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.

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).  

Monday, May 1, 2017

We Arrive in Hsipaw

May 1, 2017
Hsipaw, Myanmar

What could possible go wrong?
Upon disembarking our train at Hsipaw in a downpour, we were quickly approached by several young men with laminated photos of hotels, all trying to shuffle us into their vehicles to take us for a free ride to a potential lodging (for a commission, I'm sure).  We eventually relented, and climbed into a large, off-road 3-wheeler type vehicle with passenger truck bed space in the back.  The inn we stopped at was okay, but as the rain had stopped by the time we were finished looking at the accomodations, we decided to walk over to another place, Hotel Lily The Home, that we had already researched. After a quick tour, we determined Lily to be the far better option, and checked in for around $17 for the night.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Taking the Train from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw

April 30, 2017
Hsipaw, Myanmar

All Aboard the Hsipaw (not so) Express!
Day two of our hill station trip (day one link) promised to be more sedentary, yet no less eventful, as we would be spending most of our day on the train.  Our taxi took us to the train station early so as to ensure that we got our pick of seats.  In my haste, I forgot to turn in our hotel room key at check-out. Our innkeeper called our taxi driver on his cell phone moments before we arrived at the station. I asked him if he could take it back. He agreed, and seemed confused when I gave him a tip for doing so, as I'm sure he'd have gladly taken it back anyway.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Heading to the Hills - Pyin Oo Lwin

April 29, 2017
Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar

Pyin Oo Lwin Gardens
Mandalay had been scorchingly hot, so, like those soft British colonialists before us, we decided to increase our altitude and head for the hill station towns of Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw to the northeast of the city.  Both are reachable by train from Mandalay.  The train from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin, however departs at 4am, and takes four hours to work its way up the mountain, versus 1½ hours by car.  The second leg goes from POL to Hsipaw, crossing the Goktiek Viaduct; we definitely wanted to do this section by train and it is a six-hour journey by itself.  Unsurprisingly, we opted to travel to POL by car, spend the night there, and take the train the following morning to Hsipaw.