Saturday, 26 November 2016

The R-word (LPG to HAN to CAN to YVR)

The R-Word????

NO, the R-word is NOT Right, or Revolutionary or Radiant or Red sun or Recreation or Regeneration.

And YES, all of Return, Retreat, Regret ,Revolting, Rain, Runny nose, Raccoon are contenders.

Returning to a Western World WITH Trump but WITHOUT Castro is not really my cup of tea.  I now know that there is more to life than just owning the latest iPhone, so returning to a place where that is high on the list of priorities is depressing. The following picture (not mine) says it all:

The existence of this picture proves that there are at last some SANE people left in this world ;-)
It is 5 pm in Luang Prabang. My plane leaves at 7 pm and I managed to find more amazing things in the 9 hours since this morning.  I mean, HOW did the waterfall people know before they left out a road to get there that one of my yet unfulfilled fantasies was to ride in one of those long skinny boats that is propelled by what looks to the untrained eye like a weed-wacker with a looong stem?

I flag down a tuk-tuk driver (I’m getting better at this) 

The way the rays of the sun hit the Stupa on top of Mt Phousi and the road dust that every movement generates literally leave 'golden' memories.

Leaving Luang Prabang by way of riding a tuk-tuk away from the setting sun is a way to make sure that I will come back. 

The airport is uneventful. The check-in lines are SLOW (I can see at least one person being taken out of the line, being shown the Visa-Approval Letter, and being told to come back tomorrow. Been there, done that, LOL) and I start talking to a young German woman in front of me.  She’s a traveler to my heart.  She also took the time to travel the dirt roads AND visited the water falls.

Security check is funny.  I don’t take my laptop or anything out of my bags. No complaints, but the woman at the X-ray machine holds up a cigarette lighter as example.  Why not?  I dig out the lighter out of one of the backpacks and hand it to her.  Now she’s happy. I’m also happy because I learned NOT to travel with less than 2  cigarette lighters.  
Luang Prabang International Airport DOES have a smoking lounge (a roof terrace without lighting, but barely anyone is smoking. Wonder why? Unlike China, there are no airport-installed electronic lighters.  Later I overhear a young Aussie couple telling their friends that they want to have a smoke but can’t because they have no light.   I just flash them my cigarette lighter and say “You want to follow uncle into the dark and have a cigarette?”.  NO, NO, I’m kidding, LOL.   But they do come have a smoke with me and my lighter just before the plane takes off.

At first I am delighted.  I have a seat in the row behind the emergency exit. Good travel karma is with me again.  

At least Mrs Bouquet had Chutzpah. 
Her copy was more of a gray mouse with a whiny voice
Then I notice this very strange woman with affected manners floating around the emergency exit area.  Finally, she finds a stewardess and says loudly to her "I would like to sit next to my husband. I would like to know who that man is that is sitting in this man’s seat!" Her intonation sounds a bit like Ms Bouquet (Bucket) from that British TV show, sad really. I only clue in what is going on when the stewardess asks me for my boarding pass bit and it turns out I'm THAT MAN.  I'm sitting in the seat of a young Asian man who then sat down in the crazy woman's seat.  Why the woman or the guy didn't just talk to THAT man directly to tell him that he was in the wrong seat is still a mystery to me.  Do I look THAT scary or have people reverted to a pre-monkey state where using language as a communication tool no longer works?  Very ODD that !

Google Maps screws me again at Noi Bai.  It says that the way to walk to my hotel is complicated and long.  So I look for a taxi. All the taxis lined up and waiting for passengers DO NOT want to exchange their $30 fare to Ha Noi for guy that just wants to go around the corner. At least they are somewhat aware that they are violating their professional code of honour because none of them looks me in the eyes when they wish me away.

Google Maps is wrong.  It’s an 800 meter walk straight along a road to get there.

I head to the restaurant next door.   
After pointing at the pictures on the wall and the wine glasses on the menu front (both not available), and asking around, I slowly realize that I speak more Vietnamese than the waitress speaks English.  But she seems delighted with that (takes the pressure off her, LOL) and she brings me my Bia Ha Noi and a SCHNAPPS.  Good thing I live right next door, that thing almost knocks me off my feet. No wonder the Vietnamese are always smiling.   I order Pho Ga (that’s all they have apparently), but it must be the end of the day leftover special, because besides the chicken I discover beef, something balls, and at least 2 kinds of unknown Squeasel in the yummy broth.
They must like me because my Pho Ga turns into a Pho (Ga + bo +various kinds of Squeasel)

Total cost of this ‘I can’t finish it’ meal: 65000 Dong.   It’s nice not to eat on Highstreet in Luang Prabang anymore ;-)

I paid US$ 18 for my hotel.  It’s about 800 meters from the airport, has two huge beds, a water kettle, a clean functioning bathroom, air-conditioning and a cat on the roof across the street that decides that I am worth observing me when I smoke out the window.  Smoking out the window is a necessity, because when I decide that it’s time to have a real smoke outside at 6 am, the family is still sleeping on mats in the hotel lobby.  I knew well why I was smoking out the window ;-)

Leaving the hotel at 6:30 on foot as usual was the right decision.  In a taxi cab I would have never experience the feelings and sights of this amazing morning.

And it would have been unfortunate missing this sight, because it is just another memory that will bring me back here. 

Whoooa, that can’t be true.  I can’t be in Vancouver yet !    But looking out the airport windows I could swear that I am, it looks EXACTLY the same, LOL.     Hmm.   
So after Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Blenz Coffee (!) the ugly weather also has been imported to Guangzhou ;-(
Looking at the pictures of Guangzhou’s brand-new Singaporesque buildings, I always thought the airport would be a collection of wonders too, like for example Incheon in South Korea.   What I find instead is an international terminal where I can’t even buy headphones to use on the plane.  Sure they have Bluetooth ones, but how am I going to use them on a plane ???

To get Wifi, you have to provide your mobile number and they send you a text with the password.  The last time I have seen that laughable process was in Germany 10 years ago. So first that cost me $1.50 for the text and then the bloody internet doesn’t work properly.  Thanks soooo much !  Guangzhou is heavily advertising its 72 hours visa-free transit stay.  I tried 24 hours of that on the flight here, and that encouraged me to never ever do it again.   If the airport Wifi can work flawlessly in Vietnam, friggin war wreck Cambodia, and even the glorious sphincter of the world, Laos ( I mean it in the sense “The place where Trump’s sun don’t shine ;-), then why can’t China get it right?  

I blame the corroding effect of salt water of the South China sea in 2012
All that rain is a good way to ease me into my Vancouver existence again.  And I might have to stay there for a while.  Because I need a new passport.  Not only do the pages literally hang by threads, more importantly there is only ONE page left for visas.  As for the appearance, I'm not too worried about US immigration officials with stern faces telling me that a passport should NOT LOOK LIKE THIS (I hope my friends down there will visit up here more often because I have no great desire to visit a Trump America), but this passport has had it. At every immigration counter I was worried that the official would hand me back two pieces instead of one ;-)
Look at the guy in the yellow shirt.  How many pieces of carry-on luggage does he have?

Revolting is not only the weather, but how uncomfortably numb the people are here.

I mean if you see this guy standing in shorts at the bus stop with a tan while it is raining at 8 degrees, wouldn't you ask him where on the planet or from which planet he came from ?

I certainly would be tempted.   But then I'm also not sure which planet I come from, LOL.

Grandma actually still thinks that I go to Indochina because it is warm there (Given that I have tried to explain it to her several times this seems another indication that her memory is not the best anymore).   I have to get used to being on a part of the planet again where people have forgotten how to smile. 

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