Travel

LUANG PRABANG, LAOS. Sept.7-13, 2013.

We left the hustle and bustle of PP and landed in the sleepy little town of Luang Prabang. We were shuttled to our small Colonial hotel in an old fashioned Mercedes. LP is a Unesco World Heritage site so is protected from large multinationals – no Starbucks even! (the coffee here is fabulous!) LP truly has a sense of place, and a unique quaintness that the travel magazines and websites describe.

The chocolate covered Mekong and the vibrant green trees and shrubs make a beautiful back drop for the thousands of saffron clad monks that walk about all day long. Every morning, around 6am, the monks and townsfolk line the streets. The monks receive their alms. This is a religious ceremony for Buddists. (the way I see it, it is much like Halloween…..except it is daily, they are all dressed the same, it isn’t scary, it is quiet, and rice replaces candy!)

Our small resort was wonderful. We ended up spending a lot of time just hanging around there. Although this colonial resort has 20 rooms, we rarely saw anybody else there. Most days only two other rooms were filled. Our suite was the “Henri Mouhot” suite- named after the explorer who discovered Angkor Wat covered in the jungle. (view from our terrace)

During cocktail hour we thought we would play some cards we were in the library and found a strange deck with 72 cards. We spent quite awhile making up what we would consider a full deck. Bevan asked, “what shall we play?” and we both started laughing as the ONLY game we know with one deck is “fish”! So we taught ourselves how to play “Gin”, but accidentally shouted out “Jim”!

We did end up doing a couple of touristy things. We climbed to the top of the tallest mountain in town (about 270 steps) which was very difficult in 35 degree weather and full on humidity.

We went on a private tour to a village that makes whiskey from rice and weaves beautiful scarves. We visited a cave where for hundreds of years Buddhists come to pray, many leaving statues and ornaments of the Buddha in position of the day of the week that they were born. The cave was amazing but the further in we went, the fewer Buddhas and the more bat poop. Another day we hired a tuk tuk to drive us all around the town and the outskirts.

Other than that we rode bikes around town and relaxed!

We asked some of the staff at the resort if they swam in the chocolatey river. They said that is why their skin is so brown! They loved the paleness of our skin. We asked if there were any dangerous fish or snakes in the river. They thought that was quite funny, so we asked about hippos and crocodiles. We stumped them on hippo, until one lady, who maybe weighs 80-85 pounds said that the Loatian word is “water elephant”- which is her nick name! Bevan and I must have looked shocked, because her helpful friends explained that she is called that because she is fat!

Because we had the resort to ourselves I decided to join Bevan in the beautiful pool- edged by Lilly ponds and palm trees. I am pretty certain I heard the staff giggling and taking photos…just as I did when I spotted the hippos in the Zambezi River.

( cannot add more photos as computer keeps crashing!)

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PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA

The first day in Phnom Penh, which I will abbreviate as PP partly because it is shorter and partly due to the big city smell, we met our tour guide, Sophea, from Mango Cambodia tour company. (We bought a one night hotel with one day tour at a fund raiser for a Cambodian school that a couple from Calgary supports- basically the impetus for this trip). We ate at a restaurant that trains street kids and orphans to be waiters and chefs. The food was absolutely delicious although Sophea ordered us a house specialty for laughs. Tarantulas!

I know this is a horrible picture of me but I wasn’t thinking about my hair while sticking a giant spider leg into my mouth. Sadly my hair has not looked better yet…darned 40 degrees with humidity! Bevan did not partake…but I didn’t want to be rude. Bevan says I worry about hurting people’s feelings too much. He cites our conversation with one highly educated ex-pat who lives in PP as an example. Me: so, what do you do here for work?
Ex-pat: I write gay erotica.
Me: good for you! ( with the enthusiasm as if he had started an orphanage) you can do that anywhere you want to travel!

After lunch we had a tour of PP. We were surprised to see more luxury SUV’s than we see in Calgary. Most had military or police plates – most definitely some government corruption…although we did see a very large beautiful building with a very large placard reading “Phnom Penh Anti-Corruption Office”. Coincidentally it was right across from a very large car dealership selling Lexus, Range Rover, and Rolls Royce!

PP has quite a modern riverfront that bustles in the evenings, and a new development for the rich called Diamond Island. The rich and poor really do live side by side, although Diamond Island developers are trying to push the slums out. Three percent of Cambodians are Muslim, and most live on the water in small narrow boats. An entire family will live and work (fish) from here. This one had much more belongings than the others.

The next day we went to the countryside and visited some Buddhist temples. This was not a very spiritual experience as we were swarmed by women selling stuff inside the temple. They literally were grabbing things out of my hand. It was 10 degrees hotter than the sun in there so we didn’t have much patience and we left. On the way back to the van there were some young beggars in training. How can you say no to these little faces?

I gave the big guy money to buy a new shirt! Smelly!

The next day was a highlight. We travelled with Sophea, a lovely man who laughs continuously, and his brother to the village they grew up in. We stopped and had a close up view of the rice fields and water buffalo. We then had a tour of the village in an ox cart! Almost every person we passed, young or old, waved or hollered hello from their home! We felt like celebrities. We even had a small following!

We finished our day off with dinner at an amazing little wine bar close to our hotel. We had to leave our hotel at 4:30am to catch our 6:30 flight to Laos. The hotel must have asked staff to be ready to help us with our bags because there were 2 staff members sleeping outside our room. They didn’t stir at all! The security guard was fast asleep at the entry. He didn’t wake when we opened up the main gate for our driver who had pulled up. We must be very quiet people!

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Halifax, June 4-9, 2013

Often when preparing for a trip I need to get immunizations,  learn a few new words in the language of my destination, or do a currency exchange. I sure didn’t think any of these would be necessary traveling within my own country. In retrospect, I should have purchased and studied the Nova Scotia dictionary! The following may be helpful in reading the rest of this post which is written with nuances of Nova Scotian.

Muckle:  I was afraid so I muckled on to his arm. (to grasp firmly)

That’s just NOT right.  (It is really excellent!)

Last week my friend come over to my house. (Last week my friend came over to my house).

All raged up. (I am very angry)

Right…. I am right tired (very)

The purpose of our trip was to visit Kim and Shawn – and Boston – their 5 year old English Bulldog who just starred in the musical “Legally Blonde”. I was happy to see that Boston’s fame did not go to his head. (Although his head is a little big – probably just genetics.) Boston pictured below – looks like he is smoking but he had just been right nasty with his stuffy toy.

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Kim and Shawn have made a lovely home for themselves and they were the perfect hosts. Shawn made some seafood chowder that just wasn’t right!!  And it went perfectly with Kim’s beer bread which was right tasty. This meal was worth the trip alone. I’m glad I come there.

Kim took a couple of days off to play tour guide and visit. She said she knew of a great shoe store in Mahone Bay so I muckled onto her. En route to Mahone Bay we drove by Peggy’s Cove. Now those familiar with the area may say, “wait a second, Peggy’s Cove is NOT on the way to Mahone Bay”…let’s just say that even though Kim is Bevan’s sister, she and I have the same navigation skill gene! It was a beautiful day – beautiful scenery, lunch on the waterfront, and toodling around artsy stores. I rode shotgun so the boys got the backseat.

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During our road trip I was so excited when I saw a light brown baby bear walking along a driveway. I shouted out “baby bear” so loud that I almost made Kimmy lose control of the car! Sadly by the time everyone recovered from my yelling  and the oncoming traffic cleared, the bear had left and there was a pit bull in its place. Kim and Bevan had quite the chuckle – but in my mind’s eye – I saw the bear. It was so cute – about the size of a dog.

The next day we hung out in Halifax along the Harbour front- enjoyed the sun, some great Nova Scotian wine (truly and surprisingly) and toured down town. What a beautiful city. Later, after Shawn got off work we come over to Tracy and Deana’s home for a visit.

By the time the weekend came  around – so did heavy rains. Poor Shawn missed all the nice weather while he was working. The weekend was great –  went for a drive, had a wonderful feast, and Tracey and Deana come over for contact Pictionary, some beverages and some dancing!  Sunday – we tearfully said goodbye to our wonderful hosts, and headed back home to Alberta.

Other things I experienced in Nova Scotia:

-riding a ferry across the harbour from Halifax to Dartsmouth

-“sideways rain”

-shopping at Super Store and Joe Fresh

-being in the fringe of a hurricane (thanks Florida for sharing!)

-partying like a Maritimer (28 bottles of beer, 3 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of rum) – 6 people.  Just saying, that Bevan and I were NOT hung over the next morning. Perhaps it was the super chowder we ate…. Or perhaps we didn’t drink our fair share?

-disturbed sleep due to a right  loud snoring  by a FAMOUS bulldog  in the next room

-Kim’s expert navigational skills

-the worst driver’s in a developed country. We expect poor driving in undeveloped countries but never in a country where taking a test prior to getting a license is required. We had cars flying at us from all angles.  Kim got right raged up but expertly avoided several near death collisions.

-learned more about the stresses of Shawn’s work – he is a patient man! Trying to keep his staff working is like herding cats.

-the best seafood chowder ever!  Thanks Shawn!

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New York City, May 16-20, 2013

When Bevan and I were dating we thought it would be a lot of fun to go to NYC. Actually I remember Bevan saying that it would be great – but we would each NEED about $10,000 to spend on clothes for the weekend. That is probably the day I fell in love with him. We have both been to NYC, never together, and never with $10,000 to spend shopping. I am happy to report that after 15 years  of dreaming about it, we  FINALLY made it to NYC together (without the $20,000 mind you!)

NYC was fabulous! I love the tall buildings. I love the diversity of people. I love the different neighbourhoods that each have their own flavour and personality. I love that every designer has their own dedicated store. I love the vast choice of broadway shows, museums, and restaurants. I love the energy. I love the hustle and bustle. But mostly I love the people. I found everyone helpful and friendly – whether  in a nice hotel, a ma and pa coffee shop, a young hip beautiful couple waiting in line beside us, sales people, or the person I ask for directions in the subway – everyone was friendly, polite and helpful. The rumour that New Yorkers are not friendly simply is false. Even a man riding his bike in a bikini took time out of his busy day to interact. (Kinda sad that an old man is cycling around NYC in a girls bikini in search of tips/tourists taking photos for cash/ being treated like a weirdo. Is it wrong to be jealous that he looks better in a bikini that I do??)

bikini-man

And yes – I did say ‘subway’. Although I love all sorts of travel methods (planes, bike, boats, cars, camels) I have a severe dislike, perhaps phobia, of subways. Firstly they are underground – that is just wrong. They are crowded. They are dirty. They are filled with freaks, flashers and felons. But I put my fears aside, as Peter, the owner of El Refugio in the Cloud Forest in Ecuador, whom I met last month, was in Brooklyn. Peter and his lovely partner, Janice, met Bevan and I at the subway station and took us on a short walking tour of Brooklyn. There is so much history there and the town homes and architecture are amazing. Although it was raining, we could see across the water to a foggy Manhattan and foggy Statue of Liberty. I would love to return on a warmer, sunnier day and toodle around more.We went to a local restaurant for brunch – the food and energy of the place was only surpassed by our wonderful conversation with our hosts.

We did hit broadway – although it was not the most elegant and spectacular production ever made. We went to Rock of Ages. It was a lot of fun and the loud 80’s Rock and Roll made me feel like making my hair really big again and pulling out the shoulder pads from storage. (Sad to say that neon is actually back in style!)

We stayed at a fantastic hotel on 5th Avenue. (Langham Place). Bevan treated us to a suite – which had a fantastic view of the city from the living room, and the lights of the Chrysler building could be seen from the window in the bedroom. The service was amazing at the hotel and the staff went above and beyond. As I mentioned – it is on 5th Ave – which is a great location for shopping – and not far from the quaint “Meat Packing District” which also has lots of shopping. I am now personal friends with Tory Burch and Trina Turk. Bevan is on a first name basis with Cole Haan.

Modes of Transportation taken besides the subway: Maserati, Bicycle Tuk Tuk, and NYC cab.  Costs: Free/$12/ $127 for 7 blocks…..can you guess which one cost what????

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The cab rides we took averaged around $12, the Maserati was free – even to other neighbourhoods (complimentary of the hotel!) and the Bicycle Tuk which drove us home 7 blocks to our hotel cost $127!!! Our mistake for not asking first. We weren’t sure if this was the true cost or if we had been “Shanghai-ed”. Either way, it was all fun!

We had a great time – can’t wait to go back. I hope to join my two crazy sister-in-laws and my Mom-in-law in September – a late celebration of Marilee’s birthday. The 4 of us travelled to Thailand together for Marilee’s 65th birthday. Tonya’s blog is linked on mine (Survivor Thailand: Frizzell edition).  I re-read it recently and really enjoyed Tonya’s humour. It is funny – however, at the time, I didn’t think it was. Although I found Ton’s portrayals of Kim, Marilee and herself to be EXTREMELY accurate, I was quite hurt and insulted with her portrayal of me. Reading it now – I laugh. Boy she had me pegged….although I am sure I never, never said “I can’t simply stay in anything less that 3 star…”….I really can’t imagine saying something so absurd. I am sure I said 4 star!! Fingers crossed that I can join these great women – I feel honoured to be considered a part of the Frizzell’s Girls Club!

When I win the lottery – I am moving to NYC (well, not in the summer when it is too humid…or in the winter when it is cold…….

xoT

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