Before we left for this big adventure, my friends asked me a lot of really good questions that I suspect others wanted to ask, but held back. For instance: 1) How will you wash your clothes? 2) Where will you stay? 3) How will you know where to go? 4) Are you going to wear makeup? 5) What are you packing/Will you take anything dressy?
The answers, respectively, are:
1) Washing clothes: Laundry services are widely available here in Southeast Asia. Even though I have a freakish affinity for doing laundry, (it’s so easy and yet so rewarding… I just loathe putting it away!) I’m going to miss this when I get home. They charge by the kilogram, and it usually amounts to about $5 for our weeks’ worth. Admittedly, they’re not always *that* clean… but they are cleaner.
2) Lodging: We try to look into lodging options a few nights before we get to a place, either in our guidebook, on various travel Web sites, or from recommendations from other travelers. Sometimes, though, we drop the ball and end up walking around town aimlessly with our packs. This is not desirable, but we’ve had plenty of good luck on our side in that we’ve not had to sleep on any park benches. According to my none-too-meticulous records, we’ve now stayed at about 25 different guesthouses and/or hotels, usually pretty centrally located and costing between $5 (with the toilet-dwelling lizard discount) and $20. Usually it’s around $10 or $12 and sometimes includes breakfast.
Laundry by the kilogram
3) Knowing where to go: We often don’t know where to go, but luckily Michael is a walking Rand McNally when it comes to getting around a city. We’d spend much more time lost if it were all up to me, as I usually get lost trying to find my way out of the guesthouse. Familiarizing ourselves with travel to, from, and within cities before we arrive is helpful and often necessary. We still manage to get ripped off on transportation costs in every country, though! When will we ever learn?
Michael memorizes another map
4) Makeup: The climate here is not at all conducive to wearing makeup. I certainly could wear it, and many women do, but my profuse sweating would render it pretty useless. Mascara is the best I can do, and that’s not happening very often. Sunscreen and deodorant are my new grooming routine. My sister-in-law, Tiffany, gave me a tiny tube of perfume to take and warned me that I might miss smelling good. Tiff, you were so right!
5) What did you pack: We each packed as little as possible – a few tee shirts, a pair of shorts, couple pairs of pants, tennis shoes and two pairs of sandals (now I’m down to one), and a couple cotton dresses (mine, not Michael’s. Although he’d be cute in the red one). Then the basic first-aid and medications, toiletries, pillowcases, travel towels, books, iPod, sudoku, deck of cards, etc. We were advised by both Tiffany and Michael’s sister Suzanne to avoid packing anything we didn’t want lost, stolen, or ruined; therefore, we packed no dressy clothes. And on this budget, why would we need them?
This passes for dressed up at a museum, but I'm still wearing flip flops!
The questions we’re getting now from people back home are: 1) Where are you now? 2) What’s a typical day like? 3) When are you coming home?
1) As I wrote this we were in Hue, a city in central Vietnam. Hue is one of my favorites so far! It’s smallish and walkable, but has some interesting sites and great food. Unfortunately, many of Hue’s monuments were destroyed during (what they call) the American War (of course we know it as the Vietnam War), but many structures remain and its complex has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status. They’re currently wrapping up the Hue Festival 2010, a biennial celebration which has provided us some interesting cultural opportunities. Next, we’re taking a bus to Hanoi for a week. By the time we publish this blog, if all goes well we’ll be in Tanzania.
View of Hue
2) Typical day: The sun rises unreasonably early here, so the day starts around 6:00 am. If our guesthouse serves breakfast we’ll enjoy it for free, but often they don’t. Breakfast is usually an omelet or boiled eggs, baguette, croissant, fruit, tea/coffee, or some combination therein. We’ll then meander or bike to sites of interest, take it all in, complain about how hot we are, wonder how two people can sweat so much for so long, then finally get tired and hungry enough for lunch. Lunch tends to be a bowl of noodles, soup, maybe noodle soup, rice which is ubiquitous, and tiny quantities of meat. I’ve found delicious vegetable soup here, and we try to round out my meal with a fresh or fried spring roll. Occasionally we’ll enjoy the fact that we can drink beer at lunch here and will do just that.
In the afternoons, I prefer to relax for an hour and read/journal/blog/do something other than walk around, but this isn’t really Michael’s style. So we do often slow down a little in the afternoons, but not much. We’ll seek shade or maybe peruse a museum, art gallery, or different part of the city, all the while planning which direction we should point ourselves for dinner. Then the search for food is back on, followed by the considerably cooler after-dark city exploration. Sometimes we’ll catch a musical performance if we’re lucky, occasionally we have played cards, and evening is often when we call our families back home. Then we start thinking about what we can explore the next day…. and repeat. And repeat, and repeat. And repeat again.
Love the outdoor markets!
3) When will you be home: We’ll be home around the first week of August, when we’ll be visiting with Michael’s family. I go back to my job August 16th, andMichael starts law school on the 18th at WVU. He’ll be living in Morgantown, and I’ll be figuring out how to split my time between there and Charleston. We’re currently looking for housing options if anyone has any suggestions/rooms to rent/houses for sale or give away.
Any other questions? Please ask via your comments on this site, or feel free to e-mail either of us. We love hearing from our friends and families back home, so don’t hold back!