Cambodian Tuk Tuks

16 Apr
Cambodian tuk tuks

Cambodian tuk tuks from above

We had a ritual when we were in Siem Reap.

Well, it’s sort of a ritual we have whenever we travel, really.

It goes like this: Run around like crazy people most of the day, soaking in all the history and culture and sights we can lay our eyes on, make comments on all the assorted smells and sounds, file them all away into our jumbled brains. Compare. Contrast. Compare. Contrast.

Then head back to the hotel in the late afternoon for a swim, a shower, some downtime. Get dressed  and head down to the hotel bar for a drink and a round of dominoes before dinner.

For the most part, this routine in Siem Reap was the same as on any of our other travels. What made it different was the going to dinner part. Because then my very favorite part of the evening would occur: the tuk tuk ride.

Cambodian tuk tuks

Tuk tuks are everywhere in Cambodia, and we rode them in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but my favorites were the ones in Siem Reap, where frugal travellers and bohemian student types would take them back and forth to the temples and/or Pub Street. A tuk tuk is kind of like a rickshaw. It’s basically a scooter with a covered seat attached to the back like a two-wheeled trailer. The sides are open, and there’s a roof overhead to shield you from rain or sun.

Cambodian tuk tuks

Each evening we’d go to the front of our hotel and the doorman would call us a tuk tuk. The sun would be setting and the gardeners would be lighting the lanterns in the trees, as some garish yet faded tuk tuk would pull up. To go from our hotel — Le Meridien — to downtown Siem Reap was about a mile, and would cost us $2-$3.

We’d pull out of the circular drive, pulling along the dusty shoulder of the road until our driver could find a gap in the traffic and nose his way in, the put-put of dozens of other tuk tuks and the chattering of the riders blending together.

We’d slowly inch our way along Charles De Gaulle road, past dozens of barely lit, open-air food carts, surrounded by customers and families sitting on plastic chairs. The smoke from the cooking would mix with the dust from the road and create a haze.

Siem Reap cooking

There did not appear to be any road rules or very many traffic signals. Drivers would just inch forward, give way, inch forward, hold back. Surprisingly, there really wasn’t much honking of horns, although, when there was, it was that tiny little non-threatening scooter horn.

We’d drive past a large circular, non-working fountain that nonetheless drew crowds of people sitting on its ledge and socializing, or picnicking on the sliver of grass between the fountain and the road.

tuk tuk ride

We’d make our way past what I think was a school, and next to that, a large building with an advertisement on the side advertising either an upcoming fight or a political race. I’m not really sure. Then the Angkor National Museum and the Royal Residence, where the air would finally clear of smoke and dust, and the smell of frangipani would hang in the humid air around you for a couple of blocks. This was my favorite part. I would breathe deep and try to fill my lungs with it, close my eyes and just hear the putter of the tiny scooter’s engine.

While waiting for passengers, the drivers would congregate and eye people walking by. We noticed that most of them wore pants, even though it was unbearably hot. We speculated it was to protect their legs from flying bugs, although a small bug hitting your leg at approximately three miles an hour seems very unlikely to cause permanent damage.

The drivers did, however, like to pull their shirts up over their bellies in a sort of half-shirt situation that reminded me of when I was a kid and my sister and I used to pull our t-shirt tails through our neck hole to make a sassy halter top.

Cambodian tuk tuk drivers

Cambodian tuk tuk drivers

Some nights we’d ride along the river, watching the traffic on the other side going the opposite direction, enjoying the brief breezes before turning down a small road or alley where there was no breeze and inevitably, a traffic jam.

Phnom Penh tuk tuk traffic jam

Phnom Penh tuk tuk traffic jam

On our way home from dinner, we’d often take the same or similar route, and the magic was still there. The controlled chaos of hundreds of little tuk tuks marching along like ants, ferrying tourists back and forth in the warm night air heavy with frangipani.

Siem Reap tuk tuks

Flying Fancy: Review of Singapore Airlines Suites

8 Apr

I think I’m generally pretty spoiled. And I’ve had some pretty spectacular flying experiences.

But our trip in the Singapore Airlines Suites was so over-the-top, it almost made this girl (formerly from the trailer parks of West Texas) downright uncomfortable.

Singapore Suites check in

I’m ready to check in, dorky grin included

First of all…let me just stop you right there. I’m sure you know, or suspect, that a ticket on such a flight from New York to Frankfort to Singapore costs about the equivalent of a nice car–or even, a West Texas trailer. But we didn’t pay that. We paid about $375 per person all told, thanks to miles we got last year through a LifeLock deal (the deal’s no longer available, guys. Sorry.)

Ticket for Singapore Airlines

So, we cashed in those miles for a true first class adventure on an airline that consistently gets rave reviews for its customer service. And, since the total flight time was around 19 hours (7.35 from New York to Frankfurt, 11.25 from Frankfurt to Singapore) PLUS a two-hour layover in Frankfurt, it’s worth using the miles to have a truly relaxing and pampered experience.

We started at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK. It was my first time there and it was a freaking awesome lounge! So coolly designed, yet cozy at the same time. Amazing (and free!) food and drinks, and they even had a spa featuring Dr. Hauschka products. I got a $20 15-minute moisturizing facial and then settled into a giant lounging couch with a blackberry bramble and a flatbread pizza for a snack. I almost wanted to just stay in the lounge. (Still, it’s no Turkish Airlines Istanbul Departure Lounge, which has to be the most amazing lounge I’ve ever been to, hands down, bar none).

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse interior

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse interior

Back to Singapore Airlines: Soon, it was time to board the gigantic A380 aircraft. We went down a separate, dedicated bridge to get to the front part of the plane, where our flight crew was waiting with champagne and newspapers to greet us (no trashy magazines, alas. I had to bring those myself.)

Singapore Airlines A380

The behmoth

Now on to the star of the show-–the much talked about suites: The whole set up reminded me of the old train berths.

Singapore Airlines Suites

Those stairs on the right go up to the Business Class section.

There are 12 suites, and on our first flight from New York to Frankfort, there were only two other people in the suites section.

Singapore Airlines Suites

We had picked the middle two seats, which can be folded down and combined into a double bed. Your seat is surrounded by private walls and your “pod” even includes a door. But the walls don’t go all the way up to the ceiling, so a very curious tall person walking by could still crane their neck and look down into your “pod.” And there were a lot of people (flight crew, mostly) walking around throughout the flight. Nevertheless, you did feel completely private and blocked from the view of those sitting around you.

Singapore Airlines Suite 3D

IMG_2433

The tan leather seats were like recliners, huge and wide and with lots of leg and back settings. Across from me, in another tiny seating/footrest alcove was the entertainment system and the Givenchy bedding. Soon after boarding, we received our pajamas and a Salvatore Ferragamo amenities kit, including a full-sized perfume.

Givenchy bedding on Singapore Airlines Suites

Ferragamo amenities kit on Singapore Airline

Ferragamo perfume from amenities kit

The fold-down bed is just awesome. There’s no denying that the best amenity on any first class flight is the ability to change into some pajamas, get completely prone on nice comfy pillows and sheets, and get some sleep. That, and all the new movie releases they have on board, which can keep you from getting any sleep at all (on our Cathay Pacific flight home, I made this mistake, watching “Foxcatcher,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Horrible Bosses II,” and something called “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.” I was very cranky by the time we landed in Chicago. And I still had a flight to DC to look forward to.)

Double bed on Singapore Airlines

Double bed on Singapore Airlines

The food on the Singapore flights was, of course, good. I’m not sure it measures up to my favorite – Lufthansa, and it certainly couldn’t compete with the meal we’d had the night before at Le Bernardin! XFE had pre-ordered his meals using their Book the Cook option online, including a delicious pork cooked in beer (!) for the flight from Frankfort to Singapore. I don’t remember much of what either of us ate–I think I had some beef brisket on the first flight and a duck confit on the second, both off the menu–but I’m sure it was better than whatever food box I might have had the option to purchase on a United flight.

Wonton soup on Singapore Airlines

My favorite meal of the flight was a wonton soup I had before we landed in Singapore.

Givenchy plates on Singapore Airlines

I was, however, very impressed with the Givenchy plateware.

What I do distinctly remember is how ridiculously nice everyone was on both legs of our flights. The Singapore Airlines flight crews were incredible and so attentive. They consistently address you by name, your champagne glass is never empty. They’re attentive without being annoying. They made a super big deal out of my birthday, offered up suggestions on things to do in Singapore and where to get the best chili crab, and just really made the whole trip special.

My second birthday cake

My second birthday cake

When I didn’t finish my duck at dinner on the Frankfurt-to-Singapore leg (hard to cut duck with nothing more than a butter knife), they were pretty upset and concerned that it wasn’t prepared properly (it was) or that I hadn’t gotten enough to eat. Which is crazy when you consider that we basically ate something every few hours, and my main course had been proceeded by an appetizer, a soup, and a salad.

Birthday bear with a Singapore sling.

Birthday bear with a Singapore sling.

Overall, it was an amazing experience, and a great start to my birthday trip. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to use that option again, but I’m extremely grateful for having had the chance to roll around and relish all of it.

Six Most Memorable (for Better and Worse) Things We Ingested in Hong Kong

3 Apr

I’d love to tell you that on our three-day stop in Hong Kong, we hit all the major tourist attractions and checked them off one-by-one. Alas, that would be a lie.

We did not go to Victoria’s Peak, or Lantau Island. We did not gaze in wonder at the mid-level escalators, or pose for photos in front of the Clock Tower. We did not say hi to the Big Buddha or peak into the Po Lin monastery. We did not go to Disneyland or even the Museum of History.

We ate. And ate. And then ate some more.

We barely even visited the Jade Market, and when we did, it was because we were killing time before our next scheduled feeding.

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. We wanted to taste everything that Hong Kong had to offer, and I think we did a pretty fair job. From milk tea and tomato noodle soup at one of the city’s last dai pai dong to dim sum at the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant (the pork buns were the standout) to elegant Cantonese specialties at the Ritz Carlton and inventive Japanese fusion fare at one of the city’s hottest restaurants, we tried a lot of stuff. And then some more stuff.

(Except shark fin soup, even though it was on every damn menu and sold as an ingredient in every damn market).

We weren’t alone on this quest. While we did find and book a couple of restaurants on our own, we also booked two days with Daisann of Little Adventures in Hong Kong before we left home.

Daisann (her name is actually a combination of Daisy and Ann) is the founder of the company and an expat from New York who has lived in Hong Kong for 12 years. With her hands waiving excitedly and her excellent grasp of the Cantonese language, her enthusiasm for Hong Kong and its food scene is completely contagious.

By the second day, I really felt like we were just walking around the city with a good friend who just happened to be a local. My favorite thing was when she would bust out in Cantonese with the shop owners or at the market stalls. Her face would become more animated, her tone would become more forceful, and the looks of respect she got from the locals was priceless. I would really, really highly recommend her services.

So, without further ado, here are the most memorable things we ate on our trip to Hong Kong.

drinks at 001 in Hong Kong

Drinks at 001. Thanks, Aziz Ansari.

Drinks at 001

This place is not easy to find. Especially at night, which it was (you can’t tell from my overly exposed collage above.) Luckily, I had my personal GPS/master navigator XFE to lead the way, and he found it no problem, despite having never even set foot in Hong Kong. At that point, we had actually only been in the city for approximately 2 hours and this was literally our first time out of the hotel. He amazes me.

Anyway, down a whole bunch of small twisty streets, and behind a dull dark gray door with absolutely no signage sits 001, a very swanky speakeasy with delicious cool drinks, plush sink-your-butt seating, and an atmosphere so dark, you can barely see the drinks menu. We had a couple of rounds of drinks, trying the Earl Grey martini, an Old Cuban and a Godfather Smash (can’t remember the fourth cocktail, not surprisingly). Also, the calamari was tasty.

(True story: about five minutes after we got there, a gregarious young guy came in, announced to the bartenders that he had a test tomorrow and needed to try a whole bunch of spirits. He proceeded to order a taste of just about everything in the place, from pisco to grappa to tequila to all kinds of other stuff. It was pretty fun to watch him work his way through all of it, using his spit cup obviously.)

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Eight Incredible Things We Ate in Singapore and Cambodia (and New York)

28 Mar

The last two weeks have involved super fun, almost vacation-like visits to a new dentist for my third round of scaling and root planing procedures. If you don’t know what this is, you are extremely fortunate.

I’ve actually had it done twice before, but my new dentist (and my x-rays) suggested that I had not had it done properly, and there was significant plaque buildup. So back in I went for a couple of two-hour sessions involving lots of numbing shots to the mouth and ultrasonic instruments that make your eardrums buzz for ages afterwards.

All of which is to say, I’m glad I did not get this done before our trip to Singapore, Cambodia and Hong Kong. Because this trip was all about the food and the eating. A lot of eating. So much eating, of so much good food. The memories of all that great food helped me get through the two-hour dentist appointments.

Here’s a list of my favorite things we ate this trip, starting with New York, Singapore and Cambodia (Hong Kong is getting its own post. IT WAS JUST THAT GOOD.)

Birthday at Le Bernardin

Me with the first of SEVERAL birthday desserts this trip. This one at Le Bernardin.

Kingfish caviar at Le Bernardin, New York

We started the super awesome around-the-world birthday extravaganza in New York. We went up to the city the night before our Singapore flight, and lucked out on getting reservations at Le Bernardin. It cost a small fortune, but we had the Chef’s tasting menu. My perennial dining companion XFE pointed out that it was pretty unlikely we’d ever be there again, so why not splash out? (He’s a very good boyfriend).

This place, which in case you didn’t know, has three Michelin stars, is freaking amazing. Like, really, really nice. Far too nice for the likes of me. My voice is too loud, I hunch over my food, I eat and drink too fast, I gush a lot, and I wasn’t even sure what the small stool next to my chair was (to hold your purse, naturally). So, quite naturally, I started our dinner by knocking over my amuse bouche of soup. I swear, XFE can’t take me anywhere nice.

At Le Bernardin, the focus is on fish and there were several simply prepared all-stars, but my favorite was the kingfish caviar–a warm “sashimi” of kingfish, topped with Osetra caviar and a light butter broth. It was luxurious and briny and melted in your mouth. The seared wagyu beef with fresh kimchi was also amazing – fatty and unctuous – and I don’t even like kimchi.

Two sidenotes: my favorite thing about Le Bernardin (next to the purse stool) was that the huge round chairs swiveled out so you didn’t have to scoot your chair away from the table to get up. You merely turned to the side and gently lifted up and out of the seat. Classy. Oh, and we saw Eric Ripert peak his head into the dining room at one point. I was star-struck.

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Singapore: First Impressions

23 Mar

Hey there! I’m back.

Actually, I’ve been back for about a week or so, but between jet lag, and digging out of email/work/laundry, I haven’t even had a minute to start going through my photos and trip notes and coming up with some blog fodder.

But, this morning’s news is reporting on the death of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. So I better get my ass in gear and write something about my recent first visit to Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands

Things to know about Singapore: it’s really, really hot.

My travel-buddy/man-panion for life (XFE) and I actually learned a bit about Lee Kuan Yew at the very excellent National Museum of Singapore. We had gone to the museum primarily to escape the pervasive, bone-soaking, spirit-wilting heat and humidity that is Singapore in early March. The museum is in a blended building, half white colonial stucco, half modern cubist wonder surrounded by rolling green hills and landscaped trees. The important thing and main draw for us was the existence of the blasting, government-subsidized air conditioning.

Disappointingly, the majority of the museum and its exhibits were closed for renovations. But, they did have a condensed, Clif Notes version of the museum’s contents in the basement. It was a really great exhibit. The first part was a bit confusing, something about five kings and a boy who fought a giant swordfish and then was killed by the Sultan who feared him. Anyway, a big mix of legends and facts.

But things really picked up with some great exhibits on the different ethnic groups and immigrants that had come to Singapore when it was a colonial entrepot and trading post. The museum also had a great exhibit on Singapore’s occupation by Japan in World War II, and a brief exhibit on Singapore’s separation from Britain, the city-state’s internal struggle to become independent and self-governed, and it’s brief stint as part of the Federation of Malaysia.

A big player in Singapore was Lee, who was elected as the country’s first Prime Minister in 1959, and served in that capacity until 1990 (He remained a “senior minister” in the Cabinet until 2004, and “minister mentor” till 2011.) Quartz describes Lee’s ruling style best:

Lee led Singapore from a colonial backwater under British control to one of the world’s most thriving financial centers, and he did so with a tight grip on power. He has been criticized for instituting wide-reaching censorship, limiting civil rights, discriminating against gays and migrant workers, and generally maintaining a one-party autocracy for almost half a century.

That’s because Lee engineered one of the world’s most impressive growth stories—one that everyone from American Republicans to Chinese communists have both openly envied. (“Benevolent dictatorship has never looked so good” one columnist wrote of the Singapore in 2012.)

The tiny, resource-poor country’s GDP per capita skyrocketed under Lee to one of the highest in the world, behind just oil-rich Qatar and private banking center Luxembourg, according to the IMF.

We actually got a bit of a glimpse into the general public’s discontent with this one-party autocracy situation. We were in a cab one evening on our way to the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, a Las Vegas-worthy light and music show involving these tree-like structures that soar up to 160 feet.

Gardens by the Bay

Anyway, our cab driver asked us where we were from, and then launched into a grumbling monologue of discontent with his government’s structure. He told us that they’d had the same ruler/ruling party for six decades (Lee’s son is the current Prime Minister), and that wasn’t democracy, and how the people of Singapore have suffered under this dictatorship. He said the rich were getting richer while the poor were getting poorer.

I have to admit: I was shocked and more than a little annoyed. I was in the middle of reading a book about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge — a book about a horrific history in which real humanitarian atrocities were perpetrated by a real political wackjob dictator. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked in Singapore was prosperous and new and shiny and so technologically advanced.

But that cab driver’s rant is not unfamiliar to me. Not at all. You hear it in the U.S. all the time, especially the phrase, “the rich are getting richer while the rest of us get poorer.” I’m sure if I’d dug a little deeper, he would have blamed immigrants, or corporations, or the educational system, or real estate prices, or whatever other boogeyman he was currently facing or competing against.

Perspective is a luxury, I guess. I understand that on a random Tuesday a cab driver in Singapore is not likely to think about how there are people in other parts of the world, say, Cambodia for example, who are just trying to recover from brutal histories and get to somewhere even remotely as economically advanced as Singapore. We all grumble and bemoan our own political systems, and don’t care or think about who our audience is or what perspectives they bring to the table. It’s practically a human trait to complain about other people doing better than we perceive ourselves to be doing.

I don’t know if Lee was a horrible leader. I don’t know if that cab driver in Singapore might have been richer if a new, completely different party was elected every four years. There are certainly some people in the U.S. who would say that no, a new party doesn’t necessarily mean prosperity, or even anything remotely like it. But it does seem to me, an outsider, that Singapore–a small island nation with no natural resources that was practically decimated in World War II–did alright at the end of the day. It’s a good legacy to have.

Singapore night view

(Here’s another really good Quartz article on the rise of Singapore under Lee’s policies.)

The Road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

9 Mar
Cambodian chicken transport.

Cambodian chicken transport. By the way, it was 97 degrees out and this guy is wearing a puffer jacket. 

We took a nice little drive on Saturday here in Cambodia. We hired a driver to take us from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, a distance of approximately 145 miles. But I will forever know that trip as “Exciting Game of Five Hour Highway Chicken.”

I’ve never been so glad to be alive.

Speaking of live and chickens, here’s a list of things we saw during that drive:

  • A tuk tuk stacked with mattresses that said Washington USA” on them (I did not know that Washington was our mattress capital.)
  • A flat bed truck full of stone Buddhas.
  • Two scooters carrying live chickens (they were tied to the scooters handles and a clever chicken-carrying contraption on the back).
  • A Mazda car chopped into a makeshift truck hauling duck cages.
  • Children on bicycles being pulled by children on scooters (they hold on to each other’s shoulders).
  • A truck of sewing machines pulling another truck of sewing machines by rope.
  • Several vans with people sitting in the trunk area with their legs sticking out of the open doors. And one with people balanced on top.
  • Several vans with scooters tied to the back (we think that’s a sort of makeshift tow truck for broken down scooters?)
  • A van hauling some beautiful and very large carved teak beds. Basically, the frames were wider than the van and stuck out on both sides.
  • Carts being pulled by oxen. Yes, oxen.
  • A peddler cart with toys and housegoods. Sort of a portable Walmart.
  • The most number of people we saw on a single scooter: Four.
  • A van filled with clear garbage bags full of red chiles and green beans. (seriously full. To the roof full).
  • A guy in camouflage with an AK 47 strapped to his back. Riding a scooter, of course.

I have a ton more to write about Cambodia and Singapore when I get back.

Cambodia Better Bring It

24 Feb

Ugh. I’ve been slacking on the blogging. I know. The thing is, I had to run all over town to find shorts. In February. In D.C. where the high temps this month have regularly hovered around “freezing your leg hairs off.”

(Also, I’ve had a lot of big deadlines to hit in the past couple of weeks. But let’s just blame the shorts, shall we?)

But we’re leaving this week for our annual Poe Super Birthday Extravaganza Trip to Far Flung Destinations–and this one is going to be a doozy.

This tradition began in 2008, when XFE was in Rome for work right before my birthday. We cashed in some miles and I met him and some of his co-workers over there, and had a merry old time eating lots of pasta, going to lots of museums and drinking lots of wine. And, of course, going to a soccer game (a tradition now whenever we travel to Europe).

The next year, XFE and his co-workers were in Japan, again, right around my birthday. In fact, I spent my actual birthday on the flight coming home. We did not see a soccer game but we did go to the opening day of a sumo wrestling match in Osaka. And ate lots of sushi, including sushi for breakfast after visiting the Tokyo Fish Market.

Tokyo Fish Market

That’s a lot of frozen sushi, which actually sounds quite gross.

Gambate

I don’t know, how do you sumo??

Every year, XFE has outdone himself, planning a bigger and better birthday trip. For my 40th, it was Australia. Two years ago, it was Peru. Last year, South Africa where I stroked a cheetah (YES, a cheetah!) and ate lamb’s brain at one of the world’s best restaurants.

South Africa Safari

Yep, just chilling with an elephant. No biggie.

South Africa cheetah preserve

That’s a cheetah, with my pudgy paw all up on it.

This year, it’s Cambodia (with stopovers in Singapore and Hong Kong). I know, right? I would not argue with anyone who says that I’m spoiled. I would lose that argument every damn time.

Oh, pardon me, I meant to say, the Kingdom of Cambodia. That is, apparently, the official name. Pretty bitchin’.

I am beyond excited. But I will say, it’s hella hot and humid in those places right now. So, I needed a couple of pairs of shorts, particularly since we’ll be visiting the very dusty, very hot, Angkor Wat. I want to make sure I have as much exposed pasty-white skin as possible to attract all of the mosquitoes in the area, and keep them away from my beloved trip planner, XFE. Love = sweating + risking yellow fever.

I don’t really know what to expect from this trip. I always like to say that we actually get to take a trip three times: once during all the excitement and anticipation of the planning stage. The second when we’re actually there, soaking it all in. And the third when I get to come back and write about it all. In fact, those amazing birthday trips (along with the non-birthday timed trips we tend to take as well) is what led to the creation of this blog. I wanted to document and remember all the amazing places we’ve been together. Even Peru, where my intestines tried to escape my body repeatedly.

You can't tell, but this not-so-young lady is wondering where the nearest bathroom is.

You can’t tell, but this not-so-young lady is wondering where the nearest bathroom is.

But because of the fluctuating nature of freelancing, I haven’t really gotten to take that first part of the trip. A lot of the planning has been carried out by XFE. He’s the one who found a spa for us to go get massages our first day in Siem Reap. He’s the one who found and arranged a fun-sounding food tour in Hong Kong called the Won-Ton-A-Thon.

We’ve actually put off a lot of the planning specifics, figuring we’ll use our 20-hour flight on this ridiculousness (YASSS to miles travel!) to figure out more details. Between stuffing our gobs with caviar and bossing our butler around, of course.

How on earth can they be gazing into each other’s eyes when there’s so many other things to see on this airplane??

Then I realized — when I was working in an office and not very happy with my work environment, I would spend a lot of my free time daydreaming and researching our upcoming trips. Now that I’m my own boss, I seem to be a bit more focused and productive. Hence, no daydreaming and a lack of blog posts, as well.

Which makes this trip kind of exciting. I haven’t ruminated it to death. I’ll be seeing everything with fresh eyes. Sure, we might miss some neighborhood or hot restaurant that we would have known about if I’d just spent more time on TripAdvisor, but I’m looking forward to just being blown away by the strangeness and the newness and the overall foreignness.

I haven’t even really thought out my packing list. Which is why, while the rest of the greater Washington D.C. area was out chipping ice off their sidewalks on Sunday, I was running around a mall trying to find sweltering-weather appropriate gear.

Why didn’t I pack some anti-malarial pills? (nice shorts, btw)

And, while I’m typing this, I’m supposed to be packing. XFE has been packed since Saturday.

Guess I better get to it.

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