Adventures in Australia-April 2018

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My “adoptive” Australian parents, Jenny and John, were heading to Canberra to visit some friends.  There happened to be a Cartier Exhibit... in Canberra?  Well I am always up for adventure.   So off to Canberra I went…..

It was a beautiful fall day in Canberra.

And the Cartier Exhibit was fun

With the added bonus of seeing some art, including a Jackson Pollack and Monet

And that concludes my exciting trip to Canberra. Seriously. Some friends from Sydney were going to drive out to get me, and I politely suggested that I catch a flight.  This is not to say that Canberra is not worth a visit, it just was not a place that I would high on my list. In fact when I arrived back in Sydney it felt like I just flew in from another country.

A funny thing happened when I was flying back to Australia in April. I was on the long route, Chicago- London-Perth-Brisbane. On the London-Perth flight was I was bored, I know shocker, and was having a chat with one of the flight attendants.   Some guy comes in the gallery, complaining that his shepard’s pie was cold, like frozen. I was made a face, because seriously who eat PEA’s mid flights? Especially when bacon sarnie’s where an option.  He noticed my disdain and was like sorry it’s seriously frozen.  The ensuring conversation was funny.  Turns out he is a show producer that was going be touring around Australia.  A George Michael Tribute, Fast Love.  I was intrigued.  Turns out the Brisbane show was sold out, but there tickets still available for the Sydney show. And I just happened to be in Sydney that weekend.

Well wasn’t I in for a surprise. I actually really enjoyed it. I say I was surprised because I was just not familiar with his music.  It was quite good.  If you have the opportunity to attend, I highly recommend it! In fact, go ahead and break out your leather pants.  You will not be only one.

April is probably one of my favorite month’s in Australia.  If you get a change to visit, I highly recommend considering coming over in late April, after Easter and school holidays!

Until next time!

London, England-April 2018

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After my 24 hour journey from Brisbane, I finally arrived in London at 6:50 am. But with collecting bags and traffic,  I did not arrive to my hotel until closer to 9:30.  Those last few hours of the journey were the longest! My friends, Madison and Andrew, happen to be visiting from Sydney, so we had made plans to catch for lunch at Chiltern Firehouse.
It was really good.

 

Part of the reason I stopped in London was to go to my favorite boot store, Duo.  The only physical store is in Bath, so I went on a little train adventure.

My dumb self was so certain I was going to get boots I only traveled with one pair of shoes. I should have known that because of that reason alone I would not have luck at the boot shop. My feet were FREEZING.  Bath was qaint little town. I am sure I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it had not been raining and cold.

It’s not a proper trip to Bath with out visiting the Roman Baths.

That evening I went to see the play Hamilton with my friend Michael. I am a serious fan girl of this play. I originally had trouble getting tickets and then one day they were just available. Having it seen it 2 times before I was excited. Um…. it was different. They changed somethings. It was not bad just not as enjoyable as my other times.

The next day I just found trouble. I went shopping and ended up in the wrong part of town. I somehow ended up on Grafton St.  No major damage was done but it was close. I did fall for a slick sales guy pulling into some beauty store where I ended up spending money on stuff I’ll never use. You know the place, here have a free soap. DON’T take the soap!!

Overall I had a lovely visit and it was great to catch up with friends. I’ll be heading back again later this year to try to find some boot again. I managed to book a ticket for $8 using my Qantas points. So why not??? P.S. if you have miles and want to get to London, try booking London City ( LCY) vs. Heathrow (LHR).  The tax savings would cover any taxi fare from London City!

Until next time, safe travels!

Air Adventures- March 2018

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I know I have said this before, but I do think that sometimes stuff happens on my travels so I have stuff to share on this blog. Since so much happened on this last trip, I decided to share.

I was heading back to the States for a few weeks and decided to book the long route. By long route I mean, Brisbane to Sydney to Singapore to London to Chicago.  For someone who does not work in aviation, I am not sure why I thought it was good idea to spend even more time then necessary in the air.  My first flight was only 1.30 but they managed to serve a pretty yummy lunch. My window seat provided a nice view of Sydney.

I had a surprisingly painless experience getting thru security. I headed over to TRS to get a tax refund on purchases I had made while in Australia. Shocker, there were only 3 people in line. The first guy in line was claiming a steam iron. Which I thought I was odd, because why would you want to carry that on the plane? It looked heavy. The next gal in line was trying to claim purchases her Mom had made. And Mom was not there.  Oops. And the 3rd was best. For second, I had to make sure there were no camera filming for border patrol. I was not paying much attention to what the lady was claiming until the Agent asked to see the Chanel handbag. My curiosity was peaked and my attention turned to her and away from the girl with Mom’s receipts.  The lady proceed to pull out a cloth bag, sort of like a dust bag but not. I have personally have never seen a flowering Chanel dust bag, but then I don’t have a degree in all things Chanel.  Unfortunately for the lady, the Agent did. And from the look on her face she was dubious about what was in the cloth bag.  The bag that came out was not a Chanel maybe a Channel.  It was obviously a fake. The agent said as much. ” Are you seriously showing me a counterfeit bag?” The lady insisted it was not fake.  Hmm. Made me wonder if she thought she was buying a a legitimate bag. I am sad to report, I am not sure how the story ends. I do know she did not get a tax refund, but she did get a nice citation.

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My ride….

I did not have much time before boarding. I was not in a hurry, because I did not have much to carry on and I was flying first class. (BEST use of all the miles I have been earning).  The first thing I noticed was the cabin had party atmosphere.  Everyone seem to have some to talk to. Great it was going to be a long 24 hours as a solo traveler. Then I noticed that not one but two couples were enjoying pre-flight cocktails, in their seats. Meaning the 2 people were in one seat.  I’ll let the pictures explain.

Well I was sitting in 4A. There was sweet older couple sitting in 2A and 3A.  I politely asked them to refrain from mid-air hijenks. The husband said that his wife (2A) would be joining him for dinner but maybe I could come over dessert…..  Oh I knew we were going to have a fun flight.   It should be noted this was all happening before we had even left the gate. Shortly after take off, 5D was back sitting with 5K and I can say was there was a lot of movement going on under that blanket.

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Meanwhile over in 4A… Party of One…..

Before we knew it, we had arrived in Singapore, with enough time to buy some TWG Tea. (Golden Earl Grey is amazing). And then it was back on the plane for another 14 hours.  With my friends in 5K. Who apparently did not get enough on the flight to Singapore. Since we were taking off so late, the load a full meal but a lot people opt to have their beds made and go to sleep.  Well my friends, had one bed made and dined in the other seat, which actually is not a bad idea. Until we hit turbulence, and they tried to buckle themselves into the same bed. At this point the cabin crew said enough, due to safety, everyone in their own seat.  It was just too much…

I have to say it was easier to fly to London then to Chicago. Body clock wise. But I am not a fan of 14+ hour flights. I made the mistake of returning to Australia on the new London-Perth and NOPE. That’s all I have to say is NOPE.

Stay Tuned for London…….

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam- February 2018

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I had booked a flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City on Jetstar.  My flight time only changed 4 times, and in the even it was only delayed 30 minutes in the end. I paid an extra $10 to get the first row seating. It was actually not too bad.  When I arrived I wish I had organized my transportation to my hotel. I am pretty sure I overpaid for taxi.

I went a city tour on the afternoon of my arrival. The first stop of the tour was the War Remnants Museum.  It was interesting.  It’s important to know that it’s a bit bias. It does present the truth but from one side.  It’s worth a trip but might be helpful to do a bit of research about the war as so to get a full understanding the magnitude.

My tour was the highlights. A temple, the post office, the museum, Independence Palace, Notre Dame, Ben Tranh Market and a flower market.

That evening I went out to enjoy the Tet Festivities.

The next day was Tet eve, so I arranged for trip to the Mekong Delta.  I did not think this about what it will entail. I do not like boats.  To visit the delta it requires getting in a boat and even a canoe.  My tour started out with a stop at My Tho to the Vinh Trang Temple.

Then we took a boat ride out to Unicorn Island.

We sampled so of the local fruits and honey products.

We walked thru what felt like a jungle to a private home, where they served us lunch. I politely declined because well elephant fish did not seem like a good idea.

And then it was time to head back to the boat. But it required a ride in canoe. It was experience. I don’t recommend wear white pants. As I fell trying to get in and ended up covered in mud. But the highlight, I got to see a water coconut up close and in person.
And if I had not gone, I would not have gotten the super cool cone hat. Meet Meykong Flo.

With the next day being Tet, I did what anyone would have done in my shoes, I booked a spa day. It was great! A little too great in fact. I was so relaxed that when I ordered my lunch, Banh Mi, I did not ask what was in the sauce that came with it.  It was quite good but apparently there was something fishy in it.  I realized this about 45 minutes later when  I was standing in line for immigration at the airport. I noticed my breathing was weird. It took me a few minutes before I connected the dots. And I started to wonder if it was all in my head. Psychosomatic or not, I have a full on meltdown.  I managed to get to the lounge and get some water. At this point I realized I was not ok. And I had left something at security.  I walked back and the agent was asking why I left it, I was practically crying saying I just don’t feel well.  He actually looked at me and said you need to go to medical. I knew that if I told the truth I was looking at 24 hours of observation.  So I took my chances, waited until he looked the other way and hightailed it my gate.  I managed to make it safely to Australia without any medical intervention. I was sick for 3 days.  I know I take chances with my allergy but after this little episode I realize I need to be more careful. I got very lucky this time.

Until next time.. Safe Travels

Da Nang, Vietnam-February 2018

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I had quite the little adventure getting to Vietnam. Southeast Asia is probably the birthplace of the low cost airlines.  The fares are ridiculously low and if you are lucky you will depart and arrive on time.  The model works well, but man, PACK YOUR PATIENCE. I had booked Cambodia Air to fly from Siem Reap to Da Nang, Vietnam.  I think the flight time changed about 3 times before day of departure. I lost count, if I am honest.  I thought I would have to check my bag so I arrived at the airport 2 hours ahead of time. The first clue something was wrong, my flight was not on the departure board.  The second clue, I was suspiciously in line with people that did not appear to be going to Vietnam. I was right they were going to China.  I started panicking that maybe something was off with my flight, so I did what any pampered traveler would do. I looked at the departure board for the next flight to Da Nang and bought a ticket. I paid about 10 times the price. Even then the flight was delayed! I learned a expensive lesson, book a flight that would potentially connect to the a international long haul. Better chances of it going on time or close to it. I arrived safely, so in the end it all worked out.

And it was so worth it!

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I had originally planned on going only to Ho Chin Minh, I am SO happy I added Da Nang. Even though it was not ideal beach weather it was still quite nice. It also helped that there was a Hyatt. What can I can I am loyalist!  I mistakenly booked to be in Vietnam during Tet, or Lunar New Year. It’s like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all rolled into one. Basically the country shuts down.  I arrived a few days before, and it was fun to see all the preparations.

Lots of signs and yellow chrysanthemums. Their Vietnamese name is  Hoa Van Tho which means longevity and prosperity.  The best part, seeing them being driven around on motorbikes!

Hoi An is a fun town about 30 minutes from Da Nang. My favorite part of Vietnam, so far, has been the fact that the roads are paved! I headed over to Hoi An to check out the town. It was raining and over run with cruise ship passengers, but even then WOW. It was like a little village with fun architecture. A labyrinth of cafes, shops and markets.

It was nice to see a large selection of local made items. Especially the ceramics! So much to buy… too bad I was traveling with a carry on. And the market was quite fun, interesting how they sell meat and fish. At least thru the eyes of this germophobe American!

I spent most of time in Hoi An. After it stopped raining and the cruise ship departed, the streets were quite bare. I was happy that I went during the cooler time of year. But I would like to go back to enjoy the beach properly.

I loved the mix of relaxation with the hotel by the beach and the vibe of the Hoi An city.  I highly recommend visiting this area if a trip to Vietnam is on your radar.

Stay tuned next up another flight on a low cost carrier….

Siem Reap, Cambodia, February 2018

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Apparently, the third time is the charm. I finally made it to Siem Reap, after booking it 2 other times.  First impression, not what I expected.  Mainly I thought it was going to be extremely hot. The heat was bearable, but this could have been because it was “winter”.

The main reason for my trip was to visit Angkor Archaeological Park. The park was the capital cities for the Khmer empire from 9th to 14th century.  It’s the largest religious monument in the world.  It’s also quite large and spread out. So I hired a guide and driver. You could easily do it yourself, a guide is nice but not required.

And let’s be honest, it was also nice to have someone to talk photo’s of me.

And no trip to Southeast Asia is complete without some random monkeys running around. Including one guy getting a massage.

After getting my temple fill, I choose to walk around town.  I stayed at the Park Hyatt, which was a great location. Which I remember reading somewhere about the challenge of crossing the street. I figured it out, but man, I should have just hired a driver. I took a tour of local art center. Saw how they make hand make stuff. Of course you end of in a shop at the end of the tour. No comment about what I purchased…….

Siem Reap is being the process of being developed. They have a significant tourism traffic with people flocking to see Angkor Wat, one of the most know temples. You need a visa to entry and the Cambodia government got wise a few years ago. If you fly in, you are required to stay over night.  It’s evident that money is being put back into the local community.   The photos below, show how different one street could be from another.

It will be interesting to see what it looks like in 5-10 years time. There is so much more to Siem Reap then just visiting the temples. Hopefully if you are reading this, when planning your trip, maybe stay more then 24 hours and see what it has to offer.  Oh definitely avoid the monsoon season. February was idea. It was warm but quite bearable. And you are visiting a religious monument and need to be dressed appropriately.

I am glad I went and would go even go back, in the cooler months.

Next up, my adventure booking a low cost carrier in SE Asia…

Cheers!

Adventures in Australia-February 2018

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It was finally time for me to head back to Brisbane. It felt like I had been gone forever! I could not have planned my departure any better. There was this white stuff on the ground………

I was SO happy to see these blue skies…..

And then I walked in into the best welcome EVER at the Hilton Brisbane. aka “home”.Felt a little bit like a rockstar.

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I arrived back in Brisbane to catch the last few days of the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. I stood in line for 45 minutes to see the Soul under the Moon for 30 seconds.

It was interesting. But since the exhibit was in final days, they already started taking some of it down. I did manage to see quite a bit. I am glad I braved the heat to check out.

Until next time safe travels……..