from Jan and Gerry

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           where is it?

In late August we finally let our odyssey through southeast Asia come to a (temporary) end. Rather than the three months that we had originally imagined, in the end we spent more than double that in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. As previously reported by the last update of this space, by mid-June we reached Thailand and then returned for a short trip to Laos before spending more time in Thailand and then going on to Cambodia.

Cambodia proved to be well worth it. We spent 10 days in and around Siem Reap (gateway to Angkor Wat) and were mightily impressed by the ruins and restored ruins. Our stay in Phnom Penh was less remarkable, but it is nice to have an idea of the place. The end to our stay in Cambodia was ten days at Ochheuteal Beach near Sihanoukville. It would have been perfect, except that internet access was very expensive (so we didn't make any), Jan severely hurt her finger (it is slowly healing), and our Fosa notebook computer became anemic (all is well there now). A funny thing happened while we we standing in line at immigration control on the Cambodian-Thai border: we turned back and spent two more nights in Cambodia at the Kaoh Kong Resort Hotel,where they had a terrific pool. We did it because there was a "special" advertised that gave room, dinner, and breakfast for two for $20, pool and casino thrown in.

From Cambodia we went directly to Bangkok. We were checking in at our hotel just a few minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center and for the rest of our (fourth) stay in Thailand the attack was a subject of constant concern and hope. In Bangkok we again caught up with Jan's brother Dave, and his Thai wife, Jhap, and spent a couple of nice days with them. From Bangkok we made a 4-day excursion to the ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Lopburi. (The train fare to Ayuthaya, about 35 cents, is just over the cost of one minute on a U.K. mobile phone.) Having just learned a lot about the ancient Khmer architecture of Angkor, it was easy and fun to see the influences on what at that time would have been considered by the Khmers as a remote outpost.

Finally after many months it was time to return to England and Darlington, and that we did on on August 27-28. Our trip included a night in Columbo, Sri Lanka and then 13 hours of daylight flying over the Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey. Fabulous views were ours all the way, including wonderful blue coral islands and vast deserts with sharp mesas.

In Darlington, we have had round and round of visiting family. All are well. For us perhaps the most interesting are the children, since they have changed the most in our 16 months of absense.

One of the first things we did upon arrival here was to open and sort some of the10 or so boxes we shipped while travelling. Happily, every one arrived, even those from Vietnam, shipped with a lot of bureaucratic problems. Out of them came 22 rolls of film (about 860 pictures) taken by Jan. Sadly, two seem to be lost. We hadn't had any of them processed en route, so looking at them here has been a great review of what we did. We are now engaged in scanning and cataloging them. Gerry's pictures have all been digital and largely have been cataloged en route, although there still remain many left to do. We make CD-ROMS from the digital and scanned pictures; so far we have about 40 CDs, containing about 20,000 pictures. (Getting the exact number is on our "to do" list.)

Here in Darlington, we've learned to cook again, after so many months of depending on restaurants. Jan has made Yorkshire pudding all by her self for the first time and Gerry has made Fajitas for the first time. We even do house cleaning and laundry and (we are so presentable now) ironing.

It has been very interesting getting the British perspective of current events, after having no perspective (Vietnam and Laos) or the Thai one (Thailand and Cambodia). Out of the shipped boxes and the loft we took clothes that we hadn't seen for months, even years, and now feel that we have almost more clothes than we can handle. We are more used to only one or two changes of clothing.

We're now about to make our first visit to the States in two and a half years. We'll spend a month there, mostly visiting old friends, starting (and ending) with Manhattan, then a stay in our old haunts, Middletown, and finally (probably) a drive south through various east coast states. Will our friends look as much older to us as we undoubtedly will to them?

Looking ahead, most of the next twelve months already seem filled up. On Dec 12 we'll return to England, and see out the year here. Then we'll spend about a month getting to Israel,perhaps via Turkey, Syria, and Jordan (that will depend on what happens in Afghanistan and Arab reaction). Gerry will celebrate his 60th birthday there and we'll spend several months getting to really know the place. Then we'll work our way back to England, maybe via Cyprus and Greece or via Egypt, Sicily and Italy. In late July, 2002 we'll be here for a wedding. After that, we may set off for a tour of Russia and other slavic lands.

Usual contest: Where was the above photo taken?

Updated November 10, 2001