Thursday, August 30, 2007

Business Class, Baby!

We made it to Toronto in one piece, and just for the record, the best part of the trip was, for the 9 1/2 hour Nagoya to San Francisco flight, being upgraded to Business Class. I don't know if I can ever travel with the unwashed Economy Class masses ever again.*

* Proving myself wrong before I even get started, I of course flew Economy Class from San Fran to Toronto, and it was fine. Also, perhaps, more suited to my long-term budgetary prospects.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

pixxiefish on the road

I'm sitting in our hotel room at the Nagoya airport, watching Randal finish his packing (he's almost done). It's been a long day, but I feel pretty good. So far today, I have survived the following:

- waking up at 4:30 a.m.

- leaving our nice Bangkok guesthouse at about 5:30 a.m. in order to find a cab to take us to the airport for 6:00 a.m.

- making it on to our 8:10 flight to Tokyo with loads of time to spare (as opposed to, say, missing the flight entirely)

- sleeping most of aforementioned flight (except for when they tried to feed me a full fried beef, veggies, and rice meal at, like, 9:30 in the morning! yuck!)

- playing a mean-ass game of Tetris on the on-flight entertainment system when I was conscious

- transferring in Tokyo without any mishap

- a hop and a skip later, arriving in Nagoya

- reclaiming the suitcases that we left behind in storage a month ago, despite (of course!) being unable to locate the storage receipts

- repacking everything so that all the weight is evenly distributed between our bags, and in a reasonable amount of time so that we actually will be able to sleep tonight!

Now I am sitting in bed, using Randal's laptop (there's wireless internet here - how sweet is that?), while he puts the last few things away in his bags, and tomorrow, we start the fun all over again!

Tomorrow our flight is not till 3:25 in the afternoon - 2:35 a.m. for you Windsor-QuebecCity corridor-ites in the crowd.

pixxiefish will be back in the sea soon!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

11 days???

I just glanced at my Countdown Clock on my blog, and it seems I am actually returning to Canada in 11 days. That's wild! And for once, I don't have a thousand and one boxes still left to pack (because I did that all in July when I left Japan - fun, fun).

We are still in Luang Prabang, and struck with indecision. Luang Prabang is very pretty and very nice - there are some wonderful temples and some tasty food - but there's not really much left for us to do here. We've visited most of the temples and we've eaten lots of the food. However, we're feeling unmotivated to move on. See, Luang Prabang is cheap. There's cheap good food, and cheap good handicrafts at the market, and our guesthouse room has satellite TV with HBO movies every night and... god, I'm a terrible traveler.

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and we're going to leave Luang Prabang tomorrow. Or, well, maybe the day after. On Tuesday, there is an air-con bus going northeast to Phonsavan, which is the town near the mysterious Plain of Jars (on Monday, there is just a regular local bus). It takes about 8 hours to get there, or possibly more at this time of year (rainy season). We'll head up there for just two nights, so one full day to visit the Plain of Jars. That takes us to Wednesday or Thursday (depending on when we leave here), and then we plan on flying down to Vientiane, the Laos capital. Cheap flights. 4-5 days in Vientiane, then either fly to Bangkok on the 26th or 27th, or take an overnight train there, with 1-2 days in Bangkok before we fly home to, first, Nagoya (on the 29th), and then Toronto on the 30th. Wow. Crazy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A little Heritage in my life...

So there hasn't been a lot of travel posting this time around, sorry. But there will (eventually!) be a lot of pictures!!! I promise.

We are now on Day 3 of Luang Prabang. This former capital of Laos is home to a number of World Heritage sites, and it's quite lovely. A little strange at first - I was expecting a small city, and got barely a town. It's quite small. You barely even see it as you approach by boat (the way most people get here). I don't think I've seen any buildings higher than 3 stories, and you can pretty much walk the entire town on about an hour. (OK, maybe two.)

Laos is a former French colony (they used it as a buffer for Vietnam from Thailand), so there are many buildings in the French colonial style. Some of the buildings look like they are direct descendants of some of the buildings in Vieux-Quebec, but many have a more "modern" colonial look to them (since Quebec was a 17th century French colony, while Laos was 19th and 20th). And did I mention it's tiny? I wasn't crazy about it at first - it felt like a built of a tourist circus - but it's grown on me.

Prior to coming here, in a nutshell:

Stayed in Bangkok for 5 days. Mostly wandered a lot, visited some wats (temples), shopped in some markets, that sort of thing. We are heading back to Bangkok in a few weeks and will visit the Grand Palace then. Then we took the overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai which was as enjoyable a trip as I remember it being last time around (I love sleeper trains). I've been to Chiang Mai before, of course, but I didn't get to see much of the town - this time around, I got a much better feel. We were also staying at a great guesthouse called "CM Blue House" which was really central and uber-comfortable. We originally had planned to stay in Chiang Mai for 3 days, but we stayed 5.

Then, last Friday, we tore ourselves away from Chiang Mai and took a minivan to Chiang Khong, a small town on the border with Laos. That was a 5-hour ride, fairly un-noteworthy. We stayed overnight in a guesthouse on the Mekong River, and then the next morning, took a "ferry" (tiny boat) across the river to Houay Xai, where we crossed through immigration and into Laos. Then we were off to the slowboat docks, for the 2-day boat ride down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. You don't sleep on the boat - you spend the night about halfway down, in a small village called Pak Beng. We had a bottom-barrel guesthouse there - it was a room with a fan and twin beds, but the electricity was shut off around 11:00 p.m., so the room was SWELTERING. Not my favourite night. Anyway, it was clean, which is what's important. Day 2 on the boat was more enjoyable than I thought it might be, and then we got to Luang Prabang! We're been here 3 days so far, with the intention of staying 2 or 3 more. Right now we are trying to figure out the most painless way to get to Phounsavan, the town in northeastern Laos near the famous Plain of Jars site - there doesn't seem to be a painless way to do it (8-hour local bus ride seems to be one of our only bets) - and then after a day or two there, we head down to Vientiane, the Laotian capital.

You are now up-to-date.