Thursday, February 12, 2009

(Not just) South East Asia Travel Tips

Hi there..
No haven't been traveling yet this year, but my aunt and uncle are cruising to south east Asia in a few weeks. I sat down to write her a note of little tips we found out both before and during our trip, and realized that others might find it helpful too, so here they are.
Feel free to email me if you have a specific question I can answer,
Happy Travels,

My hints for cruising in South East Asia:
Generally no worries on the ship. We ate and drank the water on the ship with no problems.
Use the sanitizers (they are in or near most of the restaurants) before eating anything on the ship. Don't forget every handrail you touch has been touched by many people. Just doing this will protect you from most flus and colds.

When off the ship:

1. Don't eat anything raw(salad fruit etc) that has been cut open or washed. You don't want to eat anything washed in local water unless it's cooked.
2. Bananas and oranges etc. are OK if not peeled.
3. Don't drink any beverages that served to you in an opened bottle/can including water. When ordering ask for it unopened, most places know this, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
4. Don't use ice cubes.
5. Take pepto bismal, and immodium, gravol with you just in case you do eat something that doesn't agree with you.
6. Use sunscreen.
7. Take insect repellent. Wear light clothing that covers you all over for touring. Some places are really buggy and mosquitoes may carry malarial disease. Take socks with you just in case, to use if it's really buggy (Cambodia was) they (the bugs)love ankles. Also in some temples you have to remove your shoes, and I preferred to wear socks to bare feet.
8. Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse/backpack. You'll have to pack these things in your checked luggage, not carry on.
9. Carry a small amount of tissue (toilet tissue or kleenex) with you. Many bathrooms including rest stops DO NOT have toilet paper. I found out the hard way and had to beg for some from a fellow shipmate.
10. In some places there are only Asian style toilets or squatty potties, in other words, you can't sit. You have to squat, the fixture is in the floor. So try to use the rest stops that they take you to. Usually, but not always, they have European style toilets.
11. Have you gone to a tropical medicine travel doctor? They give out most of this free advice with a consultation; recommendations for innoculations and prescriptions if necessary.
12. Take your normal medicines, and the ones I mentioned above. Some places don't have regular tylenol etc. and paying for them on the ship is very expensive. Seeing the doctor on the ship is expensive too. Make sure you have travel health coverage for your whole trip.
13. Take snack, protein or fruit bars and bottled water on your excursions, in case you don't want to eat locally. Sometimes the excursions go a lot longer than expected. In some cases we got back to the ship at 10 o'clock at night. The buffet was usually open for those who were hungry and late but sometimes were too tired to eat.
14. We only took tours that were offered by the ship. The reason is; if any other tour is late for any reason, the ship will NOT wait for you, and you have to pay out of your pocket to reach the next port. If you are on a trip from the ship, and are late they must wait for you. (This happened at least 4 times on our trips. Traffic in some cities is very heavy and the ships are not always docked or moored near the cities. Also, buses break down at times, and you don't want to have to arrange a hotel, flights etc to get back to the ship.) Generally these tours were well organized and were not overly expensive.
15. If you are nice when approached by beggars, kids, people selling stuff near the buses - they won't leave you alone. I tried to say no, thanks, maybe later, and if you do that, they are relentless. I told one little boy, maybe later, and guess what? He was back at the bus when we were leaving and said "Lady it's later!" I then said no thanks, and he called me a liar. Actually what he said was "Liar, liar pants on fire". No kidding. So, you have to say NO! not rudely, but firmly. I found that difficult, but it's really worse when they follow you around the temples etc. Also if you give one kid something, you will have 12 more kids following you. Small kids are the worst, they are dirty and sad looking and rub their stomachs, then when your back is turned, (this really happened to us) they start laughing and mocking the tourists. They are well trained and know how to push your buttons. If you really want to help them, shop for souvenirs in local shops and businesses to help their economy, tip your tour guide - this will help them more in the long run. Some people gave them candy and chocolate - but I didn't feel comfortable doing this. In some places they are extremely concerned about child molestation/sex trade, and you don't want your kindness to be in any way misconstrued.
16. Wear your cash and credit cards, inside your clothing (money belt) and take out a small amount before getting off the bus/ship so you won't have to open your wallet in public. Don't show your cash anywhere in public.

I hope this is helpful,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A great trip remembered

Just popped in to re-read the blog about our trip. Since I documented it day by day, it is in reverse order. So, if you want to read it chronologically, go to the index and read it day by day, starting with Dec 2007.

To see some of the art I created from my photos of this trip go to:*



Friday, January 18, 2008

Last Day in Hong Kong and home!

We had great intentions to go to early morning Tai Chi class, but alas we woke up leisurely this morning at 9 after a good rest. It was needed. This trip has been so exciting and demanding we just needed a day to coast. Early morning breakfast in the hotel was a chicken congee, dim sum and steamed pork bun, all of excellent quality. This time we explored some different neighbourhoods, had soup and sushi and then got ready to leave.

We arranged the airport express and enjoyed the drive to the airport. New and situated in the hilly west end surrounded by more huge skyscraping condos, it is an amazing city of contrasts: old and new are merged together in a yin yang kind of harmony.

The new airport is stunning. The architecture is modern and light filled. Even on a dull day it is bathed in outside light. Surprisingly it is QUIET! In the main halls there are no flight announcements. There is a variety of very nice restaurants both western and Chinese. Lots of shops to browse.
Going home from this amazing trip, we need a vacation LOL!
thanks for joining us
Rick and Linda

Hong Kong Day 2

Last night we wandered around downtown Hong Kong. Our hotel is right in the middle of Times Square, yep, that's the name of it. A huge building with 12 floors of high end shopping, restaurants etc. That got tired pretty quickly and we started exploring the streets. Lots of small eateries, restaurants and shops and marketplaces in the streets. Above these is at least 3 levels of retail. We are used to street level, but here there's more. Tons of young adults wandering meeting friends, and shopping. Did I mention shopping?
To give you an idea of what it's like here, imagine St. James Town Housing in Toronto. Now imagine it two and sometimes 3 times as tall. Now imagine it everywhere all over Hong Kong! Some condos were 60 floors high! Even at that height people hang out their laundry to dry. The city is concrete everywhere and surprisingly clean for that many people. When you drive out to the airport or to Stanley Market it gets more mountainous and green. But when you are in the city there is very little greenery or plantings. We found a place with bbq pork hanging in the window. A local type restaurant. We ordered one order of bbq pork with rice and greens. It was enough for an appetizer for 2. They were very nice and found one person who spoke English and made sure we ordered the right thing. Later we got a bit hungry so we found a Japanese restaurant with interesting food. We had grilled eel (best I have ever had) and pumpkin tempura (which turned out to be acorn squash bits done in a light tempura batter ) amazing combination of crispy/salty and creamy sweet. Then we had a fried rice with eel that had veggies and a saucy consistency. We walked about a bit more till we got tired and then went to sleep.

Today we planned to go to Stanley Market. We somehow found the mini public transit 40 bus that took us on a wild ride to the far east side of Hong Kong. It felt more like a high speed chase scene in a Jackie Chan movie. The driver was talking on his cell phone and laughing hysterically the whole trip, while driving so fast we were flying off the seat. He was having this animated conversation; with someone (we hope). We were sorry we had picked the front row. No wonder it was empty!

Even through the foggy weather, the beauty of the area began to emerge. Mountains sprung up all around, beautiful huge sculptured condos dotted the landscape. Finally we arrived, to a small village area winding down to the pretty port. Stalls of souvenirs where we did our final shopping were great bargains. We had a ball looking around and walked along the promenade that led from the village to the 3 floor mall.

Inside the mall we checked out the supermarket. It was not unlike Whole Foods. Even the fish department didn't smell like fish. (which is weird because even at Loblaws it does) We quickly came to the conclusion that this mall was for white rich residents. Surrounded by very expensive condos, it felt like any suburban mall. Back to the fun at the Market and lunch in another Japanese restaurant. (I guess we had our fill of Chinese food on the cruise.) We had this amazing comfort food. Ginger rice. It was so tasty. I asked the waiter for the ingredients. Ginger, garlic and egg yolks. Have to try that at home, it was so nice.

The ride home was shorter? well it seemed so, the driver was alot safer and not in any hurry. He was on his cell phone; apparently working doesn't stop people from personal calls, interesting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

We arrive in Hong Kong!

We arrived in Hong Kong. The cruise has flown by so quickly it's difficult to believe it's over.
Hong Kong is like NYC but moreso. A small place with 7.5 millon people, not counting visitors. We took a short tour of Kowloon, first stop was the 'happy house ' or toilet at the Jade Market and food market. Unfortunately Rick was not happy when he saw the squatty potty. We saw an amazing huge Buddhist temple and people bringing offerings and asking for wishes. It was quite fascinating; some even brought whole roasted pigs and placed them on a paper (to keep it clean) prayed and then took the meat home for the family. We visited a Nunnery that was a beautiful wooden structure, built with no nails. Beautiful bonsai and topiary and ponds with water lillies.
They dropped us off and we grabbed a taxi to our hotel.

So far we have enjoyed the Holiday Inn- (great two person shower, brilliant design) free internet and comfortable bed. We were feeling a bit tired of all the fancy food so we had some plain pasta and walked around the neighbourhood. Even at 10 pm it was hopping.We went to a mall that is 25 stories high, and had a dim sum breakfast with congee and a really good steamed pork bun.
Today we are going to try to see Stanley Park and Market and maybe have some seafood. Here in contrast to the rest of our trip, there are mostly cars not motorbikes.

My Third Presentation

We woke up on day 12 Day at Sea to find that there was no mention of Tai chi on the program! I called the program administrator to see if it was cancelled. It was not cancelled but an oversight in the printing of the program, so they made an announcement at 12:30 to let people know it was still on. Unfortunately only 20 people made it, but we had a great time anyways. This hiccup made me a bit philosophical, so I talked a little about the Tai Chi philosophy.

I used the metaphor of the motorbikes in the countries we visited, how they seemed to flow and find the smoothest route to their destination. We saw little children learning the way of doing this from the experience of driving on their parents' bikes. I used this comparison to how doing tai chi for many years also teaches us how to flow with life. Sometimes we gain speed, pass others on the way, feel the wind in our faces and at other times we slow down, stop, hit a bump in the road, have to detour a blockage in the road, yield to a stronger force, all while learning. That is how we experience the philosophy of Tai Chi and integrate it into our lives.
We then spent the rest of the session learning the moves from the 10 form. Everyone had a great time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Second Presentation

We started a bit late after the cocktail tasting seminar....but it went amazingly well. About 65 people trickled in and I did a shorter talk portion ( about 12 mins) and then we reviewed the 3 moves from the previous lecture for the last 45 mins. They were very receptive and picked it up quite well. Mostly everyone was able to stand for the whole class, there were a few who had to sit, but again no one left till the end! The round room was really tight so I taught them the moves on the spot rather than trying to get foot work in. That worked out well. I had a ball and everyone seemed to enjoy it! The nicest part of speaking on a cruise is meeting people from all over. Several people came up at the end to say how they enjoyed the presentation, and that was very gratifiying.