I was scanning through photos of my recent trip and trying to come up with something to write. I paused at the photo below. Some might consider this to be a dumb picture and wonder why anyone would wish to capture such a motif. I like this view, because I enjoy staring out of an airplane window at the world below (and above at night). I spend more time doing this than watching the latest entertainment technology offered by airlines.
Anyway, this photo has value for anyone that has not flown and knows the words of a Joni Mitchell song, "I've seen clouds from both sides". Now, you have a better idea of what those white things above your head look like on the other side. See, you have not missed much, if anything.
In case anyone is interested, we were over the Andaman Sea, between Burma and Indai
I have mentioned a recent trip to Thailand and back. The below slide show is made up of screen shots from the aircraft's Airshow and on-board camera. I like to watch this to be sure the pilot is heading the correct direction and has programmed the correct destination airport. Before the advent of the Airshow, I used to book a window seat and watch progress along the ground. Of course, I could not check of the destination, so was forced to hope for the best.
Today, we traveled to Hua Hin from Bangkok. I hired a hotel car and driver and am happy I did. The alternatives were to fly on a small airplane, which would have meant traveling to the airport, check-in indignities, cramming ourselves into small seats, and having luggage restrictions; or take the train, which would have meant riding to the train station, lugging all our bags, climbing onto the train, enduring a slow trip over antiquated tracks, struggling with luggage at the destination, and riding to the hotel. I prefer having the bellboy put our bags in the car, sit in a comfortable car, let someone drive me, and let the bellboy of the destination hotel retrieve my luggage. The drive took two hours; other less-comfortable alternatives would have taken more than twice that and include stretches without air conditioning. Have I mentioned that Thailand is experiencing higher-than-usual temperatures? I am proud of making a good decision.
Roads were better than I expected and traffic was less than feared. I would not want to drive in this country, so was happy to have an experienced driver and a good (German) car. Most of the way saw the median planted with nice shrubs or colorful flowers.
I have wanted to visit a particular hotel in Hua Hin for years, decades even. This hotel was used as a setting for a movie about Cambodia (I can't recall the name, but it was something about the killing fields). The hotel was originally built to service guests using the railway line between Bangkok and Singapore. The original structure remains, but has been modernized. The town is the site of the king's summer residence and home of a large fishing fleet, the latter being of interest to anyone enjoying seafood. Although the town is crowded and many structures line the coast, the hotel lies in a large garden. The atmosphere is colonial and idyllic, especially when one returns from a foray into town. Like all Thai beach towns, Hua Hin features bars, girls, etc. and most visitors are not the kind one would invite to tea. Hangover 2 could have been filmed in certain parts of town, but the same could be said of all beach towns.
NB. I am a bit behind on reports about Bangkok. Someday...
We managed to travel further on our second day: almost 5000 km vs. 50 km (that kilometer and anyone too lazy to have learned metric can do the math...or let your iPhone do it). We are now in Dubai, where one has a a difficult time avoiding luxury and opulence (unless one is an
The flight was smooth and pleasant. Favorable winds helped us to arrive about thirty minutes early. I do not mind spending less time in an airplane, no matter how good the service or comfortable the seat.
Christmas is over--all three day’s worth. Dismantling the Christmas tree was a sure sign of the end. We did not wait until midnight, because we had to leave town. As already mentioned, we are staying at an airport hotel, despite living only 30 minutes from the airport. This is much less-stressful than getting up early and fighting morning traffic.
Frankfurt Airport offers three terminal hotels; others are a short bus ride, which I did not want. I could have sleep at home. This way, we can walk through the terminal to the check-in desk. There has been a Sheraton at the airport for as long as I can remember. I have sleep there: the cost is too high for what one receives. I have heard that rooms have not been renovated recently, but prices continue to be exorbitant. Hilton has built two new hotels in an adjacent building: a Hilton and a Garden Hilton. I chose the later, because I do not need whatever the higher cost provides. We need a decent bed and a shower for one night that is a short walk from our departure gate. I was surprised at the choice and quality in the “second string” Hilton.
On a side note, as I walked from the elevator to our room, I could help recalling George Clooney in Up In The Air. I am happy that I do not have to spend time in such hotels.
Today is Wednesday. We fly on Saturday. The only thing to do is pack the suitcases (most things have been laid out) and to pick up travelers checks.
I am hoping for good weather and smooth seas. Of course, the forecast for Singapore says "oppressive", but I knew that. I also know that my wife will be surprised and cling to air-conditioned spaces.
I recall my last visit to Singapore, when I forgot its geography. Too late, I learned that it lies on the equator. I neglected to apply sun cream, because I expected to sit only for a few minutes by the pool. That was a painful lesson, which I will remember on this trip.
Look forward to boring reports, which will be filled with cliches and bland observations...plus a few
There is hope for the future (which is becoming shorter every day)...
Today was the first nice, warm day of the changing season. Longer days have suggested that seasons are changing, which is helpful to those without a calendar, iPhone, or access to television.
Not that anyone cares, but pleasant weather lured me into working in the garden. I bought a new hedge trimmer and needed to learn if I could use it without hurting myself. (I did.) Afterwards, I sat in the sun to marvel at my accomplishment and to read Lonely Planet on Vietnam. With our trip to Asia a little over two weeks away, I want to start looking forward to what I might see and experience. I am sure that the country will be different than it was during my last visit. The landscape will surely have less scars, and the people should be happier. There will be more traffic, less danger of being shot, and more-plentiful consumer goods. Although I never felt unwelcome (except once, which I will relate in a post, when we reach Nha Trang in a few weeks), I expect to feel welcome by the friendly people of a former “enemy”. Our respective governments taught/urged us to hate one another, so I am glad that this episode is over and we can move on to enjoying life. I will be happy to bring tourist dollars, and they should be happy to accept them.
_ It might have gone unnoticed, but I managed to escape the computers for a little over 24 hours. I visited old friends in the area where I used to work, about 200 kilometers east of here.
The first thing I noticed was the weather. This has been the warmest November in memory (only the year in Vietnam was warmer), which I have been enjoying. I do not miss the usual cold, damp, gray misery. Of course, the beginnings of a drought are showing their first hints. The Rhine River is so low, that shipping is being restricted.
One good aspect of November is that there is less traffic on the Autobahns. Less is a relative term, because there is always traffic. The highway I took is now plagued with construction, as it is being widened. This will take about ten years, because German highway construction is rather complicated and complex...and keeps employment numbers up.
I was not in a hurry, so I drove slower than I have been know to drive on German Autobahnen (that’s the plural of Autobahn, for anyone lacking grammatical skills). It is less stressful and let’s one enjoy the scenery. For example, I noticed that people are starting to erect entire hillsides with solar panels. Someone is planning for the time when the German government turns off all nuclear plants.
I also noticed the increase in number of McDonalds and Burger King outlets along the route. I recall days on none and many years of a single fast food restaurant between Frankfurt and Munich (which I used on many occasions). When I took trips with the family, finding a McDonalds was not unlike searching for water in the Gobi (no, I did not forget the word desert, because Gobi means desert...how’s that for a bit of pedantry?).
It was nice to catch up with old friends. Distant and other commitments tend to reduce the frequency. But, these are the ones that are worth keeping track of. Nice weather, light traffic, and time made the trip rather pleasant.
Now, I’m chained to the computer again. I must finish the next bloody novel before the end of the year...