Asia Reflections July 2013

Asia trip reflections

Wed Jul 10

I love the fact that Angkor wat is so big that one needs to start eliminating 1000 yo temples due to lack of decoration bc of time.

Fri jul 12

Motor bike for rent. Saigon death wish.

Clever way to use old plastic bottles make a trash  can.

They certainly pack them in on the tour minivan.

How come when I take 2 million dong from the ATM it seems like a lot of money but is less than US$100?

Bonus war museum entry is only $.75

War remnants museum. Very sad to see all the destruction & they seem to have gone light on the gory pictures.

Check out the figurine you can paint complete with large pee pee.

Snake wine anyone?


Everywhere u turn people are eating. Day & night. How are they skinny?

V are very like nyers. Pushing shoving yelling are no big deal. Almost affection.

And still I am 1 ft taller than 90%.

Had lunch with James & Sarah. Beautiful couple. Of course 19yo! Feeling old.

This city is so confusing. I have no idea how you can tell your way around. We drive for 20 min and end up where we start.

Asian cities are bigger than they appear on maps.  When I attempt to walk anywhere it’s twice as long as expected.

S Vietnam prez palace in exact state as when they departed

Did the us or s vn ever invade the north? No according to guide.

Pres palace interesting but literally frozen in the 60s

Impressive that they kept it as a muse but wish they had more exhibits

I guess the vn are democrats. When I tried to correct the guide about who ordered the coup against pres Diem in 1963 he insisted the republicans did it. Lol

Night. Gay bar a bust. Grim karaoke night. Cute DJ but rest were dull.


Sat jul 13

Serious damage shopping today. I think I need to save some of the gifts for Xmas.

Govt shops didn’t bargain but got some good deals on other things. When I need something I don’t even bargain bc it’s so cheap.

There are literally hundreds of travel agencies here I don’t understand how they survive.

Corn milk is yummy

They have their own version of the So Afr parking gods here. You can valet park your scooter on the sidewalk. When u get back the valet pulls it from the stacks.

Everyone covers their mouths here with masks but I find the air better than Phoenix.

Cabs here only $2.50! But cab drivers really don’t know how to shift. I feel for these stick shift cars.

Everyone wears flip flops here. Maybe in honor of John Kerry?

So the VN use roman characters with lots of French accents. Weird when u think about it

When the light turns green there are cars all over the intersection that magically disappear as your car accelerates.

When cab is turning rt he still stays in the middle lane to avoid cutting off mopeds.

When getting a massage


Sun jul 14

Saigon wharf Ho Chi Minh museum.  The treat HCM items like relicts they save his shirt helmet cooking bowl rice bag. He is a secular saint.

The museum is a bit scarce. They reuse photos & descriptions from 1 floor to the next.

Gayest picture of HCM working at hotel Carlton in NYC

Downright cool here today. No sun & a breeze

Sunday is quiet & seems everyone  is home

Haircut for only $3

Scary Aussie is not at his usual cafe this am. He spends all day there watching people go by

I definitely recommend the backpacking district for hotel. There are no pools or big restaurants but there are plenty of backpackers to oogle. Good nightlife cheap services and more of a Vietnamese feel than the big western hotel. Beautiful Saigon 3 is very nice for $40 night.

It’s amazing the VN talk the phone smoke hold small children all on their scooters.

Ok I’ve added 13 kilos of purchases just in Saigon. Thankfully Singapore will be to expensive to buy anything.

Very excited to get back to my 1st class travel tomorrow.

VN air with as Yankee a pilot as you can get!_

Bonus. For $35 upgraded to biz class on VN airlines. Nice bonus to go with my trip. Free drinks!

Mon jul 15

Cab driver offering me Thai girlfriend then Thai boyfriend. It’s too early. 530 am. Then trying to charge 400 baht. (Us$12)

It only cost 120 yesterday.

There is a lot of bad musac over here.

Back to biz class travel. Nice!

Noise canceling earphones kind of worth it

SINGAPORE! Just arrived and hotel is great tho seems on the edge of town. 6th flr seems to be my lucky floor as I’m in 620. Now to explore city

VN favorite country city so far

Metro escalators here are stand left walk right. Unlike DC

They give plastic bags for any reason here. Really no reason. Wasteful.

SGP SO much cooler! Plus Ac everywhere.

Tues jul 16

Calculated 55 hr trip home with 23 in Amsterdam but not including 90 min from airport to DC

SGP is delightfully cooler. Still humid but only high 70s

Quail eggs for bkfst. Yummy. Going to try turtle soup & frog legs this pm

Hooters. Exporting the best of us culture.

SPs seem angrier than most places and not afraid to be rude. 😦

Sp birthday is not until Aug 8 but there are banners

Sands hotel has cool roof but check out lines are horrible just like Vegas

SP have perfected ticket prices. Charge for skywalk conservatories and audio car tour each separate. Ugh!

Conservatory / sands hotel super futuristic!

It’s like disneys future world

We’d jul 17

Last day in Asia 😦

Sands hotel has 2000 rooms as I suspected. Huge.

Taking double decker bus tour of SGP

Old harbor is now a reservoir. I wondered how they kept water. Dam at entrance keeps out sea

Idea of gardens & bridges in the sky are big here. Many tall buildings have gardens halfway up.

Not sure how SGP with such a high GDP has so many servants & cleaners.

Seems I could never find big water bottle & when I did they are filled to the cap which keep spilling over.

Apts 85% SGPians live in state apts. state apt go us$300-800 private apt us$1 mil plus

Malls malls everywhere. Q

Bus tour is good call for SGP since its pretty small.

None of the sidewalks bus pathways or hallways are level here. I am constantly tripping.

Biz class problems:   having no one to talk to bc your seat & the one next to you are empty. Bulkhead so far away you can’t put your feet up.

SGP has a red swastika school!


Thurs jul 18

A380 is amazing. Bathroom is bigger than my home one

Bed is huge up here in first & whole section is men but not the young goodlooking kind. Surprised I have not had a celebrity sighting yet but then I may not recognize them.

My chair was huge and so comfortable. I need to do this everywhere.

Freaked me out in the Thai lounge when the waitresses get all the way on their knees to serve u food & drink.

I will miss the cold towels everywhere I go!

Prob at gate. There are 2 flts to Frankfurt within 10 minutes of each other Thai a380 at 1145 & Lufthansa 747 at 1155 one at d4 the other at e4. Spent 40 min running btw the gates.

Slept 6 hrs on flt which was wonderful bed was more comfortable than some hotels!

Europe is too egalitarian. No 1st or biz class in Frankfurt to Amsterdam.  Rude awakening.

Bad line karma too

Amsterdam city of. Bikes but no helmets

Touring new Rijksmuseum in Am. Dutch are very into group pix.


Fri jul 19

Trip home 😦

Amsterdam sunny & dry.

Forgot how late it stays sunny here. Still light at 10pm. Churches definitely not a priority here.

Weather has been great here for 24 hrs.

Dutch very multicultural. Lots of African heritage locals. Seen a lot of Black Americans which is nice that they feel comfortable traveling here. Asia not so much.

Check in line for United goes for 200 yds. Glad I’m 1st class. They only have 2 flights how big are the planes? Mine is 767

Weird being in Europa. There are people my size & bigger here.

Head of check in line for 5 min. How do they get all passengers processed in 2 hrs? This was much better on other airlines.

Eu passport wins again. Express lane thru customs.

Ok United rents a lounge from a local service company. But the lounge does not even have enough seats for those here. Singapore rents 1/2 just for its clients

Despite the lounge. (And I think I was sent to the biz class lounge not 1st class. ) the seats on United are very comfortable.  Lots of seat storage which is nice. Only 3 seats across.

United flt attendance have short waiter Ike jackets




India Adventures

DSCN0035I have tried to write a journal in past trips but found getting pen to paper really hard: finding the time, writing all I wanted to write, etc. I have solved it in a minor way by journalling on my iphone. In cabs, trains, and airports I was able to write quick thoughts about what I was seeing. Please don’t be offended by anything below. Sometimes I was quite cranky and sometimes quite sick. Overall I loved India and can’t wait to go back.

Delhi December 9 at 1am

Heavy sooty smell as I disembarked. City looks like enveloped in a fog but it’s just smog. Looks like I’ll need a mask in Delhi & Mumbai. Made it off plane thru customs got bag and into car in 30 min.
Evidently red lights mean stoptional for large trucks at night. Scary
Mon EEC 9
Great breakfast with Charu at her place. It’s amazing.
Toured her school which is very nice.
Detour for rupees at citibank then mogul humyans tomb now lunch.
Lunch at gotomama and shopping at khan mkt.
India gate now back to farm.
Tuesday. 12/10
Delhi to Agra to Jaipur.
The horn is an essential part of Indian cars.
Weather is weird. There is a white haze reducing visibility to 2-3 miles. No mountains or hills to see. Everything is just flat.
The whole country has a faint spell of incense.
Longer drive from Agra to Jaipur than I thought but glad I did it. I miss mama Charus. It was plush there.
Poverty is certainly everywhere but no worse than Cambodia or Guatemala.
Wednesday 12/11
Woke up at 3 am again unfortunately. I need to try ambien tonite to sleep thru.
Got up in time to catch the city tour. I hope to see most of the city now and come back to markets and sun temple tomorrow. I know what I should do but only after the fact unfortunately. I need to get back on my game. Lol
Tomorrow I need a cab for the day to take me around.
They are very stingy with wifi here. In morocco it was at every restaurant and hotel here it’s a challenge to log on.
Had a great daylong tour with local tour guide.
Met vishal & Anjali who are here on business.
Forts & palaces are amazing but confused by all the names and dynasties bought 2 books to understand.
Had massage but it was anticlimactic after the ones in Asia.
Thurs 12/12
Woke up at 6 am with 8 hrs sleep.
Amazed driving thru mkts. In Thai cam & Vietnam the mkts had western global products. Here there are many more local crafts & products.
Ok my guidebook is 5 yrs old. Think I’ve been planning this for a while? Need to get back to tripadvisor.
Best store quote
Kwality products.
Fri 12/13
Was able to run thru city palace in Jaipur this am withy buddy the cab driver. It was impressive & I’m disappointed it wasn’t on the first tour.
Now on train from Jaipur to Jodhpur which is a bit of a cluster. Finding the train proved impossible as they had the wrong track marked. A train c in and after many queries I dared to get on. It send as tho it’s going the right way…
Played on my iPad but something is sucking down the power. I turned off everything I could but is was still dropping fast.  ANNOYING
I’m over thus train. I need to find a flight to Udaipur. Everything takes forever in trains & cars at least there will be less traffic in the air.
Also note to self always go with a guide or redcap. I realize that for 50 cents someone will get me on the right train / tour / whatever.
India is as flat as a pool table. The land goes on forever with rare hills or mounds. It’s incredibly flat!
Definitely need to fly to Udaipur. No more 6-7 hr car / train trips. Ugh
It’s ridiculous that our train must pull over and wait for another do to single tracks.
Raika bagh then Jodhpur then bhagat ki kothi
Sat dec 14
Minor panic this morning when I could not find my wallet & passport. I searched everywhere and re packed everything. I finally asked reception to come help and tegu of course found it thank god. I then almost lost my sunglasses. I was losing it.
I checked out of the karni bhawan. It was just not doing it for me. The service was bad (they could not comprehend room service) and slow.  There were only about 6 other guests in the whole place and the internet was nonexistent which is a big problem.
Booked a guide & driver for the day for only $50 which is so nice. I liked the tour in Jaipur but this is easier. Hit all the sights with a guide with a car I can leave my stuff in which is a life saver. Going to different hotel today, Park Plaza which I hope compares well.
Hoping to go to Umaid
Bhawan hotel but they don’t let in people not staying there.
Hit the market this afternoon. Bought a Saree for Teag. I hope it fits.
Spending too much. Everything is $5 and so I buy gifts for everyone I can think of.
Plus the car and driver seem reasonable at $30 per day but I may be rationalizing. After the 7 hr train trip I am over the public transport. I’d fly from here if I could but it looks like a car to Udaipur is my best option.
Sun dec 16
Sick day.
I had dinner at a guide recommended restaurant On the Rocks. It’s is owned by the royal family and is one of the better restaurants. Besides eating on the deserted side of the restaurant which I found out as I left the chicken curry and spinach curry quickly became a lump into stomach. I thought I was just eating too much after not eating all day. Well that wasn’t it. I woke up at 6 am and threw up. I delayed my car at 9 to noon & threw up again. Finally at noon I called to cancel. By the time 2 pm rolled around I gave up and called for the doctor.
After Several confusing conversations with housekeeping. One where they came to clean up my puke. Another time they thought I said ADAPTORS for my electronics not DOCTOR. finally the hotel dr arrived around 330. He gave me the prescriptions I needed and I had my favorite bellboy Rahoul go get them for me. Besides throwing up all over the room floor as soon as I took the pills (housekeeping came thru again) I immediately started to feel better. I kept to some Pepsi, toast and tea for the next few meals but I started getting better. Luckily there were great movies on all day so I enjoyed myself.
Mon dec 16
New day! Feeling better thankfully since I have a 5 hr drive to Udaipur with my faithful driver Modu. He has been very good taking care of me as I slept in the back of the car. We stopped at a hotel on the way which has a cool outdoor dining area with large fabric panels surrounding it and a big tapestry on poles overhead. It’s quite dramatic. I think I should do this in my apartment for my bday party.
Lunch is grilled cheese so let’s hope I keep it down.
Btw loving the new camera it’s taken some getting used to but the pix are great and the wifi connector makes it so easy to upload to my iPhone.
Tues dec 17
Woke up loving this hotel yet again. It’s SO quiet. I didn’t realize until I was driving back from town today how loud everything is. Unlike Latin America there is not a soundtrack or audible music on every corner I us a cacaphony of horns shouts cars generators and everything. It is insane.
Saw the Udaipur city palace today and it was impressive. The complex is Huge and the museum only about a third of the total space the rest holds the royal family and 2 hotels.
I was surprised by the size of the royal apartments. The ceilings are all very low and the rooms small. They are much cooler than most dwellings thanks to the marble but even those designed as palaces are small.
I was also surprised to see that most of Rajasthan was built in 1500 onward. Even tho the Udaipur royals go back 75 generations, they moved here after the moghul invasion. All the cities claim not to have been conquered by the moghul emperors but yet they are part if the empire.
The tour today was short only 3 sites which is why it was cheaper probably R2800 including tip. The guide was also able to help me send things home. Unlike Cambodia tourists are pushed to the state run stores with ‘fixed’ prices which aren’t fixed. I’ve been able to haggle some.
The ‘antiques’ I was able to see today are nothing other than reproductions. Every store has a print made on old paper which can’t be possible given the number if merchants selling them.
I like the convenience to sending things home but I don’t think I can do so with anything else and expect it there by Xmas. I sent a pack today with the turbans to DC because I don’t think it will arrive by the time I get back.
Still not feeling great actually really gassy which I hope will be ok. I took the perscription from the dr in Jodhpur and refilled it here in case I get sick again. I am not eating much which hopefully helps me lose weight and stay healthy.
I had an amazing breakfast thus morning with actual pig Bacon! I haven’t dared to ask for beef but when he asked about bacon I jumped. It’s my revenge for the muzin call to prayer at 6 am.
Omg taking the sunset lake cruise and there is a beautiful boat set for dinner next to ours. I get 2 families. BUT the fat white guy who gets into the impeccable yacht is wearing sweatpants ughs and a baseball cap. I’m no one for standing for a dress code but that is too casual. Thankfully I think they’re French or South African.
My back is killing me. I wish I had not wasted a massage in Jodhpur. Hopefully I’ll get one in Goa. I think it’s from throwing up. Lol.
Wed dec18
Good morning India!
 430 am wake up call to head to airport for 7 am flight. I guess they are so early to beat the heat in Mumbai. It was 90 there yesterday so it will be warm.
I am the one fool who took the front desk seriously when they said leave at 5 am. Knowing most people are on Indian standard time that is probably why. Of course I show up early to check out and get my to go breakfast.
Loved the Trident. It was $140 a night but such a nice retreat from everyday India. No honking cars people just lush gardens.
I’m surprised in ann these cities that there are only 2-3 major sites. They are worth it but I thought there would be more.
Overall India is as poor as I expected. Everyone tried to warn me how desperate it is but I find it on par with Cambodia and Guatemala. The good thing here is that tho there is corruption the government is not actively trying to repress the people. The government is a problem but it is not a bad actor.
Selfishly I love the oversupply of labor as it makes everything cheap but I know that will change with time. I hope the can build the infrastructure to manage their growth.
Interesting day in Mumbai
I ran across beggars for the first time at least those I did not have a guide to protect me from. They see me and glom on. I ignore them but the follow for a long way. I had a woman not a beggar but a store promoter who followed me all the way thru the market and back just so I’d visit her shop. I still didn’t buy anything.
I ate at mcdonalds today. I have to say the very thought of food upsets my stomach. It has shrunk so much that a soup and a sandwich has me stuffed. I am excited for all the weight I’ll lose but hate the upset stomach.
It’s getting hotter as I move south. Today I was sweating quite a bit. The forecast said 90 so I wonder what Goa will be like.
There really isn’t much to see historically. Some beautiful Victorian architecture reminiscent of Belfast.  Of course they age less well in a tropical climate but the stone is sturdy.
Tomorrow Charu has lent me her car so I’ll take an early morning spin around the city before things start going.
Dinner at mandegar. Not great. Chinese soup with noodles then an attempt at fish & chips. Not good
Thurs Dec 19
Woke up at 7 am (early for me) to pack my bag so it didn’t go overweight which I had to pay for last time. Great breakfast at the Taj overlooking the harbor. Really amazing with BACON in the buffet. I was in heaven.
I met Charus driver Anand  for a tour of the city. I was shocked to see them let the car into the driveway but it was a brand new black BMW 740.
Anand gave a great tour of all Mumbais sights including the rich neighborhood. Including the most expensive home in the world 27. Flight was crowded arrived late looking for an ATM. After 1.5 hr drive arrived at hotel. Real letdown after the Taj  it’s  a touristy package hotel filled with Russians. Ugh
Walked around town last night which was like any beachfront honky tonk. Grim.
The large Russian ladies were singing kareoke and the Aussie 50 something’s were drinking under tikis.
Friday Dec 20
Goa is depressing after the amazing sites of north India. I wanted the beach and the Portuguese feel but it’s really not great. Or at least my town isn’t and it’s supposed to be a better one.
Had a $15 massage this am which really doesn’t compare to any in SE Asia. It was adequate but I have been spoiled.
Took a nap and almost kept sleeping but my bellman had booked a car for me so I woke up.
The driver clocked the odometer to verify 80 km for R1500 and said its R150 for every after that. How come cabs were so much cheaper up north.
Then he tried to pawn me off on his ‘brother’ who didn’t speak English. I has none of it and don’t trust him now so I’m watching closely.
At Bom Jesus Cathedral which is impressive. Saw the body of st Xavier which I really wanted to. This afternoon it’s the town of Panjim hopefully for some shopping.
Driver took me to 2 stores who had outrageous prices. The first was double the govt shop I went to in Jaipur and the second just as bad.
I went to the church in town which was nice but very Latin. Lots of decoration.  I arrived at 310 and it was not open yet. Eventually a little old man opened the door and a little old woman let us into the church.
After that I walked around and actually found a gift shop with reasonable non negotiable prices. I tried talking the woman down from 1300 but she wouldn’t budge. I also bought another battery for my camera so it doesn’t due again. The price was actually R100 cheaper than the one around the corner.
Off to casino royale tonite to eat and gamble a bit. We’ll see how I do.
R500 min bid. I won’t be betting big. Lol
In the Whiskey bar is a random wall of portraits including Ralph fines as a nazi in Schindlers list. Wtf?
The ship isn’t bad. Big. 6 stories. 3 floors of tables 1 food floor with bands and 2 restaurants. 1 floor of VIP rooms and 1 topside sky bar. I think I am way early. It’s only 830pm. Tons of staff like all good casinos and the drinks are almost stiff especially with no ice. It’s a refreshing change tho I better be careful.
There is a group of 10 guys all dressed in white shirts who came on the launch with me. They all seem to follow along together. I am not sure if it’s an old boy band or bachelor party. We’ll see as the evening goes.
I’m watching South African cricket which is interesting.
Sat dec 21.
I can’t believe I haven’t written today since I didn’t do much. Relaxed by pool then took cab to Titos rd in Baga which is night life central.
Spent a few hrs on the beach at a cafe which was really nice.
Tons of Russians. A few hotties but most not really. Plus older Russian women tend to look like 1950s diner waitresses. I expect them all in cats eye glasses. Strangely I really am the only American at the hotel.
Now off to meet Devayu Charus friends son. He said we’ll go to a beach party so we’ll see how that is.
Sun Dec 22
Last day in Goa.
Got in late last night from a wonderful dinner party with friends of Charus. They have a beach house right on the beach about 10 km north near the fous Curlies bar where a GB young girl Scarlet was murdered a few yrs ago. The house was amazing with a pool and large staff they family patriarch married a Utah girl so his daughters could pass for Anglo. It was a wonderful evening.
I woke up late 8 am and went for breakfast and a last hour by the pool. I’ve had some loose bm so went back on the meds from Jodhpur.
I’ve gotten used to the progressively warmer weather as I headed south so I don’t know what I’ll do back in the cold of Delhi and CT.
Interesting topic last night. They mentioned. Cops searched for Nigerians in cars looking for dark faces. They all laughed and said for the Tamils and South Indians to look out.
Aborted attempt to go to tower monument because it was closed. But just as happy because I’m tired
Nondescript flight to Delhi  and nice visit with Charu before early bed.
Mon dec 23
Slept in and leisurely breakfast with Charu at 9 am. It was good to catch up on everyone.
Back in the car with trusty race car driver Praveen to go visit yesterday’s site then meet Charu for lunch around 1 pm.