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).  

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.