Friday, March 4, 2016

Global gleanings: Asia trip finds happiness around every corner

Travelers' testimony: Happy people exist everywhere -- just look around

Young Japanese girls enjoy a stroll in Tokyo's temple filled Asakusa area. They show off their kimonos, greeting Cookie.

Cookie communes with a grandmother in a small village in the Mekong 
  Delta, Vietnam. The two talked about eggplant as she showed her garden.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain


AFTER A MONTH on the road in Southeast Asia and now a week in Japan, we've been surrounded by happy, gracious people.
We've been offered tea, directions, dried insect snacks and a pair of month-old puppies. (The latter was tempting because we miss our Yorkies.)

A tourist from Singapore meets Keller at a Buddhist temple in Vietnam.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

WE'VE TRAVELED by train and tuk-tuk, elephant and rickshaw, cruise ship, taxi, bicycle, sampan, barge and junk.  We've flown five airlines on seven flights -- from San Diego to San Francisco, across the Pacific to Singapore and Vietnam, to Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Above right, from left, Sue, Cookie, John and Keller enjoy a tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok, while left, a Thai mother and
child illustrate international traits: a parent's enthusiasm, a child's fatigue and perhaps indifference.
We've met legions of happy and content people in the five countries -- 15 towns and villages --we've been privileged to visit.
Vietnamese girls embrace Cookie on a shopping spree.
What binds our fellow humans is simple.  They like their lives, are proud of what they do. We travelers exhibit that quality on which Blanche Dubois relied: "the kindness of strangers." Our hosts have shown appreciation, curiosity, patience. We've tried to do the same.
Travel forces one to trust -- in strangers, in safety of  the new, in the joy of discovering surprising foods or drinks, the pleasure of different ways of doing things.
So we travelers cast aside the familiar and comfortable, and stretch.
From Hong Kong to Saigon to Bangkok, scooters are popular transport.
Who knew, for instance, that a favorite Japanese candy has pork flavoring in it, or that a sack of dried grasshoppers has the same amount of protein as a fried egg.
THE BASIC things that bind us as humans are the same.
We love our families, breathe the same air, eat, sleep, travel, dream.
Whether selling kimonos or maple pancakes, leading a tour to yet another temple, explaining the workings of a gallery or restaurant, or ushering a group through a private home, our hosts have smiled, bowed, offered beverages, shared a slice of life.

Paolo from the Philippines befriended Cookie and Keller
aboard Celebrity's Millennium, with cocktails each evening.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” –  St. Augustine

THE PEOPLE we have met have run the gamut from retired, wealthy and carefree, to financially challenged, even poor. Some live three generations in tiny homes. Others know only mansions and five-star hotels. The simplest homes we visited were immaculate. The people who've served us, cleaned our rooms and prepared our cabins were proud.
Our fellow travelers on lounge floors, tour boats, cruise ship suites, dim sum street stalls, and concerts showed respect and curiosity.

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”   Robert Louis Stevenson

Hong Kong Harbour, one of the world's busiest, sports the world's only working junks.

COMING UP: On the waterfront. We've traveled the waters of major Asian cities, and sailed and rowed in small villages. We look at the beauty of small boats, cruise ships, ferries, a floating restaurant and an endangered Chinese junk. Come along  for the ride, remembering to explore, learn and live. Catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend at


  1. Singapore visitorsMarch 5, 2016 at 6:28 PM

    Lively, insightful story NY an obviously seasoned traveler.
    Gorgeous photo essay of Asian people, and commentary enriches.
    Thank you, and more!

  2. Adventuring AussiesMarch 6, 2016 at 4:39 PM

    We are Aussies, leaving Hong Kong, and saw the pretty junk photo. Thanks for the tip.
    Great afternoon, fun people.

  3. We second the motion -- travel is the best education. Liberal arts diploma and an airplane ticket -- great gifts for anyone.