Ten Years of Traveling: Asian trips

Mar 10, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Maria Ruiz, Travel

by Maria Ruiz

Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.

After Europe, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. Spreading a map of the world on the table, we thought about going to Africa. A few nights on the internet made us realize that it would be too difficult to travel in Africa with a dog. But, there were India and China, and all the countries of Southeast Asia. Checking with the airlines, we decided that we would break up the 11 hours from Spain to Thailand with a stop in India.

India was an experience that can’t really be described. It is something that should be experienced, especially by those who think the U.S. is in need of improving. We stayed for 30 days, taking a tour around the Golden Triangle. Some places we toured in a rental car with a driver, some in a local train. We had flown into Delhi and we left to fly into Bangkok.

We stayed for a year in Bangkok, where we discovered that foreigners need to have a year’s visa, but must leave the country every 90 days. It is the same in Malaysia and Indonesia, so we used each 90-day period to visit another country. The first visit was to Malaysia, then Indonesia, then Cambodia, and Vietnam. Along the way we flew into China and spent a month visiting all we could in a short visit. We stopped on one trip to see the Komodo Dragons, and stopped on another trip to visit Bali: We traveled by bus, boat, planes, trains, and rented cars.


Bali Volcano Lakes

Along the way we had some very interesting adventures. After staying in Bangkok for a year (among the almost nine million inhabitants there), we took a trip north to visit Chaing Mai. In Bangkok we tried to find an English bookstore, to no avail. That isn’t to say there isn’t one, just that we never found it. While walking through the old city of Chaing Mai we found three bookstores and came home with a shopping bag full of reading material. In Chaing Mai, we found that the old city is surrounded by four of the original walls, and right outside the walls, a moat runs around the city. All of the new building has been done outside the moat, walls, and old city. On Sunday, some of the roads within the old city are closed to traffic, and locals set up their goods and services for sale, like foot massages or back rubs. In each Temple grounds, wonderful food is cooked, and as the tourists walk among the wonderful local silks or finger the hardwood goods, the smells of stir frys or roasted ears of corn floated in the air and we could not resist. Our dog, Sherman, loved the corn on the cob. Ted would hold the ear and turn it as Sherman ate down the ear much like a typist types a line. We fell in love with the city and its ways, and soon found a house to rent. A four-bedroom, two-bathroom home with most of its kitchen on the back porch, cost us about $300 a month.


Floating market

We returned to Bangkok, gave notice, and found a couple of men with a truck to move us north, where we spent two-and-a-half years. Sherman was by then almost completely deaf, and he turned 17 years old while we were there. He wasn’t up to traveling and we found a wonderful Norgean woman with kennels and yards where he could go every three months while we continued to explore Asia. We visited the island of Bali. We climbed the stones of a drowned temple in Angor Wat, floated down the Mekong River to Vietnam, flew to China and spent a month visiting the terra-cotta soldiers of Xi’an. We sailed up the Yangtze and saw the Three Rivers Gorge. It was while we were on the Great Wall of China where a young man crashed into me pulling my knee into a totally un-natural way, ending my sightseeing for several months.

The only organized tour we took during this two-and-a-half year adventure was in China. There, all signs are in Chinese with no English translations. I looked into tours on the internet, and found some for thousands of dollars originating from England or the U.S. Looking further, I found one company located in Hong Kong that agreed to handle all travel and hotel accommodations for us. We bought our tickets to Macau and from there to Hong Kong. The company gave us directions to the hotel where we picked up the information to the next destination. We took a week-long trip on a tourist boat up the Yangtze. At each stop, the company representative, who spoke English, met us and we arranged with the representative to give us a guided tour. They would then get us settled on either a plane or train, with directions to the next hotel. It was a delightful trip. And using a crutch at the airport got us a flight back in first class.


Forbidden City

While we were in Thailand, the tsunami hit the southern tip of the country and killed many tourists and locals. We did see some of the devastation later and heard many stories from both visitors and natives.

All of Asia was wonderful. Costs were down, the people were helpful, landscapes were almost unbelievable, and the animals were exotic. We did have some problems with the food. At one hotel they had a buffet set up, and as we moved down the line Ted spotted what he thought was fried onions. A big mouthful brought tears to his eyes, he face turned bright red, and I began to think he was going to die in front of my eyes. A waiter hurried over and told him to gulp some spoonfuls of sugar, and that worked. After that, trying foods was done with a small taste first.


Maria, Ted and their dogs on the road with their motorhome

While we were in Chaing Mai Sherman turned 17. The next day, his organs started shutting down. After three days of trying everything possible, we had to say goodbye to our beloved pet. The vet took his body to the local temple to have him cremated, and now he sits by the Buddha’s feet for eternity.

After we said goodbye to him, we began the last part of our journey.

To Be Continued

Maria Ruiz was born in Santa Barbara, California; her family had been there since the Spaniards first converted the Indians & created small towns. She graduated from the University of San Diego State in 1972 & taught for 8 years before starting her own business. After retiring she began a ten-year odyssey to visit and live in 57 countries around the world. She just recently relocated to California. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever, can be ordered on Smashwords & Amazon. Her blog can be found at mariaruizauthor.com.


  1. I await the next instalment

  2. I love reading about your travels, Maria. And God Bless Sherman.

  3. Oh wow…. Such wonderful memories!
    Thanks for sharing
    Good luck and God’s blessings

  4. Always enjoy reading about your travels, and thinking about Sherman brings back memories about our time in Mexico.
    Hope you’re feeling well!
    Hugs from your Canadian friend Barb


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