Visas

8 Days to Departure. But, Who Is Counting? Oh, I am!

It is 12:30 am and I am awake. Calmly… well, maybe not so calmly but meticulously… yes, carefully making arrangements to… oh gosh no, I will not paint a picture that is not! I sit in front of my trusted Mac with my eyes tired of reading through countless blogs/forums/mails/photos that the wonderful Internet provides me with just a few clicks. I am on information overload and I am seriously considering just going back to my old procrastinating self. After all, how bad can it be to get to my Thailand portion of the trip and have all my hotel reservations done but no flights to get to the wonderful places I will go within the country? Probably really bad! I punch in my dates again. A scheduling nightmare ensues. Why was I so confident that there were going to be flights every 15 minutes?

  My passport has returned. That is a story all in itself, but I will choose to tell it later. I am just relieved that it has come back to safe harbor. It was a thrill to leaf through it and see the colorful visa stamps. For what all this process cost me I would have expected a lot more vibrancy to those colors though! Though Laos has one with a hologram that’s pretty cool.

My rambunctious inner child is still jumping up and down and going “Yay!” (I think she is eventually going to take over and will have me smiling, skipping, and dancing throughout BLT+.)

It was worth every penny, however, not to have to trek to every embassy or to have to FedEx it to one and then to another or keep track of where it was or make sure all the info was right, or… well, you get the idea. No doubt it would not have had a good outcome. When I sent my passport in December my heart was still hurting and my mind was not into details. Now I have absolutely no excuse for not getting all the pieces of this puzzle together.

I don’t usually worry too much about itineraries –I have a backpacker mentality with a gentrified execution to travel- but being it the first time that I am alone on a trip this long I am not leaving too much to chance. Or at least I’m trying not to.

I go back to booking my flights and am sort of soothed by the fact that I am making reservations towards the latter part of March. That’s really far away. The first flight on Asia Air from Bangkok to Chiang Mai seemed really cheap until it directed me to the extra charge for my bag and then more for my seat (yes, really) and then to the meal –I’m not eating- and then to insurance –no again- and then to a place where it tells me that should I not use their internet check in, at the airport they will charge me extra. Once I added an additional $55 in fees I click again and I have at least one round-trip ticket taken care of. Fortunately, Asia Air doesn’t charge you for oxygen since I am hyperventilating and using a lot of it now. Then I have to find a way that when I return to Bangkok I can just go ahead and jump on my next flight to Koh Samui. This island better be worth it ‘cause there are no cheap flights and I proceed to pay what I was not expecting. $320 dollars later I am booked on a barely 1-hour Bangkok Airlines flight.

I have a false notion that I have all the time in the world till departure until I look at my February calendar. Eight days. Only a week-and-a-day before I leave? I still have to stock my antique stores/booths in Orange, CA. My will and my health directive have to be done. I have to meet with friends. Will I manage to do it all?

My new camera lies next to my bed. I swear it stares back and says in a very snooty way “You better get to know me. I’m not that simple you know.” If we don’t get acquainted really fast I will not be able to take all those amazing photos that I promised you I’d post. Time is running out.

Will keep you posted. It’s now 2:30 am and I am going to bed. Sleep is next.
Hypnos, Somnus?

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Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar - Burma, Ramblings, Uncategorized, Vietnam, Visas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Reflections on Consumerism and Feeling Naked…

Reflections: “a calm, lengthy, intent consideration”. Can’t quite define my consideration as calm, but lengthy it is, and I am most definitely putting consideration to Consumerism with a capital C.

I am not a shopper. When I travel I rarely buy things. Only a select few may get an “I remembered you” gift that will undoubtedly be small. I don’t even shop for myself. And when I am at home, my attention span for shopping is practically nonexistent, unless I am at an estate sale or thrift shop where I can pretty much be all day and buy a heck of a lot more than I expected. There is nothing like the thrill of a bargain and of discovery. Perhaps that is why I love traveling. I mean for the latter, the discovery. The bargain part just doesn’t qualify my trip any longer.

BLT+* started as a much needed escape from daily life, a way to mend a broken heart, to understand myself better, to overcome fears, and to discover and assimilate more cultures, people and landscapes. Then, well into the process of healing, it started to mushroom unexpectedly. With the infamous “When am I going to be back to this part of the world?” I started to consider staying a tad longer in the area. So I called the tour company and meekly asked: “How much more would it be to change my air portion to remain a bit longer in Thailand and well, maybe Hong Kong too?” I was hoping they would come back with a huge sum so I would discard the option completely but no, the response came back at: “$100 Ms. P.” How could I pass that up? And since I have no middle ground, I added 8 days in Thailand. Surely I could find something to do. And 5 days in Hong Kong -until I saw how much the hotel would cost- then whittled it down to 3, also due in part to people telling me that would be enough. My travel company had a post-trip to Chiang Mai in Thailand but was fully booked so I could not take it. Why not go on my own? I decided to fly to Chiang Mai where I plan to be one with the elephants and tigers. What to do with the next 4 days? My dream had been to go to Phuket -only a flight away. But friends and forum contributors convinced me that Koh Samui (Thailand) was less developed and just as wonderful. So Koh Samui it is. After all, I would need some mental and physical R&R after traipsing all over Southeast Asia. Then I chose the area of Kowloon to stay in Hong Kong. Then, I made no other move. Period. No move at all.

This is where consumerism comes in. 31 days to blast off (I wrote this blog a few days ago) and I have made no reservations. Purchased nothing. Planned nada. OMG! Just do it! Nike: any possibility of a commission? I’m repeating your slogan an awful lot.

I start off making reservations for a hotel in Chiang Mai, then a hotel in Koh Samui, then reservation in Hong Kong (almost), and since I’ll be alone in Hong Kong why not hire a local guide for a day? I call her; I book her after a PayPal invoice arrives. I want to go to Dialogue in the Dark but the website says they have no room. I call and ask for an English guide. I get one, along with a reservation. Skype, I am publicly declaring my love for you! I need to have a safe backpack that safeguards me from pickpockets so I go on the PacSafe site and select one. My Kindle Touch has already arrived ‘cause I can’t carry as many real books as I would like. Bought my first book for it, The Holly Brown Chronicles, some days back so now I buy some more. Haven’t booked the internal flights in Thailand yet and I’m already broke! Checked with PVS International on the status of my visas and only Laos in missing. Am asked if I want to know the running total so far and I say no, just tell me after Laos is done. Ah, the power of denial. Need to book or find out about airport transport in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Hong Kong. Some temples require people to remove their shoes and socks. Need to find one that is easy to slip on and off and very comfortable. Found. Bought. Clark’s, I may start loving you too if you turn out to have a product that does not give me blisters. Did a lot of research on a camera with a power zoom. I speak with a friend that refers me to a camera shop in NY he’s dealt with a lot and that can give me a good discount. I call. They don’t have the one I wanted in stock but suggest another they say is better. I buy. They ship. This non-shopper (even less so through the internet) has just redeemed herself in a grand way!!!! I am drained physically (my fingers are moving hyperactively), financially, and mentally. My head is spinning. Is it absolutely unconscionable that I sport a huge smile on my face, regardless? Ay, ay, ay!! (Don’t forget to infuse a bit of “Latinoess” into that expression.)     Do you think Myanmar -where I am going to first- a land predominantly Buddhist, of quiet semblance and controlled emotions is ready for me, a bundle of strong emotions and powerful voice? Will have to channel my mom, who was so subdued and quiet, to be able to blend in!

Was going to delve into the feeling naked part of my blog but this one has already run too long so I will be leaving it for the next blog which will come in rapid succession to this one…

* Please refer to previous blogs for a full explanation on BLT+

Categories: Laos, Myanmar - Burma, Ramblings, Thailand, Visas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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