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Things Can Only get better….. right???

The hotel was the Crowne Plaza and pretty dang nice. I was in the executive suites and am just going to pretend that meant it was super nice vs just the ordinary suites. The room was very comfortable and clean and the bed looked like heaven, but first dinner with some of my newest friends.

so happy to see a comfy bed

so happy to see a comfy bed

calming soap and shampoo - just what I need

calming soap and shampoo – just what I need

Lufthansa had given us each a $35 food and drink voucher which allowed for a pretty decent meal of Korean Skirt Steak and a mango mojito. The company was great, even the Israeli/American guy who kept hinting we were going to have a good time and did I need a roommate for what sounded like a much nicer room, food was delicious and I was exhausted with a 6.30am wake up call waiting for me. So I headed out after paying, the restaurant had sneaked on an extra $5 charge for large party gratuity claiming Lufthansa was paying anyway…. Cheeky!

I got to sleep around 11pm and for the most part slept well waking up just before 6.30am. A continental breakfast was included on the 7th floor of the Executive Suites. Then onto the airport by shuttle.

I called Lufthansa on the way to confirm everything and ask about the bag and the very nice German man named Michael sounded horrified that United had charged me, immediately contacting his manager and giving me an email to send the receipt to and hopefully get reimbursed.

Things are looking up

At the American counter they confirmed I was allocated 2 bags even though their policy is 1, all they had to do was swipe my passport and print my boarding passes. Apparently the swipe part of my passport had been damaged and would no longer swipe, these caused a bit of confusion as they are not meant to manually enter information but that was the only way to print my passes. Eventually they went ahead, the bags were sent on to Lisbon and I headed for my gate.

Security was a breeze, although apparently the full body scanner felt my left sock was dangerous, must have something against Christmas and reindeer. Then onto the gate, charged my computer and watched another episode of “Being Human” (which I am now slightly addicted to) and sent off the email to Lufthansa about the refund. We will have to wait and see

Finally it was time to board and head to Philly then an hour and a half before Lisbon. My seat was at the very very back of the plane, and for a split second I thought I might have the whole row until Jason arrived. Really nice chap who works on pharmaceutical machinery all around the world. While he got settled I had a good chat with flight attendant Glen, about customer service and surviving flights. It was great having such a great seat mate and we chatted away for the first hour. I was just thinking about putting my feet up to get some shut eye when James walked up to our favorite flight attendant. He had the seat up front next to particularly rotund gentleman who kind of spilled into surrounding seats. He hoped there was another seat available. Feeling the camaraderie that comes from both working in customer service, Glen asked if I would mind if James had the middle seat. Of course I said yes, no problem, then remembered and double checked with Jason if that was ok. Not only did it turn out to be a great group to sit with, Glen was so thankful he offered us all a free sandwich with chips (on this flight you had to pay) and later gave a full tin of soda and extra cookies. Got to love being helpful.

…And then things just kind of plateau

We got into the airport a full 30 minutes early and then sat on the tarmac as our gate wasn’t cleared, the upswing is beginning to level out. Found a Starbucks on the way so finally got to use a gift card I had, woohoo. Made it to the gate with 25 minutes before boarding, all seemed well and Glen had promised that this leg would have great entertainment so I could finally catch up on my movies…. the plane was packed and looked like it was from the 80’s, it even had the the entertainment system that consists of single screens scattered down the center aisle… mmmmm. Of course the best choice of movie to watch on a tiny screen trying to see past the gentleman in front who keeps moving his head is “STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS”… yup definitely not in the up swing any more.

Star Wars.... I think

Star Wars…. I think

Luckily I survived my flight and even got both my bags! Score!!!!! Now just through customs and to find the wonderful agent waiting to whisk me off to the ship without any hassle…. that would be in the ulterior universe of course. No agent so stood in the very long taxi line. Finally get my taxi and the conversation goes like this:
Me: do you take credit card
Taxi: no
Me: I only have US dollars
Taxi: same thing
Me: oh, ok, I need to go to the Cruise Terminal, MSC.
Taxi: what?
Me: Cruise Terminal
Taxi: What?
Me: big ship
Taxi: ahhh ok
all bags loaded and in taxi
Taxi: do you know where? I know 3 different places
Me: hmmmm no, I only know MSC Opera….
Taxi: ok I think I see…

Thank heavens he had seen MSC and got me there for $31 after currency exchange. Finally make it to the ship and see an old friend from my first ship, a rather dashing Croatian. He hung out while his guys were washing the ship (seamen) and we were waiting for security to make up there mind. When they did they indicated the very long, fairly steep, step gangway… thanks! My friend and someone from housekeeping jumped in to help me, such nice guys.

MSC Opera  - home sweet home for the next 7mths

MSC Opera – home sweet home for the next 7mths

The Room Situation

Finally we get everything sorted and I get my room allocated which I have been told is vacant indicating bottom bunk availability. Well…. that was a lie, a lovely girl from the Bar beat me to the bottom bunk.

The room itself is one of the tiny inside cabins, my top bunk has no curtain, the air con is stuck on full arctic blast and my locker doesn’t have a door (the door is leaning against the wall). But the room is very clean! There is also a good chance I will either be moved to a porthole cabin if one becomes available or at the very least the girl from the bar will be moving in a few days so I can move down to the bottom bunk.

Meeting the Captain

Usually when one meets the Captain of the ship you want it to be a very good impression, one where he will think highly of you and appreciate all you do. But then again, there is me……my meeting went something like this:

I was working disembarkation on deck 6 sending the guests through security when security needed to change things up and prepare the metal detector for those coming back on board. They instructed me to send the guests to deck 5. Unfortunately, unbeknown to me, my French counterpart was sending guests up because of the queue on 5. The very first guests I send back got very angry and shouted a bit, turned out they went back down and shouted at my French counterpart, right as the Captain walked past, so they shouted at him to. He came upstairs:

Captain: why are you sending the guests downstairs??
Me; Security told me to
Captain: (barely controlling his anger) Do me a favor and only listen to the deputy not to security.
Me: Yes sir (wondering who the heck he is, maybe the Hotel Director???)
Captain then proceeds to yell at security and goes down to the pier and yells at the officers, all I hear is “something something Social Hostess, something Social Hostess, something something something Social Hostess”.
Me to Security: wow he is making a big deal who is he anyway?
Security: the Captain
Me: oh shit!
Later the Deputy (who I know from my first ship) looked at me and sighed stating “only you Kathy, only you”…….

Luckily I wasn’t in any trouble, but it still was a little awkward.

The next day we had a meeting with him in his rooms, he had watched some of the “Behind the Scenes” lectures and wanted to correct some information. Turns out he is a really great Captain with an excellent and unexpected sense of Humor. He also took us to the bridge to be sure we understood how things worked on our ship compared to the larger class. Unfortunately he leaves in a few days and will replaced with a new Captain, let’s hope he is as fantastic.

What a way to start the next 7 months….

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Posted by on May 14, 2016 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, RTW, Travel

 

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Return to The Sea

After leaving my last contract I was 99% sure I would never return to the sea unless it was in a small dive boat in a stunning tropical location. I even headed to Thailand and the stunning Koh Phangan Island to complete my Dive Instructor course. It was phenomenal with lots of hard work and stress, but pretty soon I was taking divers out and teaching courses. Unfortunately for me, it turned out to be one of the worst tourist seasons the island had seen in over 8yrs and also resulted in what little savings I had left after paying for my course to whittle down at a frighteningly rapid rate. In the end I opted to say farewell, head home for the holidays and accept another contract.

It felt surprisingly normal to tell people that I worked on a cruise ship and many showed interest and envy. I was excited and nervous about returning to the ships after having almost a year off. At first I was offered the same ship as last time in the Med, but then two weeks before departing they asked me to switch to a small ship (new to my collection) and Northern Europe. It meant another 2 months at home (much to the joy of my father knowing it meant 2 more months of home cooking) and on the small ships there was only 1 crew bar, smoking. But I had always wanted to do Northern Europe so I jumped at the chance.

Two months rapidly diminished to 2 days and then it was time to leave….

Things always come in threes…

Number 1

the trip started innocently enough with a usual check in at the United counter to fly to San Fran then onto Munich and finally Lisbon. The company had booked the trip through Lufthansa and all documentation stated that 2 bags were allowed free of charge. The first leg was Eugene to San Fran and was operated by United air. At the counter I was informed that I had to pay $100 for the second bag and take out 3 pounds (or pay $260, extra bag + overweight charge). I politely informed them that I had a seaman’s ticket allowing not only 2 bags but a few extra pounds… I was met with blank stairs… A manager was called over and she informed me that even though Lufthansa allows 2 bags the 1st leg was on United and they allow ONE! That will be $100.

After paying and heading through the gate I sat down and looked over the ticket information I had been sent and sure enough there it was : 2 bags allowed. I headed to the gate counter and asked there, the lady seemed very confused and tried to help, looking into the system. Unfortunately there was nothing she could do so she suggested I contact United Customer Service handing me the number.

So there I was sitting in the waiting lounge on the phone with United and the best response I could get was the following:
“ I am sorry Ma’am but since your first flight was on United we follow United policies despite the fact that it was booked through Lufthansa.”
“But my documentation clearly states that I should be allowed 2 bags”
“Ma’am perhaps that means that 2 bags are allowed but only 1 is free….”

I think she was starting to reach a little. Oh well lets hope that the company reimburses me or I am able to get Lufthansa to do so.

Number 2

Arriving at San Fran I headed to the international terminal checking my flight on the board. Since it was still 5hrs the board simply showed my flight as:
Gate = INTL (International). I asked the attendant there and she said it was still too long till the flight to have a confirmed gate… perfectly feasible I guess.

I found a great Japanese place and enjoyed a delicious meal of pork cutlet, rice and some green tea.

mmmm yummy

mmmm yummy

Then off to find a comfy chair to relax. I watched some movies and waited another 2 hrs (total of 3 1/2 hrs). Then I figured it must surely be close enough to the flight (now 2hrs away). Checking the board I noticed that my flight appeared to no longer exist, and double checking my alphabet and making sure i was spelling Munich correctly I tried my best not to feel that panic rise.

I went to the gate I had originally had on my boarding pass to find an agent already speaking in German with 3 others (heading home for wedding). Apparently the plane had been struck by lightening and had been forced to return to Munich. He informed us we had to go up and to aisle 4 to talk to Lufthansa, when we asked him what that meant he simply said “up and out then aisle 4 past aisle 3”…. Still uncertain where to go we asked at the United Lounge who said aisle 4 was outside security just passed a gate to our left. So out we headed.

As we rounded the corner we were faced with the other 100 odd passengers who had arrived to check in all standing inline and no one giving any information. I found a rep and he handed me some info and told me to stand in line and suggesting I call the number on the page. The other family had been rebooked and quickly headed back the way we had just come to catch the flight. I on the other hand had not received any emails or text messages because my flight had been booked through the company and was not linked to any of my info.

Luckily while waiting in line I was connected to a very helpful lady at the lufthansa customer service and she informed me I had been rebooked to arrive in Lisbon, via Philadelphia on American Airlines, Saturday morning at 8:50am. I explained the situation about trying to reach Lisbon in time to catch my boat and if there was any way to get me there any earlier, she said she would try her best and put me on hold while she searched. In the mean time I had discovered that the line I was standing in, the one that hadn’t moved in the last hour, was for the hotel voucher and not for rebooking, that was the line next to us. So I begrudgingly moved to the other line wanting to double check that a flight of some sort would be booked for me. The lady on the phone got back to me right before I got to the counter saying my only option was the trip the next day. I got to the counter and they confirmed for me again that I had been rebooked on American. I queried the bag issue, explaining what United had done and my fear that American may do the same thing. They were not as surprised at United as I wish they had been and, while not promising, they did say there was a chance American would honor the 2 bags vs their usual policy of 1 bag. Guess that’s better than nothing.

Number 3

They then informed me to just pop over to the other line with about 20 people in it, the line that had not moved, literally, to get my hotel voucher as they were only rebooking, oh fabulous.

We must have stood in that line for another 2 hours waiting for hotel vouchers with no one giving us any information as to why the line was not moving. Finally I asked if we could get some drink vouchers or something, leaning more towards the idea of “we all need a tequila shot”, but the very sweet Lufthansa lady named Marabel offered water. We could use that too I guess. People relaxed al little when the water arrived and information seemed to be flowing a bit but we were still exhausted and just wanted to get to the hotel. Apparently Lufthansa was calling all the hotels and booking rooms and would only then give out the vouchers.

The family who had dashed off to get to their rebooked flight appeared from the other counter, they had just missed the cut off time to get to the gate, and were not allowed to board, so they were stuck with us waiting for a hotel and most likely going to miss their god child’s wedding.

We continued the query as to what happened and were told by the staff lightening strike, but by some of the passengers it was just a strike…. interesting…..

Finally at around 9pm, after waiting for 4hrs to get info added to the already 3 hours I had spent waiting at the gate we were handed hotel and food vouchers. All we had to do was head outside and pick up the shuttle…. turns out they had not called the shuttle, so that meant a further 30min wait in the cold.

little chilly

little chilly

All together !!!

All together !!!

Luckily when it arrived we were all able to squeeze on and had developed a great sense of camaraderie planning to meet up for dinner at the hotel…

But wait there is more….

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2016 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, RTW, Travel

 

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When It All Begins To Feel Normal!!

In the Beginning

Back in school I was the epitome of nerd, I loved school, was president of the Wildlife club, in choir, participated in the speech and drama festival and if that wasn’t enough was Head Library Prefect/Monitor. In fact, I actually won a trophy for service to the school in my final year. As a result I was bullied and suffered low self esteem. Thinking back most of my fellow classmates, and the teachers too in fact, would most likely have expected me to be married and settled fairly soon after graduating or completing college. After being accepted into the Horticulture program at Natal Technical College it seemed like that was a likely path. However, Fate had other ideas by giving us the opportunity to immigrate to the USA.

Alter Egos

Four years at Oregon State University ended with a 2 month trip to the UK. I believe this was around the time my alter ego began to emerge. For years I had had a plan, to find a good job in the environmental field and… well… save the world… But suddenly I was starting to explore the world… and so my organized responsible side now had a sister, the world wide traveler…. 3 years teaching English in South Korea fed that alter ego with numerous trips around Asia.

My alter ego allowed me to feel free and more confident while abroad and seemed to thrive among different cultures and fascinating history.

On the contrary, my responsible side followed society expectations and parents always feel more comfortable when their kids have a good job and are settled.

However, social situations still made me uncomfortable and my inability to come to terms with my dual personalities constantly made me feel guilty about traveling and yet stressed over not taking the opportunity to explore more.

Sanity

Lucky for me I have a great friend, mentor and fellow traveler. He always seems to be online in my darkest hours, when I feel like a stranger in my “responsible” job, and… when I decide to buy a ticket to somewhere new. (I can help anyone else buy a ticket but when it’s my turn I am completely indecisive). If I owed him a beer for every time he has calmed my fears over letting down my responsible side I would most likely owe him an entire brewery. It is his advice that has kept me sane year after year, and as others have got used to the idea that I don’t necessarily fit any mold and they can live vicariously through me, they too have begun to keep me sane.

When It All Begins To Feel Normal!!

This past year has really been a turning point for me. For years people looked at me as this confident world traveler but inside I remained that bullied library prefect, and my two egos were constantly at odds. But, at the encouragement of amazing friends and my parents, I completed my PADI Dive Instructor course in Thailand last July. The moment I was told I had passed I cried, became weak at the knees, and said “does this finally make me cool??”. I don’t think I had ever realized just how much I had been affected by those long ago bullies, how I still considered myself as always that “nerd who won a trophy for service to the school”… my confidence began to grow…

Then, while at a hostel in Bangkok, fellow travelers, many abroad for the first time, seemed to be drawn to me asking my advice of where to go and what to see, and surprised when they mentioned a destination I had not yet been to… and my confidence grew…

Returning home, I decided to return to the cruise ships for another contract, and instead of feeling embarrassed about working on a cruise ship, a job many would think a joke, I found myself confidently stating the fact, “I am a social hostess on a cruise ship in Europe”. Never once was I faced with a sneer, but rather genuine interest and envy… and my confidence grew…

I am not exactly certain when I came to terms with the fact that travel is who I am, at least for now, when it all just became normal for me and everyone around me… But for now it has… I feel at peace and most importantly confident… that is until I need to pack for this upcoming contract….. 😉

Dedicated to my amazingly patient parents, my phenomenal travel guru mentor and fantastic friends who have believed in me all this time …. I think I may finally have begun believing in myself!!!

 

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Luang Prabang, Laos

Visiting Laos was almost completely by accident. I had hoped to visit when I first arrived to do my scuba instructor course in Thailand, but as time went by it just seemed impossible… Then, one night, sitting on the beach and drinking beers with friends I said “I wish I could go to Laos…”. My good friend, Monique, replied with “Well, why can’t you??”…. That is when the seed was planted… yes why can’t I go???

In truth it had been many years since I had traveled anywhere new by myself, even though that is my favorite way to travel, but another friend hoped to join so that ignited the fire of excitement even more and I soon traded some old books for a used Lonely Planet and got on with planning. Ultimately he couldn’t join but by then the train was rolling and there was no way to stop it!

My original plan was thus:
– Travel by overnight bus to Bangkok, stay at NapPark hostel where I could store luggage.
– Travel by overnight train to the border then on to Vientiane, the capital, for a night.
– Another 13hr odd journey to Luang Prabang and spend a few days before the return journey.

But you never know how plans might change so it is never worth carving things in stone. As it turned out I met a great bunch of folks at the hostel and we planned to do a day trip to Ayutthaya, the old capital of Siam, and at the same time the travel agent who happened to have his little office in the restaurant suggested I fly to Luang Prabang instead….

With the prospect of not only getting a chance to see Ayuthaya but also spend more time in Luang Prabang I was sold!! The cost was around $189 (US) for the ticket vs about $100 and a total of 4 days of travel…. yup no brainer!

Luang Prabang was phenomenal, stunning, chilled, friendly…. one of my top 3 for sure.

The People You Meet….
Among the amazing experiences was meeting up with one of the Terrific Ten, Denise from Holland, who met up with me after visiting Chang Mai. Was like having an old friend to hang out with and to go on a kayak/trek with. The kayak trip was with White Elephant Adventures and was brilliant, post food poisoning and all. Another incredible opportunity was learning to weave with a German girl who was staying at the same guesthouse.

However, I think my all time favorite experience was meeting my “Smoothie Family”. Every night as you walk down the main street towards the night market you pass around 10 families all selling smoothies of various flavors. Well on my first night I wondered down trying to decide if I wanted one, when this young chap calls out “You want a smoothie?” with a cheeky little up swing in the tone as he said it. It caught my attention and I was hooked for the rest of the week. At some point I ended with a smoothie buddy, an older lone traveler, we had a smoothie date at 8pm 3 nights in a row… one of those rare memories you can only have through travel.

Smoothie Family and Smoothie Date

Smoothie Family and Smoothie Date

I hope to return some day!!!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in RTW, Thailand, Travel

 

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30+ is Never Too Old For Adventure!!!

Expectations of the Civilized World

There is a certain stigma to being over 30 in the Western “Civilized” world. You are expected to:
– Have a steady job
– Be Settled
– Be Married, preferably with children
– Have a dog and a cat
– Have a car or 2
– Have a nice house
– Be financially settled without debt

In truth most people who follow the stigma are:
– Hate their job
– Don’t feel settled, grass is always greener
– Have a rocky marriage
– Can’t stand the dog or cat
– Have a house mortgage threatening to bankrupt them
– Have student loans and car loans and fake financial security by having multiple credit cards

When People Ask Me How??

People often ask me “how I do it, how do I travel and live all over the world??”, I reply that I just “do”! 15 years ago I was still paying off $25 000 US in university fees, had a car payment, rent. I paid most of it off by working as an English Teacher in Seoul, Korea and getting to travel at the same time. Then in 2009 (6 years ago) I was working 3 part time jobs and on unemployment. But I found a way of saving, I gave up my car and used the bus, I shopped at the charity shops, I learnt to reuse things for other purposes, finally I moved back in with the folks and managed to find a great job as a vet nurse and then I saved! I didn’t buy name brands or expensive cars or felt embarrassed that I lived with the folks at 32. Heck, I paid a small rent and helped around the house. I paid off my school loans and without a car or a home loan I had no debt… which meant I could explore the world.

At Machu Pichu, Peru

At Machu Pichu, Peru

True I am not married or have kids, yes that does make things a little easier. But I have met people from all over who sell everything that society “requires” you to have and takes their kids on an amazing worldwide adventure. Experience is often the best education.

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Creativity Makes the Difference

Another important note is that I travel creatively, I find ways to save money from couchsurfing, to work trade in hostels/ backpackers, volunteer work where accommodation is provided, eating locally, not drinking in excess and spending money that way. I spent less than $20 000 total on a year long adventure to 8 different countries from South America to Australia to Nepal.This adventure led me to to work on cruise ships for 2 years all over the world, and, ultimately, to my present job as a dive instructor with Scuba Futures in Thailand. It might look easy every time I try something new or move halfway across the world on another crazy adventure, but I promise you, if you had to watch me trying to decide to buy my air ticket you would see someone who is crazy nervous and on the verge of hyperventilating, and having an internal battle between my “responsible” side vs. my adventurous side. It is never easy to decide to change, but 9 times out of 10 it is worth it.

Working on a cruise ship - Zakynthos, Greece

Working on a cruise ship – Zakynthos, Greece

Doors are always open if you look and even if the path seems difficult and weaves away from the “required” path of 30+ year olds, it’s one hell of a fun path to follow, so give it a try and do something different.

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Go ahead, follow Alice down the Rabbit Hole and see what LIFE has in store for you!

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

 

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Landing in Laos

Why Don’t You?

Laos has long been one of those mysterious countries I never thought I would get a chance to visit. Even though I hoped to during my stay on the island in Thailand for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me to leave the island early and visit this stunning country until a friend said “Well why don’t you??” (Thanks Monique). It had been quite a few years since I had gone off exploring alone to a completely foreign country and, although I was nervous, as soon as I found a guide book I was hooked and so the Laos plan developed.

Farewells

The bittersweet truth of leaving to explore is the farewells that need to be said. I have made amazing friends on our little island of Koh Phangan, but since it’s magic seems to draw us back I am sure I will be seeing you all soon…ish! For now it’s off to another adventure, LAOS!!

Getting There

Researching the best way to get there from Bangkok was a little intense, there were flights (quite expensive), busses (over 12hrs or more), trains (with a sleeper bed at least) and so on… I had planned to take the train to Nong Khai, just below the Laos border in Thailand, then take a shuttle to the border, go through immigration, take a shuttle to the capital Vientiane, spend the night and then take a 13hr bus journey to Luang Prabang, my planned destination. Total cost would run around $120 US, total time 2.5 to 3 days.

This would leave me a total of 3 days in Luang Prabang with 6 days ish of travel. The travel agent suggested flying and spending a full week in the town. I agreed and we found a ticket for $279 US, double the price but also double the time.

I am so happy I opted for flying!!!

Immigration

Arriving and getting through immigration was a lot easier than expected, for US citizens it is $35 or 1450baht. I had been told that I had to take new crisp US$ notes or they wouldn’t be accepted, but it turns out they take pretty much anything with a conversion rate. Just be sure you have a passport photo. If not they will charge an extra $1 to take a photo of the passport.

It’s Sunday of Course the Money Exchanges are CLOSED!!!

At Bangkok airport I stopped at 2 or 3 money exchanges to see if I could get Laos Kip, apparently none of them carry it, but no problem right? I can exchange at the International Airport of Luang Prabang, Laos…. right? WRONG!!!!

Once through I went out to exchange money and find a taxi. What do you know??? Arriving on Sunday meant all the exchange offices were closed, what are the odds! Luckily the taxi guy in charge of taxi payments exchanged some money for me, he seemed to be trying to do it quietly and gave me a rate of 8,000kip to $1, so I was pretty certain he was getting a good deal. As it turned out he gave me the same exchange rate as everywhere else, most country’s the guy would have been sure to give a terrible rate as we had no other choice. It cost 50,000kip ($6) to get into town per taxi, so find people and go in a group, I had met a French couple from the Comoros Islands on the plane and so we were able to split it 3 ways.

Finding a Guesthouse

For the first time ever I had not booked a hostel or a guesthouse or anything, I figured I would try practice what I preach, in the sense of “don’t worry, all will work itself out”, plus since I only had my day pack with me it meant I wasn’t lugging all my stuff through town with me….

The French couple had the name of a guesthouse and the taxi driver dropped us off and pointed in that general direction. We were a bit confused as we didn’t see it until I looked up at a building that was definitely not in use! Yup the guesthouse had been closed for 2 yrs… how funny is that.

We went to the one next door but the rooms were too expensive, they had one room for 120,000kip ($15) and the French couple were thinking of taking it. I sighed and said I would keep looking and the clerk said maybe he could give me a discount on the $25 rooms upstairs and make it the same price. It looked great so I agreed (more than I wanted to spend but it was the first night)… then the couple wanted to get the same kind of room at the cheaper price (they claimed the cheaper room smelled funny)… wow! there are 2 of them and 1 of me…. in the end the clerk called the boss and he said no to discounted rooms, so we moved on.

We found a place offering a room for 60,000kip ($6), but they only had 1, so the couple said they were going back to take the cheaper room at the first place (even if it smelled funny)… these people were starting to crack me up. The room I looked at was not all that good so I kept walking. Suddenly I cam across the French couple again talking to a guy on a scooter about a place down the road for 100,000kip ($12). The conversation went something like this:

Guy: We only have 1 room but we can add a bed
Me: I don’t want to impose I can keep looking
French: oh no that is ok, that sounds good
Guy: it is just 20,000 kip more so 120,000 total
French: no no give it to us at 100,000
Me: I don’t mind you are the couple you decide
French: 40,000 ($5) each is too much we take if 100,000kip total
Guy: not possible
French: talking in French look at me
Me: you decide!
French: no we do not want to pay more we think we just take the room for 100,000kip
Me: no problem I go look somewhere else cheers….

They were arguing about paying 40,000kip ($5) instead of 33,000kip ($4.50) and ended up paying 50,000kip…. I am sorry but sometimes the French are weird.

In the end I found this great little place just down the road, 80,000kip ($10), free tea and coffee, wifi (when it is working) and it is in a room with 2 beds so when my new friend from Bangkok arrives it will be perfect! What an adventure!

Pak Huay Guesthouse

Pak Huay Guesthouse

Night Market

I went to the night market to find something to eat and am pretty certain I squealed with delight at the sight. Everything was so well organized and beautiful and when I got to the food section there was so much to choose from I didn’t know what to take, I ended up eating a sausage on a stick and buying a fruit shake… just too much to take in!!

Night Market

Night Market

I was loving Laos already!!!!

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Castles, Caverns and Coastlines….. Oh My!

Castle in a Cavern

Of course go figure, I final trip was heading to the seaside and after spectacularly hot clear weather, it rained as we left the house… Murphy’s Law!

Slovenia is famous for castles and caves, you can even combine the two and visit Predjama Castle, which was built inside a cave, creating an awesome vision!
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It was built in the 13th century and moved into legend when it became the Seat of Knight Erazem Lueger in the 15th century. Erazem was a renowned robber baron, rumored to be a lot like Robin Hood. After killing the leader of the Imperial Army for offending the honor of his deceased friend, he was besieged in the castle for a year and a day. He could have held out longer except for the betrayal of servant. The only place that was impregnable was the outhouse, perched atop the castle and off to the side. At the appropriate time the servant signaled that he was… occupied…. and a single connon blast killed Erazem.

stunning castle!

stunning castle!

The caves near the castle are much more expensive and very touristy, but Predjama was perfect, so cool in fact that you didn’t even need to pay to go inside.

This is What Bilbo Felt Like

On the way to our next set of caves, Škocjan caves, the rain really started pounding down, and while turning a corner the windscreen wiper on the right side broke… we pulled over and I managed to dislodge it. Luckily Kaja’s side was clear, since she was driving.
wiper down, wiper down!!

Finally we made it to the caves and lined up for tickets. We must have waited close to 20minutes and were right at the window at 12pm, the time the next tour was starting. The guy asked us which tour we wanted and explained some things and right as we were about to pay it was like the clock in his head just tolled noon and he stopped looking at us or talking to us. All of the rest in the line were so confused. A few minutes later he looked at us as if we had just walked up to the window… we purchased tickets for the 1pm tour. At least that gave us time to eat a little snack!

The caves were phenomenal unfortunately no photos were allowed. It is a Unesco world heritage site and contains one of the worlds largest underground river systems. There was one area with an immense cavern and a lighted path that just seemed to disappear into nothingness, then a bridge to cross over a 45m / 147feet drop where I had the distinct urge to grab a stick and yell out:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!
(Lord of the Rings reference)

skocjan-cave
courtesty of http://www.tourismontheedge.com/

At the end we decided to grab the funicular to the top, of course it meant an immense climb first but thank the heavens for funiculars when we finally got to it. Loved every minute of this cavern adventure.

I Can See The Sea

Finally it was off to the ocean with the grey clouds following our progress. The plan had been for me to go diving the next morning, but it was looking decidedly dubious. We visited the dive center in Portoroz and then off to the tip and the town of Piran. Just beautiful, we were both knackered by this time, had been a long and eventful trip, so we just relaxed in the square and drank something. Finally we made it to the hostel in Izola and dumped our bags, the very top room with 4 flights of stairs and no elevator.

drink break.

drink break.

Panoramic of Piran

Dinner Fit for A Queen

For dinner we visited the home/restaurant of one of Kaja’s friends. He creates the most amazing dishes, all organic, all natural, and all very very unique. His home provides a unique setting up in the hills surrounding the coast and a chance to visit the garden filled with fresh herbs, fruit and honey bees.

It was 7 courses, all exquisite. Words can not begin to describe all the varieties he made. Here are a few of them…
Course 1 we shall have a cold dish of marinated zucchini over herb goat cheese with asparagus puree and herb pesto

Course 2 we shall have a cold taco style with celery root puree with marjoram and dried egg yolk shavings

This next one was amazing!!!!
Next we have a fermented ricotta with slow roasted tomatoes basil leaves and shavings of black summer truffle.

And finally baked apple with walnuts glazed in homemade honey

So if you find yourself wandering around the coastline of Slovenia, near Koper, thinking of good food, check out Domačija Butul

It’s A Small World After all

When he learnt I was moving to Thailand to do my scuba instructor course he said his friend who stayed there was also a scuba diver and worked in Thailand in winter, in summer he worked at his shop, Nemo Divers in Slovenia. We joked how funny it would be if he worked on the same island, Koh Phangan, that I was heading to.

When he arrived not only did he work on Koh Phangan during winter but he worked at Haad Yao Divers, the dive school I was going to be working with. Just crazy how small the world really is.
Boyan and me

Wind and Waves

Unfortunately in the morning the wind was too strong creating waves, so the dive had to be cancelled, oh well. We decided to wander around and just enjoy the seaside anyway. We opted to visit the local salt pans and do some birding. They were incredible and I got really excited when I spotted some herons and an oystercatcher. Bought a little bag of salt to take with me to the island, a little treat.

Salt Pans

Salt Pans

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Great Trip with a great friend

Great Trip with a great friend

A great trip even if the dive never happened.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

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