Monday, May 27, 2019

Jet lag: Post trip numbers review

Home from another whirlwind trip to Asia - this time Myanmar with some time in Singapore.  It was originally planned as an extension to my trip to Sri Lanka

Here is the summary of my time on the road:

9 Days in 5 cities

4 different airline carriers: United Airline, Jetstar Asia, Myanmar National Airlines and KBZ

7 different airports: Newark, San Francisco, Singapore, Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Heho

9 flights totaling 51.5 hours of flying.  (OMG)

Longest flight San Francisco to Singapore: 17 hours

Meals eaten in a day: Breakfast, 2nd Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, dinner, Dinner, Sandwich, Brunch, Snack

Most expensive meal was buying snacks in Newark Airport pre-flight: $26

Highest temperature: 107 F with a "feels like" temp of 122 F.  I was singing Midnight Oil's "Beds Are Burning" in my head a lot

It was an absolutely brutal trip, but worthwhile.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Myanmar National Airlines: Trying out the Mandalay Airport slip and slide

Always a treat when you see the exact plane/flight you were on 2 days prior had an "alternate" landing...

Ironically, I remember thinking that it was an unnecessarily bumpy landing on the runway when we did it considering it there were no weather issues to contend with. I rolled my eyes to myself and thought 3rd World country carrier on a short route...not the cream of the pilot crop.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sri Lanka: Conflict and Conflicted

2 weeks ago I woke up early on a Sunday morning as I normally do.  I didn't immediately get up and go for my usual run and instead sat down with a cup of coffee at my computer to quietly relax.  Scrolling through Facebook, I was catching up on what people had been doing on Saturday night when I saw a friend shared a news article from that morning.

Bombings in Sri Lanka.

My entire day changed. The place I had visited only 4 months ago was subjected to a massive act of terror. Churches and major tourist hotels they targeted and I was set to leave on a business trip there in 2 weeks.

For the first time in my travel career, I was scared.

I get asked the question a lot: Aren't you worried about xyz? Whether it be the destination, the state of the world in general or something else, there's always a perception people have when it is something they are unfamiliar with.  I normally laugh it off, explain safety statistics or that things can happen anywhere.  I think the worst example of this when we were en route to Jordan from Germany and a passport control agent in Germany asked if we were worried to go to Jordan.  I was dumbfounded because Jordan was unaffected by any conflict happening in neighboring countries and what a stupid question to ask someone who was clearly flying to Jordan at that moment!

In the case of Sri Lanka, I was that person. I spent the next 3 days trying to muster my courage to keep my commitment to go on this trip. It would be important to show support to the country and my contacts there. I didn't want to let the terrorists gain another point for their objective of terrifying the world.  But I couldn't do it.

For three days, I got angry. Cried. Frequently, which is unusual since I typically do not cry.  I didn't sleep.  Eating was a chore and I didn't feel well. I didn't want to work out or do anything else I normally enjoy.  I obsessively read articles on the latest updates. Curfews. Raids. Blocked roads and rippled pockets of clashes. Tensions between opposing sides. Government pointing fingers at each other. I researched what to do when traveling to places that had issues in order to prepare myself.  Tried to think what if I was a journalist like Christiane Amanpour.  I consulted people who knew travel and had the same type of guts I did when it came to going places.

At the end of the third day of this cycle, when the thought went through my head that I didn't want to purchase something expensive because I was afraid I would not make it back, I gave up.  It was a difficult decision that I could not honor my obligation, but I was out of time to wait and see what would happen.  And the only place I was set to go was straight into the capital, the main combat zone.  I don't have the tools and network that journalists have either.

I didn't realize how much stress I had been bottling up. I was utterly drained, but the following night, my appetite returned and I slept. I knew I made the right decision. Over the weekend, there was more violence and the US State Department raised the travel warning to a 3.

Will I return to Sri Lanka someday? Absolutely. Would I go in a month or so if things are the level of stability they are now? Maybe. I would have been more comfortable letting the tension diffuse a few weeks and letting people forget their hurt and anger.  I would have been more comfortable if I had been going somewhere other than Colombo, such as back to Yala or Weligama. I hope that memories of this soon fade, and that the "Resplendent Island" can return to its normal daily life.


I was watching Hallmark Channel last night (don't judge! I had a hard week!) and the strangest TV ad for a destination came on:


Having never heard of it and having only just gone to Hong Kong 6 months ago I had to look it up.  What I found is that it is a giant port that is part of Guangzhou China where a pilot free trade zone has been established.  There really isn't anything there unique to speak of other than perhaps it's location near other heavy hitters (Hong Kong, Macau). 

My serious question is: If the goal of the 'city of the future' (watch the ad!) is to attract businesses to register there and increase port traffic, why the heck are you advertising on Hallmark Channel during "A Royal Christmas" or whatever garbage I was watching?  You would think that part of the marketing strategy would be to know your audience.  It's not like anyone will plan a vacation there.

...unless of course their end game is to create a Nansha royal family?  In that case, well played Nansha, well played indeed...