (Thanks Suparna and Manna!) and have a nice little network of friends and colleagues who’ve given welcome respite from the chaos of which Delhi is composed. It’s a tremendously complicated and layered city and I’ve learned quite a bit more about its history on this trip. Something like 3000 years of continuous habitation, multiple massive forced relocations over that time (most recently during Partition in 1947, which is still most definitely felt) have contributed to a place with layers of history and culture that boggle my mind.

Anyhow, hopefully I’ll have a few more photos and thoughts soon, but for now here’s a few of my recent experiences and the places I’ve visited…

Hi all,

This trip now nearly seems like ancient history, but I have told myself I’m actually going to get these pics up and not let them molder in the virtual shoebox (like all my actual photos moldering away in the real shoebox in the closet).

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So, these are a selection of photos and videos from my boat/bike trip from the Thai border down to Vientienne via Luang Prabang in Laos. All really amazing spots and well worth a visit – the biking I did was amazing, but I pushed the tempo a bit and so it was pretty hard. There are a few videos in the Picasa slideshow ( look for a little film icon in the lower right-hand corner) that you can get to by clicking below. I really don’t know how interesting they are, but you can get a little virtual biking in Laos if you wish. I tended to film the descents rather than the climbs, but just know that for ever second of descent I probably spent 8 seconds climbing. For the extra-patient, there’s some pithy commentary hidden in there bemoaning that fact I think.

I’ve got a few more from Laos and Thailand and then a set from Japan to go. I’ll get to it sometime before 2010, I hope. In the meantime, I’ve been working here in Vancouver, have gone on a few pretty great ski trips (some photos here and here, but I don’t think I made the cut for actually skiing – it ain’t a pretty sight) and and gradually getting settled here.  I welcome visitors!

Enjoy.

I’ve got more travel pics to post, and will get at least another installment up this week, but in the meantime a few pics from the little Superbowl celebration we had in Vancouver. Yeah Pittsburgh!

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Oh, I’m sure I’ve been well given-up-on in the blogosphere, but perhaps I can win a few back by actually adding some photos… Click on the slideshow below to get to bigger images or click here

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All apologies for the delays, but coming back to Vancouver, getting settled into a new place, getting used to being in one place, remember what this whole work thing is about and other nonsense has kept me a bit distracted. I’ve finally gotten to the fun stuff of looking back through these pictures and getting to post a few of them. I’ll probably have 2 or 3 more posts of pictures – I’m dividing them up as my trip was divided up.

This first set is from my entry back into Thailand (from Malaysia, where I was detoured on my way back to SE Asia from India), my whirlwind train trip up from the kinda scuzzy border town (where a haircut and pimp-interludes were both good solid entertainment) to Bangkok and then onto Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand where I spent a few days wandering around. I had picked up a nasty cold in India so some of this part of the trip was me trying to get over that and getting ready to take off on the bike.The first leg of my bike trip started from Chiang Mai and took me Northeast to Chiang Rai and then onto the Lao border at the Mekong River.

I rode around 300-350 km over 2 1/2 days on this trip, from Chiang Mai north into the mountains, through some more agricultural valleys and then over some more mountains on the way to the Mekong. This area of the country is reasonably flat though and it was a pretty nice introduction to traveling by bike in Thailand. Friendly people (lots of smiling and pantomiming on my part…), nice roads, beautiful scenery and good food. A pretty great place to travel by bike. Finding a place to stay wasn’t always as easy as I’d hoped (see the No-tell Motel picture…) but it was a great start to the trip.

Soon I’ll get some pics up from wild and beautiful Laos.

A Kuang Si waterfall, near Luang Prabang

A Kuang Si waterfall, near Luang Prabang

Finally a few photos, I’ll post more within the next few days I hope…

Got back into Bangkok this morning after a 3 day ride around the Bolevan Plateau in Lao and crossing back into Thailand. Ironically, I got hit with a stomach bug on the last day of my ride, though the real stomach problems luckily didn’t kick in until I’d made it into the regional hub of Ubon Ratchatani, where I hunkered down in a relatively swanky hotel and slept (and antibiotic’d) my way back to health. Oh well, I’d made it through all these other travels without a hitch, so no complaints. I spent a day in Ubon and then got on a night train back into Bangkok and am getting ready to fly off to Tokyo early tomorrow AM. Hard to believe that almost 2 months have gone by…

The road dropping off of the 1000-1500 meter-tall Bolevan Plateau, which dropped me through the clouds.

The road descending off of the 1000-1500 meter-tall Bolevan Plateau, which dropped me through the clouds and towards Pakxe in Laos.

Hey All,
A quick update from a slow internet connection in a fairly remote and beautiful part of Laos. I’m at Tadlo, a beautiful little traveller’s outpost in Southern Laos for day. It’s a town built around a few waterfalls and with a nice little group of international travellers. Today to celebrate Christmas in traditional Grieshop style, I swam in two of the waterfalls (including a natural waterslide) and watched an elephant have a bath! Pretty great, but I do miss my family and friends and wish I could enjoy that part of the holidays.
Before this, I spent a few days in Vientienne, the Laotian Capital, then took an overnight sleeper bus (a first) south through the country to the city where I’ll cross back into Thailand in a few days to start my Eastward trip back to Vancouver. I’m doing a little couple-hundred km bike loop up onto this very pretty plateau, where the coffee in Lao is grown and where there are plentiful waterfalls and really friendly, mellow people (like everywhere in Laos, but maybe even more so…). I fly to Japan on the 30th, so the trip is almost over. I’ll try to post some photos from the past several weeks when I get back into Bangkok and have my computer back. I hope all are having a great holiday with family and friends. Virtual bear hugs to all.

Don’t really have time/energy to post a whole lot right now, but a brief update. I have biked 5 days so far and not biked 4, all of it has all been pretty great. i biked from Chiang Mai (Thailand) to the Laotian border over three days including beautiful scenery, no-tell motels, thai transvestites, thai breakdancing competitions, free massages and bananas. i’ll have to elaborate on that in a bit…

i crossed the Mekong into Laos and stayed a night in the little Border town (Huay Xai) from which I caught the ‘slow boat’ (as opposed to the deathtrap speedboats that do the trip in half the time…) down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos over 2 days. The boat ride was incredibly relaxing and beautiful and not the dodgy backpacker sardine-can i’d heard it could be. I met some very nice Dutch, Australian, American and Bulgarian folk and watched the mellow riverbank flow by.

I then spent 2 relaxing days in Luang Prabang, which is a UNESCO Heritage city and very scenic and well-put-together. I happened into a guest house run by a Laotian who’d been evacuated with his family to the US when he was very young and had returned to run the business after 27 years in Madison, Wisconsin! Weird thing getting to talk to your Laotian host when he has a Wisconsin accent and quotes Judas Priest lyrics… Great guy and a really nice place if you’re visiting… I went to some stellar waterfalls with some of the Dutch folks I met and had 2 days supporting the Laos Red Cross by paying for massages and saunas at their facility there – tough work but someone’s got to do it…).

The ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Viene, where I am now, was nothing short of epic. The first day ended up being 130 km and something like 3000 m (2 miles) of climbing. The road is mostly in good shape, in absolutely amazing and beautiful terrain and quite remote – I’d say I saw another vehicle every 5-10 minutes on average! Brutal climbs with me riding 8 or 9 km/hour (~5-6 mph) for hours at a time and then descending a mountain range only to repeat the climb… I made a bad tactical move of pushing for a further town (they are pretty far apart, and most of them don’t have any place for a traveler to sleep…). Luckily for me, a slow-moving logging truck happened by just before the last set of ascents, and I skitched a ride for most of the next 30 km, arriving into the town just after dark – with legs pretty thoroughly toasted. Today’s ride was just incredible, with climbs and descents along-side massive limestone/karst cliffs and meandering rivers.

One of the best things in Laos has been the kids. In pretty much every little village (and these are generally just a clustering of bamboo and a few masonry buildings huddled along the road) there are anywhere from a few to dozens of the cutest little Lao kids yelling out to me, ‘Sah Bai Dee!’ (Hello) or various english phrases they’ve picked up (Hello! Bye Bye! Thank You! Okay! I love you!) and sometimes running along side and giving me high-fives. Adults show differing degrees of interest, from big smiles to blank stares, and the reaction varies from village to village. In some, I feel like I’ve just won the Tour d’ Lao. It’s pretty incredible. Today as I sat in the shade of a Restaurant sign on my way into this town, trying to figure out where I was going to stay, two little boys came over to check me out. They proceeded to chatter away at me for a good 10-15 minutes, uproarously laughing when I made funny elephant noises and posing for photos. Youthful ambassadors and examples to for us all.

Tomorrow I head further south towards the Mekong again and the Lao capital of Vientienne. I expect more heroes’ welcomes. I also think I’ll probably eat some rice noodles along the way…

I hope all are well and having a peaceful and happy holiday!