Alex, Katie and Ben on Cambodia, Laos and Thailand

Alex Simon’s Essay on Cambodia – February 25, 2000

Cambodia is home to one of the wonders of the world – an ancient city called Angkor Wat. It has been in several major wars lately. There are still mines in the ground and many people have injured or no limbs. The best markets are here. They had everything I wanted. They had wooden carved boats and little brass Buddha figures. We stayed at a really cool hotel called ‘The Angkor Hotel’. It had a swimming pool which was warm. The food was really good. It was a buffet. The people who worked there were really nice. The rooms were good, too.

On the last day, we drove to a lake with a village on it and rode a boat to a school that had 54 children in each class and held 2 classes a day. They had real desks and a blackboard. My favorite place was a rest stop that was a boat that was like a zoo. It had pelicans, monkeys and a lot of catfish. There were two boa constrictors that were around little girl’s necks. The toilet off the boat was literally a crack in between 2 boards over the lake.

We also went to a ‘Jungle Temple’ that was totally overgrown with huge trees and roots crawling over the temple with monkeys. We met a little boy that was Cambodian and spoke really good English. He was very friendly so we decided to buy a few bracelets from him. He goes to school and wants to learn Japanese but the teacher only teaches older kids. He goes to school and then goes every afternoon to the temple to sell bracelets and make some money from the tourist. We also so 3 little boys climb up a coconut tree and sit on the spiky leaves and drink the fresh juice. They do it so easily like they do it every day.

Alex Simon’s Essay on Laos – February 25, 2000

In Laos, it was my sister’s birthday. We went out to dinner twice with birthday cakes. One place was a really good Indian restaurant where they made really good sweet sugary, banana paranthas (fried flat dough), which tasted like banana crepes. We also ate at ‘The Three Elephants Cafģ’ with Laotian food, which is basically the same as Thai food, but the spring rolls aren’t as good. We celebrated with the Hawkins family and their 4 children who we had been traveling with on the trek in Chiang Mai.

We went up and down the Mekong River. We saw Hmong villages which were very, very indigenous. They live in really cool little huts on stilts made of straw and wood. The chief of the village made his house out of bricks with a tin roof which is really modern for them. We also went to a really cool cave that had a lot of Buddha statues in it. We went to other villages which were more touristy. One of them was ‘the whiskey village’ where they made whiskey out of rice in pottery jugs which would ferment and make a strong tasting drink.

In Laos, we stayed in a really little guesthouse that was fine because it was perfectly clean and the toilet flushed. In the early morning, the monks would come to collect their food from the locals that would give them little chunks of sticky rice. The monks wear orange robes, shave their heads and sometimes wear no shoes. They carry big bowls around their necks.

We went down the river in the other direction and went to a waterfall where I made a little raft out of sticks. It was fun.

I had fun in the market where Hmong villages would come and sell their fancy sewn fabrics. It was fun to bargain with them.

Alex Simon’s Essay on Thailand – February 25, 2000

Bangkok –
Bangkok was a crowded city that basically has the worst traffic in the world because there is a new train built above ground but it cost 40 baht or $1. and the local bus only cost a few cents. A lot of people in Thailand do not have as much money as the US so they cannot afford the monorail so they take buses, which increases the traffic. It would take about an hour to go a normal 10-minute drive in Boston. There is a floating market where people come to sell things and they do it on small wooden type kayaks rowed by 1 person. The way the people live in the water is interesting. They build “houseboats” with stilts and there are even pigs and chickens in floating pens.

The hotel we stayed at was really cool. There were birds, parrots, monkeys, toucans and a lot more exotic birds in cages. There were aquariums everywhere with needlefish and other types of large fish.

In Thailand, our travel agent took us to dinner. We ate “roast duck tongue” where it looked actually like a tongue of a duck chopped off. For dessert, we were served lychee nuts that turned out to be a white fruit floating in ice water. That was very alarming because my dad told us not to ‘drink the water’ unless it was purified in a sealed bottle. He thought we would get very ill but we did not. We also ate ‘fried fish skin’. I survived the meal.

We nearly ripped off the front end of a taxi when our driver of a Volvo was going down the highway and a taxi pulled out into our lane too far. It was scary and we had to switch cars. There are no streetlights or lanes for traffic so everybody dares one another to go first.

Chiang Mai –
We did not spend much time in Chiang Mai. It was like Antigua in Guatemala because we used it as a base to keep our luggage in and to have a place to come back to but we did do fun stuff there. We went to the zoo where we got to feed hippos, elephants and bears carrots and green vegetables. The hippo’s mouth was scary. It was filled with so much fat and teeth as big as a 7 year old’s arm. They do not have a tongue.

We also went to a Wat – a temple where Buddhist monks go to pray. It’s not at all like a church or any Jewish temple. It has lots of colorful designs like dragons, which are used as arm rails, and there is a huge gold Buddha sitting in the middle. As part of respect to the temple, you had to take off your shoes and light some incense.

There are a lot of different vehicles in Asiaá like TUKS TUKS, which are 3-wheeled motor vehicles. They would definitely not allow these in the US because of the danger. But they were really fun to ride in. What was even funner was going by myself on a motorcycle with a local Cambodian. It was a taxi in a lot of countries because they are not as expensive as cars to buy.

The two-day trek we took was really fun. First, we drove to a little village where we bought food for the night. Then we drove to a place where we rode on elephants. It was not as scary as a horse because you trusted the elephant and they are not as jittery as a horse. There were even some baby elephants that were the size of a grown man. The guide would sit on the elephant’s neck pushing his ears from behind or he would sit on the elephant’s head with his legs on its forehead in front. Then we went to a village and ate fried rice with egg and freshly cut pineapple. After lunch, we began our trek. In the next 2 days, we walked 15 miles through mixed terrain – rice paddies, dense jungles and water buffalo herds and at halfway we got to a waterfall. We went swimming and it was really cold. There was a cave behind the falls where you could go. After that, we walked for an hour and arrived in a really cool small village of the Karen tribe people. We slept in stilted huts on woven mats with blankets. It was freezing but I didn’t mind. We went to the school in the village and the kids were out and were playing soccer with a deflated ball that actually worked. They also played another game called ‘hacky-sack’ with a woven rattan ball that you would hit with the inside of your foot, knee or elbow. I played a game but I was not very good. The village had a lot of animals like pigs, chickens and a lot of stray dogs. We had a pretty normal dinner that consisted of steamed rice, fried rice and fish balls that only my brother liked. For dessert, we had a really cool dish. It was made in a piece of green bamboo that they put rice, coconut milk and sugar in it. They cooked it over a really hot fire. If you ever ate French crepes – that is what it tasted like. Our Thai guide, Bob, did some black magic that night after dinner where he would make a penny cry real tears, make a $10 Baht bill come out of a handkerchief and coins go thru his elbow and appear on the back of his neck. He was really good. The next day we hiked back down and had more fried rice and fried noodles and than we rafted on a really cool bamboo raft. It was really fun. One of the parts our guide would not even let us go on because it was too narrow with lots of rapids. We had to get out. The trek was really fun.

The tree things I liked best about Thailand were the food, the markets and the modes of transportation. We also went to a place where they showed us how the elephants worked in the logging industry pulling and stacking logs.

Katie’s Notes about Cambodia, Laos and Thailand – February 25, 2000


Angkor Wat is a big temple with lots of carving.

The Jungle Temple is an overgrown temple with incense in it.


We went on the Mekong River to see the Buddha cave.

That was the place that had the really messed up dogs with the skin diseases.

Luang Probang was a charming city. I had my birthday 2 times, one time in an Indian restaurant and one time in a French and Lao restaurant.

We got up at 6am one morning to feed alms to the monks, but we did not feed them.

We went to the National Palace to see the mirror room.

We took a boat on the Mekong River to see a waterfall. Alex and me made a fairy house by the waterfall. There was a cavish thing by the waterfall. The water was really cold.

I got 2 silver boxes and a silver tea set. Alex got me a scene with 2 elephants made out of sequins on a piece of fabric.


I went to Chiang Mai in Thailand. It was a charming city. There is a night market there. It has a canal going through it. There was a really good zoo there. I fed hippos, bears and camels. I got 2 inches away from a baby crocodile. I saw leopards and jaguars.

We met some people called the Hawkins. We went on a trek with them. We hiked to a waterfall first and through fields with water buffalo in them and we also hiked next to a river. Then we got to a little village. I saw how they made flour out of rice. They had a big piece of wood that banged the rice. Then a person puts it in a basket and shakes it. We slept in a house on stilts with the Hawkins. The beds were straw mats above the floor with 3 blankets for each person. We woke up at 5 because the roosters started crowing. The people who lived in the village were called Karen Tribe. There was a very small little puppy.

Bangkok was a big city – I did not like it. In Bangkok we went to a Palace for the king. It had an emerald Buddha which they said was giant, but it was tiny. You have to take off your shoes to go into the room with the emerald Buddha. You can put gold leaf, incense and flowers next to the place where the emerald Buddha is.

Ben’s Journal on Mexico February 21, 2000

I went to one market, which was really a store – I did nothing in Mexico – my dad got sick and then we went to Houston.

Ben’s Journal on Guatemala Volcano Hike February 21, 2000

We went on a hike up a volcano with YPO. I didn’t really climb on the rope to the top – the man helped me – but I hiked down with my dad 10 miles – really – and didn’t even complain. That is the longest hike I did in my whole life so far.

Ben’s Journal on Thailand February 21, 2000

Monks were everywhere.

We went on a trek and we saw a waterfall and then we walked back and then I did bamboo rafting – you are just sitting on bamboo in a stream we saw broken bridges and broken bamboo rafts and we saw an elephant in the water. On the trek the coolest thing was seeing the snake right next to the trail so we couldn’t go on the trail because the snake was there and our guide said it was poisonous. We slept on mats except they weren’t made out of plastic, they were made out of bamboo. The people in the village were smashing rice with a special machine from wood and it had nails. The people use blankets for wrapping around their legs instead of pants – the blankets look like dresses. The little boys and the grown up men wear pants.

And I saw elephants play soccer.

And I saw a hippo and a giraffe at the zoo in Chiang Mai in Thailand. In this zoo you can feed the animals – except you have to be careful because the hippos are very dangerous. Then we went to Bangkok by train and I had a sleeping car with my dad. In Bangkok we stayed at a hotel that had an aquarium and a bird room

Ben’s Journal on Laos February 21, 2000

The coolest thing about Laos was seeing the gold Buddha statues.

We went to the king’s palace – he had a lot of money, he had more money than Bill Gates. In the palace was lots of gold. You cant’ wear shoes in the palace- it is illegal if you do. Except the guards can wear shoes because they are special.

I went to an Indian restaurant in Laos. We had a big party for my sister’s birthday, and then we had another party the next day because that was really her birthday.

We took boat rides

We saw these people and they were named the Hawkins. They have 4 children – they were in New Zealand for a year and we liked traveling with them except when Mathew pulled my hair. The other thing is that Mathew didn’t like rice so he had no food in Asia.

We dropped so many bombs on Laos because of that trail (the Ho Chi Minn Trail).

I saw a lot of Buddhas

We took a boat to a waterfall, and we took a lot of boats on a big river (the Mekong River)

We saw the monks in the morning – monks are people who are Buddhist and they walk in the streets and nice people give them food. If you don’t know what Buddhas are, I got some so I can show you when I get home.

Ben’s Journal on Cambodia February 21, 2000

In Cambodia we saw one of the 7 wonders of the world, it is called Angkor Wat, and we saw the sunset. And I saw a Jungle Temple and it was covered in trees and tree roots. And I bought a flute there, and

Cambodia is a great place, except it doesn’t have such good Internet.

Ben’s Journal on India February 21, 2000

We are staying in a great palace in India and it has really cool places.

I buyed a wallet in a special fair by the Taj Mahal