There are plenty of lists out there on how to pack for a trip – what to take in terms of clothes, jewelry, shoes, toiletries, etc. But what about the countless intangible things you have to take care of before you can put your feet up and relax? Those nagging, pesky little issues that you think you’ve squared away until your plane takes off and you say to yourself, “Wait – do I have enough money in my checking account?” Well, I’ve made a list of all the little things I have to do before jetting off to my next destination. It may come in handy for you too!
Category Archives: humor
I’ve read lots of horror stories about Asian toilets (i.e., the notorious squat toilet), but none about Asian showers. By this I mean a shower that has no tub, curtain, or any other kind of separation from the rest of the bathroom. You turn on the water and, voila, the whole bathroom gets wet! I’ve experienced this personally in Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.
I know I’m showing my ignorance as a Westerner, but I just don’t get this kind of shower. It seems very impractical. You can’t leave much in the bathroom (clothes, towels, etc.) because it will constantly get wet. Unless the shower drain works perfectly, you will have a small flood in your bathroom every time you shower. When the water finally does drain out, it leaves a ring of hair, lint, and other nasty stuff on the floor. It promotes the growth of mold and mildew. Plus whenever you go into the bathroom to use the toilet, you’ll step in a wet, icky mess.
I guess it’s cheaper to build bathrooms this way, but I don’t think it would take much to add a curtain and some kind of recess in the floor for the shower area. I saw a bathroom like this in Thailand, and it worked pretty well.
What do you think about the Asian shower? Is there a trick to using it? Are there advantages to it I’m not seeing? Or does it bother the heck out of you?
My traveling companion and I rented a motorbike in Koh Phangan, a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand. I mean that he rented the motorbike – I just held on for dear life. I got used to it after a while, and it was a good way to see the island, but what I really liked about it were the passengers it attracted. These were cute, friendly island dogs, and it looked like they were well taken care of. But the best thing about them is that they are scooter-trained. Yes, you read that right. It happened twice that, while our bike was stopped, a random dog would get on the platform and stand there, waiting for us to take him or her . . . somewhere. They know exactly where to stand for balance and are expert hitchhikers.
The first time was this dog, a beautiful white one. Since we were caught off guard, we eventually forced her to get off – but not before posing for a few pictures.
We thought it was a fluke, but later that day another dog got on our motorbike and did the same thing. This one was also much more stubborn, and we couldn’t have gotten her off without really pushing. So we started driving – very slowly – with her on it. She was really good about it too, staying completely still, tongue flapping in the breeze. Every once in a while we would stop and make it clear to her that she could get off. At one point we stopped next to another stray dog, thinking she would like company, but they started growling at each other so we hightailed it out of there. She got off to stretch her legs when my companion stopped to look at something, but hopped right back on when he mounted the bike. She finally left us for good when we got to the major town of Thongsala, where there was a pack of stray dogs to welcome her. We guess this is a normal way for them to get around the island – hitching a ride with humans!
I spent a lot of time exploring caves during my trip to Cappadocia, a fascinating region in central Turkey. People have been living in caves there for thousands of years. They carved everything out of the rock: monasteries, underground cities, stables, workshops, and of course, homes. I wanted to get the full cave experience, so I stayed in a cave hotel in Göreme for three nights. Based on my experience, here are the top 6 reasons for living a troglodyte existence.
1. You can tell people you lived in a cave! This is an automatic conversation starter, and people seem to find it very impressive — probably because they picture you living underground, without electricity, and surrounded by bats. As you can see from the picture above, it’s not like that at all.
2. You have no idea how old your room is. A cave carved out yesterday looks pretty much the same as a cave carved several centuries ago. Let your imagination run wild as you think about the room’s past inhabitants and uses.
3. With the right tools, you can instantly create extra shelf space, windows, doors, etc. (Warning: Don’t do this unless you actually own the cave.)
4. A cave stays cool in the summer, warm in the winter (relatively). We were still freezing in our cave in November.
5. Get in touch with your caveman roots. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the set of The Flintstones.
6. Feel like you’re roughing it without the roughness. A lot of cave hotels are actually quite luxurious, with all the amenities you would expect of a modern hotel.
Have you ever stayed in a cave? What did you think?
I’ll let these pictures tell the story of how we almost lost our rental car in the icy waters off the coast of Maine. To read the whole story, published in The Michigan Quarterly Review, click here.
In old Istanbul
At every alley and door
A cat lies waiting
From Hagia Sophia
To the ancient Grand Bazaar
Yellow eyes peer out
Cats of Istanbul
I long to carry you home
But customs says no
I hope you had a good Halloween! This may be a day late, but these choir stalls in Amsterdam’s Old Church (Oude Kerk) are pretty creepy. They’re so whimsical and creative, though, that it’s hard not to be charmed by them. I think the images are based on Dutch sayings and allegories. Anyone know what they are?
It looks like I’ll be taking an impromptu trip to Istanbul in the near future! Hopefully I won’t strangle my travel companion for constantly singing the song “Istanbul, not Constantinople,” as he is wont to do. (I really hate that song.)
Here’s a video of one of the most annoying songs in the world. Warning: watching this video may cause you to want to shoot yourself.
I threw together a list of all the sites I want to see there, with their visiting hours. It goes something like this.
Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia): Tues.-Sun. 9-5 in winter (or 7 in summer)
Blue Mosque: Daily 9-5 in winter (6:30 summer); closed during prayer times
Basilica Cistern: Daily 9-5:30 in winter (6:30 summer)
Topkapi Palace: Wed.-Mon. 9-7 from April to Oct.
Topkapi Harem: Wed.-Mon. 9:30-5 from April to Oct.
Mosque of Suleyman: Daily sunrise-sunset except during prayer
Kariye Museum/ Church of Holy Savior in Chora: Thurs.-Tues. 9-7
Istanbul Archeological Museum: Tues.-Sun. 9-5 in winter (or 7 in summer)
Grand Bazaar: Mon.-Sat. 8:30-7
Egyptian Bazaar/ Spice Market: Mon.-Sat. 8:30-7, Sun. 9-6:30
Hippodrome: No hours, free
If I have time, I also want to see:
Mosque of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha: Daily sunrise-sunset except during prayer times
Dolmabahce Palace: Tues.-Wed. and Fri-Sun. 8:30-4 in winter (4:30 in summer); daily quota of visitors.
Can anyone recommend how many days I should spend in Istanbul? I’m thinking three or four days. I may also throw in a trip to Cappadocia if I have time!
I love octopuses – or is it octopi? They’re so smart, I can’t bring myself to eat them. I was snorkeling off the coast of San Pedro in Belize in very shallow water, when I spotted some movement – my first octopus sighting! Quick as a whistle, it darted into a reef and changed color, turning white to blend in with the coral.
Then, much to my amazement, it latched on to a conch shell and started pulling it over itself, until only two beady eyes remained.
We stared at each other for a few minutes in a tense standoff, and then I let the octopus be. I went back to my kayak – it took me about ten tries to climb over the side and get inside the damn thing! Especially because the person I was with decided to take pictures instead of help me.
The picture says it all.