They were in their late 50s, their previous lives in Canada were reduced to a non-living pension, they had sold and given away most of their possessions and they were now living from two backpacks… and loving it!
Their plan was to spend a month each in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos before returning to Yunnan province in China's southwest to look for more teaching work. They had little knowledge of those countries outside of their guidebooks and no knowledge of the languages they encountered. Their little bit of Mandarin wasn't much help, but they soon found how far a smile and a bit of mime can go.
They wandered the former Indochina from north to south then back, falling in love with the cuisine of Hanoi and Vientianne, the glorious beaches on the South China Sea, the staggering ruins of Angkor Wat and Wat Phu Champasak, and the warmth of the climate and the people everywhere. They also found out how easy it is to travel and live cheaply.
They eschewed tourist hotels and big cities for the most part (unless they had an Old Quarter), stayed in local guesthouses (some lovely and some less so), and used local transportation, sharing seats with rural folk and chickens. They never booked ahead. They came to consider $10 a night to be expensive.
In February of 2004, after teaching English in China for a year, Ron Hannah and his partner Ruth Forbes crossed the border into Vietnam, seeking adventure and fleeing the coldest winter in fifty years. They met peasants and monks, students and fellow wanderers, and they spent an unexpected three weeks in Thailand without even the benefit of a guidebook. For these travelers, this was a time of growing perceptions of the nature of mankind and of global interdependence and vulnerability. It is an experience from which everyone who reads this eBook will gain.
“Asia has always been a land of disconcerting contrasts, has it not? High-rise towers of commerce are within a easy walk of 9th century stone piles that were once splendid temples; a branch of the Silk Road, redolent of camel caravans, once came this way but that road is now populated with trucks that I have seen carrying camels (albeit not in Vietnam); Roman coins are found in Cham emperors' tombs; and Vietnamese teenagers, those who are not ankle-deep in mud behind a water buffalo, are now speeding through the streets of Hanoi on their motorbikes wearing t-shirts that read ‘US Army’…”
Through Ron Hannah’s candid and descriptive prose, and through Ruth Forbes’ gorgeous and immediate photography, you will re-live the wondrous days passed in these exotic places, at once wishing to linger here or there while anxious hasten to the next locale. For anyone whose travels will take them to this part of the world, the experience will be both exiting and rewarding. Subtle pleasures and breathtaking scenery come one after another in this engrossing eBook.
Journeying onward to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, you will learn first-hand the pros and cons of all things normally taken for granted, from guidebooks and tipping, to abstract concepts such as trust and value. Travel writing rarely portrays political revelations such as are expressed in this story. You’ll find a kindred soul in Ron Hannah, a gentle and unassuming composer who finds as much truth in exploring the vast, ancient ruins as he finds consequences in traversing the densely-populated cities and towns – places whose once and future lives are overshadowed by the violent military occupations of the past, as well as by the growing multi-national corporate invasions of the present.
“The appeal of western materialism is nowhere so strong as in Asia and among the young. If you can't afford a car then you go into debt for a motorcycle, and if you can't afford a motorcycle a bicycle will have to do. In Hanoi, as in all other Asian cities I have seen, the people are lightening their hair, having their eyes widened, and wearing what they perceive to be western fashions, no matter how impractical or painful. Skin-tight jeans and high heels are often seen, no matter that the wearer is walking on the beach or that the temperature is approaching 40 degrees. Few western girls would dress so on a hot and humid day. There are also those who have recently arrived from the country, more traditional young people who, I suppose, quickly succumb to the sexy new look if they can afford it. Their modest and more shapeless attire bespeak their Buddhist upbringing, and I quietly mourned the erosion of this gentle culture, all the while admiring the fresh young figures revealed by the brash imported one.”
In this eBook, you’ll share in their delight as these ramblers stumble upon serene, affordable guesthouses and eateries. You’ll also feel their anger towards the many loathsome institutions they meet head-on, and their sorrow for many of the people for whom past and present hardship and indignity has become a way of life. Spiritual surrender mingles within these words and pictures, leaving the reader with a sense of gratitude, both for what is being shown, and for the privileges that we in the west take for granted.
If you seek other courageous hearts on your satori, take the opportunity to ramble alongside this knowing and still-teachable pair. They are good company. Their path is wide and welcoming and you will return home exhilarated. This part of the world has transformed from antiquity like no other -- A Ramble in South-East Asia captures a moment of this amazing transformation, and will inspire you to take a ramble of your own there.