Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adventures in Asia

I've done more traveling in Asia than anywhere else in the world. Hong Kong was the first Asian locale that I visited. Back then (in the 1980s), Hong Kong was still controlled by the British. It was a fascinating mixture of proper English and ancient Chinese culture.

Not long after that trip, my husband and I spent two wonderful years working in Bangkok, Thailand. In those days, you couldn't really get further away from the U.S., which was our home base. Telephone calls were prohibitively expensive and postal mail took three to four weeks if it arrived at all. Email, of course, did not exist. Everyone thought that we were crazy to move there, even temporarily. We loved every minute.

Thailand had a huge influence on me. My first novel, RAW SILK, is set in Bangkok. I tried to capture the exoticism, grace and sensuality of the culture and the people. The book includes many scenes drawn from my own experience. (However, the infamous sex scene involving chili peppers is entirely imaginary!) I've also used Thailand as a setting for a number of short stories, including “Butterfly” and “Bangkok Noir” (in my short story collection FIRE) and most recently in “Refuge”, my contribution to the charity anthology COMING TOGETHER: AT LAST.

Thailand is located smack in the center of Asia, so we had opportunities to visit other countries in the region, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. (We also did a two week trip to New Zealand, which is not exactly Asia but closer to Thailand than to North America-- “only” a ten hour flight!) After our contract in Bangkok expired and we returned to America, we continued to aim for Asia whenever we could. Since then we've added India, the Philippines, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, Taiwan and Korea to the set of Asian destinations we have explored. You can read stories set in Laos (“Vows”) and ancient Cambodia (“Ruler”) on the Free Reading page of my website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/freereads.html)

There are still many Asian countries on my wish list, though. Bhutan and Nepal are at the top (no pun intended). I'd love to see Burma, though I may wait until the political situation there improves. Then there's Papua New Guinea and of course the 9,997 remaining islands of Indonesia. (I've visited Java, Sumatra and Bali, but that's all.)

Nowadays wherever I travel, I'm alert for story ideas. I'm thinking that at some point I might put together a short story collection consisting solely of travel tales.

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