Linkskey! 2/7/2014 – 2/22/2014

The internet is grain information and too sour for a discerning palette. Let us distill some of it into a nice glass of linkskey (links + whiskey).

We here at Easy Distance are purveyors of only the finest distilled internet. Cave Twitter aged in Facebook Charred Oak, bottle conditioned with Instagram filters into premium Vimeo bottles and shipped right to your reader, inbox or RSS feed, even Linkedin. We Stumbleupon only the finest ingredients to make Easy Distance Linkskey including: Bloglovin, Google Search,  Wordpress reader and even regular news sites as well. We take our internet seriously at Easy Distance and today we have brought the very best that your time can buy. Easy Distance Linkskey is best served with one ice cube and a splash of fresh spring water served in a crystal Tumblr. Now sit back, bask in the fine distilled internet aroma, and enjoy the easy taste of Easy Distance.

Travel

Japan

Another shot of Yotei-san from the summit.

Another shot of Yotei-san from the summit.

We definitely brought some Tokyo flavor with Reverse Cinderella – Shoe Shopping in Japan and Tokyo Adventures 2: Tokyo: Past and Present.

It may seem like we are posting a lot about snowboarding because we are. Here is my trip to Niseko and the most complete lists of Tohoku area snow resorts (in English).

Tohoku is really getting some great articles on japantravel.com. There are snowball fights in Miyagi, a paper balloon festival in Akita, a write up of Zuigan-ji in Matsushima, a visit to the Matsuo Basho Memorial Hall in Yamadera and a cuteness’plosion in Zao at the Zao Fox Village.

Not Japan

General: Some how we were not recognized as top bloggers for 2014, but the year is young, there is still time…

India: A fellow ALT posted this experience recently about some time she spent in the Indian countryside.

America: Seneca Rocks, Monongahela National Forest from Wandering Westy. Some awesome views and pics from a gem in West Virginia.

America:  @BeyondMyDoor on twitter and from his blog a cool view of Shenandoah Valley which is near and dear to my heart.

Canada: Also in North America Hecktic Travels are exploring some of the finer elements of winter in Alberta. @HeckticTravels. That’s ok with me. SNOW ON!

Spain: A peek at Costa Brava from Go See Write.

ESL teaching

I came across this cool little website packed with free English teaching tests that you can adapt for ESL. As always double check free content for accuracy before you put it in front of students.

Cooking in the shower

Yakisoba Deluxe is the recipe of the week here at Easy Distance. Give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Humor and Cool Stuff

liebsterWe were given a Liebster Award this month by Introvert Japan. You can check out our answers to his questions here, and his Liebster award post here.

Here is an awesome compilation of Okinawan music from Elisa at Audiographer whom I awarded the aforementioned Liebster award to as well.

Why you should date a girl who travels. Sorry fellas, but this one is off the market.

Uncovering Japan wants you to experience wearing a kimono.

Lines of Control Episode 2 is out! Check it out on Epic TV or on the SoulRyders page.

Lastly, in case you are unaware, this little guy is the worlds cutest pomeranian.

Love and Travel – Sink or swim

New to Love and Travel? Start here!! Or, don’t.  That’s your business.

During our trip to Thailand, we got a lot done! Trekking, camping, zip-lining, cooking, swimming in the Andaman Sea, kayaking in the gulf. If it was on a tour brochure somewhere, we did it. Near the end of our trip, we stayed in Koh Phi Phi, which is renowned for partying, but also offers plentiful scuba diving and snorkeling day trips.Andaman Sea

The snorkel tours leave way too early from an island that encourages so much drinking. After a long of night of drinking on the beach, with the music blasting till about 3:00AM, I was expected to wake up and be ready to get on a boat by 8:15AM. You might think that wasn’t such solid planning on my part but you weren’t there, so shut up.

I had never been snorkeling before (and didn’t have the time for scuba diving lessons) so snorkeling it was. While Thailand has an awful lot of tourism, they don’t have an awful lot of native English speakers to help with instructions. We showed up and were shuffled onto a small boat. No directions were provided for first-timers, they simply handed you a mask and some flippers. Can’t be that hard anyway, no worries.

Buckets

the cause of my hangover

Despite my immense hangover once we got out on the water I felt heaps better about my insides and was ready to take on the ocean outside. I am not Michael Phelps or anything but I can swim a lap or two and I had been snorkeling before. I was really looking forward to the day.

In the course of the afternoon, the boat stopped along several little islands and gave everyone some time to explore.

 Highlights included:

  • Monkey Island (not the PC game) – Many monkeys inhabit this island and assault tourists who step on their beach. – Koh Mak
  • “The Beach” Beach Island – You know, the one where they filmed “The Beach” – Phi Phi Leh
  • James Bond Island – More like a rock formation, it made an appearance in “The Man With the Golden Gun.” One badly proof-read sign called it “Jams Bond Island,” which is what I now call 007 to this day – Khao Phing Kan

Thailand is as lackadaisical in its awareness of safety precautions as it is in its approach to tourism and translation. By this I mean there were no safety precautions.

The Thai have a rather… laissez-faire attitude towards personal safety. If you get hurt, it was probably your fault.

Groups of these snorkeling tour boats would pull up in the same island’s beach at the same times, careless of all the face-down swimmers who could neither hear nor see their approach.

Thai water-crafts are not precision machines. Typically there is a large outboard motor that used to belong to a small car mounted on a post at the back of the boat. Jutting out from the motor, a long steering pole with an unprotected propeller at the end. Steering is accomplished by lifting the propeller arm in and out of the water to change directions.

long tail boat and spinning blades of death

long tail boat and spinning blades of death

More than once I popped my head up and was shocked to see the hull of another boat suddenly approaching me. I definitely did not want a transmission in my face…

Don’t you mean spinning blades of death? It’s definitely not a transmission. You know nothing, Shana Kehoe!

Despite these concerns, I was having a great time. The water was stupid warm, amazingly clear, and filled with beautiful fish, coral, and massive dancing anemones. Usually it was also quite shallow, so all I had to do was float face down and breathe. Andrew and I kept pretty close, so we could make sure to point out each new awesome-looking fish that swam by.

At one point I decided I was going to follow this really cool looking fish as far as I dared before turning back. I got to the point of no return and popped my head out of the water to gauge my distance and start my return swim.

Andaman seaAt one stop, the boat pulled up along side an island that was basically just a sheer rock face. The time of day and lack of beach made for choppy conditions. The waves kept breaking to the rock face, and I kept going with them.

When I looked up I saw Shana roughly 100 meters from the boat, treading water and looking very frustrated at her mask. I saw the Thai guide wave his arms, which was our cue that time was up. I motioned to Shana that we should return and began my swim.

I looked up to see Andrew nowhere nearby, and our boat even farther away. I started to swim back when my snorkeling mask broke. The band that keeps it attached to your head snapped. Not wanting it to float away, I held it in my hand and attempted to continue swimming.Andaman sea

The next time I came up to check my bearings Shana had actually moved farther from the boat and was now waving her mask in the air and shouting at me.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to swim with flippers on, but they aren’t really effective for anything besides face down paddling. Starting to flounder a bit with the flippers on, I decided I had better just take them off. What’s harder than treading water with flippers on? Treading water while holding a pair of flippers, and a busted snorkeling mask.

From my vantage, I gathered that her mask had broken and she was trying to get her fins off to make it easier to swim with her head out of the water. I was a little annoyed because I didn’t think that was a good idea but there wasn’t much I could do to help her from her current predicament.

I wasn’t making any headway and I was getting legitimately tired. While I hadn’t been afraid initially, the more that seemed to go wrong, the more anxiety I felt. The waves pushed me closer to the coral, which were now only a few feet below me. Soon, I couldn’t avoid stepping on it, and I was too slight of breath, mostly from exertion but also fear, to do anything else. I stood up on the mass of coral and used the flipper to wave to the boat.Andaman Sea

About 30 meters from the boat now I glanced back at Shana to see she still hadn’t really moved from her area but it was clear that she was no longer treading water, in fact she was standing on the coral!

If I could get the boat to come close enough, I could toss my stuff and free up my hands for swimming.

“Shana, you can’t stand on the coral!” I am very sensitive about the environment.

You think I don’t know that!” she yelled, “I didn’t have a choice, my mask broke.

“Fix it.” I shouted. This seemed like solid advice at the time.

I can’t fix it.

“Figure it out Shana, YOU have to get back to the boat on your own.” Shana made a go of it and got off the coral trying to swim while holding her mask and flippers.

Somehow, I made it and discovered that a couple of my toes were bleeding. They had been scraped on the corral during the ordeal.bandaged

Coral is 30% scalpel knives, that’s just science. ‘Twas only a flesh wound and Shana got the disinfectant on it right way and bandaged it up.

Andrew was helpful with taping my wounds, probably to make up for his lack of help in the water. It wasn’t until the adrenaline started to fade that there was room in my head for anger. Like a dark cloud creeping into one’s mind, I started to conjure up unwarranted resentment towards Andrew for not helping me.

I felt really bad but given my distance from her and the current, I didn’t think there was much I could do even if I had swum over there. More than likely I would have been marooned on the coral as well.

How dare he not know what was going on? How dare he leave me to nearly drown? Blah blah blah. The more questions he asked, the more annoyed I got. I was shaken up, and I took offense at his ex-post facto suggestion that I leave the gear behind. Why wasn’t he being more understanding? Why was he being so practical right now?

So… why didn’t you lose the gear?

What I should have been angry about was the fact that I wasn’t wearing a life jacket. They hadn’t been offered to us, I didn’t even know where they were. I should have been angry that the Thai guides picked a bad spot at a bad time of day, and that they had provided us with no way of indicating distress to the boat crew. My practical self realized all these things and calmed down. After all, I was fine. It wasn’t Andrew’s fault, he was just an easy target.

cool as a cucumber

cool as a cucumber

She kept swimming that day like a trooper but did ask the kindly pilot of the vessel to lend her a life jacket for the next few snorkeling spots. The life jackets were haphazardly piled underneath some other tackle in the storage area. Of course no one had been brave enough to ask for a life jacket until that point but once the guide dusted one off for Shana there were several other takers.

With a new mask and jacket, the rest of the day was great, and as I look back, that event taught me a valuable lesson. Going snorkeling for the first time is a lot like a new relationship. You may not know what you’re doing, it may be frustrating and a little scary at times. You can experience beautiful things, but you might not always feel safe. That’s why you need a life jacket. Something to hold on to for stability, something that is not your significant other. Once you have that, you can truly feel free to go exploring.

You go girl!

Love and Travel – Express Yourself

New to Love and Travel? Start here!!

There is nothing quite akin to the sensation you get when, while traveling in a foreign country and you realize that you just got on the wrong train.

We weren’t on the wrong train. Just on the wrong version of the right train.

1385710_10153328273420593_107071201_nThere are a lot of transportation mistakes you will make when you go traveling, and all of them include risk and at least a little nervousness, but the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you speed forward into the unknown is a special feeling for me. It’s funny to think of our hearts and stomachs “sinking,” since we know they don’t really move, but in that moment the expression makes perfect sense. I once had an acting partner who couldn’t comprehend that emotions could be felt in one’s stomach. Trying to explain it to her was like trying to make a blind person experience déjà vu.

Tokyo’s subway system is vast, complex and not the most English friendly place on Earth. It is also very efficient. If you need to get from one side of Tokyo to the other, very fast, there is  a train for that. It’s called a “Rapid.” A rapid line runs along the same line as the “local” but doesn’t make all the stops.

The up-side of working with this actress is how keenly aware I became of all the emotions I can feel in my stomach. If something’s wrong with your body or your mind, your stomach is almost guaranteed to let you know about it. If you are a disbeliever like my acting buddy, just spend a little time in a Thai tuk-tuk and you will understand.

I thought the tuk-tuks were a blast. Tuk-tuks are the only way to make traffic congestion interesting.

Tokyo's train system looks like this if you replaced all the people with trains...

Tokyo’s train system looks like this if you replaced all the people with trains…

Transportation is stressful, and often times the initial response is to over-react, expecting the worst. Don’t do this. You will really, really want to, it takes a lot of effort to remain stoic in the face of possible disaster, but if you want your partner to respect and continue to travel with you, this is the tao you must cultivate.

Which brings me to our first day in Tokyo and using the excellent subway system there. Andrew and I have used metros and subways all around Europe and the States. From Athens, to Vienna, to the Tube, and even the Venetian water-taxis, we thought we had mastered it all.

The Tokyo subway and train system has to be looked at in a non-linear way to really make sense of it. Getting from point A to point B might involve actually back tracking a few stops rather than going forward to the next connection because the transfer is closer to the final destination from there. Maybe the transfer subway station is exceptionally large making a transfer there unpalatable. When you are a tourist, most of this knowledge is unavailable to you.

9e5be4e8871a13affdad28bf9cbc5351

The equation required to navigate from Ikebukuro to Ebisu

As long as you find the right line going the right direction, all you have to do is listen for your stop, or count if you can’t understand the language. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Or so we thought…dun dun dun. That ominous sound is to set the mood for the day we met our nemesis, the Tokyo express.

There are very few subway and train systems that are so easy as just knowing the direction and listening for your stop.

We’d been using the Tokyo subway all afternoon to visit different neighborhoods, no problems. So we hopped on the pink line to head north for a couple of stations where we could transfer to the green.IMG_0603

The Tokyo system map looks like someone drew it while looking at the paper through a prism.

I should probably mention that it was our first week in Japan and we had absolutely no language skills whatsoever. Even if you learn to speak Japanese, reading it is a whole other matter. Some Japanese trains have English read-outs and some don’t, it just depends on how new that particular train car is. We hopped on the next pink line train, intending to count two stops.

a metaphor: how we saw kanji characters for the first time....

a metaphor: how we saw kanji characters for the first time….

It requires constant vigilance when using a new subway or train system to not get thoroughly lost. You might call it OCD but I check the train maps in every car and platform against my map and my planned travel route. Still there are somethings that one cannot account for.

After a couple minutes of high-speed travel with no indication of slowing, my stomach began to alert me to the growing panic bubbling there. My acting lessons had also taught me the art of maintaining a straight face, but as I made eye contact with Andrew I knew he could see the fear in my eyes as they slowly widened in confusion.

Our eyes momentarily locked in an “Oh shit!” moment as we realized that we still weren’t stopping. We watched out the windows of the train as we passed at least five stations with no hint of slowing.

My reaction was more of a, “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. The letters are red… red is different. Why didn’t I notice that at first?”

I was suddenly living out the boat scene from “Willy Wonka,” waiting for the walls to become a light show of crawling insects. It was the uncertainty that was truly terrifying. It became clear we were on an express train of some sort, but how long was it going to last? Had we unknowingly stepped on a train bound for the suburbs, an hour outside of Tokyo city? How much would it cost to get back?

We could have ended up some where out there...

We could have ended up some where out there…

While neither of us is prone to over reaction, a Charles Marlow vis a vis Heart of Darkness comparison isn’t far off if you end up in the wrong manga shop… We obviously had to get off at the next station and then take the next train the other direction.

The human brain is wonderful, a million negative thoughts can occur in a matter of seconds. The important thing to do when this happens is first to ask, what can I do about it? If the answer is nothing, short of pulling the train’s emergency levers (which I wouldn’t recommend) then all those thoughts can wait. They are irrelevant. As the adage goes, you have to cross the bridge when you get there, or get off the train when you get there…

I hate metaphorical bridges. Jeff Bridges though… He’s awesome. Same with suspension bridges. I like those.

Luckily, the train stopped after another couple stations, forcing us to backtrack only about five stops. Also lucky, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, so finger pointing wasn’t even an option. Just another lesson learned the harder way, but you can bet we haven’t ended up on an express train since then!

It was definitely Shana’s fault.

Love and Travel – We’re not Lost…

New to Love & Travel? Start here!!

Going to Crete was mostly my idea. My mother and father came to Crete after they were married as a honeymoon, and then they just decided to live there until various circumstances brought them home (one of which being the discovery that I was on the way!) As this was my honeymoon I thought it was rather appropriate.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 10.18.24 AM

After deciding we would put Crete into our itinerary, we next had to decide what we wanted to do there. In my very first search I learned of many beautiful caves that scatter the island, and as caves are entirely too fascinating to ignore, I demanded that we visit one. The closest cave to Heraklion is the Dikteon Cave in the Lasithi Plateau. It is also called the Psychro cave, named after the town in which it is situated. According to myth, the baby Zeus was born in this cave when his mother fled to it for his protection, fearing that his son-gobbling father would eat him. Sounds awesome, right?IMG_3451

I like atlases. They are very useful. Somehow with the invention of Google Maps, a decent atlas is really hard to get a hold of. Without internet access, Google maps is not nearly as useful as it normally is. I spent the previous night before our cave trip using the excruciatingly slow internet at the hotel to save map images on the iPad to help us navigate to Psychro cave. Why was I going through such “painstaking” trouble? To get to Psychro there is a bus from Heraklion bus terminal. It leaves on Thursdays. If Thursday isn’t your day, too bad. I didn’t want Shana to miss one of her most anticipated sights. It was decided that we would rent a car and drive out there ourselves.

We had not used a single “real” map of Greece at this point. We were surviving solely on bad free tourist handouts and the occasional Google maps where we could find wifi. Google maps over seas are also not as helpful as they could be. Nearly all local place names are in their native language and script. It was all “Greek” to me. Also, the way addresses are written in Greece are not exactly clear, sometimes they are simply two streets intersecting, and sometimes these streets do not even have names.

The Skoda Fabia is not a good car. It’s adorable that it tries so hard to be a good car. I was so proud of it at the end of day. Upon delivery of the rental car, the main thing the agent wanted me to know was that the car horn worked really well. Oh and this, “Take lots of pictures of car, outside.DSCF2757

This is good for you, protection.” He said this to me while demonstrating just how effective the horn was. Protection from what…?

Since my stick shift skills are terrible at best, Andrew got to drive. The interior of this one began to disintegrate as soon as I climbed in. Off we went with a small collection of tourist maps and some saved images on the iPad. Since it was delivered with the fuel gauge on empty, we needed to find a gas station.

Naturally, I started off quite confident in our plan. It was quite simple. Drive to the cave. Enjoy cave. Come back. EASY PEEZY LEMON SQUEEZY. I had done a not insignificant amount of map study the night before and could visualize the route we were going to take in mind quite easily.

The Greeks drive on the same side of the road as us, but that is all that their traffic laws have in common with ours. On Crete, lanes are very much a suggestion, as it is acceptable to pass other cars by any means possible, and pedestrians have practically no rights of way at all. The restaurants in Greece take up all the surrounding sidewalks adjacent to their property to set out extra tables and chairs; sometimes these sidewalks are across the street from the actual restaurant. So when you are driving through the local cafe areas, you must be watchful for rogue waiters crossing the street and wobbly tables and chairs placed precariously close to the road.   DSCF2755

At the gas station, I didn’t know much driving we were going to be doing so I had them fill up the tank. Filling up a gas tank anywhere in Europe is expensive. Back on to the road we went. I would have been playing music but since the Fabia had concentrated all of its working parts in the horn and 3 of the 4 engine cylinders, the radio was not an option.

Maybe all of this would have been more amusing to me at the time if I had had a decent map or an innate sense of direction. I had neither and since Andrew was driving he made me the navigator. I slowly realized that as we pulled out of the gas station and on to the freeway I had no confidence in my ability to lead us. I began to hyperventilate as quietly as possible so as not to attract Andrew’s attention to my fears. This proved impossible because Andrew can read every expression on my face, especially the wide-eyed look of panic I thought I was concealing.

Women be stressin’. To be fair and despite my confidence, I had only a very rudimentary understanding of the road we were going to take. I knew we had to turn right and it was shortly after a small city on the left. Thankfully the lack of roads in general made navigating a little easier as there fewer opportunities to really screw it up. After a couple false alarms I found the turn that went up to the Lasithi plateau.

After finding the appropriate mountain road, we began to climb slowly up in to the mountains surrounding the plateau. The decision tree looked something like this, Left, Left, Right, Right, (A, B, A, B, Select, Start … just kidding). I didn’t know the names of the roads but because it was a mountain there were very few roads to choose from.IMG_3408

For being what felt like a rather isolated area, there were luckily lots of road signs telling us we were going the right direction. Honestly, if it wasn’t for these signs, I can’t be sure we would have found the place. I was starting to feel much better about our rental car decision, although being on the passenger side meant being the closest to the edge of the windy mountain road, often bereft of guardrails. A couple times we had to pass another car and I was certain that these roads were not meant for two-lane traffic. Does holding your breath for extended periods of time qualify as an ab workout?

Getting to plateau was easy enough but finding Psycrho cave was a bit more challenging. It was so poorly labeled that it seemed like they were having a contest for worst placed road signs.

Since we had driven all the way out there I insisted that we explore the area to “see what we could see.” I decided that we should go check out the other cave in the valley called Tzermiado. The road on the Lasithi plateau basically does a big loop and Tzermiado is almost exactly opposite Psychro. I came to regret this decision since the Tzermiado cave is not set up for visitors. It’s a dark pit surrounded by wasp nests with no lights and a trail that is in disrepair and overgrown. Tzermiado was follwed by some…shall we say not so pleasant roads in the back country areas of Lastithi.  Eventually we ended up back at the exit of the valley and stopped for lunch while we considered our next course of action. We had a car… we should go wine tasting. We still didn’t have a decent map of Crete but considering my successful navigation of the morning adventure how hard could it be to get to the wineries?IMG_3473

It was quite difficult.

On our way back down from Lasithi we got stuck behind a truck carrying a load of hay down the narrow mountain road. Despite all that the ancient civilizations of Greece and Crete had accomplished for math and science, physics was not on this truck driver’s strong suit. The hay bale was so tall that as he started to ascend a relatively steep hill all of the hay fell off the back of his flat bed nearly landing on the hood of our poor little Fabia and completely blocked the road. Good thing I wasn’t tailgating! As Tyche would have it there was a short dirt road bypass that got us around the failed hay physics experiment.

The directions to Lyrarakis contained streets with no names and old country roads that were not exactly labeled. Using only our free map with city names, no freeways, we managed to take a wrong turn somewhere.

I will take full responsibility for this. We made like… I don’t even know, twenty wrong turns. We got a very scenic tour of central Crete south/southeast of Heraklion. The drive would have been lovely had I spent more time actually looking around and not concentrating on the next Y-intersection. We probably spent a solid hour or so driving aimlessly, all they while I insisted I knew where I was going.IMG_3494

We still had not reached the winery we were intending to go to and then I realized that reading the signs and tourist map would be much easier if I had a compass, and luckily there’s an app for that! I finally figured out which way we should be heading, and with the help of a few conveniently placed winery signs we found ourselves heading through rows of Syrah and Plyto grapes.

Well… she figured out an easier way for me to figure out where we were going…IMG_3499

We found the central tasting room, which did not appear open, and my heart sank a bit until we saw another car that had been parked near by heading towards us. A woman who was one of the tasting room managers had stopped by to check on the property and was happy to show us around and give us a tasting.

After a great tasting session we now had the challenge of somehow carrying around 3 bottles of wine in our luggage but we also had an unforgettable experience that doesn’t take up any room in our suitcase.

It is important to understand that in my opinion, we had the pleasure of carrying 3 bottles of wine in our luggage. And all that unforgettable experience stuff too.DSCF2743

We found our way back to the hotel, dropped off the car and found some dinner.

I feel like this may gloss over what maybe one of the single greatest feats of parking in the history of mankind. Parking the rental outside the hotel was no easy matter (neither was staying alive on the streets of Heraklion).

Despite all my irrational fears, Andrew managed to help me realize that we would never be “lost” as long as we were together. We might not be exactly on track, but that’s just because we are taking the scenic route…

Love and Travel – One night in Bangkok

New to Love and Travel? Start here!!

If you are in Bangkok reading this go over to your back pack and take out all the tourist maps and light them on fire.

I was convinced I could find my way around Bangkok with the rudimentary tourist map I had and the guidebook that we received as a gift. Our goal; go to the Siam Center early in the day, walk around and enjoy the air conditioning. After that we had the rest of the afternoon the check out somewhere else before heading to the boxing stadium to watch muay thai fighting.

In my few travels prior to adventuring with Andrew in Thailand, I had never experienced being lost. Uncertain of one’s exact surroundings, of course, but never that hopelessness that lost implies. While I don’t have a natural sense of direction, I do know how to read a map. My mother made sure of this by forcing me to read the Thomas Bros. guide out to her while she drove, probably because she has an even worse sense of direction than I do. Sorry Mom. I can usually orient myself; plus it’s impossible to be truly lost in a place where you speak the language. Directions are only one stranger away.

I was really excited about the muay thai fighting. One of the primary components of a successful Thailand trip was to see muay thai fighting. We had purchased tickets to see muay thai fighting through the hotel concierge that morning. I’m sure by this point in the trip I might have mentioned muay thai fighting a few times and how excited I was about muay thai fighting. Muay thai fighting.

When I met Andrew, he traveled for work and knew the California freeway map like the back of his hand. Everywhere we went, his sixth sense of direction never failed, so I stopped carrying maps around.

Muay thai fighting.

typical street in Bangkok...

typical street in Bangkok… ok not really but it was one of the few decent pictures I found on our extended march.

I could always count on Andrew to know where he was going. His duties naturally fell to “navigator” as we planned our trip to Asia. My duties were to read guide books and find interesting things to do. It’s good to have a division of labor in a travel team. More can get accomplished with less stepping on each other’s proverbial toes.

We took the free boat across the Chao Praya river and caught a taxi to the Siam Center. We didn’t really feel like negotiating any prices and taxis have meters. It was looking like an awesome day was ahead of us.

The driver of the taxi we got in after about maybe 5 minutes of driving still had not turned the meter on. So I asked in broken Thai for him to do so. Repeatedly. He was very adamant that it would be, “Ok,” and “Meter no use.” Maybe his meter was broken. Arguing with him was also making him very upset because I was equally adamant that I would like to use the meter and that I wouldn’t pay unless he used the meter. Eventually he got so mad, he kicked us out of the taxi. We were pretty close to our destination but this soured us on taxis for the day. But, hey, Free Cab Ride!

a picture from the Siam Center, well that is an apt description of my mood!

We finished meandering through the Siam Center and based on the map I was using we would walk maybe 1km North and then maybe 2.5km West towards the river to get to the stadium. This is essentially accurate but that is not what happened.

Near the Siam Center

Near the Siam Center

When we arrived in Thailand, I was taken aback at how drastically different the East felt from the West. Streets seemed to be organized by what they sold; flowers on one avenue, car parts on another. Every temple you thought you’d use as a landmark looked remarkably similar to a different temple down the street. Street signs, if you could find them, were translated into a Romanized version of Thai. I stared at impossible combinations of vowels and consonants two feet long, convinced that the letters had been chosen at random by local shop owners who amused them selves by watching  “farang” try to sound them out.

Hours later, we arrived close to our destination only to be greeted by rows of red shirt protestors. They quietly congregated along each side of the street, and the crowd seemed to grow thicker and more unsettling in the exact direction where we felt we needed to go. While the protestors hadn’t caused any trouble for tourists up to that point, I was a little unnerved and urged Andrew to drop our tuk-tuk moratorium.

We walked roughly 7km before we gave up, got in a tuk-tuk, and paid about 200 baht to approximately go around the corner. To add insult to injury we asked several people how much further the Ratchadamnoen stadium was and they each told us, “Very close,” and pointed in the direction we had been walking fruitlessly for quite a while. We passed on a group of kids using mopeds to convey paying customers via handle bars or on the back fender. I refer you to this video of Thai traffic as evidence of why I was opposed to that method of peregrination. The map we were using was devoid of things like accurate street names and entire freeways. The hardest part was the self-imposed guilt of a navigating mishap. How is my girlfriend ever supposed to trust me when I say I know where I’m going if I clearly have no idea where I’m going? Oh. And I got a blister from all the extra walking, Thanks Obama. I was very frustrated, tired, and filled with apprehension that the boxing would be really awful and not worth the long ass walk.

Our accidental walking tour of Bangkok

Our accidental walking tour of Bangkok

This cartographic misfortune could have befallen anyone, and a combination of factors aligned against us, few of which were in anyone’s control. The first factor was the awful state of public transportation in Bangkok, which prompted our decision to walk. The second being the lack of any scale distance labeled on our “map.” Andrew had the right general direction, we just didn’t anticipate how far our destination really was. The intense humidity shortening our already shortened breath made a difficult situation, worse.

Ringside!

Ringside!

We made it just in time for the first match and found out in the process that I had bought ringside seats. After a couple beers the frustration wore off and I enjoyed the hell out of those boxing matches.

At ringside, I fell asleep halfway through from exhaustion. I felt silly for having to take a tuk-tuk for a total of thirty seconds, but over the course of the following week red-shirt protestors and the Thai military clashed resulting in 86 deaths as well as burning large portions of the Siam Center and its environs. I stopped giving my instincts a hard time and reassured Andrew that what seemed like a wasted day was in fact a sort of trial by fire to find our strengths and weaknesses as co-travelers.

This extended promenade was also inevitable. 

Given the nature of our predicament at the time and the theme of the evening’s festivities, thankfully, neither of us resorted to pugilism.

Also, don’t really light anything on fire. Unless its coals or firewood. Those are OK.

 Here are some eyewitness accounts of the protests from BBC news.

Love and Travel – How to travel with your lover…

…and not look for places to bury a body.

Ok. So that is a little gruesome.

New to Love and Travel? Start here!!

Travel is stressful, but its not that stressful. Travel is at its worst, lost in Bangkok on an excruciatingly long walk from Siam Center to Rajadamnern stadium with a map that was utterly useless in probably the least scenic area of Bangkok. Just sick to death of shady taxi and tuk tuk drivers. Oh, and its miserably hot. Hotter than the inside of an oven…inside another oven. This situation and other situations like it are a natural breeding ground for violent disagreements between couples. Everyone who has traveled with a significant other dreads these moments and many of those moments do not end well.

Ringside

Ringside

As I stated on the main page for Love and Travel, I’d like to provide a different perspective, two perspectives really, on that element of travel. I’m not going to pretend that I have got it all figured out and I know what’s best or that if you get into a fight with your lover during a trip that it will be alright. It probably wont. High stress situations bring out the very best or the very worst in people. If you blow up in front of anyone it may change their opinion of you for good.

Our stories are here only to give you a way to reflect on your own experience and make up your own mind when you get into that situation if its worth being legitimately mad about. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. I hope these stories can provide insight for other couples out there and help them work through difficult problems that come up while traveling. At the very least, I hope you’ll find them entertaining.

Love and Travel is a set of journal and travel entries that my wife and I will write in two parts. Same story, two viewpoints.

However, I do want to start with a story that doesn’t include my wife but one that I think that deserves telling.

There was a girl who I thought had ruined travel. She was a Bulgarian citizen. She lived in Germany but was planning on coming to the states to earn the rest of her B.A.(she was halfway finished at a German university). I had scheduled a trip to visit Europe and then she would come back to the states with me after our trip was over.

I found out, after a few days of touring Germany with her, that she did not have her passport. This was a bit of a problem as I had non-refundable tickets for both of us to go to fly Greece, Italy and France. She had requested a German passport to replace her Bulgarian one (the legal ramifications of which were important to her coming the US to finish college). She had just happened to have picked the least opportune time to get it done.

Furious does not even begin to describe how I felt. I went through feelings of betrayal, seething rage and despondence over what looked like at least $1000 in airfare that was going to go to waste. Of course, I didn’t say any thing at first. Her passport was supposed to arrive the day before our flight left but we wouldn’t be able to get it at her apartment until the day of the flight. I thought to myself, its not really worth being this angry about if the passport shows up on time. Even if the passport didn’t show up I would just go enjoy Rome, Florence and all the other destinations on my own (which is sort of what happened anyway).

Trying really, really, really hard not to say anything about 4 hours before the flight

Trying really, really, really hard not to say anything about 4 hours before the flight

3 hours before our flight and the mail arrives. Her passport is in there. Blind luck would conspire to keep us together for the better part of 4 weeks.

She was the absolute worst travel partner. She refused to get up early, had a giant suitcase on wheels instead of a backpack, was more interested in broodily smoking at all night Italian clubs than seeing the Fora Romana or famous works of art, possessed a generally sour disposition if we weren’t laying out in the sun not doing anything and held some severely misguided opinions about American culture.

The question I have asked my self after many other successful trips both foreign and domestic is would my luck have been better if her passport had just not shown up. Was it her who was just unbelievably difficult to deal with? Was it me and my never having officially voiced my disappointment in her timing with the passport switch, her contempt for common sense and her insulting America? Maybe. I’ll never know. The last time we spoke was the train station in Paris where she was on her way back to Germany to pack her things up and move to the US.

This story is most certainly not the inspiration for this collection of journal entries and stories. My previously mentioned, miserably long walk through Bangkok is. I tell this story about the passport and bad travel partner because it almost kept me from wanting to travel ever again. Then I went to Thailand with my girlfriend, now wife. Which by many, including myself, would be considered a risky proposition.

Shana and I in Ashland, OR

Shana and I in Ashland, OR

And it was a risky proposition but it worked. I found my love for travel again and a great travel partner. After Thailand I always wanted to have two perspectives. Even if I’m right and they are most certainly wrong. I’m not going to offer any advice on what to do or what to say. These stories are just what happened and how we felt, so that you may compare and contrast them to your own situation whether its a weekend getaway or a year abroad. Love and Travel is here to give two perspectives of the good and the bad, the fun and the stressful and the ride from beginning to end.

Easy Distance – Site News

There has been a minor delay in our regular posting schedule… but for good reason.

We are constructing the most awesome, truly unique, advanced Jack Burton Robot the science will have no answer for.

IMG_1949

Just kidding.

But seriously… We are going to restructure the site a little bit with separate headings for Open Kimono, Cooking in the Shower, Lessons Learned and a new section called, Love and Travel.

All these changes should take place in the next few weeks or so. You may see some shiny new things to click on and then be disappointed when they don’t go anywhere. Sorry for that. Just be glad that you didn’t unwittingly ignite a holy war between Trekkies and LARPers.

In the mean time, check out our Tumblr page for daily photo posts of Japan and other stuff!! (easydistance.tumblr.com)

Stay on the good road!