Tough to describe the feeling that hit me when I saw the Coney Island coastline… a little bit of euphoria, a little bit of… Deja Vu? Closest memory to this was coming home from sleepaway camp. Couldn’t wait to come home, but things seem a little strange when I get there… plus the big piles of mail.
At the gate in Hong Kong. 3-4 hours to Tokyo, 2 hour layover, then 11-12 hours to NYC.
Seems almost uneventful. Knock on wood. After a trip of running around through developed and undeveloped, last night was pretty basic. Stayed in Kowloon, which is basically a giant mall. Hit the night market for last minute gifts – figured I don’t have to keep light on bag weight anymore – and then some dinner with free refills, key.
After all these months, should I tempt the gods of travel by saying it feels like more should be happening. Sure, could be the flight from hell coming up, but as of right now, there is nobody left to tell me something in a language I don’t understand, to sell me something I still don’t want after a million offers, to be amazed where I am from (especially kids).
Out with a whimper, I guess. Again, knock on wood.
Ok, officially the worst hotel in the world.
Everything is worn. And it was ugly before it was worn. In 1973.
I don’t think my room has a window.
The pool is green. (it isn’t supposed to be, the tile used to be white).
There are cigarette butts in the hallway.
The restaurant is run by Chinese, who the Vietnamese hotel staff don’t understand. Nobody speaks English. I tried to order some fried rice and a diet coke, talked to 10 different people, received 2 fried rice and no coke, and was charged for 2 fried rice and 1 coke. And they were pissy about it.
And housekeeping just rang my bell and asked if they could clean the room. Did I mention it was…. MIDNIGHT???!?!?!?
I am not kidding.
96 days… 35 cities… 42,329 Miles
I take it back. This resort is a couple of buildings, and one of them is a karaoke club whose ads all over the resort consist of nothing but pictures of busty women in bathing suits and the name of the club.
One of the guys who took the bus with me, an older Swedish gentleman, also ran up to me excitedly, only to tell me he found a “girl” for only $20.
I landed in Hanoi, and felt like jumping right to Ha Long Bay, found a cheap bus out.
So, hotels.com gave me two recommended hotels. One was crazy expensive, the other reasonable. I booked it, no cancellation allowed, but I was already on my way.
Then the driver tells me… the hotel is 100k away from Ha Long Bay. Basically down another peninsula! So, I just got off at the first hotel, asked if they had a room – lucky they did, and I thought it was a good price, but this hotel sucks – and checked in to get online and skype.
Boy, did I cream the hotels.com operator. They tried to pull the “past the cancellation window” crap on me. I tell them I emailed FIVE MINUTES LATER and said it was a bait and switch. They finally relented and gave me a refund.
So, moral of the story is… I’m in a crappy hotel in Ha Long Bay. And it is dark, so who the hell knows what it looks like here.
Landing in Cambodia gave me one of those “oh sh*t, I’m in South East Asia!” moments. Places like Koh Samui and Australia can make you forget that you are on the other side of the world. But driving through the streets of Siem Reap – home of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world – was a quick reminder of where I’ve been the last 3 months. Some places still have a bit to go in terms of civilization. I’m sure the folks here do just fine, but it isn’t what I’m used to.
Thailand certainly has its rough edges, but everyone is super friendly, the weather is great, the beaches are pretty, and everything is cheap, so you can just sink into ignorant bliss. It is like the slums of Rio, where they paint them pink so they look quaint. Or much of the Carribbean. But then the total douches at immigration in Cambodia hint at how crappy things can get. Just not nice. And you need a Visa, so you have to show up with photos and all that, just a real pain and an excuse to collect $20. The people at the hotel are nice, though.
I tried to exchange money… turns out they really just use US dollars. I’ll have to get some anyway.
ADDENDUM – Ok, they do make an awesome curry. Maybe my new favorite. Somewhere between the dense Indian and the tasty light Thai curries. Really, really good. “Khmer Curry”, they called it. That sounds bad.
CORRECTION – May 11.
I’m sure you already know this…
but Evil Jake is rocking Arlene’s Groccery on May 11th.
Call it my homecoming… I’ll show slides.
I’m only getting home a few days before (which is why May 5 was on my mind).
One of the coolest ways I’ve ever seen a sunset… on a motorbike circling a small island for an hour at 60 kph. Don’t tell my mom.
Koh (or Ko) Samui, or just Sumai, is an island off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus in Thailand. It is Thailand’s third largest island with a population of 62k, though it attracts 1.5 million tourists per year. It has white sandy beaches, coral reefs and coconut trees. Imagine Cabo with a more tropical feel, and a whole lot more Thai (and Hebrew, believe it or not).
Flew directly from Singapore, and the airport is very small but very friendly.
A trip to the Vietnam embassy and $160 singapore bucks (thats basically $140) plus photo fees and I… don’t have my visa. Let’s hope it is ready tomorrow, so I can make my day trip to Indonesia.