Paradise Found

One of the hard things about blog­ging on the road when you trav­el far east­ward, is that you tend to conk out ear­li­er in the evening. Com­bine that with ear­ly morn­ing starts, and, well, I’m not mak­ing excus­es, but upload­ing my pho­tos is just about all I’ve been able man­age.

So, with about an hour before din­ner, and a bit of the day’s adven­tures behind me, I can try and write a bit.

I won’t try and catch up com­plete­ly the last 6 days or so, which includ­ed our vis­it to Bangkok, Siem Reap, and Ho Chi Minh City, but will try to get back to them in a future entry. If I have to go through all of my notes and write them back in Van­cou­ver, I guess I’ll do that.

Let me try and describe the scene before me. We are in what they call a ‘Vil­la’ in the Emer­ald Island resort rentals, near the town of Hoi An, in Cen­tral Viet­nam. This place has been list­ed as one of the lead­ing resorts of the world, and I can’t argue. As it grows dark out­side, we can hear the surf of Chi­na Beach on the South Chi­na Sea, as well as my iPhone, which is con­nect­ed to their iPod plug, play­ing some Chopin on the invis­i­ble sound sys­tem. The tem­per­a­ture is cool, around 24C, with a strong breeze, which is toss­ing the palm trees. Pam found a cou­ple of fra­grant Frangi­pani blooms on the front lawn and brought them in to per­fume our laun­dry bag.

This ‘house’ (which is near­ly as large as our con­do back at home) has what I can only describe as a ‘room with­in a room’. A frame of dark wood encom­pass­es a bed, lounge, desk, bath­tub and white tapes­tries (almost like mos­qui­to net­ting, but there’s no need for that). The bed faces the sand lead­ing to the beach. There is an exquis­ite bon­sai tree at one end, and indoor and out­door show­ers of our own. The floor (aside from the inner ‘room’) is dark stone, with steps lead­ing down to the back of the room and exit to the beach. The 60 Vil­las are laid out in 5 horse­shoes, with the beach behind them. The com­plex includes 2 Restau­rants and bar, Library, swim­ming pool, Spa, Gym and Ten­nis, Bas­ket­ball and Bad­minton courts.

The only bad thing about this place is how short a time we’ll be here; just two nights, and dur­ing the day, I’ll be in Hoi An, attend­ing a cook­ing class. Still, it’s an extra­or­di­nary resort, and even though some of the places we’ve stayed dur­ing this trip have been pret­ty good, they just can’t com­pare with this, which I’d say is about as lux­u­ri­ous a spot as I’ve ever seen. I could eas­i­ly spend a week here, but that kind of a stay is some­thing only a movie star or Steve Jobs could afford. I haven’t spot­ted him, but we haven’t ven­tured out to the main com­plex yet. Dare I say, we feel a lit­tle under­dressed.

On the Road

Years ago we decid­ed that we’d make room for some of the vis­i­tors to Van­cou­ver dur­ing the Olympics. So, on Mon­day evening, we set out, rolling our suit­cas­es down the hill to the Olympic street­car. Four min­utes lat­er, we got on the Canada­line Sky­train and got off at the Van­cou­ver air­port. It couldn’t be eas­i­er, and I’d rec­om­mend any­one who’s on the fence about the new mass tran­sit vs. a taxi to look seri­ous­ly at tak­ing the Canada­line, espe­cial­ly if you have lug­gage on wheels (which the vast major­i­ty of bags are these days). About the only down-side was the Olympic crowds, even at 8:45PM.

Our flight on Cathay Pacif­ic left at 2:00 AM, so we had a qui­et air­port and some time to use the Wi-fi to make some last tweets (and to chat with a friend in Hun­gary — what a small world this is becoming…but more about that in a lat­er post).

The flight was OK, but very, very cold. Hon­est­ly, it was like spend­ing 10 hours in a meat lock­er; You could almost see your breath. Pam and I had coats with hoods, which we kept up the whole time. There was one blan­ket per per­son, and no more. We got in to Hong Kong at their 7:30 AM or so (a day lat­er). After a short lay­over of about an hour, we board­ed anoth­er flight to Bangkok. A cou­ple of hours lat­er, we touched down and saw their new(ish) air­port, that had been built 3 years ago. It’s a very impres­sive struc­ture, with cater­pil­lar-like gates con­nect­ed to a steel, con­crete and glass main sec­tion. We were imme­di­ate­ly met by two young reps. for the tour com­pa­ny (Aber­crom­bie & Kent, who Pam used for her tour of Antarc­ti­ca). They whisked us through bag­gage and cus­toms, and we then were hand­ed off to one of the tour guides here, who goes by the nick­name Tukke (Took­ie). She, and a dri­ver, drove us through the enor­mous city of Bangkok, to the hotel where we are stay­ing here, the Man­darin Ori­en­tal. It’s a very fine hotel (offi­cial­ly 130 years old), albeit old enough that I saw echoes of my grandmother’s taste through­out: the Eng­lish colo­nial fur­ni­ture, the palms and white palm tea­room, the pool with cabanas and teak walk­ways through­out. It’s well main­tained, how­ev­er, and the Inter­net in the room was good enough that I could phone my par­ents back in the states via Skype on my iPhone and it was good enough for them that my father thought it sound­ed like I was ‘next door’. The view, of the Chao Phraya riv­er (Riv­er of Kings) is pret­ty impres­sive too:

The View out our Hotel Win­dow — That’s the French Embassy’s Gar­den in the Low­er Right

We man­aged to stay awake (bare­ly) until about 7:30 PM before col­laps­ing and then wak­ing up at 3, and then 6 this morn­ing. After one of the best break­fast buf­fets I’ve ever eat­en (includ­ed with the room — I’ll try and take some pho­tos tomor­row), we returned to the room, and after a short rest, I write this update.
I’m going to try and update the Flickr set of our trip as we go, and it’s here

Update: After many prob­lems with the set get­ting too big, I’ve split it into 7 sets, includ­ing:

So, it’s off for a short boat trip across the riv­er to explore some of the city (after we change into shorts to adjust for the heat). Then, per­haps a ride on the Sky­train (Hah, Just like home!). I’m also plan­ning on a mas­sage for my aching shoul­der, back and neck, which may be from the plane ride, plus accu­mu­lat­ed stress from the past few weeks.

More to come…