Endless back-and-forth flights, crossing borders both territorial and spiritual, this was one of the trips I had wanted to do since I was a child. I could write pages and pages about these places and I still would not be able to do them justice. It is an experience at its purest level, to be transported from a world of western commodities into what, for us, seemed like a parallel universe, made of layers upon layers of history, suffering, survival, optimism, courage, simplicity and hope. There is no way to explain how the attitude of these people strikes you and inspires you to change your own outlook on life. Cambodians, who went through countless wars and experienced genocide not even half a century ago, are some of the friendliest, most relaxed yet hardworking people I have come across. The Vietnamese welcome Americans and speak words of pardon and peace, never of injustice. I remember our guide in Cambodia, the delightful Borin, saying something that struck me as familiar when explaining the situation of Cambodia and how they did not want much, simply to heal and be able to live their lives.
In the back of my mind, the voice of a hotel receptionist in Thailand, December 27th 2006, chimed in, the sound of crashing tidal waves coming from a TV set in the distance: “We don’t want to dwell on the past.” She told a very worried younger me. “What’s happened has happened. Now we want only to rebuild, and move on.”