Hong Kong

Taking off from LAX at midnight on the 12th and flying for 15 hours at 32000 feet in the dark, our jumbo jet flew north over Alaska and the Bering Strait, crossed the International Date Line and turned south to pass over Tokyo and, eventually, landed in Hong Kong on December 14th just as the sun was rising.

I’ll always choose a window seat – both for views and to have something to lean against to sleep – and this was no exception. I lucked out, getting two young Asian students to share my row. They were quiet yet pleasant, and small, which is a help in close quarters, and we all did our best to sleep in spite of seats that didn’t recline enough to make that easy. Since my airline ticket had been free I had opted to purchase a slightly larger seat with extra leg room – not that I need it, being barely 5′ tall – but in the hopes that my seat would recline more than the basic economy ones. While this didn’t happen, we did get to board earlier and deplane sooner than the masses in the main cabin, and were served food and drink a bit faster.

I’d called American Airlines a few weeks ago to request “spicy vegetarian” meals and was happily surpised to find it tasty. Drinks were poured generously, light blankets and pillows supplied, and I did sleep for at least some of the time, leaving my seat only twice in all that time.

Customs and immigration was easy: no visa required. I’d researched the airport and ways to get into the city, so I stashed my bag in “Left Luggage” for about $1. per hour (and worth every penny) and took the A21 bus to the Mong Kok section of town. This bustling and picturesque part of Hong Kong smelled like a Chinese restaurant and was full of great looking food in markets, windows, stands and restaurants of every size and description. I was hungry and soon found what I was looking for: a tiny place selling congee – a broken rice soup cooked in a rich broth and served with your choice of fish, pork, mahogony colored roast goose, “offal” or a combination of the above. I chose the burnished roast goose and it was delicious – a huge bowl of boiling hot soup served with chopsticks and a porcelain soup spoon, a bowl of white rice, scallions and soy sauce, eaten at a rickety table in a small room with plastic chairs and happy Asian diners. Cost – $2.10.

Most of the day spent exploring the narrow streets and alleyways of Mong Kok – soaking in the color, noise and character of the neighborhood. A lane selling massive buckets of fresh flowers led into another alley crammed with tanks and plastic bags of goldfish, buckets of tiny turtles, cages of exotic bunnies, kittens and puppies to buy and take home as pets. The next lane sported glistening fruits and vegetables; a covered market displayed seafood and sausages, fresh eggs and pork cooked in multiple ways while yet another was devoted to a stunning variety of pastries and snacks I didn’t know the names of. I tried a small egg custard pie. Yummy. One day is not enough time here in my opinion. I’ll stay longer on the back end of my trip.

LAX to Hong Kong
Sunrise over clouds, over Hong Kong
Meats and sausages.
Bags of tropical fish.

In the mood to see another side of Hong Kong I hopped on one of the hundreds of bright-colored double decker buses, climbed to the top to take in the sights of this beautiful city surrounded by water, and got off at Olympian City – an enormous complex of malls three stories high and sprawling over what seemed like miles,  housing an enormous selection of high-end clothing stores, restaurants, theaters, gourmet grocery stores, tea houses, candy and snack shops and so much more. I almost committed  suicide  by escalater because I didn’t  realize that these conveyences, like the vehicles on the roadways, go forward in the left lane, not the right. Trying to ride up on the right side I was caught in an avalance of bodies  coming down and just managed to spin around and go with the flow before being trampled. Another reminder to keep my eyes  open!l

The denizens of Hong Kong are a stylish lot and I marveled to see these elegant malls jammed with good looking people dining and shopping like crazy, dressed in the coolest of ways. I had shoe envy at least a dozen times. I’m not talking heels though there were plenty of those – just the hippest tennys and comfortable footware and sports clothes I’d  ever seen – all  so stylin’. In my old travel weary clothes I was reminded of my mom who, on one rare occasion when she found herself way underdressed for an occasion said, “I looked like a tramp!”

Hong Kong looks to me like it’s doing very well indeed.


On My Mark, Get Set, Go!

OK. I’m packed and have boarding passes on my phone (which now has an international service plan added to my Verizon account for an extra $40. per month). Have passport, money (in crisp unblemished bills as required in SEA), ATM and credit cards in travel pouch; a freshly cleaned and polished body, a tired mind and a ready heart. I’ve said my “goodbyes” to family and friends and will board a flight to LAX in three hours. There I will board an American Airlines flight to Hong Kong where I should land at 7:25AM on the 14th for a day-long layover followed by a night flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

Arriving at Bangkok airport near midnight I have booked a budget hotel near the airport. I’ll go through customs and immigration, change dollars into baht and call the hotel to come pick me up. In the morning I’ll take the free shuttle from the hotel back to the airport where I’ll catch the train into the city. I’ve chosen a modern, immaculate Airbnb house near the BTW line, downtown. I’ll have my own room but share common kitchen, bathroom and media room with other guests. The kind young woman who runs the guesthouse I’m staying at for the next three nights has sent me directions and photos to guide me from the BTW stop to the hostel. A friend of a friend who lives in Bangkok has sent me a list of his favorite places, sights and things to do in the city and I plan to follow all of his suggestions. I’ll be there over the weekend so will be able to go to the weekend night markets and floating markets the city is famous for.

On Monday I have a flight to Phenom Penh, the Capitol of Cambodia, and a hotel in the old part of the city along the river. After four nights in PP I’ll take a bus to Siem Reap, the town by the famous ruins of Angkor Wat where I’ll spend the Christmas holidays.

I have a strong sense of unrealtity right now. Am I really doing this? And leaving tonight? I am!


Ready, Set, Six Days to Go!

Taos Mountain in winter.

Leaving Taos, New Mexico to travel in South East Asia.

Pueblo Peak, Taos, New Mexico
Sunset view from my house.


My mornings this last week in Taos are spent trying to keep my focus on priorities and not run madly off in all directions. Time is moving fast and friends and family seem more precious than ever since I will be half a world away from them for twelve weeks. Packed since mid-November, I keep re-packing in an effort to streamline my small bag yet include everything I deem essential. My oldest son is helping me learn WordPress so I can write this blog. I practice whenever I can, hoping to get better at it. At first it seemed an impossible skill to master since my 74 year old brain needs a new memory chip and I am not tech savvy – but I am stubborn. Ask either of my ex-husbands.

I have a slight case of vertigo so I’m doing the youtube version of the Epley maneuver each day in an effort to regain balance. New hearing aids (never had any before last week) need adjusting and I’m still not very good at putting them in, my hair desperately needs a trim, my nails are ripped and ragged and my tenant texts me frequently to ask questions like “where is the blender?” or “do you have spare trash bags?”

I’m emailing the hotels and guest houses I’ll be staying in in Thailand and Cambodia to ask for directions from airports or bus stations and getting the warmest responses in charming off-kilter English which make me smile. I still wake up with butterflies in my stomach but as the sun rises, so does my excitement. I’m ready to rock and roll.

Home, Sweet Home

Tomorrow I move out of my little home and hand my house keys to P: a woman who comes highly recommended by people I trust. This new friend showed up on my doorstep one afternoon three weeks ago, looking for a place to live for the winter and spring. She immediately liked my home and asked if I would rent it to her for six months, beginning December 1? She needed a quick answer because of another potential rental commitment. I told her I had to have at least 24 hours to think about it, since, although I have been wanting to take a long trip and trade a winter at 7000 ft. for something more colorful, warm and exotic, this was sudden indeed! Now? Really? Six months?!?

Mountains of northern New Mexico.
The Sangre de Cristos in late fall.

Heart racing, face hot and head practically exploding from conflicting thoughts and feelings, I willed myself to breathe. When a bit calmer I talked to my favorite advisors – smart, trusted family members and supportive friends who know me well – going over pros and cons, fears and funds, escape routes (if necessary) and backup plans. Pacing the floor and going over the input from these loved ones, I spent the evening thinking deeply about just how I want to live the next six months of my life.

When I woke up the next morning I knew I was going to go for it. If not now, when? My close family members are all doing well and I’m healthy and have plenty of energy. Who knows how much longer all of this will be true? I’ve traveled alone enough to know how to make friends on the road. I’ve struggled with learning the basics of other languages and how various systems work in foreign countries. It can be hard at times, for sure, but the focus it takes keeps my senses wide awake and my mind working and alert. Colors are brighter, smells more intense, and I find the newness intoxicating. There’s no sleepwalking through a country you’ve never been to before! I’m at a point in my life when I can use a kick in the butt, a re-wiring of my brain circuitry, an opening of spirit, some new points of view. I’m betting this trip will do all that and more.

Researching my American Airlines milage account I discovered I had enough milage to fly to South East Asia and back, virtually for free. I talked with P and told her that five months was the absolute maximum amount of time I could rent to her since I must be back to start my gardens by May 1. We discussed money and terms and conditions and she agreed to all of my requests, saying they were “normal” and fine with her. Since then we have talked and met several times and I feel good about leaving my home in her hands. Off I go into the Wild Blue Yonder.