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Saturday, Jan. 19, 2002

JAPAN LITE

Who am I?


Traveler A:

For my winter vacation, I tried to join the "Around the World in 60 Minutes" campaign tour but lost the lottery. So I booked a different package tour: five days and three nights in Thailand and Cambodia. The package included airfare, hotel and some meals.

I landed in Bangkok in the afternoon and checked into my luxury hotel. The package offered cheaper hotels, but I worry about security and cleanliness. You can catch diseases in these countries. I was afraid of eating the local food, too. The hotel offers international cuisine, including Japanese food. The staff can even speak Japanese!

I thought it was dangerous for a woman to walk around Bangkok at night, so I took a taxi to Siam Square to a restaurant recommended in my guidebook, "How to Walk Around the Earth."

The next day -- a tour of Bangkok. I went shopping on Khaosan Road in Banglampoo and bought many things! Not things made in Thailand, but things I could get cheaper there, like "baby doll" shirts and Louis Vuitton bags. I only spent $200 a day in Thailand -- cheap! I wanted to get my hair braided, but if I saw someone I knew, I'd be really embarrassed. I ate dinner in a restaurant where I saw other Japanese eating.

Khaosan Road was full of Westerners who look like they're ready to climb Mount Everest. They all wore hiking boots, shorts and huge backpacks. Glad I didn't have to schlep all that stuff around! I just check in my one-wheeled suitcase at the airport, and the tour operator takes care of everything for me.

The foreigners here are friendly, but I feel more at ease with people from my country. They are easy to make friends with, and we usually party together in the hotel room. I go to English-language school at home, but I can't get up the nerve to speak here. Besides, there is always someone in our group who can speak a little English.

The next day it was on to Cambodia and Angkor Wat! I did all 100 temples in two days. A taxi driver offered to show me around for $20 a day, but I thought it would be safer to take a tour. I was so exhausted, though, the next day I hired a helicopter for $250 an hour to see the rest of it.

I loved the children in Cambodia because I could understand their English. They'd come up to me and say, "Pen?"

This is my photo album: me in front of the Grand Palace, me in front of Wat Pho, me at Angkor Wat, me in the helicopter. And this is a picture of the bathroom in my hotel.

I want to go Thailand and Cambodia again. Next time I'll try to learn more English!

Who am I? Yappari Nihonjin! (Of course, a Japanese!)

Traveler B:

I told my company I was going back to my home country for Christmas, but I really went to Thailand. I miss my family, but my Lonely Planet Guidebook said Thailand was really cheap.

They were right -- I changed $200 three days ago and still have money left! My guesthouse on Khaosan Road is only $5 a night. It has a communal shower, no hot water and no air-conditioning, and I had to buy my own padlock for the door, but hey -- for $5 a night, I can rough it for a week. I'm an adventure girl!

I donned locally made clothes -- tie-dyed shirts, drawstring batik pants and a cool handmade bag. I'm good at bargaining. Got a fake tattoo. I pampered myself with a manicure and pedicure, and every day I treated myself to a Thai massage. I even learned a little Thai.

I love the local food, and I enjoyed eating at the street stalls. Sometimes it gave me diarrhea, but it usually only lasted a day.

Here is my photo album: Khaosan road. The Royal Palace. Monks at Wat Pho. Me? I think I have one picture -- here, I'm getting my hair braided.

Why is it Japanese tourists never have any carry-on luggage? I couldn't even fit the tribal drum I bought into the overhead compartment on the airplane.

I'm back in Japan now -- in the hospital with dysentery. I'll miss at least a week of work. But this won't stop me -- I'm going to Cambodia next year!

Who am I? Yappari gaijin! (Of course, a Westerner!)

Contact Amy at amychavez2000@yahoo.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com


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