Tongue of the Dragon

On our return to Thailand, it was paramount to commence our tropical fruit indulgence. Courtesy of the Chiang Mai morning market, our bellies are the happy recipients of a coconut and a mango (in fruit shake form), three rose apples, a green mango (with chili/sugar of course), and a pink dragon fruit. The last one made a particularly lasting impression on us.

Preparing a fruit shakeEnjoying the fruit shake
This enormous fruit shake contained a full coconut (meat + water) and an entire mango

LL eating dragon fruit
This time we had dragon fruit with pink flesh rather than our standard white innards…

Pink tongues
…and we have the stains to prove it

Paradise Lost

Turns out it’s not just hype that Kauai is the wettest place on earth. During our week here, we’ve consistently had heavy rains overnight. However, they usually end around 6AM. Not today. It’s 10:30AM, we’re supposed to be at the airport, and instead we’re in the Hanalei plaza. The bridge that lies between us and aircraft has been closed since 1AM, when the water level spiked to nine feet.

Statistically the Hanalei bridge reopens when the waters recede to about four and a half feet. We monitored the water level this morning from our B&B. Since conditions were looking better (water had receded to almost five feet) we attempted our airport run at 8:30AM. Unfortunately, the weather has not decided to cooperate, with the rains kicking back into high gear. The cop at the bridge told us “it will be at least a few hours…or possibly all day. I’m stuck here as well.” For now we’re rebooked on an afternoon flight, which buys us three more hours, but I’m dubious that we’ll be able to leave the north shore at all today.

Latest bridge status – notice the uptick from about 45 minutes ago just when things started to look promising

Live video footage from the scene of the storm

I Shoulda Made a Left at Reykjavik

Our journey home from Oslo was supposed to be a simple matter of 14 hours in transit via Paris, arriving in Seattle on Monday around noon. However, little did we realize that we would be contenting with weather issues that even Lady Gaga was unable to overcome

Our 6:30am flight to Paris was delayed to 7:30, then 10, then 3pm. They were kind enough to provide us with food vouchers with each delay, but with the final update we were clearly going to miss our connection. So Air France re-routed us through Brussels for an overnight stay and departure Tuesday morning (via Atlanta). Updated ETA in Seattle: Tuesday night.

Or so we thought. An hour before departure our flight to Brussels was cancelled as they had run out of de-icing fluid. We were re-routed through Amsterdam, where we got on a train to the Brussels airport. At midnight (18 hours after leaving our Oslo hotel) we arrived at the airport, looked up at the screen of Tuesday’s departures, and discovered that our flight (as well as all other US-bound flights) was cancelled. This was probably the lowest point in any of my travels. We finally regrouped at the airport Sheraton, and after another hour long call we were booked on the Paris->Seattle flight this Thursday.

Things are looking up today. Sleeping in has helped immensely, and we are speeding along on the Thalys train to Paris. We should arrive around 5PM, which will give us a full day and two nights to soak in some unexpected deliciousness. Viva la France!

Free lunch
Lauren making the best of our food vouchers from Air France

Upper Crust bakery
We can verify this claim based on our 10 hour observation period in OSL

The Road Home

We are leaving Uganda in a few hours. Between facilitating the JAMS workshop at Makerere University and various emotional good-byes, it’s been a busy final week. We’re going to be off the grid for 10 days in Tanzania, and then we board a plane bound for Seattle. For those who enjoy details, here’s the breakdown:

  • Today: fly to Kilimanjaro
  • Sunday-Tuesday: Hike Mt. Meru
  • Wed-Mon: Safari in Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, central and northern Serengeti
  • Tues-Wed: JRO->DAR->DBX->SFO->SEA (i.e. long slog from Africa to Seattle, but at least we’re flying Emirates)

It’s been a great three months in Uganda; an inspiring conclusion to an unforgettable year. We’re leaving with countless memories and have many stories to write up when we get home. Seattle crowd, see you soon!

View from our apartment
The view from our apartment this morning

The large birds that protect our apartment
The large birds that protect our apartment building

Arrival in Uganda

After a 4am flight from Bangalore to Dubai, another flight to Addis Ababa, and a short flight to Entebbe, we arrived in Kampala. We were greeted at the airport by a cheerful driver named Miles, who told us that he is “so glad whenever I hear that someone’s first trip to Africa is to Uganda – then I know they will have a good time.”

The drive from Entebbe to Kampala was quite beautiful – the road is lined with trees and fields for part of the way, and then runs along Lake Victoria for a stretch. Kenny spent much of the ride snapping photos through the window. We hit some traffic approaching Kampala; our driver told us that this was caused by people leaving work early to catch the first World Cup game – South Africa v. Mexico.

Lake view through the cab window
Driving from Entebbe to Kampala along Lake Victoria

First view of Kampala
Our first view of Kampala

We spent a few minutes settling into our apartment, and then took a short exploratory walk around our area. We’re in an upscale part of town, called Kololo, near a golf course and a park converted to a set of international eateries. But one need not walk too far to find a bit of local color, including a huge open market situated directly on the train tracks (I suppose the vendors and shoppers knew that no trains would be arriving?) We also celebrated the fact that we actually have a kitchen here in Kampala by purchasing a few groceries on our way back home.

South Africa v. Mexico
Watching the first World Cup game – South Africa v. Mexico

Live from TPE

Here’s Lauren about to board our flight to SFO, with Little Vid and a mango we picked up in Chiang Mai this morning. We’ll see the real Vid in about 12 hours!

Heading out of TPE

Due to the magic of time zones, our flight out of Taipei leaves at 11PM tonight, and our connection in SFO also leaves for JFK at 11PM tonight. It’s going to be a long day…night…whatever it is.

Snake on a Plane

I just saw the family off at the airport for their 2PM flight. Since they had a huge breakfast of Thai favorites at 8AM, and some bonus dishes at Lauren’s NGO around 10:30, we skipped out on lunch. But just in case they got hungry on their way to Chiang Mai, I sent them off with a parcel of snake in banana leaves, complete with all of the garlic/chili/cilantro trimmings.

It was a great having Shawn, Jessica, and Moose here for the past five days, and I am sad that they’re gone. Fortunately we’re going to meet up with them in Chiang Mai on Friday afternoon for a few more days of Thailand fun!

Snake at Lauren’s office, not on a plane

Compare and Contrast

Exhibit A – Visa process for our current trip to Vietnam:

  1. Fill out a small online form and PayPal $20 per person to an agent in Hanoi.
  2. Print the approval letter you receive 2 days later.
  3. Bring printout, a passport photo, and $25 in cash to the Visa on Arrival counter when you land in Hanoi. There is no line; receive visa immediately.

Total cost: $45 per person

Exhibit B – Visa process for our last trip to Vietnam:

  1. A myriad of trials and tribulations summarized by my wife in only 1311 words here; including two round trips of Express Mail postage, visa fees, and emotional stress due to perceived loss of passports.

Total cost: ~$100 per person + severe risk of PTSD

If planning a trip to Vietnam, allow me to recommend the visa on arrival route. It is both cheaper and more convenient. We are now safely and legally in Vietnam.

Leaving Laos Vegas

I can’t take any credit for the title, that one’s all Matt… but he’s clearly not the only one to come up with this joke. As seen in the Lao Airlines magazine:

What happens in Vientiane, stays in Vientiane

We are in the Luang Prabang airport, waiting to board our flight for Hanoi. Our current plan for the remaining weeks of our pre-volunteering holiday:

  • Two to four days in the Hanoi area, which will probably include some time in Ninh Binh and/or the national park nearby. We’ll skip Halong Bay because we’ve been there, and Sapa because it’s apparently quite cold there right now.
  • A few days in Nha Trang, because nine days in the Thai islands just wasn’t enough beach time.
  • A few days on Phu Quoc island for the same reason.
  • About two days in the Mekong Delta area as we make our way towards Cambodia (this may involve a night in Can Tho and another in Chau Doc, but we need to do more research).
  • One day in Phnom Penh before we fly to Chiang Mai to start orientation.