The last month or so has provided a lot of travel opportunities for me. Most have been on business, but I did get to squeeze a weekend in there for myself. Traveling in SE Asia has its good points and bad points. Let’s start with the good…In less than an hour I can be in either Vientiane or Luang Prabang, Laos. In two hours, I’m in Bangkok. In just fours hours I can make it as far as Hong Kong or even Japan. Living in this part of the world where a bunch of countries are mushed together has its benefits. It’s one of the reasons I traveled through SE Asia last year. It’s super easy to get from one place to the next. And while there are some general similarities between Asian countries, an hour flight takes you to an entirely different culture. And I love that.
The bad part about this area of the world is that it is still behind more developed areas. Let’s take Vietnam for example…The Hanoi airport would be better off if they leveled the damn thing and put up tents. The building is old, the airline employees are not all that nice and the waiting areas are tired-looking and uncomfortable. Before you even get your boarding pass, you deal with people blatantly cutting in line, people who are standing so close behind you you can feel their breath on your neck (or smell their breath when they cough, as was the case on one travel occasion) and agents who appear that can’t be bothered to do their job. Never mind the ridiculous number of delays the airline experiences and the lack of communication with passengers.
I’ve likened Vietnam Airlines to being one chicken short of a local bus. It is probably the worst airline I’ve traveled with – ever. Not only for the lack of professionalism of the attendants – falling asleep in the jumper seat as the plane is preparing for take-off should not be acceptable in my book – but also for the condition of the planes. On one of my last fights to Saigon, I noticed that the hardware, like plastic coverings on some of the seat fixtures, were missing on several rows. I’m still shocked by how many people on board have probably never flown before. They have no idea that their ticket holds a seat number. Many people sit where they want and get bumped a few times until an attendant explains where their seat is located. Others walk aimlessly through the cabin and don’t know how to find their seat number, never mind figuring out if their seat is an aisle or window. I quite nearly punched a guy who kept pushing me when the row of people in front of me making their way through the plane stopped and he yelled, “Move!”
Vietnam Airlines also has a very strange way of seating people. If a flight is not full, they will clump people together in groups and leave several rows completely empty. As of lately, I’ve been involuntarily seated in the exit rows on most of my flights. I actually don’t like the exit rows. You are not allowed to put your items underneath the seat, and call me crazy, but I’m not willing to put all my belongings out of sight. The seat doesn’t go back, either. I’m not 6’5″ and I don’t think I look particularly helpful or someone who stays calm in an emergency. I have a feeling that in some training course, the reservation staff were told, “The foreigners like the exit rows.” And so now I am getting in the habit of asking to NOT be seated in emergency rows.
It’s kind of funny that everyday I’m learning something new about this country and about working in SE Asia. Everyday poses some challenge. I just never expected that I would learn so much while sitting in a plane so high in the sky!
On the Bright Side,
All joking aside, today was a good day! I opened up my business bank account, and while downtown, decided to explore around a bit.
I drove up and down the streets, just let myself wonder from section to section, East Village to Little Italy and on over to the streets neighboring Balboa Park.
I love old houses. I love houses which have a lot of character. In San Diego, there are some wonderful Mission style homes and Victorian splendors. I thought I would share photos of just a couple I found.
One of the fun things about being back in San Diego is that it’s like a new city to me. And as I would in any new place, I like to explore my surroundings. I look forward to sharing many more discoveries!
Before Mette came to California, I put together a full itinerary with links to websites, photos and descriptions so she could begin to look forward to her “Shanna Tour.” I did much the same thing when my Japanese friends visited in August of 2007. I like to do these kinds of things. It does make for long days and not so much relaxation, but I suspect that most people would want to get as much out of the experience as possible and see as much as they can see while they are here.
San Diego is a much more enjoyable place to tour someone around. Traffic is kinder, there are more attractions and frankly, San Diego is a much more beautiful city than Los Angeles. But one thing LA has over San Diego – Hollywood. That can be good and bad. But when you have a guest in town, Hollywood is a big draw!
I planned for today to be our Hollywood day. We started off with a VIP tour of Warner Bros. Studios. When my J-peeps were here a few years ago, we toured Paramount studios. Both are quite similar and you see and learn just about as much. Not sure the WB deserves a “VIP” status. I would expect a bit more VIP service, like being able to say hello to Zachary Levi as we pass the Chuck soundstage. But I’ll let it slide this time. ;p
After the WB tour, I tool Mette to Bob’s Big Boy for an old-fashioned hamburger. These kinds of diners are not sprinkled throughout San Diego as much as they are Los Angeles. And I hadn’t eaten a Bob’s Big Boy hamburger for at least a decade. It was delicious! (Which reminds me that I have yet to go to InNOut Burger…what’s wrong with me?)
After lunch, we took the 405 to Sunset Boulevard and made the long drive on the famous road all the way to Western. We turned again at Franklin so that we could pass by the Scientology Celebrity Centre and then go up Beachwood for the best view of the Hollywood sign. We then went down Highland and into the parking structure so we could walk Hollywood Blvd and visit Mann’s Chinese Theater. We took a good look at all the hand and footprints and several stars on the Walk of Fame. We did a little shopping at the H&M there (worst H&M I’ve been in by the way) and made our way back to the hotel.
After a rest and some decisions, we headed to the Third Street Promenade. We went for another Mexican feast at La Sandia, before we caught The Black Swan at the AMC. My goodness was that a fantastic movie. I knew/met Darren during my AFI days. I was completely impressed with this film. I loved the story, the performance, the editing, the filmmaking…just superb. I hope Darren receives the Oscar this year. It is well deserved.
And that’s a wrap!
Today, was definitely not the sunniest day in San Diego. Mette and I woke up early as we had to make it to the marina and catch a boat. We went whale watching today! I think the excitement of the activity makes up for the lack of sunshine! ;p
As we drove into the harbor area, we could see the marine layer sitting over the water. However, that layer never burned off as it normally does in America’s Finest City (tired of me saying that yet?). Needless to say, neither of us were quite prepared for the chilly wind and cold air at sea! Mette had to borrow my mom’s jacket and I just layered up what I had, as my big jackets are still in my boxes (which just happened to arrive, all in tact and in good condition, today).
Mette was very excited at the prospect of going whale watching. It’s been years since I’ve been and I knew the timing was good, so I was excited too! On our way out to sea, we saw a lot of naval ships coming and going. Later we learned that the high traffic of these ships, and the sonar they use, cause for a distinct absence of dolphins and porpoise. Truly, we did not see even ONE dolphin all day. For those of you who have been whale watching, you know this is not normal. I was concerned and a bit bummed out for this fact.
We did get lucky, though, and caught up with not just one, but three California Gray Whales making their way to Baja. The captain suspected that we had found two females and a juvenile. They were really playful and curious, and they were very close to shore, no more than two miles out. We kept up with them, as the captain found them to be entertaining and there is never a guarantee that we would so easily find another group or solo traveler. Plus, these three provided lots of photo opportunities and were simply amazing to watch!
Have you been whale watching this season? When was the last time? You should go! What a humbling experience!
Mette and I had a farewell dinner with my parents tonight. We grilled steaks for the occasion. Yum! Tomorrow we are off to la la land after visits to Old Town, La Jolla and Del Mar. Let’s hope for better weather!
Today was the day I took Mette to Sea World. While she may have seen most of the zoo animals in their natural habitat, she has certainly not seen the likes of Shamu! If you are a native San Diegan, then you probably love Sea World as much as I do. Did any of you ever dream to be a trainer of Shamu or the dolphins? I think there is still a wee part of me that says “When I grow up…”
Suffice to say, it was a perfect day at Sea World today. It’s mid-January, it was in the low 80’s, the sun was shining and it was Tuesday. There were not enough people at the park to fill even the dolphin show stadium. There were moments when we were walking through the park and there was literally no one else we could see! It was awesome!
Of course we had to do and see everything! We fed the dolphins and the bat rays, watched both Shamu shows and the dolphin show, visited the sea lions, sharks, penguins, polar bears and beluga whales. We even stopped to feed the flamingoes, but they were too slow for the hungry ducks.
As much as I love my dolphins (I love love love the dolphins), I have a new appreciation for the bat rays. I was first amazed with how smooth and gentle they are. And they are very curious creatures. There is also a stall at the bat ray enclosure where you can buy a tray of squid and feed the rays. I had to try it. Admittedly, it’s not as easy as feeding dolphins. You have to squeeze the squid in between to of your fingers, submerge your hand in water and let the ray swim over your hand and suck it into their mouth. My first attempt was a success, but it completely freaked me out, as my hand wasn’t deep enough in the water and the ray’s suction noise was really loud! I thought he was going to eat my fingers!
After the second and third time, I got the hang of it. And I was more comfortable to pet them. They have a similar feel of a dolphin, but softer and more slimy! Yet, I was so intrigued by their behavior and kind nature, I didn’t care so much about the slime.
With so few guests at the park today, we had ample time to pet and play with the bat rays and to take some pictures. I sort of fell in love with these creatures and will look forward to feeding them again on my next visit to Sea World.
Once again, I have to say it – gorgeous day in America’s Finest City! ;p
This was one sight captured at the zoo today. While I loved seeing the elephants, the gorilla (only one was out, but he was entertaining), the meerkats and the monkeys and the bears, I did NOT enjoy seeing women in leggings. I’m going to have nightmares about this for weeks!
It’s no secret that I have returned from Vietnam a bit heavier than I normally am. And it’s no secret that Americans are way way way fatter than the Vietnamese. I, myself, could easily stand to loose about 10 pounds (maybe twelve after I’ve eaten all those Christmas cookies!). But I am in MUCH better shape than the woman pictured here, YET I would NEVER subject anyone to my legs and ass being squeezed into a pair of tights/leggings or whatever you want to call these fashionless bits of cotton.
I get that San Diego is a more causal kind of town. We have a certain culture of laid back-ness here that is unique to only us. BUT, have a little self-respect people, and do us all a favor – put some real clothes on!!! Stop wearing your pajamas in public! I am horrified by all these women who are walking around in sweats, leggings and what looks like pajama pants! Trust me, we cannot pull it off the same way the SE Asians can!
I am seriously very disturbed by this trend and the more women I see who are dressing like this, the closer I get to saying something to one of them. Even if I had a perfect body, I would not be dressed like this in public. Same goes for all the young girls who are wearing jean cut-off shorts and Ugg boots. It doesn’t work. It’s lazy. I am feeling embarrassed for Americans at the moment.
I’m not the most fashionable person by any means (please – I think jeans and a black t-shirt is the best outfit ever), but even if I were headed to the gym, my pants would not be so tight and I would not try to squeeze my fat ass into a tight cotton sausage casing. Please, please, please ladies – put some clothes on and cover that shit up! I want to see this trend on the extinction list!
Other than that, the World Famous San Diego Zoo was wonderful! And it was another sunny and beautiful day in America’s Finest City!
Here are some photos of the better-looking creatures:
I recently mentioned how it was such a pleasure at Christmas time to bake all those cookies (and eat them) and prepare the Christmas lasagna. I miss being in the kitchen and cooking! It’s not like I had an inability to cook in Vietnam, but frankly, I didn’t have the time and never had much confidence in the products available at the street markets. Since I had a meal allowance, it was much easier to eat at the Press Club and had my main meals there.
My Danish friend Mette arrived from Vietnam last night, and I wanted to have her wake up in the Bright house to the smell of brewing coffee and freshly baked brownies and cookies. These items would be considered a luxury in Vietnam and I wanted to make sure to start her vacation in comfy mode. Plus, it was a good excuse to bake up a storm and enjoy some of my morning in the kitchen!
It’s Mette’s first time to California and so I have a San Diego/Los Angeles tour planned out for her this week. Today was rest and relaxation, an introduction to American football (which Mette says she never needs to watch again) and a shopping trip to Target (a good initiation into Americana). Target helped her get a few basic items which are hard to find in Vietnam, as well as fun stuff like plastic tumblers and teeth whitening strips!
The Golden Globes were on tonight, and so we enjoyed watching the stars parade in their formal attire while we ate a variety of chips and dips and drank wine. Heaven! Pure heaven!
Time to get some sleep and prepare for the World Famous San Diego Zoo tomorrow! I haven’t been to the zoo in years! Hooray!