Sunday, June 29, 2008

Things I learned in Asia

*Everyone in any small area knows most everyone else. Word gets around. Be nice to your waiter: He is related to someone.
*Don't muddy the water around you; you may have to drink it.
*Don't buy from the children: If they're making money in the streets they won't be sent to school.
*Get lots of small bills: You need to buy from lots of vendors to help them all, especially in the little villages. They don't have change.
*Don't bargain with the poor folks: You look like a cheapskate; relatively, you are rich. A buck/penny means more to them. Let them keep the change.
*Do bargain with the Tourist Market folks: It's fun, and if you both laugh, it's friendly.
*Use your Lonely Planet guidebooks: Wow! They were super accurate. That tiny woodcut-print shop in Kyoto was worth the whole trip!!
*Learn how to say "Thank You" in every language
*Laugh a lot! It's a universal language. Smile when you're not laughing.
*Go with a friend, or find one on the way: Double the fun.
*Take good shoes: Everything worth seeing is a walk.
*Plan on photo storage: We bought a tiny, 120Gig hard drive. Bring extra memory cards and batteries to switch out.
*Memorize the Microsoft/Explorer/Firefox pages: Everything is in Asian Characters, & figuring out how to toggle English is hard.
*You will get used to their harder beds. It'll take some time to get used to yours when you get home.
*Go to the boondocks: They are so glad to see you! The East West Siam Company was our introduction to the tribes all through Northern Thailand. There are a lot of other companies who pay the villagers for visits.
*Smile for at least a few of their photos: At Borobudur we were politely mobbed by folks who wanted photos with us. 'Round-eyes' are rare.
*Condense your purse/daypack to a minimum, & plan for secure storage for the rest. It gets really heavy.
*Early on find out how to get cash in needed quantities. We spent a harried time accumulating enough cash to get those lovely woodcut-prints in Kyoto.
*Take all your credit cards, more traveler's checks than you think you'll need and then as many $20 bills as you feel comfortable carrying. Tell your credit card companies where and when you're going. Authorize someone at home to call them in case they block your card.
*Splurge! You won't pass this way again. Buy it when you see it. Tighten your belt when you get home. Research what each place specializes in before you go.
*Find out when the disabled workshops are: Siem Reap's Artisans store is phenomenal. I regret not asking about these earlier in our trip.
*Plan on mailing things home: DHL & FedEx are the most secure way to send things.
*Don't put valuables in your checked baggage. Temptation is unkind.
*Learn about the local Children's Hospitals. They are all over SE Asia and worthwhile. We visited one at Siem Reap.
*If you're female: Master "The LOOK". It says 'Don't mess with me!' Don't respond to catcalls, or look at men. Learn how to discourage...
*If you're male: Don't look or talk provocatively or touch!
*Don't expect your guides to protect you from beggars and touts. They live there & know these folks have to make a living, too. Ask how to discourage them, & how to say NO.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day Sweet Sam !

Remember when I gave you Brewster the Rooster for Father's Day?
This Father's Day I'm coming home... can I consider that a Father's Day gift?
Does it count if I'd be giving you Myself even if it were'nt Father's Day?
I Love You !!! Susi

Headed HOME !

We're in Tokyo, waiting for our flight to Chicago, then to DC, and home on Tuesday. GT figured it's 20 hours in the air.
Siem Reap, Cambodia, is a burgeoning city. Every corner is sprouting a new building, mostly hotels. Tourism has made it grow too fast for it's streets and other infrastructure. I thought of the gold-rush towns. The roads into the Angkor Wat area are pretty good, and it is a huge area, designated by the UN as a world heritage site. We used three guides, all of whom were licensed by the state. We liked each for different reasons. We took our first guide, who has been licensed for just a year, with us for the helicopter ride. He was both thrilled and terrified. We called a guide recommended on an Asia Travel Forum who sent over an excellent guide, who took us out into the country. The next day we asked a young woman contracted to our hotel to guide us. She brought her adorable daughter with her (our request). We had a super time with them, and she was able to show a lot of her friends how beautifully behaved her youngster is.
We showered, then went to the Children's Hospital to give blood and lounged around the pool until airport time. Gwin donated for the first time; she's inherited type 'O' from her father, making her a universal donor.
We enjoyed the Hotel de la Paix greatly. The treated us extremely well and the food was superb.
But nothing can beat being home!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On to Angkor Wat !

Dear Ones, We're at a 'Boutique Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a night, then to Siem Reap, Cambodia very early tomorrow morning. By direct flight it is only an hour, but we have to go back to Bangkok and then to Cambodia.
Bann Tazala, here in Chiang Mai is a jewel set on a long narrow lot; each room decorated with lovely pieces of art. It's beautiful that I started wandering along the corridors snapping away, and when I moved a beautiful door to get a better shot, the door fell!
We hung out our wet clothes, from the rafting trip at Lisu Lodge and ran straight to the 'Night Market' where we've just finished filling a box to send back home.
Lisu Lodge was as fun and enjoyable as the Mekhala River Cruise was; both by the same company: "East West Siam". Gwin got the run down on all their other tours, so maybe she'll be able to enjoy other trips with them. We really liked our Guide, and hope to stay in touch. We also met some lovely people there. I guess folks who can afford to travel tend to be rather nice.
We'll be home soon!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Thanks for the support, Everyone !

Thank you to Family and Friends for your unstinting support of our trip to SE Asia. We have had a wonderful trip so far; seen and done far more than we expected. Kyoto turned out to be a smaller place than we expected, and we saw the best of the best sights. Our Ryokan, a Japanese Family Inn, was disappointed not to see more of us. Gwin found out how easy it is to walk in that pristinely clean city and walked my feet off. We saw several Geishas and their apprentices and attendants. They are followed by paparazzi like movie stars. We walked around the Goin, or geisha district until fairly late (for us) and saw pretty canals lit by lanterns. We also shopped a la 'Lonely Planet'. These guide books have been infallible in their advice on restaurants and shops. We found some lovely wood carving prints in a tiny shop they recommended, and enjoyed excellent meals in the recommended places. We photographed each of our purchases before sending them home. It'll be like Christmas to see them again.
Bali is as magical as they say! We stayed at the Ibah Luxury Villas, in Ubud, a mountain town known for it's art. We cruised through town the morning after a midnight arrival that had us following the Innkeeper's flashlight to our luxurious Villa. Around every corner at the Villas, and in town in the stores we saw photo ops. Exotic, and fascinating. Our helicopter trip was educational and fun. We flew along the beaches packed with surfers, and then across countryside covered in terraced rice fields and small villages, which we had just driven through to the airport. When we topped the edge of the volcano the ground dropped off: straight down. Wow ! We flew around the lake in the middle of the crater, and returned to Denpasar. Gwin was able to talk to the pilots, who showed her everything she wanted to see. Truly the way to tour.
When we got to Yogyakarta we got to see the real Indonesia. The people are as nice as the Balinese, but the myriad of temples with offerings was replaced by devout Muslims, who are more reserved, and pray (by loudspeaker) five times daily. It's a large city... we stayed toward the volcano, Mt Merapi, next to a golf course that is very popular in SE Asia. Our Villa was very nice, but we were spoiled by the luxurious one with the private outdoor shower under flowering vines, LOL! We got used to it, though, and appreciated having a pool of our own. We toured Borobudar and Prambanan Temples one day. They are marvels of hard work and religious emotion, chiseled into stone. The next day we rested by the pool. Gwin got a book called 'Guns, Germs and steel' which I'm happily chewing my way through. It has enough to keep me ruminating about for a long time; answering the question "Why did these WASPs end up having so much stuff"
So, now we're in Bangkok, after a nice flight on Thai Air. We got in at 4 PM and started trying to confirm the Mekhala River Cruise pick-up time. I thrashed around until the next morning, when Gwin took over and sorted it out. She aroused someone at Lisu Lodge, who gave out the cell number of the River cruise folks. They must have assumed that they'd forgotten us, and waked up Ti-Ti, who picked us up in a nice Mercedes at 9 AM and gave us a truly fun tour of Ayathuya's tourist spots. There are few other tourists, and we only shared the boat with an Italian couple on their honeymoon. We really enjoyed our 'long tail' boat ride from Ayathuya to the river boat. Food and ambiance was up to par. We fed the local insects at dinner, but the bites don't itch, and I believe in donating to the locals!! The Mekhala River Cruise was up there with Bali.
We're off to Lisu Lodge tomorrow, and are looking forward to the tours there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gwin's Graduation and Asian trip

Welcome Dr. Gwin!!

Gwin graduated from St. George's University Medical School May 3rd. (above)
That's (L-R) my sister, Cathy, Gwin, my brother, Pete, and me.

Today we've enbarked on a 20 day trip to Asia. We'll be in Kyoto, Japan tomorrow. We'll be there until the 28th and then to Bali June 1st for 3 days, then to a remote resort in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Then to Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand). We'll be in Siem Reap, Cambodia on June 13th for 2 days and then home by the 16th.
I'll up date as I get the photos. All my best to everyone.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Giving the Honeybees a New Life

This has been a hard winter for Honeybees in this area. I thought I was the only one who'd lost lots of hives. Turns out my Bee Buddy, with close to 100 hives, is down to 35, ten of which are strong enough for splitting. I told him I'd give him my 7 (?) hives for 5 hives at the end of the summer. This summer is going to be busy, especially during splitting and swarming season, so he'll split from my hives and build them up, using my incoming queens and pollen, and give me back 5 regular size hives either this fall (preferable for him) or next spring (probably splits), in my equipment. I'm paying for his labor with my queens and pollen, and he's returning me to where I started. I shed the worry and he can, hopefully, do OK with the bees. It will be a shot in the arm for him, helping him to build up his numbers, and a relief to me.


I'm working non-stop on the itinerary to Asia. It'd be so easy to just call the Travel Agency and say "Book It". But, Noooo! I have to do my own research, etc. Just like I have to figure out my own taxes.
I'm pretty sure we'll go with United Airlines, but getting a response from them is very slow. They're good with taking orders, but this is outside the normal clerk's comfort zone, and they have to send it to the pricing desk. They'll hold the seats for 24 hours, but the pricing desk can't get back to you for 72 hours. Go figure. So, once I get a price, I'll know if I can buy their tickets, or if I need to go somewhere else. I guess this is so you can't compare prices.
I can't book rooms until I have the flights, can't book tours until I know when and where we'll be.
Meanwhile, I can recite the flights in and out of most SE Asian airports: BKK, DPS, CNX, KIX, PEK.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Planning for the Trip proceeds

We're looking at all the options for the trip to Asia. So far we are considering Beijing, Kyoto, Bali, Chieng Mai, Angkor Wat, Bangkok, Delhi, Kathmandu, Bhutan, Kashmir,Varanasi (Ganges), Istanbul, and maybe returning through Vienna. The bold names are under serious consideration, the rest may work out. The dates are getting less solid, since GT has to get some critical paperwork done before reporting to MCV on June 23.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Road Trip! Road Trip!

Yes, We're going on a TRIP!   
GT wants to dip her toes into the bigger world, and Momma can't let her go alone.  Well, it isn't quite like that, but...  Angie couldn't go.
We leave right after her last stint in Brooklyn, on the 27th of May. I pack her out and store the stuff on the farm on the 23rd, and we run to DC and jump the flight to Beijing, then Kyoto, Bali, Bangkok, Angkor Wat, Chieng Mai, Kathmandu, Delhi, Vienna, and home.  We'll stay about two days in each place and travel on the third day.  I'm hoping for Bed and Breakfast type places to stay, and daily tours. We return on 20 June.  GT starts work on the 23rd... no apartment and a rental car... OMG!
I figure I'll be de-toxed from my Diet Coke addiction by the time I return, and sore from all the hard beds Asia is famous for.  The sacrifices we make for our children... Sigh.  Angie, I REALLY wish you'd said Yes!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

So Much Water Under the Bridge: Where to start?

  • Sam's had a heart valve replaced and is still in the local rehabilitation center regaining his strength. I'm at a loss without him; like a rudderless boat.
  • I'm down to 6 hives, and may lose one of those, due to my neglect of them during last Fall's drought.
  • BG has planted the spring garden... with her wages I'd be waaaaay ahead buying on the retail market!
  • Against all odds, GT was matched to the Medical College of Richmond, VA and will be a Resident there for 3 years. We are thrilled they see so much promise in her. She has worked very hard to get the priviledge of working harder!
  • The single woman who rented the Bondurant House ( got a chance to move, and we are hoping that the lovely couple who just looked at it will move in mid-April, on a five year lease. 
  • It's a good thing we upgraded the house when we did; we couldn't afford it today, due to the added costs of shipping. 
  • Our utility bills are the same, despite the drop in usage, due to fuel cost increases.
  • Macks, our beautiful German Shepherd adds to our pleasure every day. He charms everyone he meets with his calm demeanor and lovely manners.
  • We watch the Nieces and Grand-children grow daily; wait for the new crop to emerge, and... 
  • We count our Blessings every day.