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This is Part One of a multi-part series of blog posts from Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr, who is traveling in Southeast Asia this month.
I am a poor tourist, as I have already been everywhere in the world for work over my career. First, the Navy took me all over Southeast Asia. Then, 50 years ago — after receiving the world’s first Ph.D. in GroundWater Hydrology– I contacted every agency of the federal government involved in water, the United Nations, and World Bank and told them I would go anywhere in the world for 12 days to help them with a water problem for just the price of the plane ticket.
Well, some agency took me up on it nearly every year for 25 years, and I saw the world on interesting jobs. Unfortunately my wife Janet was not with me, and now she wants to see the world every chance possible.
To date we spent a day in Singapore which is a very clean city as you are jailed for chewing gum on the streets. It is a city of beautiful giant buildings and ugly cranes everywhere with absolutely nothing to do but shop. In one giant mall we counted 58 jewelry stores all selling real diamonds. It is evidently where rich folks in this part of the world go to shop.
After a day at sea — which was wonderful, as I never left the spacious gym where I will have no trouble working out four hours a day in early morning and late evening … which of course is a necessity with the incredible food they give away — we landed at an island off of Thailand called Koh Samui, where rich Southeast Asians come to play at beach side resorts. Were the signs not written in Thai, you would not know you were not in any island in the Carribean. I have found that poverty has but one face all around the world.
The island was worth the trip, if only to visit a coconut plantation where the coconuts are all harvested by trained monkeys on very long leashes. They can bring down 1,000 coconuts a day, each worth $2, while the guy holding the long leash makes $10 a day. It takes 3 months to train a male monkey. They do not use female monkeys as they are basically uncontrollable and will only bring down 300 coconuts a day. (Nothing personal, ladies.)
Tomorrow, we get to Bankok for two days, and I will tell you of it next. I am lucky to know folks around the world, so we will have personal tours in Bankok by a skydiving buddy, Hong Kong by a high school classmate, and another place in Vietnam you never heard of.