Monthly Archives: April 2012

Injured, but positive

An injury is the last thing you want before a big trip. I know this from my last overseas trip, where I injured myself 30 minutes before leaving for the airport. My Dad and I were playing tennis (Wii tennis) and he took a huge swing, hitting me right in my elbow with the remote. I had to decide right then whether I thought I needed to drive to the hospital, or whether I could travel for the next 30 hours, from Jakarta to KL, with a 3 hour layover before Paris. I decided that I could survive the plane, that it didn’t appear broken, and if it hurt in the next 30 hours, I would go to the American Hospital upon landing in Paris. Luckily, it was just a bruise.

However now, I injured myself 2 weeks before El and I leave. I didn’t think it was a big deal – my knee hurt – so what. I did Bikram Yoga on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then a 30 minute run around Hagley Park (around 7km) on Thursday. However, stubborn as I am, I listened to my partner and went to the Doctor. Turned out, I may have torn my medial meniscus – and needed an ultrasound and x-ray to determine whether I needed to cancel my trip. This was serious. I was also told not to run at all, and to rest it. So I gave in and rested. However it didn’t work, and my knee got worse. Doctor visit round 2 = I have patellofemoral syndrome. Basically “runner’s knee” where the knee bone is no longer in alignment. However, it isn’t serious (apparently), and my trip needn’t be cancelled. One, because I now am the owner of a sexy sexy knee brace to wear every day. And two, because if my knee gets worse, I will be in America in 3 months, and I can have surgery there. I just have to survive the next three months. And three, my father being as concerned and worried as he is, and wanting a second opinion, has booked me in for an MRI whilst in Jakarta for 3 days – just to make sure that we know exactly what is wrong. So yes, while we are off shopping at Pondok Indah Mall, I will just pop across the road for an hour to have an MRI scan!!

Besides my injury, things are on track. 4 days to go. My 3 page to do list is now down to 3 items. And I packed my bag just to see what I could fit – not a lot. My 10 dresses are now 5. And my shoes are still 6, but may need to cut back shoes to around 4. I also bought a beautiful digital SLR camera (Nikon D5100) that I have been playing around with – now that I can’t run for the next 6 weeks, I have taken to walking and trying out all the cool functions on the camera, and figuring out the manual settings so that I will be a pro by the time we are in Asia. So, to make me feel better, and to remind me of how beautiful Chch is once I have left, below are some photos I took. I like to think of it as rehab, for my knee and for my soul (broken by the fact that I can’t do exercise).

Andy’s gorgeous puppy dogs:


Hagley Park:

(first using a distortion setting, and the last using a color isolation setting to only pick up the brown/red color of the leaves)
 

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Planning…

People plan their vacations and trips in a variety of ways. Some are travel agent planners, who book flights, tours, accommodation and transport through a third-party agent who does all the hard work. This method is fantastic because it takes the stress away and means someone else does the grunt work hunting down the best deals. However you are often confined to certain airlines, hotels or tour itineraries that aren’t overly flexible. Also in my experience, travel agents cost more money than if you do it yourself. However I have been pleasantly surprised with this trip – my Mom recommended STA Travel as they do discounts on flights if you are a student and/or under 26 years old. Which means, thanks to my star agent Nicola, that I bought a round the world ticket, flying Chch-Singapore-London-Barcelona-LA-Christchurch all for under NZ$3,000, and on Star Alliance (which means I get airpoints and fingers crossed I will make it to gold status by the end!). However the only thing with STA is that they can’t book air asia or other budget airlines, which means that all the internal flights have to be booked outside a travel agent, to get the cheapest deals.

This leads me to another type of planner – the self-sufficient planner who takes booking into their own hands. This type of planner differs from the third type – the ‘wing-it’ planner (yes, a contradiction in terms!) who books things themselves, but doesn’t really truly “book”. The wing-it planner does exactly that – wings it. Checks into hotels when they arrive to a city, books flights on the day or a few days before once they decide what they want to do. Doesn’t look at or book tours before leaving home. Does things last-minute. Often things work out for wing-it planners, however things only work out if you are ok with winging it and taking things as they come.

I, am not a wing-it planner. I am an organiser. A micro-manager. I color coördinate and cross-reference my travel guide books. I print out all flight and hotel confirmations, have them in order, tabbed, ready for access. I print out maps, know how to get from the airport to the hotel, and what the check in and check out times are. Although I often book later than I should (when there are only one or two rooms left), I have narrowed my hotel down using Trip Advisor, blogs, lonely planet guides, a variety of booking websites and with knowledge of what the pros and cons of the place I decide to stay in. So although I have a friend who recently travelled South East Asia, and bought a tablet so they could book everything when they arrived and book bus tickets etc when there, they blatantly told me that they knew I could not survive like that. I am too much of an organiser. I would not be able to handle flying into a city without a place to stay, and venturing out to find accommodation. I protested, albeit weakly, but then came to the same conclusion that I would not be able to travel like that, no matter how much I think I could.

But is this a bad thing?

I justify my extreme organisation on the fact that when I am overseas, I have a limited amount of time, and I therefore want to take full advantage of my time there. I want a place to stay so I don’t waste time looking for hotels and bargaining to get a good rate. I want to know the attractions so I know a rough idea of what to do each day, and what is close to one another so I don’t miss out. I also want to know how to get around, so I am not taken advantage of, and know the best and most efficient way, especially when buses or trains are involved, and can truly enjoy the trip as stress-free as possible.

An example of when I tried being a wing-it planner ended fine, but only thanks to my travel companion calming me, telling me things would be fine, and pure luck. We were in Chamonix trying to get to Geneva for a flight that afternoon. We hadn’t booked shuttles in advance, because I figured we would book them when we arrived, and get the best price and best company. We forgot, and then the night before we went to happy hour at 3pm and by the time we left, the tourist office had shut. 7am the next morning, I called every single shuttle company. No one could take us in a shared shuttle. We were looking at 150 euro for a private taxi. But a lot of googling found that a bus did the same route, and whilst I had a bit of a meltdown, Andy got his cold-weather gear on, ventured into the snow and bought us two tickets at the train station 10 minutes walk away. Crisis averted.

The bus actually ended up being better  – it was a double-decker bus, with about 10 travellers (taking up around 80 seats). We had a view, comfort, and were able to relax and take in the last of the snow before returning to summer in the southern hemisphere. And we arrived at the airport 4 hours early, plenty of time to check in and endure the chaos that is Easy Jet on a Sunday. But that is in itself another story.

View from the bus – Les Houches – where we skied the day prior

But what about you? Are you one of the three travellers or planners I mention above? Do you organise like me, or are you more easy-going and casual when it comes to plans. Or are you a fourth type?

One month and counting

In exactly 1 month I am embarking on a mini-world trip. I say mini because I am only going to 3 continents (4 if you include New Zealand, where I depart from and which is my final destination), although it is definitely not “mini” in terms of where I am travelling to and my plans once I arrive! This trip has been my baby, the thing to get me through my 5th year of law school. Only 1 semester left. 4 months. 3 courses. Although those 3 courses may end up being 4 due to California Western having such an amazing choice of subjects that I cannot narrow it down to merely 3! Either way, this trip was the light at the end of the tunnel of my 15,000 word masters paper and my 5 years of straight study.

So in my months of planning my trip instead of writing my paper, I had to really narrow down my destinations to fit it all in. And to fit in with other people’s plans. Sadly I cannot do everything and see everyone, but I try my best. Malaysia will have to wait for another trip, as will regional Thailand and most of Europe. However Elle and I have a fantastic first month planned, and then Andy and I are currently working on our 2-3 weeks. Europe is also coming along, and the itinerary as booked so far (not so you can stalk me, but rather so you can stay in the loop with where I am, and if you are near, meet me!) is as follows (the photos are all Internet based – not from my travels, those will come!). Also if you want a different version of the trip, or Elle’s trip post our June 3 separation, you can view Elle’s blog here.

1 May, Elle and I leave Christchurch with a backpack full of everything I need for the next 3 months, and to start up in America (how on earth I am fitting this into a backpack that I am carrying on my back, I have no idea)

24 hours in Singapore – Chinatown, Orchard Road, Marina Bay Sands etc

2 May – Bali. Spend one full day in Kuta doing touristy things, having a beer at sunset on the beach, look at the shops, check out the clubs etc. Then one day up in Ubud, Legian, Seminyak – check out some other places outside of Kuta.

5 May – Jakarta. Relax, unwind by the pool, get Mexican food at Amigos, Italian at Toscanas, check out the bars in Kemang, check out the docks and the boats, and general non-tourist activities because Jakarta is not a very touristy place. Not in my mind at least.

8 May – Yogyakarta (ok this photo is one of mine!) Check out Malioboro and the copious amounts of batik (not that we have room in our bags to shop!) and then spend a full day at Borobudur and Prambanan, being tourist attractions in ourselves with pale skin – just wait Elle, just wait!

10 May – KL – never been, just a big city, but will be fun. We can check out the Petronas Twin Towers, Thean Hou Temple, Islamic Arts Museum, Chinatown etc. Ideas?

12 May – Siem Reap.


In between 12 May and 18 May, hoping to spend time in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh (where we depart from).

18 May – Bangkok overnight very briefly.

19 May – Very early morning flight to Ha Noi.

22 May – Halong Bay and Bai Chai Harbour for a boat trip with rock climbing, caves etc

24 May – Hue. Imperial tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda, Perfume River

26 May – Hoi An. Get clothes made overnight (I WILL find room for these, may have to leave them at Dads though…) My Son (relics of the Cham civilisation). Cooking class perhaps even.

28 May – Nha Trang.

30 May – Ho Chi Minh. The central market, war museum, Paris square (yes the Notre Dam photo above IS in Vietnam), Cu Chi Tunnels, Chinatown, amazing restaurants and fooooooood. Mekong Delta and floating markets.

On 3 June, El leaves Vietnam to go to Bangkok, and the plan is that Andy will meet me and we will do the floating markets and everything on a 2 night tour. The very rough plan from there involves Laos and Indonesia:




Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. The normal sightseeing stuff, PLUS some ziplining, kayaking, mountain biking and other crazy outdoor adventures. Also tubing in Vang Vieng (sorry rainforest), a sunset walk up Mt Phu Si (in Luang Prabang), and going to Luang Namtha for a cruise to the Thailand border, where we then go to Chiang Mai to fly to Indonesia.

Indonesia will then involve Jakarta again, the thousand islands (Pulau Seribu) and fingers crossed Sumatra where I am dying to visit.

From there, on 28 June, I fly to London and spend 2 weeks visiting my various relatives all across England, staying with them, catching up and remembering my childhood. I have a feeling that lots of cucumber sandwiches and tea will be involved, as will Granny’s chocolate cake (assuming Carol or Anne have the recipe, mine is in storage).

Around July 14, I am meeting Elle in Spain (Barcelona) to do a 2 week mini tour of Spain and possibly Portugal or Morocco, before I depart on 26 July for LAX, to reach my ‘final’ destination = San Diego, where I will be based for 4 months until at least December 16. I will then hopefully spend time in Texas with family and family friends, and check out the skifields in the States, and maybe even Canada if I truly get bored.

So there you have it. All rather daunting but so very very exciting.