Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Update on my crappy vacation

Yep, this trip, too, has joined the travel rubbish bin. And it started out so promisingly.

The Thai embassy in Cambodia says it will take 3 days for Jorge to get a new visa. This depite the fact that he has a very recent Thai visa, already having demonstrated his fitness to enter the country, and that his wife is stuck in Thailand bored to tears. The Thai have no hearts. That whole smiling-all-the-time thing is just a cover-up for the withered, bitter souls living inside them.

So pretty much this part of the trip sucks almost unequivocably. I am spending four days at a romantic beach hideaway where everyone looks at me like a freak for being by myself. "Just one?" has become the refrain of my day. "Towel, please." "Just one?" As I sit down for breakfast: "Just one?" "Can I get the shuttle into town?" "Just one?"

I went into the main part of town for the afternoon, thinking it would kill the better part of a day. I managed to fill up two hours with eating and shopping, but now have two more hours to wait until the shuttle picks me back up. I am completely at a loss for things to do. Which is why I'm here writing right now.

I did finally manage to pick up Harry Potter, so tomorrow my plan is to lounge around the pool all day reading. And I have been proactive and booked myself on a snorkelling trip for Thursday, so hopefully the time will pass quickly until Friday.

But it makes me wonder: Do other people have as many problems when they travel, and they just don't complain as much? I haven't had a snag-free holiday since my honeymoon 3 years ago. Am I just being a big baby by wanting to lock myself in my hotel room for the next 72 hours?

Monday, July 30, 2007

This is why the blog is called "Misadventures"

So, we've had a really nice time so far in Thailand and Cambodia. Easy to travel around, people are friendly, yadda yadda yadda.

So today I am on my way to Ko Samui for some beach time. You might notice the use of the singular personal pronoun there. That is because Jorge is not with me. He is still in Cambodia.

I think people think I am exaggerating when I say crappy stuff happens to me all the time. They believe I'm just being dramatic. No, I'm really not.

Who was it that said that madness was trying the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result? And yet I continue to travel. I plan, I deliberate, I book, I arrange. And then the reality of being Gwyneth steps in.

When we were preparing for the trip, we sent Jorge's passport away to Kenya for a Thailand visa. We ordered (and paid for) a multiple entry visa so that we could stop in Cambodia. Apparently the travel agent we used messed up, or pocketed the extra cash, because what Jorge actually got was a single-entry visa, which we discovered today when the airplane refused to let him on the plane. So now Jorge is trying to get to Phnom Penh, and hoping they will do an expedited visa (naturally, Siem Reap, the place in Cambodia that gets the most foreign visitors, has no Thai consulate). Then he wil have to try to find flights to Samui. All at our expense, of course.

Funny thing is, yesterday was the first time we'd had any problems, and I was going to write a big post about it, but now this new turn of events seems to have dwarfed the little incident. We were trying to go out to the lake near Angkor Wat, and ran into a piggish little man who would not let us rent a boat unless we paid more than the ticket price. He said it was more expensive for us because we were two people, despite the fact that there is a set ticket price for the boat. When we tried to share a boat with other people, he would try to prevent us from speaking to them, and then would tell them they couldn't let us ride with them. And then there was a selfish English couple who refused to let us share the boat with them. It's a 15-seater boat, people. They made me ashamed of my heritage. We ended up turning around and going back to the hotel. May the Karma be swift and terrible upon him.

So now I'm off for my romantic beach vacation, where I will sit in my room and wait for phone calls from my husband. And the worst thing is that I planned on consoling myself with a copy of Harry Potter and the WHOLE BANGKOK AIRPORT is sold out. If there is such a thing as reincarnation I must have been a right a-hole in my last life.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

So go back to your bars, your temples, your massage parlors

Another line from "One Night in Bangkok." Sorry, can't help myself.

So we have had a packed couple of days so far, including all of the above-mentioned destinations and more. On our first night in, we didn't have much energy, so we walked to a local restaurant our hotel recommended, Chote Chitr. It was just a little hole in the wall, and when we arrived the proprietress came out and handed us the menu, then proceeded to tell us what we should order. We agreed with all her choices except one, going for a yellow curry instead of coconut soup. The other dishes were rice cakes with a coconut, sausage and shimp dipping sauce, salad made with a variety of mushrooms and chicken, and a sweet-salty crispy noodle dish. Everything was amazing. Simply the best Thai food I have ever had.

Yesterday we did the whole temple tour, starting with the Grand Palace, then Wat Pho, and finally Wat Arun. We took a long walk back through the Flower Market in chinatown, the Amulet market, and Khao San Road, the backpacker area. We stopped for a 30 minute foot massage to ease our aching feet, which was heaven.

In the evening we went downtown and ate at a restaurant called Crepes and Co. It was just a treat to eat out in a nice, sophisticated restaurant again, even though the food wasn't particularly memorable. It was different, and that was enough.

To finish off the day, we went to a nightclub. Yes, somehow I was able to stay up that late, even at the ripe old age of 30. So it was salsa night, and Jorge and I are thinking, hey we're in Asia, we can show these guys a thing or two about salsa. And then we get in there and it's like that movie with Vanessa Willians and Chayanne, with the professional salsa dancers...Anyway, imagine tiny little Thai women in miniscule outfits spinning all over the floor. And then me and Jorge in our sensible walking shoes, and a style of dancing where we hardly move (apparently in Barranquilla there's never enough room on the dance floor, so they've had to adapt.) Yeah, we felt a little out of place. But it was cool to see the nightlife here.
Today we got a late start, owing to our wild and crazy party lifestyle. Breakfasts here are great, and something to savor. We get about 8 different types of fruit each morning, along with a variety of pastries, juice, tea, and eggs. So after eating our fill, the Inn owner's son gave us tons of recommendations and helped us catch a canal ferry going into town. The ferry was neat, as we got to see the back sides of all the houses, and a bit more of the real everyday life here.

Today we went to two Thai style homes - Jim Thompson's house, which was owned by a wealthy American silk trader, and filled with beautiful Thai antiques, and the Suan Pakkard museum.

We had a late lunch at the mall. OK, sounds weird, eating at the mall, but high-concept food courts are really in here. You got a plastic card, and could go around to about 20 different restaurants, order whatever you wanted, and then they just put it on the card for you to pay when you leave. We had a pan-Asian tapas extravaganza, and it only set us back 15 dollars.

Then the big activity of the day - seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. which I really liked. We don't have movies in Malawi, so it was a treat. During the previews, all of a sudden everyone stod up and across the screen rolls: "Please pay your respects to the king" or something to that effect. As the national anthem played, we saw dozens of photos of the king doing various do-gooder activites. A bit surreal.

We finished off the night with a trip to the Lullaby Spa, also recommended by our hotel, which was beautiful. We both got one-hour Thai massages, and I was streched and kneaded until I felt like taffy. I can't wait to go back.

So tomorrow we're off to Chiang Mai!

Here are some more pics from the trip so far:

The Reclining Buddha, at Wat Pho. It's BIG.

Wat Arun, which we really liked.

The Suan Pakkad Museum

Orchids at the Jim Thompson House

The food court!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We're here!

Jus a quick note to say we are here in Bangkok! Jorge is already asleep, but I am going to wake him soon to go out to eat.

I have no idea where to go yet - there are just so many good-looking options! This is a real city. I'm used to having a choice of about 10 restaurants and 4 cuisines: Chinese, Italian, Indian, and "continental." So I have no idea even where to begin.

Anyway, the flights went fine, no troubles with visas for a change. We somehow missed the the driver at the airport, so had to take a taxi. Our hotel, The Old Bangkok Inn, is lovely. I highly recommend it!

Tomorrow will be our first official day of sightseeing, so I will try to upload photos.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We're off tomorrow!

Tomorrow we leave for our big trip! Just about everything is taken care of - we've got hotels booked, internal flights arranged...we even got our Cambodia visas online, all printed and ready to go!

I guess I'm a bit of a planner. It seems to be a genetic trait, however, as both my mother and sister are the same way. Still, with only 2 weeks of leave, I don't want to spend a lot of time making travel and hotel arrangements once I get there.

But my colleagues make me feel like a bit of a freak. Everyone else I know here is a big back-packer type. They just show up in the country with no plan, and freestyle their vacations. They take buses - I catch planes. They hop off the bus and find a cheap dive to crash in. I get off the plane and am met by a driver to take me to my lovely bed and breakfast. They eat street food. I get my recommendations from the New York Times. But you know what? I'm sure we all have a great time once we get there. And I usually come back with a whole lot less dysentery and fewer bug bites. What can I say? I like to be spoiled.

In preparation for this trip, Jorge and I have been listening to "One Night in Bangkok" a lot. We can't understand most of the words, but we have been able to decipher the phrases:
"The creme de la creme of the chess world..." and
"If you're lucky the girl's a she"

So I'm thinking we're in for an interesting trip.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Photos from Jorge’s safari

OK, not to say Jorge’s life is more interesting than mine, but here’s another Jorge-related post for the week. Jorge returned a week ago from a trip to Northern Tanzania. I’ve finally had time to go through and select some of the best photos from his safari, which I thought I would share here. From the looks of it, they had pretty good luck on safari. They not only saw a wide variety of animals, they also got to watch the everyday life and death cycle of nature: lion cubs, cheetahs on the hunt, vultures devouring a hyena, and lions enjoying a freshly caught meal.

The travellers: Jorge with his brother Ed and friend Tommy

A lion resting in a tree. This is a rare sight in Tanzania, and normally is only seen in Lake Manyara National Park.

Cheetahs on the hunt. They were unsuccessful, thanks to the phalanx of safari vehicles.

Hippos in Ngorongoro Crater. They are a surly bunch.

A mother with her cubs. I was beyond jealous when I saw this photo.

And my favorite of the bunch - a beautiful lion cub.

Vultures eating a hyena carcass. They plucked out the eyes first.

One of three leopards (or "lay-o-pards", as Jorge calls them) that they spotted.

Jorge is good at noticing the little details, like this beautiful lilac-breasted roller.

Jorge's brother Ed with a friendly market seller

I just love this photo.

A pair of male lions eating lunch.

And an odd bit of synchronicity: This is Jorge, standing at the entrance to the Serengeti, in almost the exact same spot where I had this photo taken of me 6 years ago!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

“Numero Uno”

That’s what Jorge insists he be called now, after his second race victory this year.

Well, to be accurate, he didn’t actually win this race, but he was the first male azungu, or foreigner, to finish the race. The race in question is the annual Mt. Mulanje Porters’ Race. The Porters’ race course is a 22 kilometer circuit up, over, and down Mt. Mulanje, which, as you’ll know from a previous post, is the 3rd-highest peak in Africa. This race is not for the faint of heart, as it involves steep climbs and dangerously slick rock-strewn paths. The competition is made up mostly of mountain porters and guides, who are used to climbing the mountain several days a week.

Naturally, Jorge wasted no time on trivial things like training. Preparation is for the weak-minded.

But I knew he would do well. Jorge isn’t the fastest guy on the block, but there’s no one who can beat him for endurance. The more tortuous and masochistic the task, the better Jorge does. Half-marathon? He’ll do alright. But a half-marathon in searing heat and no water? Oh, he’ll toast everyone.

So instead of Numero Uno, I think I’ll resurrect his mother’s old nickname for him: Old Camel. (Of course, he got the nickname for the way he smelled, but camels have many other admirable attributes. So the smell can be overlooked.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's a big day today!


Holy cow. That sounds so...grown up. I remember being a kid when "30-somethings" was the big hit show, and those people had such crazy, dramatic, event-filled lives. And they were old. I'm nothing like those people, I swear.

So, today is much like any other day. Off to work in the morning, plenty to do. Jorge picked me up for lunch, which was a nice treat. Tonight we are having a handful of friends over for dinner - we've got pizza dough and all the toppings, so everyone can make their own creation. Pizza has become a bit of a tradition on my birthday (yes, original, I know. I'm right there with every grade-school kid in America). But that's only because on the last two years we couldn't find a good restaurant open - first it was a Monday (a lot of New Orleans restaurants close on Mondays), then it was post-Katrina - so pizza was the default option. Still, I do love me some pizza, so I'm not complaining.

Jorge has been all a-twitter getting everything ready for tonight. He's quite the Betty Crocker these days. He's particularly proud of his homemade strawberry daquiris, and has been obsessing over which pan to bake my cake in. So cute.

But, since it is a big milestone I suppose I should have a proper Moment of Reflection. Here goes:

Hey - 30's not so bad! I have a great husband, a good job in my chosen career, and I am living my dream of getting to see the world. And not a wrinkle to show for it. ;-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

You spoke, and I ignored you.

A couple months ago, I asked for opinions of where we should go for our summer vacation. Very few of you responded. That is because my readership clearly sucks, and is smaller than, oh, "Tractor World" magazine.

But that is OK. I don't need you. I made a decision all by my big girl self!

We are going to THAILAND!!!

We finally bought our tickets yesterday. We leave a week from tomorrow, on July 18th.

This is our plan:

July 19 - 21: Arrive in Bangkok and stay at the gorgeous Old Bangkok Inn for 2 1/2 days. We will be staying in this room, with our own private garden:

One of the coolest things about this place is that all rooms have a computer with high-speed internet. So I can blog from my hotel room! How cool is that?

July 22 - 25: Fly to Chiang Mai for 4 days up in the North, where we plan to do a short trek and rafting trip, and cooking classes. I might even get up on an elephant, although this prospect frightens me immensely, due to the widespread rise of enraged, rampaging elephants on the loose.

July 26 - 30: Spend 4 days in Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat. We are especially excited about this part. I'm pretty sure my grandmother actually went to Angkor Wat way back in the 70s, and I've always wanted to follow in her footsteps. Plus I've never quite gotten over my childhood dream of being an archeologist. Or the later dream of dating Indiana Jones.

July 31st - August 3rd: Finally, we'll fly to Ko Samui, or Ko Tao for a few days of beach time. Jorge can go diving, and I can indulge myself with a copy of the new Harry Potter book.

August 4 - 5: Then a couple final days in Bangkok for shopping before we head home!