Travelogs & Reflections > Carrol's Travelog > Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia

The Adventure Begins | Japan | Thailand:Bangkok to Northern Thailand | Laos | Farm in Southern Thailand | Malaysia | Indonesia | Southern Thailand | Cambodia

CAMBODIA: December 2005


The Temples of Angkor Wat:

Angkor Wat is visually, architecturally, and artistically breathtaking.  It is a massive three tiered pyramid surrounded by five beehive like towers rising 65 meters from the ground.  Angkor Wat was the centerpiece of our visit to the temples of Angkor.


Bayon Temple: The giant stone faces of Bayon have become one of the most recognized images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture.  As we continued our visit to this temple, Paul had found a postcard of one of the faces and we began the search to find this particular face among the 215 other faces. After a lot of searching we found the postcard image.  It had been reversed, which made it even more difficult.  I also found a face image that I enjoyed sketching.   


Neat Pean: When constructed, this small island temple was located in the middle of the last reservoir to be constructed.  Neak Pean may have served as an absolution fountain, and the waters were thought to have healing properties. 


The small central temple sits in the center of a cross pattern made up of light pools. Neat Pean means “coiled serpents”.  This was a peaceful spot to meditate and do some sketching.


Angkor Thom: Angkor Thom is a walled and a city surrounded by a moat that was the last capital of the Angkor Empire.  There are five entrances to the city, one for each cardine point, and the victory gate leading to the Royal Palace area.  Each gate is crowned with four giant faces.


This area has inspired me to do a lot of journaling and even more sketching. There are many places to just sit and do what you want as the rest of the family look through the temples.  It was a place of quiet and solitude.


THAILAND: December - November 2005


Khao Lak:


Cape Pakarang Boat Shed:  About half of Nam Khem Village’s 5000 residents were killed in the tsunami, as were about one-third of the residents of the smaller settlement of Cape Pakarang.  Most of the survivors had been working in the fishing industry before the tsunami struck, so the revival of that industry was necessary to boost the area’s economic recovery. The Cape Pakarang Boat Yard opened in March 2005 to build 47 long-tail boats over an 18 month period for local fishermen whose boats were destroyed.


As I approach the Boat shed, I see the boat building crews are busy putting the final touches on two boats that are in the boat shed.  Another crew is beginning a third boat. Today they will put up the aft and stern. 


In the yard they are ready to rig one of the larger boats for delivery. Another crew is working on the caulking and primer before the volunteers will start the painting, primary staining and complete the boat logo.  A team of volunteers is unloading a truckload of wood with a hack hoe as the pieces are large and heavy.  This wood came down from Laos.  Stairs are being built on the side of the boathouse to enable them to add another floor over the boathouse. A shed for lumber that will be 15’ X 15’ is beginning.  The surplus wood pile is being sorted.  Jack Fruit discs have been carved with the boatyard logo.  These will be sold at the anniversary event in December and the Tsunami Craft store.  Electric cords have been repaired.  Website development and updating is on going.  There seems to never be a quiet moment, which is good for all the volunteers and the boatyard.


I have collected shavings from the jack Fruit Wood tree to be used for tie dying when I return home.  I also carved a disc of the same wood of the stencil design of a long tail-boat to be sent home.


My heartfelt thanks to Scott for giving me the opportunity to share this week with the other volunteers and especially the long tail boat builders.  You have been instrumental in my being able to create memories that will last a lifetime.  Your inclusive leadership allowed for the learning of new skills as well as making me stretch beyond my comfort zone.  Scott, your vision, determination, and ability to stay focused on the results needed for the fisherman to support their families and community gives all of us the inspiration to contribute anyway that we are able.  Scott Carver, has donated his time, talent, and treasure for two years to guarantee the success and continuity of the boatyard project.    God’s Blessings to all who are a part of this project.


INDONESIA: November 2005


Lake Toba:


North Sumatra’s Crater Lake: Lake Toba is Southeast Asia’s largest fresh water lake.  It was formed by a colossal volcanic eruption 80,000 years ago, leaving a spectacular caldron with wonderful landscapes.  The island of Samosir is the cultural and spiritual heartland of the friendly Toba Batak people.


We walked the entire TukTuk peninsula to see all the different locations and activities that are available for visitors and also to enjoy the environment that surrounds this village.


The Batak prints that are made by the village people in this area were unique in design and gave me an idea of the life of former years in the hills surrounding the villages. I was able to get one of the prints for the quilt that I will be developing when I return from this trip.


I have been collecting fabric from each country and will design a hanging quilt that will incorporate each fabric into a unique design.  This along with my daily journaling and photographs will be a memorable reminder of all the aspects of this wonderful journey.


Bukit Lawang:


We were welcomed to the village at 11:00 pm at night after a four hour ferry ride to Medan and then a 31/2 hour drive in a truck ride to the village.  As we got out of the truck we could hear the sound of the rushing river and were told that we needed to cross the bridge of wooden planks and steel cables to get to the lodgings.  It probably was good that it was a little dark; however the swaying of the bridge during the crossing was a little frightening.  After a discussion we were led along a path and were shown our rooms.  We hadn’t had much for dinner so we had something to eat at the restaurant attached to the lodgings.


The guides wanted to make arrangements for our trek the following day.  We needed to do some resting after the long day of traveling from Penang.  The family is doing a three day trek and I am doing a half day trek with them and then will return to the lodge.


In the afternoon we are going to visit the platform to feed the Orangutans. 


The Bohorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is on the banks of the Bohorok river.  Bohorok is only a small part of the 9000 square kilometers or 90, hectares of the Mount Leuser National Park.  This magnificent rainforest has become famous through out the world as they harbour some of the most endangered and rare species on the earth for example Sumatra Rhinoceros, elephant, tiger, and as many as seven primates.  In total the park lists 285 species and each hectares of the lowland forest you can find amazing 60-130 tree species. 


Well, we are on our way—we crossed another and lower bridge over the water.  It isn’t exactly a bridge it actually has 2X12” planks and steel cables across the water.  The secret is not to look down at the rushing water and “keep moving”.  We are almost to the feeding area which is quite a hike after you go through a river crossing in a canoe on a pulley operated by two rangers.  We have stopped on the trail as there is an orangutan with a baby on the trail with us.  I reached out and touched her as we passed.  I didn’t realize they were so large with such long arms and yet so graceful and serine. We continued on the trail and finally came to the platform where the rangers gave each adult orangutan a glass of milk and some bananas.  We took lots of pictures, there were six large orangutans and three babies—one of the babies had died approximately a week ago and was still being carried around by the mother. There was not much left of the remains of this infant.  Evidently this is how they mourn the loss of their babies. We also saw the orangutan Abdullah and his girl friend that is three months pregnant on our way down the hill.  This was a spectacular moment as we sat and watched these large primates.  They walked among us and did not seem to mind that we were there.


We left the next day on the trek.  My guide was Alig and he was most helpful in identifying different trees, plants, and insects as well as flying squirrels, and a giant termite nests that the orangutans destroy to use the inside to settle an upset stomach.


I now realize that jungle trails always go up and down and are steep and if there is moisture on the ground the path is slippery. The worst part is that the footholds for walking are set wide apart and difficult to maneuver.  The boys told me that some of the inclines were at 90 degrees and at one point Peter went sliding down past one of the hikers when he lost his footing.


As we were moving through the jungle we came upon large teak tree.  It was huge.  At this point I looked up at the trail and realized that it was time for me to go back to town. We had already traversed some difficult terrain and should be back within an hour.



MALAYSIA: October-November 2005

Cameron Highlands:


After a long search we got a place to stay at Father’s Guest House.  Here the weather had changed, it is cooler and rainy.  We found a restaurant in town and got the Roti Cani that we have all grown to love.


We got a taxi and went to the BOH Tea Plantation.  We arrived at the plantation and the cab driver let us out to take pictures of the luscious green valley and watched the workers cutting the tops of the bushes for the tea leaves.  Then we saw a woman who was cutting the sides of the bushes in the old tradition using a basket and clippers. These tea bushes are a lot like the vines in a vineyard.  They are 70 years old and have large trunks.  The tea leaves are cut every three weeks and every four years the bush is cut back to prevent rot and disease.  The leaves have so many different colors of green and with the light hitting the bushes it adds still another dimension.  We took lots of pictures and enjoyed our tea on the veranda that was high on a hill that overlooked the valley.  We stayed long enough to see the mist and then the clouds come and go in the valley.


Tomorrow we leave for Indonesia.


Taman Negara:


Taman Negara National Rainforest is the heart of Pahang’s Tropical Forest, which has lain mostly undisturbed for almost 130 million years. Be ready to experience the adventure of a mysterious world older than the Congo or the Amazon.  This area is mostly known for its species of birds, butterflies, fish, insects and plants.


We arrived by minivan after a long train ride.  We stayed the first two nights at Tehan Guest House. There were water taxi’s that took us back and forth across the river to the Ranger Station and the resort.  Our first morning we went to the resort for breakfast to complete our research and plan our activities during our stay in the park. Afterward we hiked to the Canopy Walkway and saw the monkeys after we returned.  They were near the rooms close to the entrance of the trailhead.  We crossed the river and went to eat at the Family Restaurant for dinner.  This turned out to be the place we ate most of our meals. The staff and food were great and they were reasonable. 


Later that evening we went to the market and bought Roti Cani, which is grilled dough and served with a curry lentil bean sauce. We ate them plain and they were delicious.  Later we found we could get them filled with bananas, peanuts, honey, cheese, raisins, and many other ingredients. We really loved them all… The Roti Bon was like a cinnamon roll only with sugar, honey, and butter and they also fried them on a special grill. These became a staple for breakfast and lunch.


The next day we decided to move into the Resort Hostel and all be in the same room. Then we made arrangements to take a boat up river to Lata Berkatoh, which is a cascade of water. The boat ride was beautiful, just like all the jungle pictures you see with all foliage and strings of vines you see hanging from the trees. This is the oldest Rainforest in the in the world.  The old trees are unique and shaped in such odd ways.  They are a wonder to behold. I rode the boat back while the rest of the family took a strenuous hike back. The ride was beautiful with all the old trees, foliage, and jungle growth. I was dropped off at the resort and stopped for lunch worked and began working on the outline for the Japan section in my sketchpad from special bamboo.  Then they must clean and cure the bamboo several times until it is ready to use. We all tried blowing the darts.


Steve and I get up early and go for coffee to the local coffee house or wherever we are able.  This is a special time for me. To be able to just sit and talk about anything and everything.  A quiet time for each of us.


After we finished breakfast the boys and I went to make our reservations to go on the Night Safari Ride.  Then we went to the Orang Asli village and saw how a group of natives have lived and survive in the forest for so many years.  We learned how they make a blow dart and gun used for hunting. It takes up to four months to make this weapon. The boys had a great time shooting the darts at a board.  I took a couple of shots and they both went to high—to much hot air—I suppose. Paul and I returned to the dock and worked on our sketch pads.  I finished the outline for the Golden Pavilion.  We returned and hurried over to get our dinner and then get ready for the Night Safari, which was in the back of a 4X4 truck. We were only out a short time and it began o pour down rain.  We returned to the riverfront and tried to get a river taxi back.  We were drenched and out of luck. I went to the Won’s Restaurant and she helped us to locate someone who would get us some help.  I returned to LBK and was fortunate to get a staff member who would help us when the rain subsided. Forty-five minutes later we were back in our room.  It sure felt good to be home again, no matter that we were soaked. We changed into our pajamas and finally went to sleep.


The family has left on a two day trek into the backcountry to a “hide” to spot animals.  With my ankle and knee the ranger thought it would be too difficult for me. So I took advantage of the time and worked on the computer, finances and finished the Japan segment of the sketchbook.


Perhentian Islands:


Our entry into Malaysia was not complicated.  From the border we took a taxi ride to the Rapid Boat that will take us to the Perhentian Islands.  Once there we were transferred to smaller boats and brought to shore.  What an experience.  Of course the water was rough and we got wet from the knees on down.  Paul and I went exploring for shells and found some beautifully colored shells of different sizes. Dinner was an outdoor bar-b-que that featured fresh grilled kingfish.  It was really delicious.  We took a short walk on the beach and headed back to the cottage.


We left for Coral Bay around 10:00 am to explore that area.  We had heard that all of the shops and lodgings had been already closed.  The family went snorkeling and saw some fish, sea urchins, and coral.  We had the beach all to ourselves.  We met Pierre during this visit to the beach. On our way over I saw two large monitor lizards.


The following day I took some quiet time on the large rocks above the water and just looked out to sea at the glorious colors of the water.  It was a time to relax and think about the many wonders that had already happened on this journey.  And to be thankful for all of our friends that were offering prayers for us. Later in the day Peter and I prepared a Prayer Service to be held on the rocks in the late afternoon. During the service we reflected on our trip and the people we had met along the way that made a difference in our journey.  We also agreed to continue to reflect each evening on how God had impacted our day.  


 Well, I have decided to go on the snorkeling trip to five different islands and protect myself from the sun the best I can.  Yesterday I was sunburned as I spent my time alone on the rocks high above the ocean.  The trip was great and lots of fun.  I saw the large turtles and lots of rainbow, bright blue and a rust color fish.  The coral was so different from what you find on the shore; there were several different colors and shapes.  The driver gave me some food to feed the fish.  It felt tickly as they nipped my fingers.  I just laughed at the joy of being able to do this.  They came in swarms, and even after the food was gone they continued to tickle my fingers. What a wonderful day this was.


I woke to the rain coming down.  I guess it really is time to leave; the weather seems to be getting worse.  The rapid boat was awful.  The sea was choppy and we waited for two other boats so we could all cross together.  Ire was one of the longest rides (well almost) of the trip.  Paul and I were worried as the boat would hit a low spot in the sea and would crash to the ocean spraying water everywhere. We were soaked. I couldn't get out of this boat fast enough.


I am excited about visiting another farm in a different part of the country. Boon, the owner, is married to a lovely woman who was born and raised in America on the west coast. They have visited several times. Boon’s family farm is similar to the northern farms except his crops are very different and his approach to the land and the opportunity for growth never seem to diminish. He has many different kinds of fruit trees that are used by the family. There is a coffee farm in the hills. He grinds coffee for personal use and sells the rest of the beans. Each morning Boon would bring Steve a cup of fresh coffee. He also has a palm oil grove that has mushrooms planted in between the rows to utilize more space and provide his family with additional income. Other members of the family also work on this large farm. Boon has a love of the land and has a way of making his yard unique as he also splices different plants to the trees and they become things of beauty as they mature. There are coconut trees and also trees that are used for future buildings. He is also in the process of remodeling his family house. He loves to build open air type of homes. This allows you the feeling of privacy yet you are able to experience the out of doors in the way the air blows through the house. The kitchen and dining room are modern in design. His bathroom is open in the ceiling to let in the air and light. Boon has many friends and seems to enjoy his life in this part of the world.

We arrived at dark and could not realize the beauty of this farm. In the morning as I awoke I could hear the birds and the sounds of the animals. However, when I got up and went to the front porch and saw the land that was the front yard area, I was overwhelmed with the calm that it brought into my heart as I felt such awe that I was able to experience this wondrous site. Each morning I would go to this same place and would just sit and meditate and give thanks to God for this opportunity in my life.

LAOS: October 2005 

We crossed the river in the rain and went into Laos. We set up the transportation into the interior. Steve hired a driver with a four wheel drive truck to take our family to Luang Nom Tha. We were told that the roads are not good because of the rains and during the monsoon season the regular buses do not make runs through the mountains. Something we did not realize was that a highway was also being developed from the Thailand border though Laos into China. So the roads were being torn apart with heavy equipment to develop a road overland and through the mountains. Paul at one point said ""G-Ma" this is an adventure. It was also a time for prayer as the mountain passes were dangerous. Thank God we had a driver with lots of experience and he got us through safely nine hours later. We saw some of the most beautiful country on our way through the mountains. The rice fields with the thatched huts scattered along the way were breathtaking and so peaceful to behold. I’m looking forward to sketching one of these scenes. We had a late dinner of sticky rice and a mixed vegetable omelet. Our driver stopped by and we had to opportunity to give him our heartfelt thanks for bringing us safely over the mountains. This was one of the times that I really wanted to be able to speak in the local language.

We made arrangements for a three day trek into the Ban Piang Ngam village. The trail began in the rice fields. I immediately fell into the field and got my foot stuck and Therese had to dig out my shoe. With my shoes now wet and slippery I had a difficult time walking on the dike that was about a foot wide. So I fell in a couple more times. Finally the dike became larger as we went through the field and moved into the jungle. This went fine for a short time until we started the ups and downs of the hills. The ground was of red clay that would stick to your shoes and cause more slipping. We stopped for a great lunch on the trail; however I was not so hungry at this time.

The trip became a blur the shoes were slipping there were creeks to cross where it became easier to walk across in the water instead of the rocks as I was concerned about falling and my ankles were also a worry. I had twisted my left ankle on the dike from the rice fields. Our guide helped on the bad up hills and also the down areas. The foot holds that we needed to use to climb were so far apart that my legs had a hard time stretching. Alex and Veronica had joined us on this trek. I worried that I was slowing them down. They were so gracious and Alex was a great help in getting me down some of the mountains. We had hiked about six hours when my right leg started cramping in the thigh area. The guide gave me some Vicks Vapor Rub that felt great... With only an hour and a half left I just kept walking. It was great to reach the village and be able to rest in the village hut.

We bathed in the river with the rest of the village. Women do have a disadvantage in trying to keep covered while bathing and washing clothes. I finally just sat in the water and relaxed, it felt so good. This was when I discovered that I had had two leeches on each foot; however they took what they wanted and dropped off. So I now have four little red holes in my foot. (Two more leeches have attached themselves to me over the travels). We returned to the hut, changed clothes and sat around and had a lot of good laughs. The crickets were the main attraction and veronica who was scared of them kept us in good humor. We had dinner and the ladies of the village made up our beds with mosquito netting and covers. Therese noticed how swollen my ankle was and the guide suggested that we try putting a village remedy on the ankle. We went to a village hut and they had herbal leaves that they heated and pressed against the ankle

I got up early and discovered that my ankle was still swollen. Also, found that my right ankle was also black and blue as well as swollen. I lay back down and really prayed about the situation. I began to think about other options. I really wanted to stay the next couple of days in the village to watch the weavers and do some journaling and sketching. I talked to Steve and Therese and then we talked to the guide and he said it was possible and he would talk to the ladies of the village and make arrangements for one of the village girls to sleep with me. After breakfast they all prepared to leave. We walked around the village and met some of the ladies. We also visited one of the ladies that were taking the silk from the cocoons. We returned to the hut and the ladies gave us a bag and the men a head scarf that had been woven in the village. It was difficult for me to watch all of them leave. This was the first time that the family had been separated since the trip began.

The guide returned to tell me that there was another trek coming through and if I wanted to stay in one of the other family huts to let the guide know and he would make the arrangements. Once again they all returned as Paul was not well. He was having a reaction to his malaria medication.

Within the hour he was much better and they left. I watched from the upper window until I saw them cross the river.

I went outside and started to journal when six girls from the village approached me and wanted to talk. We started with exchanging names. This was difficult for all of us. One of the girls left and returned with two English books. We went through them and we were able to understand each other a little better. Later two of the girls returned with guava for us to eat. After this one of the ladies from the village arrived with her small daughter and we had a small lunch. In the afternoon two more girls arrived with the large grapefruit and we shared one and they left me one for the rest of the day.

Around 3:30pm the other hiking group arrived. There were two men and one woman named Anna from Sweden along with their guide. We talked about the hike and her experience on the trail. She is a good hiker and the trail was not as muddy. I didn’t talk with the other two men as they went to sleep. I took Anna to the river for her to bath and I soaked my ankles in the water.

We returned and just relaxed in the guest house. We watched the young boys playing Kartor in the early evening. They are so flexible and really seemed to enjoy themselves. We had dinner and prepared for bed.

I got up early and went to the river to soak my ankles. Anna joined me in a walk through the village. Watched the woman who raises the cocoons, she was moving the worms from the mulberry leaves into the special woven bamboo shaped cone. This is where they begin to make the cocoons. We returned to a quiet breakfast. Anna was not feeling well and hadn’t been sleeping good and decided to return to town with me later in the afternoon. We walked around the village when the other trekkers had left. When we returned it was so good to see Tho, our guide and Steve waiting for us.

We gathered all of our things and left this much loved village. At the other end of the village we were surprised to see a Sawng Thaew (a small truck0 waiting to take us back to the town. I want to express my sincere thanks to each of our guides Tho and Tha for all of their assistance while I was struggling that first day on the trail. They made it possible for me to have the memorable experience at the village.

This village and the people who live here will always have a special place in my heart for all of their concern, caring, and generosity. They made these two days a lasting memory with their laughter, kind deeds, patience with me as I walked through their village. The children were a delight to watch as they went about their daily tasks. These days brought a lot of peace and harmony into my life.


I have really enjoyed the farm life of the north. The rice patties, sugarcane, corn, banana trees, coconuts are a few of the crops that are raised. The farms in Thailand provide a living for the farmers and their families. There is much thought put into developing a successful farm for the future of the family. They raise teak trees to replace buildings in the future. They have fish in the pond. Plants are raised to replace others and there is a method to process their crops. There are many different animals such as cattle, pigs, chickens, horses & goats. All a part of making their farms self supporting.

I am also enjoying the different variety of fruits that are abundant in this area. Such as, large grapefruit, pears, apples, small bananas, crystal dragon, rambutan, and many others. I am having a great time tasting things that I have never seen let alone eaten.

In this area there are many hill tribes that are talented in making articles for sale to increase revenue for their village. The Queen of Thailand developed a foundation that provided assistance with the marketing of these items within the tribes. This has been very successful and enables the villagers to increase their revenue from tourists who visit the local towns and purchase through a cooperative location.

BANGKOK, THAILAND: September 2005

We arrived in Bangkok around 2:30 pm. Our passage through customs was rapid. As Steve went to check out transportation I began to make calls to the local Marriott’s. After several calls we were able to get accommodations at the Mayfield Marriott. This enabled us to relax and prepare for the trip into the Banglam Phu area, where we wanted to find housing for the rest of our stay in Bangkok. We had a lot of help from residents in finding a place to stay. Steve even got the gift of an umbrella from a concerned lady, as he did not have a rain jacket. Yes, it rained at least once a day. We took a walk to the famous Khaosan Road area. There are lots of venders for anything you might need and even more food stalls and restaurants. We returned the next day for dinner to the busy Khoason Road. I have learned that it is not a good idea just to wander and look at everything around you. I need to also keep track of the family. As I was wandering along I realized that I was by myself. I turned around and could not find anyone. It was a little disturbing to be in a strange country walking in a crowd yet to be alone. I soon realized that I was okay and had no fears. I knew the location of the restaurant we were planning to have dinner so I retraced my steps and headed that way. I walked slowly up the street and then saw Steve and Peter. What a relief for all of us. Had a nice dinner and returned to the guest house in the pouring rain. We then had our first Thai speech lesson that evening.

Bangkok is a large international city. We were able to travel by taxi, train, subway quite easily. We still wanted to see many of the local sites before traveling north.

JAPAN: September 2005 

What an enchanting place to visit. The grace and stylish lines of the buildings make you want to sit and savor the peacefulness of the moment. I could spend days at the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. The grounds and pond area around the pavilion are manicured to enhance the complete site. This will become the first sketch in my journal.

At the temple of the Big Buddha, I received this fortune that I thought was very appropriate for me: Believe in God. All that is old must be renewed. In competition, you will win!

The people of Japan are gracious and ready to assist you whenever needed, even with my limited Japanese. A highlight of one of my days was when a junior high student wanted to interview me. She was from Nagasaki and needed to talk to someone who spoke English. At the end of the interview, we exchanged addresses and took photos of us together. It was a shared moment of friendship and caring that transcended culture and language.

A major observation that I made was the caring and love for children in Japan. I noticed this through the carefree way that children were able to play in their neighborhoods without a parent or adult nearby. The most impressive example of safety was when we observed children around four or five traveling alone on the subway to and from school. It makes me wonder what the world would be like in the future if all countries raised their children in a similar manner.


Hello everyone! My flight has just taken off from Evansville, Indiana. After completing all of the preparations for the trip over the last couple of months, I am finally on my way, and the good news is that everything actually fits in my pack! It is time to relax and enjoy the time before I arrive in Los Angeles.

As I walked through the terminal my thoughts were of seeing the rest of my family and the excitement of joining them on this trip of a lifetime. What a joy to see all of them on the other side of the glass door as I approached the baggage area. There were lots of shouts and laughter as we shared hugs and kisses. It was great to see them after the last couple of months with only e-mail or rare telephone calls.