A Murder Of Short Visits
I had no idea what to call this. Murder, flock, gang, group. What exactly do you call a bunch of separate travel destinations that have nothing in common except they required luggage? I was creating the new website map for countries visited that you, dear reader, can use to dive into stories and videos specific to a country. The problem is, I didn’t take video for many of them. So what I decided to do instead was group some of the smaller/shorter trips into a single post (with links as I can find them) for your reading pleasure.
I live in Miami. The Bahamas is only 50 miles away by boat. And it’s beautiful, at least the parts that the hurricanes didn’t level. I wish I could say I loved the country, but it really felt like a weekend extension of my own tropical home.
I wasn’t going to count this, as it was a day stop on a cruise ship, but here … I was there! Actually we did a lot, including a mile long cave tubing excursion and zip lines. I would love to see more of this country, as I only got the uber-tourist version.
What can I say … it’s a nicer and more friendly United States. Colder too. I’ve been on both coasts and enjoyed all visits. My only real memory was the rudeness of the border guards, which kinda surprised me. Maybe they import them from over the border in the states.
My second marriage honeymoon! 10 days in Athens and Santorini. The former was … ok. Nice to see some ruins. Decent but typical European city. But Santorini was BEAUTIFUL. I seriously want to get back to the Greek islands.
Just a week in-country. Nikki’s daughter had moved there, in a little surf town down on the coast. (Obviously, where else would you surf). My biggest takeaways were that it was beautiful in a rugged way, communism sucks for the people, beaches without amenities are really cool, and don’t count on 3rd world internet to keep you working.
I really don’t have much to say about Switzerland. We were told by a friend that we HAD TO visit a certain city, which shall remain nameless. We did, for a week. It … wasn’t all that. We tried, but it just wasn’t a destination. The only real story was landing at the airport. We walked out, flagged a cab, and gave them the address of our hotel. Dude told us we couldn’t get there from here, that it was in Switzerland. Which we thought we were. Nope, it turned out that we were in France. WTF?
The airport is on the border and we walked out the wrong door into the wrong country. It was just a short trip back through the terminal and out the other doors and viola! … two countries in five minutes!
My very first excursion anywhere. There is a video below about the actual international flight (I managed to stay out of jail, by the way). But here is a blurb from my first book LETTERS TO A DEAD UNCLE that also describes the incident:
OK … my becoming a traveler is the topic for today, I suppose. And that must continue with Thailand, and the confusing ordeal that was my first ever international outing.
Do you remember me endlessly peppering you with questions about my first overseas trip to Bangkok? Back in my mid-twenties, when I was recently married and working for the State Department?
No? Then let me remind you. 🙂
We had been scheduled to stay in Bangkok for four weeks. It turned out to be five, because Diane (the foreign service officer I worked for) had found a way to extend. Our mission, on paper at least, was to “Investigate reporting requirements for a new computer system by interacting directly with users”. Flimsy, I know. But it was enough to get her, a guy named Jack, and me on a jet plane and headed towards Asia. 🙂
I had never traveled outside the US before, and couldn’t ask you enough questions to satisfy all of my unknowns. I was seriously unseasoned to say the least. And truthfully, a real stick in the mud when it came to change. I suppose underneath it all, I really wasn’t even completely sold on going.
Funny story number one from that trip, and it involves machine guns. It’s also technically a story about the return, but let’s put the calendar aside for a moment, shall we?
We had to change planes in Hong Kong. No big deal, you would think. But, sometimes one gets pulled aside for a tad more inspection. And it was my turn. They led me to a room with a raised box in the middle, maybe a foot higher than the floor, which was this puke shade of green linoleum. My bags went to a table along the side and folks in uniform were riffling through the contents. I was standing on the box. Others, with the aforementioned machine guns, were along the walls looking vaguely bored. And a very pretty Chinese girl was before me, asking questions.
One of those had to do with my camera, an old Instamatic 110. Remember those things? Looked like a sideways deck of cards, only longer and not as wide? Well, she handed it to me and told me to prove it was a camera. So naturally I think that (a) she’s really very pretty, and (b) why not take a picture to show her how it works?
As I raised the camera to my eye and pointed it towards her, she barked something in Chinese that un-bored the machine gun guys. They naturally raised their barrels along with their eyes, and the pretty girl stopped being so pretty. It took a lifetime for my brain to understand, but then I realized that her question was because she thought I was carrying a concealed weapon, and I was now pointing it at a uniformed officer. (Why she handed it to me, I’ll never know). So thinking quickly, I dropped the lens towards the ground and clicked the shutter.
And thus I captured a wonderful picture of some green linoleum, replete with beads of my own fear sweat.
OK, back to the chronology.
I’m not sure about your experiences, but landing in Bangkok, thirty-six hours after walking out of my own front door, was tiring. It was just Jack and I, Diane having taken an earlier flight. We hailed a cab and showed them a card with the name of our hotel. They had other ideas. Out came this three ring binder, filled with pages and more pages of … mostly-naked women. Our driver was intent on taking us to Patpong Road, home of Go-Go bars and people of ill repute. Now, even if I wasn’t recently married, I had not slept in two days, was on emotional overload from even undertaking the trip, and I wanted no part of their three-ring binder. It took forever for us to convince the driver that we didn’t care about the cleanliness or affordability of his offerings. We wanted our beds. By ourselves.
That actually became a theme. Every single time we walked out of our hotel, those taxi dudes were waiting with their menus-de-flesh. It got to the point where we would sneak out the side doors of the hotel, just to avoid them.
Oh, another funny story.
One day as Jack and I were walking to the embassy, we took a different street. I saw this funky building, which was either under construction or in the process of falling down. Could have gone either way. It was not safe-looking. But it had a sign out front, in English no less.
Thailand Department of Nuclear Energy.
Wow, thought I. What a dichotomy. The oversight of man’s highest physics achievements in this piece of shit building.
I raised my camera to take a photo. Jack freaked. “What if someone is watching? We are going to get in trouble! They’re going to think we’re spies!”. And on and on. I didn’t take the snap. At that moment, I remember feeling like I had become such the new risk taker, and was now being cruelly limited. Jack was probably right, especially in our “official capacity”, but somehow I really wanted to be wilder and more daring.