Monday, June 19, 2017

A Capital Time in Vientiane

June 19, 2017
Vientiane, Laos
One of the lovely sunsets on the Mekong, just across the river from Thailand
With only 760,000 people, the capital of Laos is hardly a Bangkok or Yangon, and has a small town feel for being the biggest city in the country. Besides being the biggest, the selection of Vientiane is less obvious of a tourist destination than anywhere else we have visited thus far. Not renowned for its sights or architecture, nor famous for its cuisine, we didn’t arrive with a laundry list of must-sees & -dos.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lovely, Livable Luang Prabang

June 13, 2017
Luang Prabang, Laos


The UNESCO lotus pond at Maison Dalabua
After a couple of weeks back in Chiang Mai enjoying the relative comforts of our Nimman area condo with full kitchen and pool, we were getting restless; we were ready to move on beyond Thailand and start exploring Laos.  Our (ok, my – Scott’s) original plan had us taking the two-day slow boat from Huay Xai down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, after an overnight (or two) at the Gibbon Experience eco-tourism tree houses.  Caroline was not so keen on the tree house lodging scenario, which included hiking and zip-lining in with your stuff to a barebones, electricity-free, toilet-paper-free accommodation (you can bring your own but you must pack it out at the end of your stay), so I was going to do a quick one-nighter and meet her back in Huay Xai for the boat.




Monday, June 5, 2017

A Heartbreaking Legacy of War: Visiting the UXO Lao Vistors Centre

June 5, 2017
Luang Prabang, Laos


Examples of UXO being recovered in Laos in an effort to make Lao PDR a safe and economically viable nation
Today we visited the UXO Lao Visitors Centre here in Luang Prabang.  This modest, little museum sits on a quiet, back street not far from our hotel, but in the opposite direction from the main drag, so it’s definitely off the tourist track.  Although it is the type of sight that seems right up Lonely Planet’s alley, there is no mention that I could find of it in our guidebook.  (I did, however, find mention of it on www.lonelyplanet.com when I Googled it, after the fact, when writing this post).  I discovered it because it was listed as an attraction on the small map our hotel gave to us.  As it turns out, it was well worth a visit.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

More "Down Time" in Chiang Mai

May 30, 2017
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monks, Malls, Motorbikes & Makeup - Spending productive & occasionally fun times in Chiang Mai
For the third time, we find ourselves hanging out in a Chiang Mai apartment after busy travel.  First, it was Tanny's condo on the south side of town after our initial Bangkok/Southern Thailand beach trip.  Then, after returning to Chiang Mai from Myanmar, we moved into Peter and Puy's Nimman neighborhood condo on the west side.  We left the condo for 9 days or so while going to Shanghai and Japan, and find ourselves back again before our final departure from Thailand.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Three Nights in Kyoto

May 21, 2017
Kyoto, Japan



A pair of would-be geishas posed for us outside the Gion Starbucks
For some reason, Japan never seemed to appear at the top of our list of places to travel. While not sure exactly why, when I think back it was probably subconsciously a few things. The high price tag, our pre-conception of the serious nature of the Japanese people, the overwhelming nature of an obligatory visit to Tokyo (if you’re going to travel all that way), the nagging feeling of inevitably committing various social gaffes in this unspoken-rule-oriented society, and the idea of more exotic destinations in the far east (if you’re going to travel all that way). 

Having the chance to opportunistically visit due to the logistics surrounding our Shanghai trip, we started to get excited about Japan. The food, the beautiful aesthetics of Japanese culture, the intriguing nature of the people, and after a few months in Southeast Asia, the order and cleanliness even started to sound exotic.  And if we only had a few days to spend, Kyoto seemed like the perfect place to introduce ourselves to Japan.

Monday, May 15, 2017

18 Hours in Osaka

May 15, 2017
Osaka, Japan

Antics in Dotonbori in Osaka
I spent much of the Shanghai-to-Osaka flight talking to Gao, a Chinese woman who has been living and working in Japan for many years.  She was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and provided tips to help us enjoy our stay in Japan. Some we were able to use almost immediately upon landing – including how to say “excuse me” (I jotted down "smee mah sehm" phonetically, who knows if I was saying it right), and where to eat on our one evening in Osaka. 

Shanghai Surprise

May 15, 2017
Shanghai, China


Visiting friends John and Monique in Shanghai
A few years ago, we found out our friends from Michigan, John, a friend of mine (Scott's) from high school, and his wife Monique, were relocating themselves and their two kids to China for a year for John's job. One year turned into two and two years turned into three - lucky for us, since it gave us a window of opportunity to visit them while we're practically next door (a mere six-hour flight away).