Well, I have been quite lax in my blog posts recently. My only excuse is that beginning on June 18, 2017, and over the next 112 days, I traveled 46,623 miles, give or take a few hundred here and there. I did return briefly to Dong’e during that time and worked a couple weeks before heading back out on my travels. I plan on staying put for a while, so, hopefully, some new Down the Rabbit Hole Adventures……..
Even I said “wow” and wiped my brow when I looked back on my itinerary. I started out on Sunday, June 18th with a 2-hour drive to the train station in Jinan and then caught my train to Beijing. In Beijing, the plan was simple, first thing Monday morning go to the Russian Embassy, apply for my Russian Tourism Visa, pay for the 3 days expedited service, enjoy Beijing for a few days and catch my flight to Moscow in the wee hours of the morning of June 22nd. Murphy’s Law came into play and 3 days turned into 5. Missed flights, visa problems, etc., I will address in a future post.
Finally boarded a flight from Beijing to Moscow. July 1st flew from Moscow to Beijing, changed airports and caught my flight to Chicago. Chicago to Pittsburgh spent 5 days in Warren and left for London on a girl’s trip with Teri. After several days in London, we caught the Eurostar for Paris. After a fabulous time in Paris, I landed in good old Warren, Ohio for a couple weeks before heading to Cleveland to fly to Dallas and then back to Beijing.
Then the cycle starts again, taxi from the airport to the train station, train to Jinan and a 2-hour drive back to home sweet home, Dong’e where I planned to stay until the 1st of October when I had planned a whirlwind visit to SE Asia.
What I failed to mention, sometimes friends and alcohol make for “a change of plans” and it happened not once, but twice. The first, I was at a little dinner party with friends. I happened to mention I was doing Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam during the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival. Henry Sforza, the Deb of, as I have taken to calling her on Facebook, says, “I have always wanted to go to Vietnam”. Long story short, I told her she should meet me in Bangkok and join the trip. Not many people say they will meet you on the other side of the world and actually do it. Well, Deb joined me in Bangkok and we toured SE Asia together.
Next, my friend Pat invited me and my London/Paris mate, Teri, to her home for a garden party, on a continuous loop in your head, now insert Ricky Nelson singing “Garden Party”. She was going to Paris with a friend in September and wanted to chat about our trip. When you make and drink gin and tonics in a pitcher while eating French themed appetizers in a lovely garden setting, well, plans change. Ahhh, I forgot to mention, we also had a little gin tasting of some special gins I brought back from the Beefeater Distillery in London. It’s really all Pat’s fault that after mentioning several times that she wished I was joining her and Libby in Paris, that I made another plan. Feeling giddy on gin with thoughts of Paris in the fall spinning around my already spinning head, I went home, which since I am currently homeless in Warren was Mike and Teri’s house, I got on the computer and booked a flight from Beijing to Paris to meet up with Pat and Libby. By the way, it’s a long way from Dong’e to Beijing, but hey, it’s Paris, and “Paris is always a good idea”.
Where was I? Okay, I am back in Dong’e and I now have to tell Peter I am taking an early Mid Autumn Holiday, a little over 2 weeks early to be exact. Well, we worked it out and I worked extra days to teach all my lessons in advance for the days I would be gone. Here we go again, drive to Jinan, train to Beijing, quick dinner visit with friends in Beijing and catch a taxi to the airport, now the fun begins. 8.5 hours from Beijing to Abu Dhabi and then another 7 hours to Paris. Did I happen to mention Jimmy Buffett was playing 3 nights at La Cigale in Paris which was literally a 3-minute walk from my flat? More about that later. After a fab time with Pat and Libby and Jimmy Buffett and about 900 of my closest friends I just met in Paris, it was time to meet Debbie in Bangkok for our SE Asia adventure. Paris back to Abu Dhabi then Abu Dhabi to Bangkok. We had our 1 night in Bangkok, insert Murray Head “One Night in Bangkok” and ok, it was really 2 nights. From Bangkok, it was off to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. From Siem Reap we flew to Hanoi and traveled by Car to North Vietnam near the China border, (I didn’t count these miles in my total), then back to Hanoi. After a night in Hanoi, I bid Debbie farewell and headed from Hanoi to Beijing, Beijing to Jinan and Jinan to Dong’e.
It was a crazy, wonderful, exciting, bucket list ticking 112 days covering 46,623+ miles. I plan to post about each of these destinations, eventually. For now, I leave you with a quote from Tom Freston, “Travel early and travel often. Live abroad, if you can. Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially”.
Stay tuned for Beijing and Visa Problems! A few teaser photos from my travels…..more to come in future blogs! Goodbye, 再见, Прощай, cheerio, Au Revoir, ลาก่อน, លា, Tạm biệt!