Category Archives: travel

Clue #3: Alan & Harriet’s 2011 Summer Vacation Contest

Greetings fellow travelers and virtual travel gamers!

We’re very pleased with the entries so far. Quite impressed, actually. Keep ’em coming. Remember, you can enter as many times as you’d like. We might even consider throwing in an extra prize for perfect attendance, persistence, or sheer volume.

We’re hoping that a few of you might appreciate a bit of clarification and perhaps a little geography lesson before you make your next guess so here goes…

There were several votes for Bolivia. The temperature there right now is in the 50s — not our idea of “hot” as mentioned in clue #1 — so we’re going to shift Bolivia to the list of suggestions for our November trip. Just to be clear, by “hot” we mean the forecast calls for temperatures in the low 90s. This is the average temperature for July.

Here’s a little clarification on that whole “landlocked” thing mentioned in clue #1: We consider the states of Missouri (Keith’s guess), Montana (Laura L’s 2nd guess), Nevada (Diane and Judy) as landlocked even though the U.S. is not a landlocked country. So those guesses stand. Any state or province bordering on one of the great lakes, however, would not be considered landlocked. Peru is not landlocked but Kristen specifically guessed Machu Picchu which is inland. Hmmm. Clever. But we’re going to gently toss it anyway since temperatures there are in the low 70s right now… and we did the Inca Trail a few years ago. Sorry.

Guesses that came in via email rather than as comments on the blog:
Sylvia: Bolivia (although she acknowledged it is winter there now) or Bhutan
Wayne: Bolivia or Uganda
Kathryn: Bolivia or Moldova
Judy: Las Vegas
Amy: Serbia and/or Hungary
Kristen: Machu Picchu
Shari: Burkino Faso (Incorrect answer but we’re awarding bonus points for including a great description and good link.)

And now, your third set of clues:

Clue #3A (As they say in Lonely Planet, “Dangers & Annoyances”)
There are some safety considerations; we’ve invested in proper equipment and protection and will likely buy a couple more items as soon as we arrive. Magellans’s does not carry what we need (except for sun screen).

Clue #3B (Health & Immunizations)
Malaria is not one of our concerns.
The tap water is potable.
No immunizations are required for us although it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get our tetanus boosters.
Altitude may be a challenge, especially for Harriet.

Looking forward to more thoughtful, ingenious responses.

Clue #2: Alan & Harriet’s 2011 Summer Vacation Contest

Glad to see you’re all so easily distracted from whatever you should be doing and that you’re playing along. Excellent responses, all.

Congratulations to Laura for being the first to respond with “Cambodia.” Been there, done that, incorrect answer, but she does get bonus for being first to buzz in. Bonus points, too, to Diane for guessing a destination as well as a purpose.  Nina was the first to respond by email. A San Francisco native and major world traveler herself, Nina emailed all the way from quaint little Truckee (one would have expected Mongolia or Uzbekistan) to participate. However, she did not venture a guess so no prizes for her at this time.

So that you’re all playing with the same information, there were two other guesses on the first day of this competition that came via Facebook. Jonny — who did a lot of major hard traveling long before the internet, ATMs and even wheeled luggage; has known Harriet for more than 35 years, lived and traveled with her — guessed Bhutan. Keith, who has done the same guessed Missouri.

Thanks for playing!

And now for today’s clue…

Clue #2 (Budget)
Except for a week in Paris, this is one of our very shortest, most noteworthy trips. Not including airfare, on a per day basis, this will be one of our most expensive trips. There are $25 rooms to be had but we won’t be staying in any of them. We’re springing for something with a few stars for at least a couple of nights.

Alan & Harriet’s 2011 Summer Vacation Contest, Clue #1

Admittedly, we are slacker bloggers. Sure, we finished the Thailand/Laos blog from last November, but we still owe you photos and tales from the latter halves of Guatemala, Chile & Easter Island, and Egypt. The tales are a bit foggy now so you’ll have to settle for pictures. Actually, you’ll have to wait for those, too, as we’re preparing for another trip in just over a  week… and you get to guess where we’re going.

Contest rules: Prizes (something fun, we promise) will be awarded to the first person with the correct answer; to the person who gives an incorrect answer but best suggestion for our November trip; and to the person with the most creative answer. The very small handful of you who know the details are ineligible for the grand prize but are encouraged to keep the secret and participate by putting forth red herrings or other fishy guesses. You are encouraged to enter as many times as you’d like. There will be a total of 6 clues posted on the blog, one each day beginning today. Winner(s) will be announced on or about July 4th.

Here’s your first clue. Admittedly, it’s not a big one, but you might get lucky.

Clue #1 (Geography)
Like most of our trips, this is to a destination where the weather will be hot.
Like Laos, this place is landlocked and a river runs through it.
Yes, there is an airport and no, we don’t mind flying in small planes.

Gold and Red

We walk for hours through Chinatown and then blocks and blocks of the flower market. In preparation for Loy Krathong there are orchids, mums, roses, peonies, fragrant tuberoses, and without exaggeration, billions of marigolds.

Alan and I decide to make a pilgrimage of sorts to the Erawan shrine. It’s a small, favorite shrine in what we  remember as being a rather sterile business district. It is so popular that there’s a guy whose job it is is to continually circle the alter and remove the bottom layers of marigold wreaths as the offerings pile up quickly. We take the metro and skytrain there – neither of which existed 20+ years ago – and find the little shrine as it was, but now completely dwarfed by ultra high-end shopping malls, the Inter-Continental Hotel, and skyscrapers. Just half a block away, at the base of the Louis Vuitton store, in one of Bangkok’s most important intersections, thousands of red-shirted, peaceful demonstrators gather for “Truth Day,” the six-month anniversary of the deadly military crackdown.

To see more flowers and demonstrators, click on the Red Shirt photo.To learn more about the political climate and Day of Truth, check out the New York Times article. (


Rep, Eung and Pink have gone to great lengths to entertain us, (over)feed us, buy us gifts, take us to places only a local of 70 years would know (remind us to tell you about the Thai Sophie Tucker at the German beer garden), show us a Bangkok few farangs have seen, and make this one of our most memorable trips. The name they’ve given me, Alee, should instead be given to them for it means, “giving and generous.”

Click on the photo at right to see lots of more from the markets,  the Loy Krathong  festival, an eco-Ploject Wunway fashion show, Wat Pho, food (of course), and other random shots from Bangkok.

Alan Works, Harriet Does Not

Alan is up early, putting on his SBIR shirt and good shoes, reviewing materials, practicing a few words of Thai, readying his materials. We have “American” breakfasts and then get on the road to work… er.. first to the bakery where our hosts load up on the little cakes and pastries that we never see again. We drive to the “base” which is…rustic. There’s a lot of sitting around and sodas and waiting for who knows who or what. As the week progresses, we will learn there is a good deal of that. Everyone is very friendly. Eung is “one of the guys” and shoots the breeze with the brass. By the end of day two, I’m cracking jokes with one of them. Of course, he’s three sheets to the wind after Happy Multi-Hour, which started for him at 3:00, so he thinks I’m hysterical. Pink is feeding everyone snacks. Alan has lots of work tales to tell that are probably best not shared on the web.

Eung, Pink and I begin our ladies’ day out. First stop, the dried fish shop. I’m into it. Totally into it. My favorite is the long, thin-as-potato-chip variety with a smoky BBQ flavor, but I do like the jerky-like curls as well. Then, since it has been almost two hours since breakfast, we head to lunch in Pattaya where Eung and Pink order up seven (count ‘em, SEVEN) dishes plus sticky rice. For the three of us.

They take me to the magnificent, 20-story Temple of Truth which is built (rather, in the process of being built) without a single nail, and I join an English-speaking tour guide; a couple very fun older German guys whom I enjoy until I realize they’ve hired Thai “wives” for the week; and a young Cypriat interested in Buddhism who is thrilled I can speak a few words of Russian including, “Excuse me please, where is the toilet?” and “What is that? That is a lamp.”  (Click on the photo at right to see more from the temple .)

Eung and Pink are bored with the tour. I am completely enthralled watching the artisans sculpt this teak and redwood temple that has yet to be completed after 30 years. They decide it’s time for us to get massages. Really, really, really good massages. Oh, I am a happy executive wife-equivalent. Later, they may suspect I am less enthusiastic about visiting the outlet shopping mall, but Eung needs to pick up a few things so I try to act interested. I’m tempted to buy a Wacoal bra for a mere $12 but don’t want to risk the humiliation if they give me that look of “we no sell XXXL size for farang who has had too much sticky rice and chicharones.” I want to tell them I’m just retaining a little extra water from so many salted fish treats, but we all know that’s not true.

The next few days and nights Alan and I try to look interested in everything, but not too interested because Rep, Eung and Pink will buy whatever it is we look at too intently or order another dish of something and shovel it on our plates. There is also a lot of sitting around and killing time watching other people sit around and kill time; there is a lot of being plied with soft drinks and water and snacks courtesy of Pink and the Royal Thai Navy; there is a lot of smiling and nodding and joking around; there is Alan’s unending patience around work (be sure to ask him his lucky number story); there are too many enormous meals; and there is a lot of driving.


We spend time at Eung’s office – although we don’t know why – and see some of her products. She owns a company that manufactures and sells armor (protective vests, helmets, etc.) to the police and military. Some women love shoes. Eung loves guns. We see several from her very large personal collection – not small pistols one might carry in a little clutch purse for self-protection – but big, honkin’ Lugers, a few semi-automatics and a couple of revolvers.  And those were just the ones in her  desk. She and Pink laugh a lot. She makes me laugh; she makes me a bit sad. Pink mothers her (and everyone else) a bit. I think she and I both worry about Eung’s need to down several Singhas every night although I think I understand why. Stories about her previous career available off-line.

We’ve been treated extremely well, and Alan has more than earned every baht they’ve spent on us. He is tired. It has been a very full week.