It is hard to describe what it's like to be in Asia for the first time. It's noisy and hectic and beautiful and pungent and friendly - I am just overwhelmed and loving it.
My friend Malik happens to be travelling here and met me for the first couple of days. Last night, after dinner, we walked back to the hotel. As we walked into the lobby he said, "How odd." I asked him what was odd and he laughed because I hadn't even noticed that there were about 12 scooters parked in my lobby and a man sleeping on the floor. I had become so used to seeing really strange and foreign things that I no longer had the critical ability to notice a really odd sight when it was right in front of me.
I am eating the most amazing things. Yesterday, I ate five fruits that I had never eaten before -- once I get it together a bit (more about that below in "geek notes"), I'll be able to show you pictures of them. The best thing I ate today was grilled pork from a street vendor wrapped in "la lot" -- a pepper/betelnut leaf. Wrap that all in lettuce and add spices and fresh herbs, and it makes for an amazing snack. I also have had to learn to be comfortable with having the locals laugh at me, because we Americans trying to eat local food seem to be their entertainment.
I am having a lot of trouble posting from here. In fact, if you are reading this it is thanks to my good friend Rachel who put the post up for me. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it soon. Also, keep an eye on my Flickr page because I may have an easier time posting photos there than here.
I'm going to leave you with a few photos and hope to bring you more in the near future.
One day this week, Malik and I went to go see a temple that was a bit out of town. There is a point near the temple where tourists have to leave their taxis and walk. When we were done and ready to find a taxi again, we had to talk to this boy ... a real wheeler-dealer who has a local business of calling cabs for poor abandoned tourists and then getting a commission from the cabbies. The boy demanded Malik's cell phone and then used it to call the cabbie (who we suspect may have been his father). Aside from being a crack-up of a kid, he was a real ham for the camera.
This is UFO Fruit #1. Can anyone identify it? It's apple-ish tasting, but did not have black seeds like an apple. If I remember correctly, they had a pit.
Fruits and vegetables on the street. Many of the vendors sell pre-prepped vegetables. Given that most people buy vegetables the day they are going to use them, prepped food makes more sense to me here than it does in the States.
Whisks and brooms from a street booth.
GEEK NOTE: I have been shooting with my Nikon D70. Days 1 and 2, I shot purely in RAW format until I realized that getting photos to my blog from RAW was going to be complicated. So now I am shooting RAW + JPG and putting the JPGs here when I can. They are unprocessed on this end, as I am using random computers in Internet Cafes.
I am travelling with 3-1GB compact flash cards and uploading the photos to a Wolverine 60GB Flashpac each evening. So far, that plan seems to be working well.
The other decision that I'm happy with was to bring my small Canon Powershot, which is nice to have when I don't feel like lugging the D70, or when I want to be less conspicuous.