Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar

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Oh, I forgot to mention. I'm back. It's done, all over. On March 1st, 2003 I returned from my trip around the world, exactly one year after my departure on March 1st, 2002. It was a good trip. But I cannot overstate how glad I am that it is done.
Thankfully, my ears have finally cleared from all that flying (and just in time for a bunch more). Starting with Tokyo->Hong Kong, and continuing from Hong Kong->Amsterdam, my right ear insisted that it never left 20,000 feet. Having some experience with clearing ears at various altitudes/depths, I exhausted the full range of techniques to no avail. Now that I'm about back to normal, the world sounds so much better. Had I a bit of musical talent I might be inspired to write a song.
Last night I stayed in a "capsule hotel", which is perhaps as close as I'll ever get to being either in a commune or a space station. Upon entrance you immediately change into a robe and shorts (found in your locker), and other than your key everything else is shared amongst all. Towels, combs, aftershave, toothbrushes (but not toothpaste, as that thing that looked just like a hand-soap dispenser actually was -- the taste took a long time to wash out), and so on. Then you strip off your robe and shorts for a traditional Japanese communal bath, head up to the lounges for maybe a massage, video games, or dinner, and then to your "capsule". The easiest way to describe it is to think of a laundrimat where instead of clothes driers there are little tiny rooms lining the walls, upper and lower rows. You crawl into one, pull down the curtain, unfold the sheets and blankets, and fiddle with your private TV/radio/clock console before going to sleep. In the morning you repeat everything in reverse, and reassume your identity at the door. Very strange.
Have I ever mentioned that Lonely Planet sucks? Probably not, because I've never truly used one until now -- everywhere else in the world doesn't really need it. But here, sheesh. Ever try finding a specific sequence of Kanji characters at night while walking through a series of unmarked urban streets in the rain? I have. And while it may seem like no big deal that the hotel is listed on the southeast corner instead of the southwest corner of the intersection, it is. It's the difference between fun and misery. Anyway. That said, Japan is a sweet country. And I see that the sun just came out, so that makes it even sweeter.
Well, after surprisingly-long period here in Hong Kong, I'm heading off to Japan later today. Hong Kong has really been great, and though it doesn't go out of its way to entertain you, I think I've found more than enough to keep me busy here. But I'm glad to be 90% over being sick and I'm even more glad to get back on the road, though it sure is frustrating to come all this way next to China and end up not even going. (Oh way, Hong Kong *is* China, right?)
Bah, I feel terrible. It feels like I've snorted a few lines of sand, and then banged my head onto the table several times for good measure. I've found that if I close my eyes before turning my head, then I don't have to bear the pain of actually moving my eyeballs. Sigh... I had intended to be in China by now, but I'm just not sure I'm in the mood.
The weather is clear and sunny here in Hong Kong, though cool enough that my recent clothes purchases haven't gone to waste. Indeed, I've actually had to compromise on one of my few fashion peeves: socks with sandles. Sigh... my toes are imprisoned once again after all these years. Add to that a half-turtleneck (!! I've always hated turtlenecks!!), stylish suede gloves, and some cotton pants I wear under my stanard bluejeans, and it's the whole new warm me. I actually think that it doesn't look half bad, and the turtleneck and socks makes me loook significantly less "hippy" and more "beat". Speaking of fashion (or lack thereof), I admitted to Molly (my travel companion in Vietnam) that I "french rolled" my pant legs well into my college years, and I think she became physically ill at the thought.
Happy New Year everyone! I'm off to How Long Bay (not sure how it's spelled, but it sounds like that), even though it's freakin' cold out here. I've been forced to expand my extensive wardrobe with a pair of gloves and an undershirt. I'm thinking long underwear and some socks (*gasp* say it isn't so!) may even be in order. See you next year!
Merry Christmas! Though I'm lacking most of the typical accountrements to the holiday, I did have a huge Christmas breakfast -- basically gorging myself on room service here at the Hilton. I'm here in Hanoi and traveling around Vietnam with a friend, and I had the greatest plan to make the best traveling Christmas ever... until it all fell apart around me. Sigh...
So the big plan was this: this girl with whom I'm traveling (just traveling, no funny business) listens to CDs, and I thought it'd be cool to burn her a CD full of some music I like, with some other little things wrapped up (a book I borrowed from here, some chocolate, etc). In order to diminish the wierdness of her not having anything to give to me I was going to also wrap some things up for myself, and then label all of them from the ever-mysterious Santa. All in all, it brings in the Christmas charm, but doesn't upset the delicate balance of a non-romantic travel partner. A good plan, no? However, it's been a complete nightmare trying to get this CD made. After carefully picking out the music, I manage to have all the software and hardware lined up, and I'm really down to the wire (and I hadn't even procrastinated). I mean, the clock is ticking down to when I'm supposed to meet her an and some others, but the CD is just taking forever to burn. Finally, it etches its last bits onto the CD -- only, wait, it didn't actually do anything. Other than consuming my time, it produced no discernable change in the state of the universe (ie, the CD is still blank). Arrg! I was running late at this point anyway, but despite every other moment of my trip being bombarded with motobike offers, I was having trouble finding a motobike driver now. By the time I finally go there, I had just missed them (a waitress said that they were here and then left). So I charge out looking for them, to no avail (later it turns out they arrived a few minutes later than me and the waitress was just referring to someone else). All of this has taken up the last amount of time I had to wrap presents and burn the CD, undermining the whole plan. See, the CD was going to be the key to it all, combined with some other silly presents (she's a chocoholic), but without the CD nothing else really worked. You can't *just* go for sizzle, you also need steak. I had no steak, and thus no plan. Bah humbug.
Oh well. As they say, it's the thought that counts.
I've come to learn that one of Hoi An's greatest attractions is its collection of over two-hundred tailors' shops, each overflowing with options for a new wardrope. After browsing through about twenty pages of suits, I realized that they all looked basically the same to me and that it'd be more sensible just to trust the judgement of the tailors themselves. Twenty-four hours later and I'm the proud owner of a new suit, overcoat, snazzy-red shirt, and a new red velvet vest (my old one was "danced out"). Of course, this also means I'm the proud owner of a huge bag of clothes, and thus the soon-to-be-owner of a big debt for mailing it back home. But at the price of $35 for a custom tailored suit, you really can't complain.
Though the road between Nha Trang and Hoi An was slighty less awful than the road in Cambodia, this road was vastly longer and thus I've reached a new record for the worst bus ride in the world. As we jolted along (I think our vertical distance about equalled our horizontal), I looked longingly at the smooth-ish ride of the train whipping by. Furthermore, despite being only 518 km long, the ride took nearly fifteen hours to make. Oye. Anywa, Hoi An appears to be the nicest city yet, with a nice beach to boot. Of course, after a good night's sleep I'll be in a better place to judge.
Well, I've officially begun the job search. My plan is to head back to the video game industry, either as a 3d programmer like before or, ideally, stepping up the food chain into architecture or project management. If I could "have my druthers" I'd stay in San Francisco, but given the overall dearth of game companies in the area, I may have to venture outside the Bay Area. Anyway, all are welcome to check out my newly-updated website at www.quinthar.com, which has not only a recent resume but also a complete list of every interesting project I've ever worked on. Hopefully with all that text I can convince someone to pay me to make games, which really isn't too bad a deal no matter how you slice it.
Wow, what a postively awful day. On the train, I just could not fall asleep for the life of me, nor could I get comfortable on the lumpy matress. Furthermore, I was slammed by a nasty cold, causing my runny nose to be hypersensitive to the exhaust fumes that seemingly poured directly into my bunk. After an hour mastering the complex task of opening my train window, I then couldn't choose between "open with exhaust while cold" or "closed with stuffy air while hot". Deafening noise was unescapable either way. I was so miserable I couldn't even be bothered to pay attention to, not to mention take a picture of an incredibly pretty sunrise over a large, swampy rice marsh. After finally falling asleep in the morning sun, the weird train dude (who just laughed at me and wagged his finger like I was being naughty when I asked him to help with my window) decided 9am was time to wake up (depite two more hours of train ride and potential sleep awaiting me), and started converting my bed to a chair, without bothering to notify me of the transformation in advance. Then, to top it all off, the ubiquitous hawkers who make life unbearably convenient at all other times were nowhere to be found, leaving me parched, famished, sick, and tired, all at once. Yee haw.

But, the fun doesn't stop there. The whole reason I went to Cambodia, and then up to Chiang Mai, was to arrange to receive my Indian visa. Granted, they were really nice side-trips, and I'm glad to have had the excuse to go. But to add insult to injury, upon arriving back to the Tavee Guest House (with whom I have no complaints whatsoever), I'm informed that the Indian embassy refused my application and instead demanded that I fill out a new, *entirely identical* application instead. Apparently the ink was faded or something (as if they couldn't file the paperword blindfolded anyway). So I'm forced to start the entire Indian visa process over, the conclusion of which will not occur until next Friday. Bah. I might just skip India altogether, as even though I really like Thailand, I just really want to get going.
Today is the king's birthday in Thailand, though most of the celebrations appear to be happening in Bangkok (fourteen hours by train south of where I am now). Regardless, for the past couple nights they've set up a variety of events, last night's being Muy Thai boxing! I managed to wriggle my way to as close as I wanted to get ringside (given their propensity for being flung onto, over, or through the ropes, I figured some distance was a good idea) -- close enough to hear the solid thud of a bare foot snap into some guy's temple and knock him out cold. It'd be rather horrific were it not for the clear comradarie of the people fighting and smiles on their faces, congratulating each other on good hits.
The Indian visa is on the way, and in the intervening days I've headed up north to Chiang Mai, the second (or third?) largest city in Thailand. The train ride was long (fourteen hours) and uneventful, though I did get some good coding done. Despite the bed-making man's strange insistence that I leave the window kinda closed (open just enough to let in the deafening noise, but closed enough to stop the wind and nice view), I left it open all night long. Yes, it's loud, but it's wonderful to feel the cool wind buffet your face while watching the tips of trees whip past the clear stars.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In honor of this traditional holidy I've decided to celebrate... by watching the new Harry Potter in the best movie theatre in the world. Pretty good flick! After several days in Cambodia, a country that vastly exceeded my expectations, I'm back in Thailand awaiting my Indian visa. I considered just heading to Vietnam, seeing as how I was so close, but the Indian allure was too much to pass up. But after a three hour boat ride, five hour pickup truck ride, and then four hour bus ride (plus a couple hours waiting around), I'm pretty beat and ready to catch some sleep. Hopefully, I'll dream of turkey and stuffing!
If anyone is considering going from Bangkok to Siem Reap (nearest town to Ankor Wat), I'd highly recommend saving themselves the effort and just hire someone to kick them in the ass hard, many times, while buying a plane ticket. Connecting these two very significant cities is perhaps -- no, easily the worst road I've ever had the misfortune of experiencing. Though only 410km long, it took us perhaps nine hours to crawl over the pockmarked battleground. Were it not for all the cars grinding along, I think a more accurate description would be "an unusually long and straight pile of dirt".

That said, however, being so far from anything and surrounded by ricefields and limitless views was pretty nice. But not nice enough to warrant a second trip.
A funny thing about that Indian visa....
So, I start looking into getting my Indian visa and discover that it takes approximately five business days. However, my Thai visa expires in three days. Thus, my calculator tells me that getting my Indian visa would require me overstaying my Thai visa by two days. Not good. Thus, I need to leave the country, and the closest neighboring country is Cambodia. I hadn't really planned on going there, but in about three hours I board a bus to the border. After a week or so I'll return, get a new Thai visa, and then turn around and get my Indian visa and head out quick. Sheesh. Every other country I've been to has issued me a visa on arrival. Why not India? Of course, I shudder to think how difficult it must be to get a US visa...
Well, I've been here in Bangkok for almost a week and it's really growing on me. However, my visa is set to expire in a few days, so I guess I'll have to take off sooner or later. My next stop will likely be India, and I just secured a range of suggestions from a worldly Italian woman at the guest house in which I'm staying. I'm hoping Darjeeling will offer a good cup of tea...
Though having a digital camera is great, it's only really feasible on long trips if you also have a laptop to store the pictures. Moving the pictures from the camera to the laptop requires thing called a USB CompactFlash reader. Anyway, I managed to bend a pin on mine and render it inoperatable, requiring that I be much more choosy about pictures than usual. That is, until today, where I've purchased another reader at "Pantip Plaza" -- a huge cube of a building that is like five Fry's Electronics stacked atop one another. Newly equipped, I'm back on the photo trail with gusto.
To attone for my high-price movie ticket yesterday (though I have to say, it was really cool being able to curl up on such a comfortable seat. I just regret I didn't get some popcorn) I've been laying low in the cafes all day. On the street I bought some corn-off-the-cob (freshly cooked and cut into a plastic bag), which came with a heap of shredded coconut. It wasn't a combination I'd ever considered before, but it was really quite good. These Thais cook up some crazy food.
Saw "Sweet Home Alabama" tonight in an incredible theater: really expensive ($12USD) but was full of perhaps thirty extremly comfortable overstuffed leather lazy-boy chairs. They had motorized reclining that could go way back. It even came with a pillow, blanket, and (get this) a pair of socks to keep your feet warm. They also had couches for two with heaters and motorized massage rollers built in, but I didn't get a chance to try those out. Pretty goofy.
After a surprisingly-comfortable all-night train I've arrived safe and sound in Bangkok, the city most people either love or hate. My vote's still out, but being a fan of big crazy cities, I'm tending toward the love side. On the train I met a very pretty Dutch/Singalese girl with whom I'm wandering the city today, and we hope to catch some Thai boxing tonight. Until then, the search for a good coffeeshop continues...
After an uneventful three-hour bus ride from Krabi I've arrived in Surrathani, where I await a twelve-hour overnight train to Bangkok. I've been looking forward to Bangkok for a while, so I hope it lives up to my expectations. High expectations are always the killer: the best times are those that are unanticipated and for which you are completely unprepared.
Whew. I hope the server doesn't crash again...
Well, I just got a big batch of pictures up. I think I'll hold off before noitifying the list, however: I get backed up every six hours and I'd like to make sure I'm on the other side of the line if the server crashes again.
New Feature: Next/Prev
Looking over my web logs it's become apparent that many people prefer linear navigation over my experimental hierarchal organization. Thus, I've added some "Next" and "Prev" pointers to the stories. Accordingly, to see all the latest pictures, just pick the most recent story, read it, and keep clicking "Next" until you see something you recognize.
New Feature: Daily News!!
As you may have noticed, I've been rather lax in keeping this site updated. At the very moment it's three months out of date: that's one quarter of a year, folks. Thus, in an effort to quicken my updates without interfering with the linearity of story telling, I've added this news sections. I intend to update it often (maybe daily?) with short, un-illustrated quips that don't warrant a full article. The mailing list will be reserved, as always, for when I make a significant contribution to the articles and pictures. But until then, feel free to stop on by to catch the latest news!

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