12.04.2019 - 01.12.2020
It's taken us awhile to get the travel mojo back after our month in the US but we're back and excited for the year to come!
A brief catching up is likely in order.
DECEMBER WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
We landed in DC on December 4th and moved into our AirBnB in Alexandria. To say it was a shock to our systems would be a major understatement. Our two weeks were "blessed" with cloudy days, rain, and cold. I suppose we had a few karmic dues to pay for all the sun but still... We made the best of it hanging out in our apartment in front of the fire, catching up on Netflix, enjoying our roof deck, and drinking our share of Bloody Marys...
...in between catching up with friends (apologies for those of you missing from the pics!)...
...and celebrating some serious life milestones with the girls as Courtney graduated from Nursing School and Morgan from Law School.
Then it was off to Colorado to be with my parents for the holidays. We had a lot of good times and thankfully some sun!
Courtney came out to visit and my nephew, Jean and his girlfriend, came out, too. We also got to spend some good times with my niece Kalyn who has moved to Denver.
It was a good visit and we enjoyed seeing everyone!
OUR FIRST TRIP ACROSS THE PACIFIC
We decided to break up the 22+ hour flight into segments and so glad we did! We flew from Denver to LA and spent the night before catching our flight to Tokyo.
We spent two nights in Narita Town, Japan. It's a 14 hour flight from LA to the main airport in Narita outside Tokyo. I guess I have to mention that we actually flew into Haneda. Yep, I screwed that up. Luckily, Japan being the easy and efficient place it is, there was a direct bus between the two that took and hour and cost about $10. Say it with me, "double check when there are two airports serving a city!" In any case, we made it to Narita Town, the small town outside Narita airport, and checked into our hotel without any other issues.
Narita Town is a really cool little place. We had a day to explore and were happy to find it had a large Buddhist temple complex and garden to explore. It was quite crowded with Japanese tourists visiting the temple to make their yearly offerings for good fortune in the coming year. We felt lucky to have happened on it at this time to see the cultural activities and share it with them. We were among only a handful of Westerners in the whole town.
I highly recommend this town as a stop over. The pedestrian street is packed with restaurants and coffee shops and the park is beautiful and free!
Quirky things about Japan:
- The toilet seats in even the smallest restaurant and at the park were heated!
- About 40% of the population are wearing surgical masks and they come in all colors and styles. Makes you feel like your in the movie Contagion!
- Everyone follows the rules and there are instructions for everything. It's super easy and organized!
- You need instructions to use the toilet as they have about 10 functions other than flushing waste!
AND FINALLY, VIETNAM - OUR 20TH COUNTRY TOGETHER
As you may recall if you read regularly, our plan was (yep, was) to move to Vietnam and stay here for the foreseeable future using it as a launching point for SE Asian travels. Those plans have changed.
NHA TRANG: COMPLETE CHAOS - WITH A BEACH
Nha Trang, where we chose to land, is billed as a "smaller" city that is less chaotic and more beach oriented. I suppose this is true if you're comparing it to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, but it is a pretty big and sprawling city nonetheless. It does have a beautiful beach and a really nice park along most of it...and the thousands of Russian and Chinese tourists seem to really like it!
It took us about a week to get our feet under us, both from the 12 hour time change and the severe environment shock. This isn't Kansas, Toto. We've found a few places to hang out, found street vendors with food we like (Báhn Mì!), and are generally getting a feel for the place. Maybe we were unwise to embark on Vietnam for our first SE Asian experience since it isn't as developed to Western standards as other countries like Thailand. Or, maybe we shouldn't make big plans based on research alone. Or maybe if we were 65 year old men looking for a young wife or just wanted a few weeks at the beach, Nha Trang would be our spot. Okay, maybe all of those things! But alas...we went back to the drawing board and are re-planning our year. Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia here we come! We're gonna explore and search out somewhere that actually fits our requirements. So stay tuned as we figure all this out. So thankful we have the luxury of time and the willingness to admit when we're wrong!
It's not all bad, though. There is a lot to see and do and, well, there is the beach and the pool!
Stay tuned for a post on how we're filling out our time here before heading to Bangkok.