Sunday, March 25, 2007

Asia Trip - Part Seven - End of the Story

Coming Home

Today, the day we returned to Kuching from the longhouse, is February 23, my birthday - #74. We do big celebrations around birthdays, but this time we would simply acknowledge it, enjoy it and save the big celebration – Miller Fest – for when we return home. So it was a buffet dinner at the hotel and early to bed. Ah, the comforts of the Holiday Inn.

And now our final full day in Kuching and on this trip was upon us. Before we went on our rainforest excursion our plan for today was to visit a nearby jungle area – to see it and take a trek. Well, we’d been there, done that, and neither of us had any interest in a challenging walk. Our bodies were sore.

What appealed to us was to prepare leisurely for our flight home, pack, read, watch TV, eat, drink, hang out. So that’s what we did. A perfect day, capped off by another dinner featuring Sarawak food at the Khatulistiwa Café.

We needed to get a very early start the next day – up at 4:30. I never sleep well before an early morning wake-up call for a flight, and this was no exception. There was no chance we’d oversleep, so we were on schedule. As were the planes. We flew from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur and then caught a plane to Singapore. We had about five hours between planes in Singapore, but fortunately, after many economy class flights in Southeast Asia over the past three weeks, we would be in Business Class for the flight home, so there were a few perks. The main perk was the Singapore Airlines Raffles Lounge. It was very comfortable and featured a terrific variety of food and drinks. So the time passed quickly.

Between Singapore and San Francisco we were to stop, but not change planes, in Hong Kong. I thought we’d just stay on board during the stopover. I was wrong. We had to disembark and go through two complicated and thorough security checks before reboarding. The process was a royal pain in the ass, but this is 2007 and the world being how it is – that’s life in the travel lane.

We took off at dawn from Kuching. We landed at sunset in San Francisco. A long and exotic day from the jungles of Borneo to our favorite city.

In looking back I’d say we had a good, not a great, trip. Somewhere in the B/B+ range. We have had several very useful conversations about what kept it from being an A and learned some things about travel and us at this point in time.

One difference between this trip and others we’ve taken was that this time we went to places we hadn’t been before and had heard good things about, not to places we were called to see, eager to visit. We won’t do that again.

We also realized that we’re less willing than we used to be to put up with discomfort or inconvenience. Our Iban experience was an exception (we’d put up with something like that any time,) but our conclusion is still valid. Maybe we’re just getting old and fussy, but we think it’s important to recognize what our preferences are and respect them.

Large cities have less and less appeal. The best times we’ve had in recent years have been when we’ve traveled to small and less visited places. So on this trip the large cities, Ho Chi Minh City and to a lesser extent Hanoi, and the tourist-oriented Hoi An, were the least satisfying stops.

Some time ago we sat down and created a five-year plan for travel. Where did we most want to go? When would we go? That was a good strategy for us and we completed the plan a few years ago. It is clearly time to do another five-year plan, which will happen before the year is out.

Having said all this, we’re very glad we went. And writing this account of our journey helped highlight all the wonderful parts of it. At the end of our trips we play a little game with ourselves. We think about where we’ve been and what we’ve done and independently each of us name the five things/places we enjoyed most (not necessarily in priority order.) Here are our lists this time:

Lunch at the Waterfall
Brunch at the Metropole
The Monks in Luang Prabang
Wat Si Saket in Vientiane
Nanga Sumpa Longhouse

Old Hanoi
Dinners at the Emperor/Mandarin/Brothers Café
The Waterfall Lunch
Wat Si Saket in Vientiane
Our Longboat

For the record, my runners-up were:
Lunch at Cha Ca
Dinner at Kua Lao
Old Hanoi
Tomb of Tu Duc
Brothers Café

Sandra’s runners-up were:
Van (Guide) – Trip to Cham Complex
Lunch at Cha Ca
Food in Luang Prabang

We feel you’ve been with us on this journey. Thanks for coming along.

It’s possible I’ll post some pictures on this blog site – either by themselves or in conjunction with the text. I’ll let you know if that happens.


Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Dan...what a great chronicle. You should work for a travel magazine or simply have a column...might pay for the next excursion. I appreciate your sharing it and now I feel I can move Vietnam a little bit to the back burner and get to some other places I'd like to visit first.

4:52 AM  

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