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Retarded France

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Everyone in France there are signs saying to "Drive Retard." I didn't appreciate being called names. Chris took things a little too literally:

 

Hang on. I have to go smooth things over with Chris after posting this picture. Be back in a week.

And......I'm back. Sooner than expected - I sent Chris off to the Patisserie with a 20 Euro note. She's fine.

After leaving Normandy, Chris told me that she wanted to slow things down (never something you want to hear from a girl), so she steered the trip to Blois in the Loire Valley. It started out blah until our bike ride took us to our future summer home:



Cheverny, or was it Chambord? In any case, it deserves a second photo:



Next up was some other chateau who origin and name I'm sure I've forgotten. I did figure out that it was Professor Plum with the wrench in the study:



But one question still remained. Who let the dogs get excited?



From there we deftly avoided the toll roads on the way through Limoges, Charlotte's Sister City, ending the night in Charlat. Just imagine the French expo at Epcot Center getting expanded to a few thousand hectares.



I tried not to show off, but all the tourists were gathering and in the words of Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open, "This is why they came here. This is what they want." -->


On route to the Pyrenees, we passed by more châteaux. And in France, they're as big as castles:



Southern France has sunflowers like opium fields through the Khyber Pass:

Stormin' Norman Conquest

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The hiatus is over. Here are some thoughts as we left Paris:

We got a car. The agent told us to drive down the Champs Elysee to get out of town. We got smart. Rue Rive Gauche, followed by a few more hours, and we arrived in Normandie. Etretat, etcetera:



The sun also sets, Mr. Hemingway:



Chris loves her oiseaux:



Remember, when in a cave in the ocean, do not panic. Please wait for the tide to go out before leaving:



Screw that. I watch Man vs. Wild:



What can I say? I had a tee time on the back nine:



But then it wss off to Provo, Spain, uh, er Utah Beach. It looks so tranquil:



Until you realize your girlfriend is a German spy and has thrown you into a bunker:



In all seriousness, nearly 10,000 Americans rest here, and there was no getting around how sad it was to walk around:



Many facts and figures from D-Day can be found, but the American Cemetary tells the story better:



Precision, from a day of chaos:



My grandfather fought in the Pacific, where most Jews asked or were forced to fight, but this Kleine was among the fallen:



After that, off to Bayeux, most famous for the tapestry detialings the Battle of Hastings. Cliff Notes: Harold, Easy Ed the Confessor, and William the Bastard-cum-Conqueror (not a joke, his actual name change) engaged in a real doozie of a succession crises. Ed died. Harold was duplicitous. William handled his business. As for me, I was ready for some 11th-century combat:



No one more chivalrous than me. I fight for country. I fight for honor. I fight for shorties:

Chateau country next. I'll save you some Chambord.

On Sewers and the Seine

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It is hard to give a slice of Paris that hasn't been offered before. That may not sound like an impressive advertisement for this blog entry, but it nonetheless is one.

We shacked up in the 13th arrondissement, better known as the Latin Quarter. Our first was spent in the park with some ping-pong (tennis de table?) and movie night on the grande screen. "2 Days in Paris" was on, replete with Julie Delpy and Jewish and French stereotypical humour.



Christine insists on aperatifs nightly, which I oblige. Let us eat cake! Here the Pastis flows like the River Ganges, uh, er Seine.



The nights tend to end rather abruptly. Fortunately, a church door is a welcome place to end the day.



But if the gendarmies come after you, better know your way around the underground. We played the Les Miserables part nicely...



Postcardsonthefridge isn't all galmour and art - she also can hold back the rushing tide of an entire city's wastewater.



Obligatory landmark photo:



And the Louvre, named after Brett Favre I think.



And Chris at the Pompidou, doing her best French impression of the bored bourgeoisie:



In closing, let me remind you that there are no Jesus imitations allowed at Paris Museums.

Normandie next. See you kids at the beach. Don't forget to check out www.postcardsonthefridge.com for pictures of food, culture and other girly things.

Europe Three Ways

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We left Dublin but not before watching the grand opening of their new stadium. The Irish friendly against Argentina was without Maradona but Messi played most of the match. For the lads in green, Robbie Keane celebrated his 100th CAP, but a dismal effort landed the visitors a 1-0 win.



Then our best Friend, which we shall call "Ryan", took us on our first of two el cheapo flights. No in-flight mag and no seat reclining, but they do play the Kentucky Derby starter trumpet sound for another on-flight arrival, this time in Edinburgh.



We happened to arrive at the beginning of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a city-wide amateur showcase of nearly 1,000 comedians, actors and performance aritsts. Our new Couchsurfing friend Stephen took us to High Street for the action.



It is the best fesitval I have ever seen - small venues and audience participation. Every comedian sounded like Mike Myers during his Scottish skits on SNL. I only wished for a reprise of "Scottish Soccer Hooligan Weekly."

Chris and I also to a day trip to the home of golf. By chance, my uncle Joe had a tee time at the Old Course at St. Andrews. I was on the bag for a wind-swept round amidst the wide, rolling fairways and deep pot bunkers.



Another puddle jump and we found some ping-pong and lawn movies at a small park in the 13th arrondissement (Julie Delpy basically making a Before Sunride/Before Sunset screenplay of her own in  "2 Days in Paris."

My French leaves something to be deisired, but I would called this "La Mignonne Coccinelle Dans le Musee de Pompidou.

 
'
I would call this "Huh? Je ne sais pas."


 
A glass of Bordeaux and a Ricard and we will sign off for now. Thanks for checking in friends...


 

Finnegan's Fake

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I’m back. Pretend you missed me. After more than 12 months of domestication, both in borders and in home life, sendmoneyplease is back across the Atlantic. This time, he brings with him postcardsonthefridge, better known as Chris. She promises not to bowdlerize the whit contained herein. Hopefully you won’t find the adventures more muted – if anything, now I’ll have a trusty ally to chronicle my misadventures. Also, she’ll give a good insight on foods she eats, foods locals eat, and foods of doubtable origination.

The plan is Dublin, Edinburgh, and a whole bouquet of France.

In the land of Beckett and Wilde, our first jaunt focused on the characters and haunts of James Joyce. During the consumption of each drink, we composed poems, and I now present mine to you. For a look at Chris’s pub-born pose, make sure to visit www.postcardsonthefridge.com.  If a limerick is a gimmick, then our ramble was a gamble. You may revile out style, but we live for the reader, sitting in our two-seater.

"The Gresham"

Time: 7:40

Order: Tullamore's Dew

Drinkers in Dublin have an exorbitant choice

We choose to follow the great James Joyce

                The pubs are mapped out

                In that there's no doubt

Tonight may Guinness be our voice

 

"The Wynn"

Time: 8:15

Order: Guinness

After the pour, I watch the head rise

Knowing my own head will be compromised

                The beer's name is Stout

                Which way on the roundabout?

She orders another, I say, 'Likewise'

 

"Mulligan's"

Time: 9:15

Order: Smithwick's

As I elbow the 18th-century expanse

The barstool eases my stance

                The suds give a chuckle

                I loosen my buckle

And prepare for a tipsy Riverdance

"Davy Byrne's"

Time: 11:05

Order: Guinness

Closing-time voices fill the room

And the morning eye-open surely brings doom

                As we lose steam

                I lapse to a dream

Picturing Leopold Bloom

"International Bar"

Time: 11:35

Order: Jameson's

The tour closes amongst the sinners

Staggering, slanting, still bipedal winners

                Though we know it is risky

                The beer’s turned to whisky

Ich bin ein Dubliner


A Fijian Farewell

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At the end of eight months, my passport is full, my wallet empty, and my GI tract still horribly, horribly confused. I chose Fiji as my final country for one simple reason. After 250 days of playing Russian Roulette with the tap water, I knew I would be in good hands:



Fiji water is actually the country's number one export, but I wouldn't mind if it was kava. Though it tastes like chalky dishwater, it numbs the tongue and ensures a pleasant night's sleep. Bula!



I traveled off the main island to the Yasawa Islands for a week.  With very little current, it was like a giant bathtub, with corral. As  Red says "I hope the water is as blue as in my dreams." It was.



But in the shallow end, some unwanted friends popped in for a slither.



So I headed for deeper water:



And soon found myself swimming alongside the most beautiful sea creatures I have ever seen. With a wingspan of more than five meters, the manta ray's majestic gliding was nothing short of a bird underwater.



Back to landlubber life. This beach is on the some sort of world top-10 list. I dunno about such lists, but it was good enough for me.



I hung out with a fine bunch of lads from the U.K. I brought out all my British colloquial for our volleyball, monopoly and drinking matches. Top flight indeed chap!



But when we didn't pay our bar bill, the locals got angry:



So I headed for the treetops:



And outlasted them. One final sunset to close out the journey:



And it is time to get back across the Pacific.



Thanks for following along, dearest readers. Sendmoneyplease has a few more posts he'll be making stateside, include a "funniest signage" entry and a mini-memoir of the trip. Look for those in the upcoming weeks. See you soon, if I get past quarantine.





Best and Worst in Show

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With apologies to Mick Mixon, who taught me much about journalism and cautioned especially against the use of superlatives, here is a partial list of the best and worst bits of my last eight months. It's not exhaustive, but you might be by the end. Enjoy.

By the way, I'll be home Saturday. Don't leave the light on - just drop a key under the mat.

Best beaches – Thailand

Cheapest country – India (Honorable Mention Nepal)

Best wine – South Africa (H.M. Spain)

Best waterfall – Victoria Falls, Zambia (H.M. Sipi Falls, Uganda)

Best wildlife – Tanzania (H.M. Namibia)

Best food – Thailand (H.M. France and a little Vegetarian Restaurant in Dresden)

Worst food – Morocco

Best sporting event watched – Espanyol vs. FC Barcelona

Best performing arts event – Budapest Opera House (H.M. Malaysian Symphony Orchestra)

Biggest politician seen – Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia (within 100m of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

Longest flight – Seoul to Atlanta, 17 hours

Cheapest flight – Marrakesh, Morocco to Bremen, Germany, 10 Euros

Spiciest meal – Saag Paneer and Dal Fry, New Delhi (H.M. Indian Curry, Fiji)

Best pre-trip purchase – (tie) EEE PC and Canon G9

Best during-trip purchase – two waterguns, Bangkok

Most common country of fellow backpacker – U.K. (H.M.s Germany and Netherlands)

Best beer – Brussels, Belgium

Saddest tourist visit – Auschwitz, Poland

Number of other Kleins met – one, from Munich

Most difficult language – Hungarian

Best non-native English spoken – Norwegian travelers (H.M.s Danish and Dutch travelers)

Most used foreign language – French, in Morocco

Longest bus ride – Cape Town, South Africa to Windhoek, Namibia, 22 hours

Most painful ride – Uganda/Kenya border to Kisumu, Kenya

Most lenient pharmaceutical laws – Thailand (H.M. Egypt)

Most flies while trying to eat – Chefchouaen, Morocco

Most stray cats while trying to eat – Chefchouaen, Morocco

Most difficult conversion – hectares to acres

Most devalued currency – Ugandan Shilling (2000 per dollar)

Strongest currency valuations – Euro, Bosnian Marka, Jordanian Dollar

Country most upset about not being in the EU – Croatia

Best seafood – Fiji (H.M. Kisumu, Kenya)

City most likely to become new party spot – Belgrade, Serbia

Most random place with two men playing chess – outside a temple in Angkor Wat

Least reliable electrical grid – Uganda (H.M. Nepal)

Most desolate country – Namibia

Highest concentration of strong chess players – Belgrade, Serbia

Best modern architecture – Berlin

Best ancient architecture – Luxor, Egypt

Latest night of partying – Prague (bedtime unknown)

Friendliest people – (tie) Egyptians and Thais

Prettiest city – Cape Town

City most resembling Gotham – Hamburg, Germany

Dirtiest, ugliest, most detestable city – New Delhi

Quaintest town – Bergerac, France (H.M. Bremen, Germany)

Best place to eat at 2 a.m. – Barcelona

Most deified sport – cricket in India

Most controversial place – Jerusalem, Israel

Emptiest border – Poland/Slovakia

Shortest country visit – Two hours, Ethiopia (in transit)

Pace of life the slowest – Zanzibar, Tanzania

Longest border crossing – Egypt/Israel (H.M. Cambodia/Thailand)

Best in-flight service – Korean Air, Katmandu-Seoul

Most expensive internet – Yasawa Islands, Fiji ($10/hour)

Biggest sand dunes – (tie) Sahara Desert, Morocco and Sousesvlei, Namibia

Scariest adventure – (tie) shark diving, South Africa and 100m abseil, Uganda

Number of traffic accidents – two, Etosha N.P., Namibia and Zanzibar, Tanzania

Biggest scar – 4cm gash on left leg from Vespa crash, Zanzibar

Most backward airport operations – Marrakesh, Morocco

Most difficult place to get a train ticket – India

Nicest accommodation – (tie) Budapest apartment, Bergerac villa, Cairo friend’s house

Best embassy party – Cairo

Most expensive visa – Tanzania ($100)

Longest length of stay permitted – Fiji (4 months)

Country where I could automatic citizenship – Israel (Jewish father)

Most difficult country to get citizenship – Namibia

Smokiest club – Krakow, Poland

Best use of couchsurfing.com – Zagreb, Croatia

Best hostel – (tie) Hobo Bear, Zagreb, and Refill Now, Bangkok

Cheapest accommodation – Dharamsala, India ($2.50/night, private room and ensuite bath)

Most expensive country – Botswana

Most scenic bus ride – Sarajevo, Bosnia to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Rowdiest hostel – Amsterdam

Best airport – Seoul

Place that loves Obama the most – Kenya (duh)

Place that maintains subtle contempt for America – (tie) Jordan (due to Israel) and Bosnia (due to Kosovo)

Longest stay in one city – Dresden, Germany (18 days)

Longest stay in one country – (tie) Morocco and Germany, one month each

Best city to live in – (tie) Berlin and Bangkok

Cleanest city – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Countries on the Euro not visited – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Luxembourg

Best street performers – Las Ramblas, Barcelona

Best local choir singing – Cape Town

Most detested American city by foreigners – Los Angeles

Number of foreign languages I learned to count to ten in – Eight (French, Russian, German, Arabic, Spanish, Hebrew, Serbian, Polish)

Most expensive activity – Safari, Tanzania

Best city tour – Mike’s Bike Tours, Amsterdam

Best hostel to watch "A-Team" reruns – Zdiar, Slovakia

Biggest physical exertion – climbing Mt. Tubkal, Morocco

Best fruit juice – mango juice, Cairo

Least behaved children – India

Most behaved children – all over Africa

Most hippies – Rishikesh, India

Best place for a day hike and picnic – Pyrenees Mountains, France

Best currency design – Israeli Shekels

Best water – Fiji (duh)

Most common beer found around the world – Heineken

Least places open – Saturdays, Jerusalem (H.M. Sundays, Croatia)

Loudest minaret – Rabbat, Morocco, 4 a.m. daily

Worst city disguised by its Hollywood connection – Casablanca, Morocco

Best free food – tapas in Granada, Spain

Least likely to find Japanese tourists - ???

Biggest camera envy – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Biggest shock to the senses – India

Friendliest villagers – (tie) Livingstone, Zambia and Yasawa Islands, Fiji

Worst in-flight movie – "Bride Wars"

Most nudity by locals – Jinja, Uganda

Most nudity by tourists – Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Best rafting – Nile River, Uganda (H.M. Zambezi River, Zambia)

Country most likely to succumb to civil war – Bosnia and Herzegovina (H.M. South Africa)

Prettiest girls – Durham, USA

Best novel read – "Confederacy of Dunces"

Best non-fiction read – "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star"

Best guidebook – blah, no more guidebooks, ever

Prettiest small capital – Ljubljana, Slovenia

Best art museum – Vienna, Austria

Longest wait in sub-zero temperatures for a phantom bus – Zakopane, Poland (3 hours)

Number of airline segments flown - 24

Number of airline miles flown – about 50,000

Number of watches lost or broken – two

Number of flashlights lost or broken – three

Number of sunglasses lost or broken – four

Best pastries – France

Best mussels – Brussels

Rudest taxi drivers – Jerusalem

Most random place for a Western chain – Baskin Robbins in Jaipur, India

Scariest boat ride – ferry from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta, Thailand

Most pedestrians per downtown block – Kampala, Uganda

Weirdest sight on a golf course – cows grazing (Jinja, Uganda)

Sport most likely to resume back home – mountain biking

Sport least likely to resume back home – sandboarding

Nicest tented accommodation – Nairobi, Kenya

Best holiday – Thai New Year, Bangkok (H.M. New Year’s Eve, Zagreb)

Worst food poisoning – (tie) Bedouin food, Sahara Desert, Morocco and mystery restaurant, Pokara, Nepal

Strangest local euphemism – "robot" in Namibia, meaning "traffic light"

Most majestic sight – Petra, Jordan (H.M. Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe)

Best snorkeling/scuba diving – (tie) Dahab, Egypt and Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Best marine creature – manta rays, Fiji (H.M. white sharks, South Africa)

Best arts scene – Kreutzberg, Berlin

Best bar scene – Neustadt, Dresden

Quickest meal devoured – veggie stir-fry, Essouira, Morocco

Most used British-isms – "proper," "torch," "aubergine," "boot," "lorry," "parecetamol"

Coolest greeting – "Howsit," South Africa

Most vegetarian friendly – India (H.M. Egypt)

Least vegetarian friendly – Eastern Europe

Number of band-aids and Advil consumed – still counting…

Most dysfunctional security – Taj Mahal

Most painful willful experience – Thai massage, Bangkok

Most excruciating mental experience – watching a man break his leg, Bangkok

Most missed sports moment – UNC’s National Championship

Least missed sports moment – something about a Cardinals playoff game

Strangest thing about reentry – owning a cell phone again (H.M. driving on the right)

Number of countries visited – 25

Countries I was really close to visiting – Montenegro, Kosovo, Italy, Seychelles, Vanuatu, Myanmar

Number of hours on a plane to get home from Fiji – 30

Length of my day on Saturday (as I will cross the date line) – about 40 hours

See you when? – soon, I hope

The Chilling Fields

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So after the comforts of city life, I set a course for Cambodia, the only country in Southeast Asia not yet inked on my passport (unless you count Myanmar, and with their Marlboro and Levi’s currency, I would consider that less of a country and more of a hinterland eternally stuck in the past – a little like "Pleasantville" but without the pleasantness).

The journey to the airport involved a tram and a train to the main terminal followed by a fitful three or four hours of sleep, then to find out the one-hour shuttle to the AirAsia terminal did not commence until 5:00 a.m. (or 5:30 or 6:00 or 6:30 or 7:00, depending on who you ask). What was certain was that my flight departed at 6:00, and I needed an alternative option, and that right quick. The licensed taxis wanted a cool 60 ringets, or around 17 bucks, for quite a short journey. Instead I jumped in a gypsy cab, giving him every last ringet to my name (about 28.7). He whisked me off, and together with his friend, we set off onto a dark road. They demanded my money immediately, always a suspicious sign, and then at one point I was certain he steered the car away from a sign pointing to my terminal. All the while, the two men relentlessly reminded me how much they liked American dollars, and, didn’t I have any that I could add to the kitty? There are usually several responses when a scam begins to unfold on the street, but they had me without recourse, in the middle of nowhere, with all my belongings, and with a flight to catch. I decided to use the "play dumb" approach (though rest assured I will never, ever, resort to the "I’m Canadian" approach). After a lot of back and forth without any headway, with me just repeating how great Malaysia and Malaysians are, the driver told me he was Christian. How to take this information? Am I more or less likely to be mugged? I wanted to remind him that our last president, ostensibly also "Christian," instigated policies and conflicts leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. In the end, his circuitous route led to my terminal, and I rushed out after offering a perfunctory gratitude, and jumped on this:

The plane was emblazoned with the insignia of world football’s most evil team (think of the Yankees, then extrapolate the insidiousness using the largest logarithm your Texas Instruments can handle). Despite this, the uneventful flight landed a few hours later in Siem Reap, the jumping off point for the famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Finally, an historic sight not on Nicholson’s and Freeman’s "Bucket List"! The dozens or maybe hundreds of temples are as numerous and old as Wikipedia says they are, I would guess. They weren’t rediscovered until the 20th century, which gives a good idea both how repressive Cambodia used to be and how dense is her foliage.

Unlike the Taj Mahal, which was built as a shrine to a deceased love, the temples were Buddhist and functional. A few had colorful shrines:

And though rare compared with their Thai or Laos counterparts, there are still a handful of monks wandering around the grounds:

I traveled around the area for the first two days by bicycle (daily rental, $1), whereupon I met and befriended two other pedalers (peddlers?) from Amsterdam, the kings of the two-wheeler. Sanjay and Lydia and I would later join two Germans and two locals. Each night we gathered at the Banana Leaf, a restaurant at the beginning of the surprisingly hip Pub Street of Siem Reap.

Given that nearly all of us were big fans of "The Big Lebowski," the White Russian was the drink of choice while in Cambodia. "Another Caucasian, Gary." Here is Nina, a fashionable but easy-going daughter of the deputy prime minister:

Though she didn’t sing in Khmer, you should check out the sometimes soothing, sometimes pop, sometimes whimsical musical styling of "Dengue Fever" – the band, not the disease. Nothing whimsical or soothing about the disease.

At night we traveled to the night market, which pretty much resembled any other Asian street market. That is, except for the advert for flesh-eating fish. Maybe the designers of the sign thought that by using unintelligible English, foreigners would acquiesce to the obvious delights of aquatic nibbles. Don’t forget, "Immediately you will get the excitement fun and laugh that never have before especially."

Amazingly, my word processor didn’t underline that last sentence, which may describe why its original author seemed satisfied with his finished product.

For our last day, the group hired a few tuk-tuks to visit some distant temples and waterfalls. The temples were unique to each other. Many were built at different periods and from different stones. Here’s another one, ‘cause I know you just can’t get enough.

And this one is a little like the haunted houses of movies (of course the sepia doesn’t diminish the feeling):

My favorite was Phra Tom, apparently the setting for part of "Tomb Raider." I can’t remember if I have never seen the movie, or if I just don’t remember the plot due to the wit and wisdom of Angelina Jolie. Here is a pic of the temple, enshrouded by a Tetrameles nudiflora, more commonly known as "Spung":

For our last night, I "tended" to important matters:

Before grabbing the turntables to show’em how we gets down in Brooklyntown:

 

A long overland journey back led back to Bangkok, where Anne has returned from the islands. We parted ways for the last time. Thanks for intermittently spending April with me, Anne Baker!

My dad always claims I have good airport luck, and this would seem to have continued. After asking for a window seat on my flight to Korea, the agent informed me all they had was exit row. Normally a spacious seat, but for my red-eye I wanted my seat to recline. I was about to accept my fate when I harmlessly asked if there was anything else. Her reply will serve as no surprise to one Richard Klein. "Sir, I can put you in Business Class, will that be satisfactory." And this for a man dressed in cargo pants, flip-flops, and in a U-class ticket. I climbed the stairs to the VIP lounge known as "Prestige Class" at the top level of the 747-400. My seat reclined fully flat at the touch of a button, and after getting through the first few minutes of "Annie Hall," I was out faster than Michael Spinx.

 

Another all-day layover in Korea. This time I skipped Seoul and took a bus to Incheon, where I did nothing in particular and took all of one pic:

I should mention that, for a white man, finding Chinatown in the middle of a Korean town is as indistinguishable as Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio to a Mormon.

From there a quick ten-hour hop to the South Pacific. I awoke just in time for a sunrise, somewhere south of Guam.

And after sleeping the day away, I awoke shortly before sunrise, in sendmoneyplease’s final country. Here is the first of two weeks of Fijian sunsets.

All it would take is one more coup d’etat here, in which case, there would be…

 

 

From KL to KL

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From Ko Phi Phi, I said adieu to Constance and set my sails to rejoin Anne, who seems to always be one island ahead of me. It reminds me of the famous paradox whereby if an Olympic runner is 10 times as fast as you, and you have a 100m head start, after he runs 100m you will be at 110m. When he gets to 110m, you will be at 111m. When he gets too 111m, you will be at 111.1m, and so forth. Conclusion: he'll never catch you. Sometimes, just when I think I've caught Anne, she moves with the alacrity of a golden fuse, blazing twin concentric circles around my person.



This is the part where I am suppose to write that the jaunt to Ko Lanta was uneventful, but as the monsoon season approacheth, the seas produced 1.5m whitecaps. Our boat was listing more than the Village Voice "Escort Services" pages. No, our boat was listing more than a Chinese phone book. Wait, hold on. Our boat was listing more than falling stock indices on Nasdaq. Yeah that's the one.

Anyway, it was time to get back to basics. We stayed in a bamboo bungalow room just off the beach, with crashing waves sending us off to sleep. This, after our nightly ritual of curry, french desserts, and, when we had power, an episode of The IT Crowd from my hard drive (a quirky British comedy about IT workers -- does "quirky British" smack of redundancy?).



Anne's two best friends were her hammock and her Canon. To be fair, she claimed I was a close third.



Thailand turns your skin brown faster than a Gene Wilder - Richard Pryor comedy. Again, I have no idea what that meant. Anne went from half-Asian to half-Comache Indian. I went from Scandinavian-Jewish to Italian-Turkish. In everything, there are levels.



Anne considered pulling a Thelma and Louise, but like Tom Hanks, I talked her down from her Castaway moment.



Here's a lighthouse. This is one thing North Carolina does better than Thailand. Others include frech morning biscuits, paved roads, potable water and petrol that is not sold in old Johnnie Walker containers (though unconfirmed, I suspest that the Black Label is a higher octane than the Red Label).



**Sorry Americans. Petrol means gas. I promise you can slap me in a few weeks if I refer to pants as trousers or diapers as nappies. By the way, why would diapers ever come up in conversation? Oh yeah, because at last count there were about three babies, three more inseminations, and a clean half-dozen betrothals since I have been away. All this and still no invitations for sendmoneyplease to be a ring-bearer.

Anne braved it on the back of my motorized steed, despite my full disclosure about the Zeppelin-esque Vespa incident from the Zanzibar leg. She snapped off this shot while in motion - no bigger professional than her. And look mom - a helmet!



Are you guys ready? Here comes my Pulitzer shot.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Bang!



But of course it is no match for National Geographic's June 1985 pièce de résistance, and personally one of my favorite photographs:



But with no refugees to capture with my lens, I settle for what Thailand does best, and that of course is sunsets. There were daily, some would say nightly.



But after a few days of lazy Ko Lanta life, it was time to leapfrog Anne for once. I had been jonesing for Cambodia since my last visit to SE Asia, and I had two choices - backtrack to Bangkok or fly through AirAsia's other hub, which is also the answer to the trivia question posed by the previous blog. The multicultural city of Kuala Lumpur was correctly guessed by one Denny Heaberlin, who also wins the  award for most frequent poster on these pages. Well played, sir. Oh there'll be no money in it for you today, but on your death bed, you'll receive eternal consciousness.

So the other KL, full of contradictions and incongruity, is most famous for their huge goalposts. I had thought that Catherine Zeta Jones performs a high-wire act, but that must only be at the turn of each new milennium.



The Petronas Towers, once the largest buildings in the world, reminded me of the doomed Twin Towers of our country, and it made me miss seeing them. I can still remember seeing them fall, from my roof in Brooklyn.

KL is super clean, air-conditioned, easy to get around, and with good people. A congenial mix of Chinese, Sri Lankan, Indian and Malay culture, cuisines and language mix in relative harmony. My favorite food was cucur bawang, sort of a hish puppy with a healthy concoction of local spices. Besides the local man who asked me to join him for coffee, whereupon he proceeded to assail Western culture and our dating habits (and it became clear he despised the preference local women had for Western men), the city's residents were very pleasant.

Here's a view from the park at the base of the Petronas Towers:



Kuala Lumpur also sets the non-Dubai standard for shopping malls. The most famous, also at the base of the Petronas Towers, boasted these stores, in order of their location: Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Mikimoto, Versace, Moreschi, Hermes, Chanel, Salavatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Piaget, Cartier. Needless to say, most locals walked around without many shopping bags, save a to-go order from Burger King.

The mall also hosted a fashion show, with models striking their typical disinterested look, which must be contractual and which seemed an awful lot like the face I had walking into my freshman year anthropology class. These bipedal green beans looked about as enthusiastic as Maddoff during an audit. Two other curiosities struck me. One, the muslim women, many covered in head scarves and a few in burkahs, stopping to view the Miss Sixty summer collection. And two, of the eight female models, I counted exactly one Asian, and she was as light-skinned as they come. Most adverts also feature white women. So maybe, former President Bush, they don't "hate us for our freedom." Maybe they hate us for our white skin. Oh wait, you wouldn't know what they think. You never traveled before being elected.

Here we see Nicole, who is sporting a Miss Sixty tunic and Prada scarf. The jeans are 7 for All Mankind and the heels are Manolo Blahnik (the bag is Fendi, but you already knew that I'm sure):



Before going to the top of the Petronas Towers, visitors must sit through a 15-minute video espousing the benevolence of Malaysia's largest oil company. It was so over-the-top it reminded me of the film noir "Thank You for Smoking," and Aaron Eckhart's obvious blowhard as he lobbies for Big Tobacco. Still, visits are free, which was far from the case from our former Twin Towers.

Here's a view from the catwalk (crossbar) connecting the two towers (uprights). No word on whether the towers had a stanchion.



What's that? Don't remember a stanchion? This will jog your memory -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en65Ws1FNxE

Also, if you are hankering for some more pictures from the Thai New Year water fight, check out Grant, the mad Welshman's blog -
http://www.lost-welsh-sheep.co.uk/

As for me, it is almost time to ride of into the sunset. Thanks for sharing the journey thus far.. There are a few more adventures to come, but soon they will involve you, I hope.



What's your 20, sendmoney?

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OK, time for an installment of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago. Below you will see a set of images, all taken within about a kilometer of each other. Your job is to post a signed reply below guessing where sendmoneyplease has been galavanting

The first correct answer receives instant karma, the second instant coffee, and the third, instant oatmeal.

Disclaimer - those who share, or at one time shared, a surname (or other close DNA match) with sendmoneyplease are unable to win the above prizes. You may take comfort in the fact that you are probably getting a better gift anyway, you know, like Swine Flu. That'll teach all you barbarian meat eaters.

On to the contest.

Maybe I took a short layover in London for some tea and biscuits:



No, danger is my middle name, and perhaps that could only mean one thing - Pakistan:



Oh but you know how good the Ruskies are at the cheese game. I took a flight to St. Petersburgh for some more revolutionizing? Or was it back to Vienna for the philharmonic? I forget:



Maybe you thought I'd pop over to Milan to do my little turn on the catwalk. Yeah, the catwalk:



Israeli passport stamp be damned! I can enter Lebanon anytime I please, especially when inside the suitcase of a Mossad operative:



Actually, with space being my final frontier, I popped over to Seattle?



Oh but now wait a minute. Burberry burkahs! That can only mean one thing - the wonderful world of Dubai:



Or was it time to head to China to find out who really bought my securitized mortgage?



Happy guessing, and feel free to pass along any stories of gas mask shortages or mass hysteria in the streets. And let me know if they start to quarantine the guacamole. I don't care much about my 401k, but I'm not coming home unless there are avocados and salsa waiting for me.

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