July 24, 2005


I am sure the anticipation from the killer cliffhanger of my last post is absolutely unbearable. That is why I have decided to end the nail-biting once and for all and finish the lovely description of the glorious Asia vacation Jed and I went totally broke on.

I left off teasing you to believe that there was a possibility we might not make it to Malaysia due to the never ever updated internet sites I used to plan our trip. You'll be happy to know that we did in fact, make it safe and sound. But, I am sure you already knew that because you looked at Jed's pictures clearly labeled, Malaysia.

In the morning we called and were able to snag the last two seats on the teeny tiny plane to Tioman Island. It was either that or take a bus through rural Malaysia to some random ferry terminal. I am glad we got the flight.

I finally felt better and we made our way to the tiniest airport I've ever been to. The staff posted tidbits of comfort and reassurance such as "Don't worry if you don't see the runway - it's there!" We took off late as islands all over the world seem to be notorious for never keeping to a schedule. I was enraged that our 30 minute flight offered no in-flight entertainment or meal.

We arrived in Malaysia and went through the one-man shack customs area and since almost all of us were going to the same (one of 2) resort on the island we all piled (literally) into a tiny blue school bus. By the time we were settled I was soooooo crabby from hunger that I was in one of my lovely moods that earned me the nickname "Sunshine" from my brother. I was so set on the perfection that I saw in the brochure that when we didn't get it I was furious. After eating a gristle burger and cooling down a bit Jed helped remind me that it was hazy so nothing was going to look as blue as it did in the photo. We also stayed in a beach hut. There were so many huts on the beach and we were one of the only few that were right on the beach. We were on the top floor and it wasn't a five star room but we didn't spend that much time in there. The AC worked and we never had to walk more than 30 seconds to get to our beach chairs. Jed was especially happy because for the only time in his life the shower head was so tall he could stand normally. (I couldn't reach it) I had a chill pill and then loved everything.

Our next full day began like everyday should, with a spa treatment. We both got salt scrubs that left our skin feeling so silky that we didn't want to swim. We immediately scheduled another appointment for the next morning. We had lunch and lazed the rest of the day by the pool. We found gigantic crocodile sized lizards just roaming the property. One was right next to our little building. I was apprehensive as we approached but Jed whipped out the camera and had a photo shoot for every time we passed one. There were several of all sizes and from a good distance, they were really cool. We scrounged up enough "nice" clothes to eat at the fancier restaurant and we felt very important and adult. It was delicious and we didn't spill a thing.

After dinner we headed to the beach bar (note - happy hour lasts for 4 hours) and watched the singers that sang pop songs. They were really fun and they had a little girl with them from the audience who was obviously having the time of her life, as was the massive group of drunk Koreans next to us. We left a bit early, drained from our day at the spa, beach and restaurants and went to bed. I initiated a lovely little argument over whether or not we would be sleeping with the nite-lite on. It reminded me of the similar arguments my brother and I had every night 20 years ago. As it was back then, I won and the light stayed on.

Another day, another spa treatment. I remember the first time I dragged Jed to a spa. I booked us a mud bath and he scoffed thinking it was girly, but because we had only just started dating he went along. Now he's hooked. Today, he had the deep tissue massage and I had a body wrap that never included anything wrapping around me. After dragging ourselves out of the spa we had some lunch on the beach. I had some chicken and pineapple curry, served in a pinepple. Very Blue Sky and very deilcious! Jed ordered some fried sausage concotion that would have made Fairbanks and Chuck immensely proud. This day was the sunniest and of course, I applied lotion on myself, leaving me with a streaky finger tan. I felt better by taking a trip to the pool bar, an invention that will forever amaze and delight us both (but especially Jed).

We went into the ocean and did our version of snorkeling, which is mostly Jed trying to calm me down in between dips underwater with my goggles to see cool fish. Luckily, this water was so clear, we didn't even really need to go under. We just stood and pointed down when we saw something. It was great though there wasn't a ton of coral around us so the variety and amount was slim but still cool.

We dragged ourselves to the jacuzzi by the spa where we relaxed until my pedicure. We had the area all to ourselves, which was great since I hate to share. During my pedicure, Jed went to the beach bar to watch the sunset. It was so strange being apart after spending literally every second of the last year and a half together. I thought I would love the freedom but I missed him and couldn't wait to run back and tell him every single little thing that happened at my pedicure, like how they gave me fresh fruit and ginger tea.

We had by far, our best meal since we'd been out and then took a nice stroll along the beach. It was dark and quiet but you could hear the beach bar singers in the distance. There were some boats blinking in the water which has always looked cool to me. It was the perfect temperature and there were no bugs. There wasn't a single other person on the beach. It was absoluetly perfect.

We sat at the beach bar for a while but the little girl wasn't there and the crazy Korean group had left so things were really mellow. We decided to leave when they started playing slow songs.

We checked out the next morning and went back to Singapore. We had an entire day to kill before our flight at 1am so we went back into the city and saw War of the Worlds. It was the coolest movie theater ever, but the movie, though filled with action, completely lacked story. It didn't even try. Then we ate one of everything we liked from the previous few days in Singapore. We also looked in every single store in Singapore because Jed decided he really wanted a watch. Coincidentally, he finally found his dream watch at the grocery store in Japan for appx. $7.00US.

There is no depression like returning to work at Nova in Osaka during the rainy season. We were so bummed but knew that time would fly because we were gonig to Hawaii in just over one month. I guess time does fly because we only have 5 more working days left and in about 2 weeks we'll be back on the beach, though probably not romantic as Jed and I will be strolling the beach with my mom and aunt. We'll take what we can get, it's free.

Soon we'll be home! What on earth will New Hartford have to offer us? Will Connecticut suck as much as I remember? Will I actually go to the last 5 days of my job like a good girl? The only thing I know for certain is that Stop and Shop better stock up cause I'll be hitting that PopTart aisle like no one's business!

Posted by karen at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005


Yet another rainy, nasty day and our taxi driver did his best to get us to the airport but a massive traffic jam (at 6am) on the highway prevented us from moving forward. As though it were the perfectly logical thing to do, the driver puts it into reverse and drives backwards about 1/4mile. He did this until he borrowed the brilliant idea from the other impatient drivers to just turn around and drove the opposite way in the right lane. He did this all the way to the exit ramp and we made it to the airport in plenty of time to join the massively long lines. It is interesting to note that though seemingly aggressive people, no one beeped or even gave the slightest annoyed look as we drove this way.

We obviously wanted to eat at Starbucks but of course it was closed. We ended up going to a cafeteria-esque eatery that specialized in grease. It was okay though because we were lulled by Singapore Airlines the greatest airline ever.

I love Singapore. It was my first choice over Japan. My second choice was Hong Kong, then Japan. SARS ruined my first and second choices. I love Singapore because it reminds me of America but with a significantly Asian feel. I need my creature comforts, good stores and some American restaurants from time to time. English also helps. Singapore is a gigantic melting pot for Asian culture and they maintain teriffic little villiages like Arab Street, Little India and China Town. The city itself is ruled by strict laws that enforce such things as no gum, no public urination and no littering, to name a few. The streets are so clean you could eat off of them. Everything is lush and beautiful and the laws, though strict, are easy to live by and it seems that most Singaporeans are happy to abide by them in order to keep their country looking beautiful. Despite its massive humidity, I definitely think it is a place I could live and love. If the job search doesn't turn up anything worthwhile I just may have to look into it;)

The second we landed in Singapore we saw the sun and knew it would be good. Our hotel was in a prime location on Orchard Road where all the cool stuff was. We settled in and decided to break our rule of no group tours and go on a group tour because we were too lazy to think for ourselves.

We ended up going to the night safari which is part of the Singapore Zoo. I'd been before but would go everyday if I could. En route we were reminded of why we hate group tours. We hadn't been given a receipt and this caused all sorts of problems. Basically, the entire bus waited for us while we straightened out the problem. (We were right, by the way) I made friends with an Indian couple who were on their honeymoon. I managed to offend them in every way possible. When they told me theirs was an arranged marriage I felt so awkward that all I could think of to ask was if they liked the arrangement. I spent the rest of the night avoiding them.

The first thing we did on our next morning was to cash in on our free breakfast. We went wild. Being in Japan made us eat as though we would never eat again. By the time we made it to Sentosa Island, the major resort draw in Singapore, I was feeling ill. We enjoyed a nice stroll around the beautiful Silosa beach. This beach is completely fake and manicured and of course, I loved it. It would have been perfect but Singapore is a major port city and the actual water was filled with ships. Not pretty yachts or boats or even cruise ships, but cargo ships and massive tankers. The water was sludgy and there was trash floating everywhere. Standing from the water looking up, it looks like a beautiful beach.

We went to Underwater World, which is much like Sea World's Creatures of the Deep. A fun aquarium though small, but I didn't care because I got to pet the stingrays.

We saw there was a big mini golf thing that was touted as being really cool. We HAD to go. It turned out being really lame. At about noon, it suddenly got extremely hot and humid. Singapore generally has 80% humidity or something heinous all year round but that afternoon it was just about to rain and the humidity increased to about a trillion percent. About halfway through our course we decided we couldn't take it and went back to the hotel where both got sick for the next two days.

Heat, dehydration, pure shock from sunlight, exhaustion, whatever it was we were not going to let it keep us from eating. We made it to an Irish pub and had some yummy snacks of totally greasy fried food. We woke up sick several hours later. Of course, we were on vacation so we weren't going to let a stupid thing like illness keep us down. We figured a good spa treatment was what we needed. It did make me forget I felt so bad. I forgot so much in fact, that I foolishly thought I could handle Dairy Queen. It just felt so good to see something familiar. Shortly thereafter, my facial exuberance left me and I was sick again. But I did some shopping while Jed did something else. Then I felt sick again and had to lie down while Jed went to an internet cafe to handle scheduling our ferry to Malaysia for the morning.

Just as I was starting to feel better Jed came back with the news that the ferry to Malaysia is no longer in service and the only way to our island was by a small plane that has one flight a day. We couldn't get ahold of them because they had closed so we decided to eat away our worries.

We went to a delicious steak house called Stuart Anderson's Black Angus. (Yes we laughed endlessly while pretending the G had been omitted.) Jed discovered an intense love for ribs while I left memories of my 7 year stint as a vegetarian and my recent illness behind as I devoured about 25 pounds of food.
The deliciousness of the meal temporarily made us forget that we had no way to get to Malaysia in the morning.

Would we find a way to Malaysia? Would we continue to be sick? Will my posts continue to be boring and show that we do nothing but laze around and eat?

Stay tuned.....

Posted by karen at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2005


We didn't quite make the ferry I had in mind. We were about 10 minutes late for the only ferry that day. Howver, we managed to get a ferry from Kowloon, the island next to Hong Kong Island.

We made our trek to the airport in Shenzhen and since our flight was delayed (likely due to the monsoonal rains) and I had a delicious meal of fried tofu, coke and a waffle with ice cream and fruit. Mmmmmm.

Air China....the last time I flew them was a similar situation. I had taken the hydroferry to Shenzhen from Hong Kong and was flying to Beijing. While the rest of our friends flights' waited patiently for things to clear, our flight drove head on into a sandstorm. I honestly thought I would die. I remember that the stewardesses only got halfway through dinner before having to stop serving and remain in their seats for the rest of the flight. I also remember the woman sitting next to my friend Susan, barfing into her food tray. Needless to say. I was nervous about Air China. I figured the likelihood that another sandstorm would be headed our way was slim, but I blame them for being one of the only flights to decide they could plow through. This flight was turbulent though not nearly to the same degree. However, I was in a particularly rotten mood by the time we landed in Beijing.

Our hotel was a huge tourist hotel but it was nice and it was conveniently located. However, our luck (or lack thereof) continued. We took about 9 years to decide which restaurant we wanted to eat at and when we finally chose a place we rode the elevator only to find out that the restaurant was closed for repairs. We ended up going to the buffet, which looked delicious minus the flies on the food and the carcasses hanging next to our table. We seemed to be a bit early and the staff stood around like vultures waiting to artfully rearrange any food we removed from the buffet.

Being Jed's birthday eve and knowing that we would likely be out all day on his actual bday, I decided to take advantage of the fact that our hotel had a 'spa'. I scheduled him a massage but skeptically as the English capabilities of the staff were severely limited. The teriffic sport that Jed is, he gladly went to his massage which turned out to take place in a room resembling a dungeon. No music, no mood lighting and a woman who wouldn't stop asking him questions, therefore ruining any chance of actual relaxation. Disgusted and slightly shaken he returned to tell me all about it but did his best to insist it 'wasn't that bad'.

Jed's bday. Our morning started with the hotel's free breakfast. The atmosphere reminded me of our high school band trips, sucky. It was a huge grease fest and we felt sicker with each bite. We chartered a car and driver to take us to the Great Wall. Having climbed a very remote part of the wall a few years ago, I thought (selfishly) that it might be fun to go to a more touristy part. I remember my roommate at the time had loved the slides that they provided to get down the wall. This was a huge mistake as I am almost certain anyone in their right mind would have enjoyed the remote sections better. Fortunately, this was the first day that the rain subsided just enough for us to really enjoy some outside time. However, the humidity was brutal and the climb was difficult so we were both a sweaty mess.

We took these fun little gondola things up to the top and then climbed a portion of the wall that was screaming with tourists and hawkers. There was a man climbing the wall in crutches (embarrassingly he was moving a lot faster than us) and there were loads of women who took the challenge in heals. I do not look at them with the same kind of amazement as I do with the man on crutches.

The big draw is the roller coaster like ride down the wall you can take for a small fee. It was so lame but fun because we really like lame. We even rode it back up. We spent most of the day around the Wall so we were pretty exhausted. But after we returned to the hotel, we headed out to Tianenmen Square, which really is more of a rectangle.

We turned in early because we needed to be up bright and early for our trip to Singapore.

Would Singapore prove to be as great as I remember? Will the post be more interesting than this one?

Stay tuned......

Posted by karen at 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

July 08, 2005

Hong Kong

We just returned from a huge, wonderful vacation. In order to make things easier for writer and reader, I will break these down by country. Let's start with our first stop....Hong Kong.

I left our last day of work feeling frustrated but happy because I had just had a middle-aged man who couldn't speak a word but was so sweet and instead of saying 'See you later!' he proudly waved goodbye saying 'Sightseeing!' I loved him though I despise the job.

As Jed and I were mailing our Amazing Race video and application we saw the ultra convenient and close to our apartment airport bus go cruising by. Somehow I had managed to mess up the time that we were supposed to catch the bus, therefore causing us to miss it. We then had to run to the subway and pray to make it to our plane on time. To end the nail biting suspense, we made it....just in time. The plane was leaving 15 minutes early. Should anyone be contemplating flying on Air India, please keep in mind it is only comfortable for leg amputees. Even MY knees touched the seat in front of me. Poor Jed contorted his way to Hong Kong. Our sleep deprived delirium proved for a fun flight but by the time we got to the hotel transfer bus at the airport we were spent.

Originally, I had intended to conquer Hong Kong in one night and leave via train en route to Beijing. Luckily, either me or the website (totally the website) screwed up and the only day we were able to take the train was not avaliable. this turned out to be good for two reasons. First, we could barely stay conscious past 9pm. Second, the horrific monsoonal rains wouldn't have given us much of a view of the countryside.

After 6+ weeks of working nearly everyday and having an average of 5 hours sleep a night on the floor, a long, undisturbed sleep in an actual bed was a vacation in and of itself. We woke up nice and early thanks to our senior citizen bedtime and were ready to hit the town. One look outside changed our plans. Hong Kong was experiencing thunder and lightening as well as the heaviest rain I had ever seen. Of course, we had left our arsenal of umbrellas in Japan because it never rains on vacation. We decided to visit the most spectacular part of the city....Victoria Peak. The top of this mountain gives the most impressive view of Hong Kong. In addition, there is a shopping center full of cool things to buy and more importantly, eat.

Due to the weather most of the shops never even opened and we had zero view. We stuck it out for a couple of hours but couldn't even walk outside because it was raining so hard. We decided to abandon the peak for something we could do until the rain passed.....a movie. Movies are so expensive in Japan and Jed was dying to see Batman. We thought it might be a good way to forget about the rain and hope that maybe it would be over by the time we were done. The movie was good though I was so mad that we had no choice but to watch a movie in Hong Kong that I couldn't enjoy it.

When the movie ended the rain had stopped but the fog remained, killing any chance of seeing the famous night view of the city from the top of the peak. We decided to walk back to our hotel through the narrow streets and markets. It was so great to hear everyone speaking English. I have travelled to Hong Kong once before and the experience was so different primarily because I had been coming from America. Coming from Japan, I treasured different things like beds, food and English.

Wandering through the streets made us pretty hungry which was good since we had a lot of local money to spend. We had a great time acting like we were rich and ordered all the expensive things on the menu in a last ditch effort to rid ourselves of our Hong Kong dollars.

The day was nice though the weather worsened again after dinner. We had a nice sleep knowing that in the morning our ferry would leave for mainland China so we could catch our flight to Beijing.......or would it??????

Stay tuned.....

Posted by karen at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)