After spending two weeks in Laos to train new staff and conduct further site inspections and analysis of our Laos properties, I headed to Singapore for the first of three trade shows within a month’s time.
Before this trip, I had only spent a few hours in Singapore; it was a long layover between my Asian and European travels last year. I arrived in the early hours of the morning, took a nap and then power shopped for a pair of jeans, a few shirts and a haircut. Didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Although I do remember enjoying the airport – very user friendly.
On this recent trip, my colleague, Guy and I stayed at the Ibis Hotel which for such a budget property was good only for the free wifi and plentiful breakfast buffet. If you’ve ever stayed at an Ibis, you’ll know that it is short on amenities and luxury. Very basic. But free wifi is always a bonus in my book, so that scored major points.
I’ve given you a picture of our “home” for the few days of the trade show. I always share a booth with Apple Tree’s sister company, Exotissimo. The show was decent, although I had too many non-essential appointments to qualify it as a terrific success. At some of these trade shows, the computer system spits out appointments. Unfortunately for me, that meant that some of the buyers didn’t even send clients to Asia at all. Big reason not to go next year.
I stayed on for an extra night simply so that I could go shopping. I had a list of things to purchase, and by golly, I succeeded. Sadly, I mostly shopped for work clothes, as the clothes I brought with my to Vietnam have been over-worn or ruined in the wash. It’s pretty sad that that was the mission in Singapore, the shopper’s paradise. I peaked at a few fun things, but time was too short. I only managed a pair of jeans. Gap’s jeans have always fit me nicely, and so that side-track lasted just 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, Zara, Gap and Marks & Spencer did me proud and I was able to stock up on some essentials for work. Black pants, collared shirts. Enough to tide me over until I visit San Diego in February. I can’t wait to go shopping in a normal environment where I understand the sizes and I know easily what fits me! That and I can shop for fun clothes too!
I did spend a little free time in Singapore and believe it a destination to come back to with some fun girlfriends. I’m sure Mette and Sarah will be game. We can shop like queens and party at night. I was surprised to see such a large international crowd. All good fun for a future visit!
So with the craziness of work building up and my wardrobe falling apart in the past 8 months, I decided it was time to go to Bangkok and have a weekend of pure fun and shopping. I also got a complete health check, but that’s another blog entry! I arrived very late Thursday night, was pleased to see the staff of my hotel had already given me a free upgrade in room and happily plopped into the down bedding and drifted into dream land.
Thailand is one of my favorite places to travel to for such a variety of reasons. The people are super friendly. The tourist infrastructure is pretty solid, so it’s easy to travel most everywhere in Thailand. The food is superbly delicious. The first meal I ate was at my hotel, off menu. I just asked for a nice red veggie curry, medium spice and was served perfection in a bowl. You may remember that I took that one week cooking class in Chiang Mai last year. And while my skills in cooking any of those dishes have rusted a bit, I can say with certainty that I know a good curry when I taste one. And I know just the spice level I like (that and how much palm sugar to use – right Annette? ;p ).
After ease of travel and yummy food comes massages. I can get any number of awesome massages for super cheap. When I was at the health spa last year, I got a massage everyday. And while I traveled in Thailand, I indulged often. This weekend, I was able to squeeze in two massages. One came Saturday morning. I arranged an early morning massage, 8am, so that I could still have time to stop by the health center to pick up my results and then head out for shopping. The second came after I spent about 8 hours in the malls and barely made it back to my hotel! I had a leg massage in-room and lucked out with Sleepless in Seattle on TV! Awesome! I have to say, though that my first massage was a bit alarming. The goose eggs in my shoulder blades and neck – the same ones which were there when I slipped that disc in my neck – have reared their ugly heads. I was surprised how tight my shoulders were, which actually makes for a not-so-relaxing massage! (Note to self – schedule a weekly massage to combat goose eggs making nests in shoulders.)
Bangkok also has no shortage of nightlife. This is something Hanoi greatly lacks. We do have our parties and certain after-hours bars, but the police roll through town right at midnight and the town goes dark. On Friday, I met up with colleagues in BKK and had a night out on the town. I still love going out on the town. I love going dancing and meeting new people and just being out. I do question how long I can relive my youth, though. I didn’t get back to the hotel until 2am. The next day after the big night out was a little rough, to say the least. Not my preferred frame of mind for a big day of shopping.
And then let’s talk about shopping. There are some great malls in Bangkok. And I hit them on a big sale weekend, which was perfect. A bit surprised to see that the malls weren’t all that busy. A sure sign that we are still not climbing out of this tourism hell hole just yet. When I say big sale, I mean most stores had sale items 50% – 70% off. Even though I didn’t have to nudge my way through crowds, I still dealt with rude people. I mean, sometimes I swear I think I am invisible. As soon as I would go to a rack, someone else would walk up and look at the same section. In one store, this Russian chick got a mouthful from me because as I was flipping through a rack of shirts, she grabbed one which I had my hand on. “What the hell is wrong with you? You don’t grab a shirt someone is looking at! How rude can you be?” She didn’t even say sorry, so apparently, she’s comfortable in her rudeness.
At least shopping in BKK is a bit easier than Vietnam. The Thai don’t really push to make a sale, nor do they care if you buy anything. Vietnamese, on the other hand, follow you around the store and watch every move you make. While Thai sizes are more manageable, women’s clothes, for the most part, still look as thought hey were made for children. You cannot go to Asia and worry about what the number says on the size label. You just have to find what fits, and that may be a 6 in one store and a 42 in another. No shame in finding something that looks good.
I have to ask, though. Why are 80’s fashions making a come back? Long shirts with elastic and a ruffle over the hips (not so good for those of us who actually have hips)? One sleeve numbers? I’m pretty sure I saw acid-washed jeans. There is also this whole trend of very thin, cotton blouses which are pretty much see-through. What exactly am I supposed to wear underneath? Just a bra? A tank top? Can I expose my little boobies? I mean – what’s the protocol? And why do I want to pay $50 for a shirt that’s thinner than a handkerchief? This is when shopping becomes a chore and I feel very perplexed.
Nonetheless, I came back from my Bangkok weekend with four pairs of shoes, a few tops, a hand bag, one suit and a pair of linen pants. Oh, and a new love of black sesame ice cream, which – trust me – is to die for! I can’t wait for the next visit!!!
On the Bright Side,
There was an interesting knock on the door this weekend. A young man said he was from Angus Steaks and that they had a surplus of steaks and fish, still frozen in the cooler in the back of his truck, did we want to buy any? Um…no? Who buys meat from the back of a truck? No, no thank you.
But in many parts of the world, this is an acceptable practice. It reminded me of the day I was in Thailand and had to go to the Burmese border to renew my Thai visa. The group made a stop at a small village. As we were walking around, we heard the driver of the truck in this picture beep his horn as he approached the village. He parked and waited. We did too. What would happen? What’s for sale on this truck?
Women and children came out of hiding and purchased produce, fish, dinner for the evening. Like any child in the world, the little ones begged for sweets and toys. This mobile grocery store carries everything!
At the time, I remember thinking that it was a nice benefit of living in a remote village – the market comes to you! So why oh why did it seem so unnatural this weekend when that young man came to the door selling steaks and fish? Yeah, yeah, I know. We just don’t do that here. Why not? Wouldn’t it be cool if the local farmer’s market had a mobile unit that came to your neighborhood everyday? I think it’s a brilliant idea!
On the Bright Side,