About Me

My photo
I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Factoids from My Travels in Asia

Here are a few of the things I've learned while on the move in Asia.

Roadside Gas - in Cambodia at least, gasoline comes in recycled plastic and glass water and soda bottles. The first time a tuk-tuk driver pulled up and poured a liter of gas into his vehicle I was astounded, but then I noticed that there aren’t many gas stations, especially in the touristy areas. So the obvious solution – gas by the bottle!

Honking is a Language – It took me awhile but I have learned the Asian language of honk speak. From the short, non-urgent beep (which just means “watch out,  I’m behind you”) to the repetitive, long beeps that signal “Get the hell out of my way!”, I could now drive the roads of Asia if all that was required was understanding what is being said with each blast of a vehicle’s horn.

Check Please – You will never be rushed after finishing a meal in Asia. In fact, I recommend sitting facing where the servers hang out because otherwise you may get a crick in your neck signaling for the check. But be prepared to whip out the cash while they stand there because wait staff doesn’t just present you with a bill and then walk away.

Tuk-tuks – I’m now in Vietnam and there are no tuk-tuks here – at least in Ho Chi Minh City –and I have to say it’s a relief. Although unless you have a private driver or drive yourself, in the other countries I visited, tuk-tuks are essential to getting around for travelers and even the locals. The constant calls of “tuk-tuk, madam” really grated on my personally though.

Suggestions – Be careful about making suggestions because they will always be viewed as criticisms and create embarrassment for the business owner or manager.

Luggage Carts are Free – At the airports, the luggage carts are free and plentiful. This makes getting around a terminal much easier and keeps the traffic flowing well.

Toilet Paper – I cannot stress enough that it is REALLY important to keep a packet of tissues on you, even if you’re headed to the mall. You never know when you will run into situation where toilet paper is not provided.

Leave Shoes at the Door – In many establishments, from spas to small hotels, you may be asked to leave your shoes at the door. This is especially true for temples.

Not Too Squeamish – As much as possible, leave your attitudes at home. This means when you eat at outdoor restaurants recognize that the occasional rat will go scurrying by and when walking the city unpleasant smells may assault you at any time. Also that noisy gecko (yes, they click loudly) in your room is actually your friend, eating the odd insect. I named mine Gary.

Watch the Water – Most people realize that drinking the water in foreign countries is dangerous but don’t forget to use bottled water for denture care and not to rinse out your mouth in the shower.

Learn How to Say Thank You – I fully intended to learn a few phrases of the language in every country I visited. That hasn’t happened but I have learned how to say thank you everywhere I’ve gone. Everywhere except the Philippines this has been warmly received and produces big smiles. Even better, I’ve found asking the names of drivers and anyone you see regularly astonishes and produces wonderful reactions.

Don’t Plan Too Far in Advance – This little bit of advice I’ve just recently learned myself. As a traveler, you will stumble on great places in which you want to stay longer or even visit that wasn’t on your original plan. Tying yourself down too much can also cost you. If you’re flexible and can wait for last minute bookings, you can save a lot of money when airlines and hotels have to fill empty seats and beds.

Don’t be Put Off by All the Warnings of Scams – Everywhere you go, abroad or even in your own country, there will be scams or chances for muggings or more. Take normal healthy precautions, but don’t be too obsessed with caution. You’ll ruin your trip. Also, wherever you go, there will also be good people. I’ve definitely experienced the kindness of strangers in my travels already.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Surrendering to the Good Times

Evan, me, Lindsay ad Dawn
My constant planning during the lead up to this first international experience has had its effects, both good and bad. The need to plan extensively has been somewhat based on insecurity. 

Never having traveled outside the US, I was very scared I’d screw up and be stuck somewhere. The other comes from a lifetime of managing people, departments or projects of some kinds. It was natural to plan.

I got to Siem Reap for a two-week scheduled stay and quickly realized that there wasn’t a ton to see here as a tourist. Two weeks was way more time than I needed, even giving myself plenty of downtime.

And then I met several people who are moving through Asia on the fly and doing just fine, thank you! I watched as two couples and one solo woman traveler extended their stays at our hotel because they liked it here. No problem because they hadn’t tied themselves into a timeframe as I have every step of the way.

I learned a thing or two. They have gotten incredible last minute airfares and room rates because they haven’t been all hung up on scheduling everything out to the tiniest detail.

Angkor Wat Museum - the only spot you're allowed to take pics.
So…I have found a new way of travel which I’ll just call 'surrender.' My generation called it ‘going with the flow’. It’s a matter of being in the moment. I have found myself looking forward when I get bored with where I am, instead of looking around and deciding to enjoy what I have wherever I am. 

For instance, this hotel I’m at – Van Song Villa –has a lovely pool which has engendered a number of fast friendships. About five days ago, I just felt myself let go and boy did that feel good. I’ve have had an extraordinary time just hanging out by the pool, with an occasional foray into the town or visit to two museums. 

I surrender!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ancient Angkor Amazes

Entrance to Angkor

Trudging down dusty lanes and thick stone roads to tread lightly through temples dating back to the 12th century is the simplest description of a day’s adventure in Angkor, in northern Cambodia. However, it doesn’t touch the majesty of the remnants of a powerful society and the enormous infrastructure that supported it.

Angkor Thom
I had no idea what I was in for when I took off that morning with my tuk-tuk driver. In fact, I told him he could just drop me off at Angkor Wat and I’d catch a ride back. He was very patient and pulled over explained that Angkor Wat wasn't just the biggest temple of Angkor and that it was a huge area that had been a city (encompassing an area of 15 miles by 5 miles I later discovered). Amazed, I settled in and let him be the tour guide.

I’m glad I did because it took about 4 hours to wind through the area and hit the three top attractions; Angkor Thom, another temple the locals refer to as the Tomb Raider (so nicknamed after the Laura Kroft movie but actually named Ta Prohm Temple) and finally Angkor Wat itself.

I thought Angkor Thom, with its many huge stone heads facing every which way, was the most beautiful and had the most serene feel to it. There were numerous nooks and twists and turns so that it was rather easy to get “lost” but it wasn’t terribly large so there was no danger of truly losing your way for long.
Tomb Raider Temple

My favorite for atmosphere was the Tomb Raider ruins with exotic trees growing from the great stone slabs. If ever there was a made-to-order movie set this is it. It was about a half mile walk to the ruins along a thickly wooded area which highlighted how hidden much of the more than 1,000 temple ruins are.

Bridge to Angkor Wat
Finally, the largest and most impressive on size alone was Angkor Wat. This involved another long walk but this time down a bridge comprised of big blocks about 2 feet by 4 feet each with an intricately carved balustrade along the way which leads to another entry and continued path to the imposing structure that was in fact a Hindu temple originally. In fact, Angkor has been both Hindu and Buddhist during different reigns.

Everything about this abandoned city is intricate, bold and beautiful including the peaceful river you ride alongside to get there. If it weren’t for being surrounded by chattering tourists beside you everywhere it would be like stepping back in time. Instead it feels like Disneyland for history buffs.
 A quiet corner of Angkor Wat

How wonderful it would be to quietly explore this place alone at dawn or with the one you love!

Ruins of a stone bridge