Australia, Planning, Vacations

An Unexpected Upcoming Journey

Once we decide where we are going each year, the first thing I check is if we need any immunizations. For the most part, the shots aren’t really a big deal. However, when we had to get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations (multiple spread over a period of time) before the big Asia trip, I got a little sick each time. This immunization basically expires after two years, so my goal was to never have to get it again. Luckily Japan was high up on our list of travel destinations, so Japan it was.

I started my research and started to come up with a broad itinerary. I downloaded an app and every day I’d spend a bid of time trying to learn how to read Japanese. Of course I spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor, as well. Things were coming together until…

Hub found out he was going to speak at a conference in Sydney.

Now Australia was on the list, but it was not high on the list. It’s very far. But it would have been silly not to take advantage of the fact that we could combine work and vacation, meaning work would pay for a significant amount of expense. So Sydney it was/is.

Suddenly I had to start from square one with the research, and semi-quickly, because we were leaving in three months.

Did you guys know that a lot of things are trying to kill you in Australia? And speaking of that, don’t get me started on the crocodile stories. I made the mistake of doing some research, and now my Google news feed blesses me with any new horrifying crocodile stories that happen in Australia. Great!

But the more I researched it, the more excited I got. And all of the sudden, it’s next week. We will be on planes for over 24 hours. Whew. This will definitely be the furthest we’ve gone. I will try to take you along for the ride and hopefully share some of the amazing things I expect we’ll be seeing and doing (WiFi permitting).

So buckle up, people. We’re headed to the other side of the world.

Click here!

 

General

Thank You, Anthony

As I said in an old post, I inherited my love for travel from my Grandma. She used to go to Europe pretty much every year, and bring me back a doll or some other keepsake. She or my Grandpa would tell a few tales of where they’d been or what she’d seen. Honestly, I don’t remember much, but I do remember the general feeling of excitement and adventure.

I never thought I’d be able to travel beyond the U.S. or the Caribbean. The first time I went to Hawaii, when I got married, was a bit of a dream come true as I never thought I would make it there unless I was extremely lucky. I was indeed.

When I moved from middle America to the East Coast it was ait of a shock, but it was ultimately a very good thing for me. I was exposed to new things that I hadn’t experienced in the Midwest. I moved to a neighborhood where I was most certainly the minority. I started trying new foods that either weren’t available back home, or that I was just too scared to try. I fell in love. I got married and we slowly started to do some traveling. Most of it was to our families. As we got older and had more expendable income, we traveled more often.

We started watching travel shows, and came upon Anthony Bourdain’s shows. This tall, geeky, self-assured man would travel to places I didn’t know that I wanted to go to. Each episode not only offered some crazy food he’d try and moan about, but more importantly showed landscapes and people that were simply amazing. I remember watching several of his episodes in Thailand and Vietnam and thinking, “Maybe we should go there?”. It was something I hadn’t even considered before.

Bourdain made it less scary to go to places where people didn’t look like you, and taught you that it was actually silly to be nervous about these places in the first place. The last episode I remember watching was him in Vietnam actually *driving* a motorbike. Not just riding it. And he looked totally comfortable.

It’s really odd to me that I had no idea the impact he had on me until I found out about his death. I didn’t understand why I was so upset. I mean, I always thought he was a good guy with maybe a little bit of jerk thrown in, but why was this so unsettling when obviously I never knew the man? I came to the conclusion that if it wasn’t for his shows I probably would never have gone to Asia or to Africa–the two best trips of our lives so far. Hell, I probably would never have gone further than the 100% comfortable places, and I would have missed out on so much. I would have missed all the best bits.

So thank you, Anthony. You opened up the world to me. RIP.

Sylvia's Stones, Vacations

Remembering Sylvia

I think in an old post I referenced Sylvia, but I never really explained how she’s part of our trips now. I know this is a travel journal, and not really all that personal, but as Sylvia is very much a part of our travels now I thought this post was overdue.

Exploring new destinations is so important and interesting to me, personally, that I love hearing about my friend’s trips or reading trip reports, etc. Not all people are like that, but my friend Sylvia definitely was. She used to love hearing about our trips in detail, and I loved reliving them with her.  When some friends and I (all from the US) visited Sylvia (in Canada) a few months after my trip to Africa, I was still high from the experience. Sylvia was basically a shut in at that point due to poor health, so one evening I asked if she wanted to see some videos we had taken on safari. The videos ranged from several seconds to several minutes, and there were over 70 of them. I had no idea we had so many, and I repeatedly told her we definitely didn’t have to watch them all. I thought it might be extremely boring, but she wanted to see them. We watched every single one and she truly enjoyed seeing the African terrain and marveled at the vibrant colors and the animals (especially the elephants).

Almost two months to the day after the visit Sylvia passed away. I truly struggled after that as I loved her dearly and she was the first close friend I had that passed away.  img_93276702323451657016472.jpg

I wanted to think of a way to keep Sylvia’s memory alive, and one day as I was looking around on Etsy I discovered these small marker stones that people get engraved to put on headstones, etc.. All of the sudden I knew exactly what we should do: get some stones made in Sylvia’s honor and start leaving them in the new places we traveled to.

img_20180525_1347432528280045699207948.jpgI wasn’t sure if it was crazy doing it, and to be honest I didn’t care. Sometimes it was tricky, sometimes it was teary, but it always felt right.

The first five stone placements can be found in the next post, or right here.

Sylvia's Stones, Vacations

Sylvia’s First Five Stones: France, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand & Vietnam

Stone 1 (France: Château d’Ussé)

We rented bikes and rode to the chateau that was said to have inspired the look of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. It seemed the perfect place to put this first stone. We knew right away that putting the stone indoors would be wrong, plus we didn’t want to take a chance of someone finding it and throwing it away.

We wandered the grounds until we found a spot that was hidden away by a brick wall/doorway. The spot overlook the water and a quaint bridge, and was in the front of the castle. Sylvia definitely would have approved.

 

Stone 2 (Indonesia: Indian Ocean)

To date, stone 2 is the only one I asked for permission to place. We were on a diving/snorkeling trip and I wanted to make sure it was OK to leave a stone in the ocean and it wouldn’t be considered littering or whatnot. It was interesting trying to explain to my guide what I wanted to do, as English wasn’t his first language (although he spoke it quite well). He eventually understood, and on one snorkel when I said ‘how about next to that purple coral – she loved the color purple’ he explained that the coral would move away. He then suggested putting it in an anemone where fish already lived so it could be in an actual home. He said it wouldn’t hurt the anemone as it was just a rock. I loved the idea, so he dove under and placed it inside. Watching this video puts a smile on my face as I remember those clown fish that live there, too, and now they have a special rock representing a special lady. I think it would be a miracle if human eyes ever saw that one again.

 

Stone 3 (Singapore: Orchid Garden)

Singapore is the greenest big city I’ve ever been to. It’s spectacularly clean, with gorgeous parks, gardens, and green spaces. We went to the orchid garden and it blew our minds with the sheer volume and variety. I knew this was where the stone belonged. The problem was we didn’t want anyone to mess around with the stone, so we needed to hide it.  It was quite a busy area and because there were so many different turns and twists inside the garden, I doubt I could find this location again. I’m sure that the people who take care of the plants there could very well find this stone, but I’m hoping they leave it. A purple flower for Sylvia.

 

Stone 4 (Thailand: Private Island)

We were on a private island south of Phuket. No cars, no traffic, private pool, breathtaking views. Bliss. Such a peaceful spot deserved a stone, so we put it with the other stones around the pool, with the amazing water view. A beautiful place to rest.

 

Stone 5 (Vietnam: Rice Terrace)

Vietnam was somewhere I didn’t expect to like, but I fell in love with it. The people are kind and welcoming and the food is amazing (and I didn’t have Vietnamese food before the trip, so that was pretty lucky!). There were so many different spots that I could have left a stone, but the rice terraces with the beautiful views and amazing tiny village below was the spot of choice.

 

Asiana, Masterpiece Trip 2017, Saigon, Vietnam

Happy Anniversary! Worst. Flight. Ever. (Long last day Saigon and Transfer to New Jersey)

Our flight wasn’t leaving until after midnight, so we had a full day and night to spend in Saigon before the long flights home. We decided the last day would be spent with a little sight seeing, some pampering, shopping, and finishing up with another motorbike tour.

We had to see if our custom stuff was done first, so we went to the tailor’s place to see if our stuff was ready. Unfortunately Sal’s wasn’t there yet so he’d have to go back later. Mine was there, so I went to try it on. I got into the little room and could barely fit the dress over my hips. I was like, “what the…how much did I actually eat at that beer tasting?!?” Then I noticed the sleeves were missing, too. Finally I figured out he had accidentally given me the sample size and not my fitted dress. We all got a good chuckle out of that one. The actual dress fit great and I loved it. Sal’s still wasn’t ready and he’d have to go back later and get his. I was slightly worried he wouldn’t get his in time, but it all worked out in the end.

We strolled a bit and checked out the Post Office.

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Continue reading “Happy Anniversary! Worst. Flight. Ever. (Long last day Saigon and Transfer to New Jersey)”

Masterpiece Trip 2017, Saigon, Vietnam

Motorbiking And Beer Tasting (Saigon Day Two)

We got up early and walked over to the park where there was supposed to be a bird cafe (a cafe where people bring their birds to practice singing). Unfortunately we weren’t up early enough, and there really weren’t all that many birds! We did see a bunch of people exercising in various ways, though:

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Badminton
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Beautiful Park
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Free machines with bikes
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Early morning dancers!

Continue reading “Motorbiking And Beer Tasting (Saigon Day Two)”

Masterpiece Trip 2017, Saigon, Vietnam

AO Show (Saigon Day One)

We were back in Saigon for a few nights and this was the last stop of our amazing holiday, so it was a bit bittersweet. We took it easy for most of the day.  We went to the tailor to try on our custom-made clothing. I had a dress and Sal had a shirt and a sports coat. I tried the dress on and thought it was just OK; I didn’t really notice it being any better than something I’d buy off the rack. The tailor saw it and saw where it needed to be taken in. He used pins and chalk and I have to say it did look better afterward, even with just the pins. Fitted is very nice!

Continue reading “AO Show (Saigon Day One)”

Masterpiece Trip 2017, Mekong Delta, Saigon, Uncategorized, Vietnam

Totally Jinxed Myself (Mekong Delta -> Saigon Travel Day)

I woke up and still had a sore throat and cough. I decided to take some medicine that day and either I was naturally getting better, or it worked. Shew! We had both slept better. I decided I would wait and take a shower at the hotel, because I did not feel like wrestling again with the handheld shower. Spray to the face is not a fun way to wake up.

We only had time for breakfast and then said our goodbyes to the boat staff. They all had big smiles for us and it was a bit bittersweet. There was something really special about boating through the canals, waving to workers and locals. I will never forget the smiling, friendly people there. The “hellos” that first night just made the whole Mekong Delta part of the trip extra special, and is something I won’t ever forget. The “fuck you” took a little bit away from it, but ya know…teenagers. Jerks.

Continue reading “Totally Jinxed Myself (Mekong Delta -> Saigon Travel Day)”

Masterpiece Trip 2017, Mekong Delta, Uncategorized, Vietnam

I Am A Ding Dong (Mekong Delta Day One)

First, another apology. I really don’t know why it’s taken me so long to finish the blog for this trip. I think I just never wanted it to end! It was sad coming home and frankly the whole thing felt like a dream. A good one, but sort of surreal. I wonder if that’s how the people who travel for a year feel? Anyway, I am getting the occasional comment from various people (OK, mostly my mom) asking if I am going to finish this trip blog. I think I just needed to start planning a new trip before I could finish this one. Or something. Anyway, I apologize to those people (mom) who have stopped by and found I’d not updated. Here ya go!

I got up after what felt like maybe two hours of sleep. You can’t sleep late on a boat due to noise and movement. Also roosters. I was coughing a decent amount so decided to try a hot shower. There was a handheld showerhead and a regular overhead. When I pulled the button to try to get the overhead to work, it unfortunately triggered the handheld. I say unfortunately because the handheld was aimed directly at my face. Nice. It was like a clown’s flower times a gazillion. Sal thought it was reaaaal funny when I reenacted it later on.

Continue reading “I Am A Ding Dong (Mekong Delta Day One)”