Back In the Western Hemisphere!!

Well, it’s official! I’m back in the western hemisphere and to be perfectly honest, I’m thrilled. Paris feels wondeful. I’m rejuventated for sure!

How could I not love coming “back home” after the wonderful flight I had from Doha, Qatar to Paris? Oh sure, the flight out of Bangkok had it’s usual “Thai” attributes – long lines at the airport for Qatar Airlines, lovely little Thai girls in cute uniforms waiting on customers as slowly as is humanly possible, and on the positive side, the traditional wai and huge Thai smile given by a young man as I passed through the last door before boarding the aircraft. Thailand is such a contradiction all the time! One minute I would just laugh and fall in love with the craziness and the next minute, I was exasperated with the foolishness of their ways!

Arriving in Doha, Qatar, I was astounded by the scenery. The water in the Persian Gulf as you get close to Qatar is an amazing in color…so blue. And compared to the light brown earth/sand of Qatar, it really looks beautiful. I have never seen so much sand in my entire life! Doha is a city in the middle of, well, sand. That’s it! There may have been a tree somewhere out there, but I never saw one! It was just sand. The Doha Airport was lovely and say those words loaded with sarcasism! There was nothing to it! The plane didn’t even use a jetway! We landed, walked down the steps and boarded a bus to the terminal, made our way through the passport control area, and then promptly moved on to the gate to board the next flight!

At this point, things really started looking up for me. As I handed the agent at Qatar Airways my boarding pass for the flight, she told me my ticket was upgraded to Business Class. SCORE!! Business Class is the way to go on long flights, that’s for sure. I just can’t afford it!! For the next six hours, I enjoyed a nap, great food, and wonderful service.

Sweet! Business Class!

Even coming into the rain in Paris, I felt something like a sense of relief. It felt like “home”. Things seemed normal to me. When I was in SE Asia, I didn’t realize how much I felt out of synch with things. Don’t get me wrong – I had a wonderful time there. But I’m just as pleased to be back into the western hemisphere!

Just a little note here….wifi access from here on in will be a little sketchy. Tomorrow I take a train to Geneva to pick up my stuff for the Camino. I’ll be back in Paris for a day after that – which I intend to use fully seeing more of this beautiful city. After that, I head to Bayonne, France for one night and then on to St. Jean Pied du Port for a night. Barring any unforeseen issues, I plan on starting the Camino on Sunday, May 6th!! I will NOT be bringing my pc with me and I’m not sure that I’ll have (or want) access to a pc while I’m walking. Spending time in fellowship with other pilgrims is important – to me, more important that finding Internet service! I hope you will all forgive me! Thank you as always though, for staying with me and keeping good thoughts going for me!!

Cheri 🙂

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Just some stuff I’ve noticed…..

I’m not sure this counts as a blog, but I really wanted to document some stuff that I’ve noticed here in Bangkok and since I’m saving the rest of my journal pages for the Camino, I thought I’d just put them down here! So, here goes:

1.) When you walk into a major department store you will find there are usually more employees than customers. They seem to congregate and talk amongst themselves even when you are seeking help. Or, they are in the middle of the linen section texting.

2.) When you walk up to or within 10 feet of a street stall, you will be immediately “greeted” by the salesperson who will proceed to actually watch where your eyes are looking and try to sell you that object.

3.) People who walk around in the middle of the mall reading their Facebook or emails on mobile phones should be shot. Yes, I know that’s harsh, but it’s just so frustrating to try and get around them when they seem to consistently weave where you want to walk, without even looking!!

4.) I do not really like being called “Ma Dam”….it’s rating right up there with Hey Lady in my book of irritations!

5.) Tuk-tuk drivers are fun to tease. They want to rip you off so bad it’s hysterical. I kinda walk near them which makes them sit up from their reclining position (I should say it more correctly – they are completely laid out across the tuk-tuk), and say, “hey lady, tuk-tuk?” To which I reply, “no thank you”. That’s when the fun starts! They always ask, “Where you going?”.  I love that question! I tell them with a big smile, “far, far away”. Of course, they want me!! That’s when I rub my tummy and say, “No tuk-tuk, too fat, gotta walk”!! And they just laugh and laugh!! Priceless…I’m not sure who has more fun with that one!!

6.) Do not, under any circumstances, try to outdrink a Thai (girl or guy). You are asking for pain. Step in front of a bus first, it will be much easier and less embarassing. At least you won’t be throwing up in front of everybody!

7.) Asian women don’t seem to like us farangs (foreigners)! I’m not sure why – none of us can fit in their clothes, so it’s not like we’re out buying clothes away from them!  The street stalls are full of clothes that only fit them! And surely, none of the guys are looking at us – we’d squish them!

8.) Some of the Asian guys are pretty darn cute. The women might be pretty, but I’m not really sure because I’m afraid to look at them! Seriously.

9.) There can’t possibly be another place in the world (except maybe Hong Kong or Toyko) that has as many places selling cell phones, pc’s, and cell phone holders as Bangkok. I can’t figure out who they’re selling this stuff to! In MBK (the biggest tourist mall here), there is a whole floor dedicated to nothing but cell phones and cell phone covers. Now, let me make sure you’re getting the drift here. This mall is huge and the ENTIRE floor is all cell phones and covers!

10.) Lean processing does not exist here. Today, I walked around the mall looking at the employees in different places. In KFC, there were 8 people behind the counter which had 4 registers. There were 6 people cooking. Two young guys were in the seating area doing nothing but standing there waiting to clean off tables and mop if necessary. There were 12 customers including me. Do the math. Oh, and there was one girl who only sells desserts. On the way home though, I did stop at 7-11 and there was one person on each of the two registers they had and possible an employee in the back. There were 17 people in the 7-11.

11.) Yesterday I saw something very strange. It was the Google Maps Street View car. I had to Google that to find out what it does. It actually has a series of cameras mounted and does live updates of traffic in certain places. It produces a 3-D view of the buildings, etc. if you do the Google Earth thing! Only in Bangkok…

Goodle Maps Street View car!!

Learning Who I Am!

Once in a while, I come to a standstill. It’s during those times that I find my head is the clearest. Thinking comes easy. And so, it’s during this standstill in Bangkok that I find myself evaluating my journey and what I’ve learned about me. In saying that, please keep in mind this has nothing to do with the people I’ve met or the things I’ve seen! This is truly my evaluation of me!

I’m not a tourist! This came as a huge revelation to me! There is nobody I know that reads and actually studies Lonely Planet books like me. I can tell you every great spot I should have seen while here. And yet, today when I sat here at the hostel and looked back through the pictures I’ve taken, the best shots were ones of ordinary life. I guess that’s why in these last few days, I’m not concerned with whether or not I see the Grand Palace and every temple in town. Watching the street vendors, seeing mothers walking with their children, watching teen-age girls giggle and flirt with the boys, seeing people enjoying themselves in the park – those are things that remind me that we are all one human race!

I can travel alone, but it’s likely I will chose not to in the future – at least not for this long of a venture! There are times when I wanted to share the joy of what I was seeing and experiencing. There were also days when I felt on the verge of being overwhelmed and eaten alive by this area of the world. The unrelenting heat, the total difference in culture, and the physical pains that I endured alone may have made me stronger, but it would have been nice to have someone to talk to during those times.

I’m quite content with hostels! Yes, guesthouses can be a little more quaint, but for me the hostels offer more of what I look for in travel. I found I could always make friends in a bigger group of people. Clean dorm rooms and good showers are important to me! Orderly processes of check-in and check-out seem to work better for me!

I’m a big city kinda girl! Bangkok was NEVER, EVER on my bucket list. But it was a necessary evil that I had to endure to come to SE Asia. I made sure I didn’t fly into here but Singapore instead. Dread consumed me for at least one whole day in Koh Tao knowing Bangkok was my next stop. So yes, this was something I learned about me that I think maybe I knew, but now, it’s confirmed. Big cities, even Bangkok, don’t scare me – they entice me! You can be sure, New York City is now on my bucket list!

I am blessed!! I never realized how rich my life is. At 54, I’m fairly healthy, I have many, many friends, two wonderful sons, family, and I am on the other side of the world. During these past few months, I have heard from so many people who are following my journey! Many friends and new followers are taking this voyage with me and so while there are days when I feel very alone, I know I can always log on to the Internet and find friends who are with me in spirit! For that, I am so thankful – I recognize now how my words touch others and how their words touch me!

Biggest revelation: I am strong! Much, much stronger than I ever imagined! Regardless of the physical pains I’ve endured here, I’ve maintained a positive attitude for the most part! I’ve figured out how to get from here to there and back again on my own. When the need for help arose, I asked for and accepted it graciously. When I was scared, I searched inside for strength and found it! And when I was lonely, I let myself feel loneliness and recognize it could be as short-lived as I wanted it to be! There have been people in my life who said I lack self-confidence. Maybe I projected that because I felt the need to be what was expected of me at the time. Travelling alone, I found the space to be just me and found that they were wrong about me.  I AM STRONG!!

For those of you following my journey, I want to thank you once again for your comments and encouragement. Many, many times when I needed support, you were there! I hope you will follow along as I head out of SE Asia and on to Europe where I will walk the Camino de Santiago! Thank you again everyone!!

Sometimes the best way to figure out who you are is to get to that place where you don’t have to be anything else.”  Source Unknown

Live ’til ya die!!

The infamous SE Asia sidewalk...a death trap!!

This morning when I was writing in my journal, I realized I still have a couple of quotes by Paulo Coehlo. When I read this one, in light of my flesh-eating fish experience, it really hit home! It’s really ok that I had this adventure – it reconfirms that I’m alive and living life to the fullest!

“Still being fragile creatures, humans always try to hide from themselves the certainty that they will die. They do not see that it is death itself that motivates them to do the best things in their lives. They are afraid to step into the dark, afraid of the unknown, and their only way of conquering that fear is to ignore the fact that their days are numbered. They do not see that with an awareness of death, they would be able to be even more daring, to go much further in their daily conquests, because they have nothing to lose – for death is inevitable.”

Wow! Isn’t that just the truth? Since death is inevitable anyways, why aren’t we living our lives to the fullest? At some point, we crossover from being children who are carefree and indestructable to adults who are fearful of so many things. The more knowledge we gain about the dangers in the world, the more we stop living.

Unfortunately, I am guilty of this too! Because of my fears of not being able to take care of myself as I grow older, stress about not having a job, worry about where I’m going to live, etc., I’ve spent much of my life “safe”. I’m thankful though, that at some point, I realized that I will manage just fine no matter what! I finally woke up to the realization that no matter what – the clock keeps ticking and the world keeps spinning.

Life on the road reminds me that every day is a gift. Getting this wound reminds me that I could have chosen to not do any tours because “something might happen”! But the truth is, I would never have had this exciting adventure any other way! Sure, it’s kind of a strange one to have – but when I think of the stories I can tell (it’s now turned into a shark bite), the people I’ve met, the graciousness of the Thai tour company in helping me through this – I know for sure that I’m living this adventure to the fullest!

Truthfully, there are many dangers lurking out there for travellers. From crossing busy streets with traffic working the opposite of what you’re used to, to getting on airplanes, to crazy bus rides in the cities and countryside, to eating strange food cooked by most likely unwashed hands, to walking on SE Asia sidewalks that are always a REAL danger – the list just goes on and on! We are constantly at the mercy of others when we travel!  But sitting at home fearing these things, is not for me! Every day I wake up knowing yesterday was only the second best day of my life because today will be even better regardless of flesh-eating fish, weird sidewalks, or scary food! Today will be the best day ever because I’m cheating death – living each moment to the fullest!! I hope you will do the same!!

Ending…my stay in Singapore!

My last two days in Singapore have been fabulous beyond belief! Here are some reasons why:

1.) I got a massage!

2.) I watched the coolest Indian parade today…it went on for hours.

3.) Last night I went up on the Singapore Flyer and had the most beautiful views of this city EVER!

4.) Chinatown was AWESOME!

5.) Little India was AWESOME!

6.) I started the day yesterday by leaving my moneybelt in my hostel room….and returned to find it still where I left it, untouched!

So, here’s a little info about all the above wonderful things. For the last few days, I’ve had a horrible pain in my right side just below the bra line. I think it’s my obliques? Not sure if that’s right or not, but every time I start walking, within minutes I’m in pain. Today as I was walking through Chinatown sweaty and in a lot of pain, I saw a sign for a $25 massage for 30 minutes. I’ve never had a massage from anyone other than my sister (who gives great massages by the way), so I was a little nervous. IT WAS AWESOME!! I got cooled down, she worked a lot on the area I told her was giving me pain, and I walked out feeling like it should have cost me a million bucks for that deal! I’. m looking forward now to a Thai massage! 🙂

My hostel is actually located in Little India. At first I was kind of concerned because it seemed kind of shady or something in this area. But over the past few days, I’ve come to find it quite interesting and not the least bit scary. Today as I was walking to the MRT station, I was forced to stop and wait near the Indian temple because there was a parade. Little did I know that the parade would go on ALL day and well into this evening. I asked a police officer what was going on and he said it’s a holy day for the Indians. I was finally able to get through the parade line, but everytime I came back to the hostel I had to wait for a clearning to get through! And the women who were in the parade or came to watch, were dressed in the most beauitful saris. It was so exciting to see this culture. The smell of incense was in the air all day. Talk about an experience – this was mind-blowing. The guys are carrying these heavy headress like things and by the way, they are attached to their bodies with something that looks like fish hooks. The guy with the green things on him…those are all attached with those hooks!

Image

The Singapore Flyer was the best $29.50 I ever spent! It’s a huge wheel that resembles a ferris wheel except that the seats are totally enclosed, hold up to ten passengers at one time, and are completely glass except for the floor! The views of Singapore are outstanding. I decided to go up as it was getting dark and it was awesome. I finally got to see the Singapore skyline like it is in all the pictures I’ve seen. Please check out my Facebook page as I’ll be posting the photos there. This was truly a highlight for me….such a rush!! Not to mention it’s HUGE and you’re up very, very high! But well worth it even if it was a little scary! It’s weird to be up walking around in that “cage” so high in the air – but totally one of the must-do things here!

Years ago I went to Chinatown in San Francisco. Maybe because I was young (like 20 years old???) and hadn’t travelled much, I was kind of frightened by it. It seemed dirty and weird and smelly. Chinatown here is quite magical. T :)he area is fairly clean and is a thriving metropolis all unto itself. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the area and LOVED getting a massage there. Again, another recommendation if you come to Singapore!

Little India is quite fabulous. It seemed dirty to me at first as I said previously, but really, it just is what it is. The people are quite nice and there is this huge department store here called Mustafa Center. You can buy just about anything at this store. Quite honestly, I have never see so much LUGGAGE in my life in one store – every brand you’ve ever heard of (or not)!! All kinds of cameras from the most modern to some real antiquated models. It’s so fascinating. I quite like this area, but no, I’m not going to India!!!!

Yesterday I was pysched and ready to hit the town. In my haste to get going, I put my moneybelt under my pillow while I was showering (the other two girls who are quite nice had already started their day). When I came out, I guess I just totalled forgot about it until I was across town. I high-tailed it back and there it was….untouched. I was so thankful for that and it taught me to be a little more careful!

I’m having the time of my life here in Singapore and can’t wait to see my next big city – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My journey starts tomorrow!!!

Again, it’s not always easy for me to upload photos here on WordPress but I’m posting them to Facebook whenever I can. I do hope you’ll go enjoy them there. In the meantime, I’ll try and figure out what the problem is on here. Sometimes they load but they seem to take forever!

Good night Singapore!! You’ve treated me well! Thanks!

Aside