Day 17 extra: the restless traveler

Pati and BeeBee had a flight from Hanoi to Da Nang today. Luckily, it was a short flight, only 1 hour 20 minutes in the air.

Their seat numbers were 18 E and F, which are a window seat and middle seat on the right side of the plane.  When they got to their seats, there was a man sitting in the window seat. They showed him their tickets; he examined them, smiled, and stayed where he was. Pati sat down in the aisle seat, with BeeBee in the middle seat beside the man.

He was tall, slender, aged somewhere in his 30s, and nicely dressed with a light brown suede jacket.

He was nervious.

As more passengers got on, he swiveled his head to inspect them. Perhaps he was expecting a traveling companion. Perhaps he expected to be sitting with someone else. Perhaps, BeeBee began to hope, someone else would come to their row and tell him that he was in the wrong seat. This did not happen.

As the plane began to taxi, he turned his attention to the view from “his” window. Leaning toward the window, he pressed his head into it. Instead of the outside, BeeBee saw only the back of his head. While his medium brown hair was nicely trimmed, it was not as interesting as the outside.

As the plane launched itself into the air, his long legs began to bounce and twitch. For the duration of the flight. Very quickly, he claimed the armrest between himself and BeeBee (in addition to the armrest on the window side), and, when his legs were not twitching, his arms and hands were. BeeBee first squeezed herself away from him, but then reclaimed the space above her seat. His arm did not yield.

(Note to the sensitive reader: This man was neither physically nor mentally impared. Just rude.)

When the cabin crew brought around bottles of water, BeeBee lowered her tray table and left it down for the rest of the flight. This seemed to deter him just a little, yet soon his sharp elbow was digging into BeeBee’s ribs. He fingered the seal that BeeBee had removed from her water bottle and laid on her tray.  (Only a short flight, she thought.) When he finished his water, he pulled out his flight magazine to read and claimed all the space between the trays. (Thank goodness for the tray, BeeBee thought.)

When the flight crew announced their imminent arrival, BeeBee reluctantly closed her tray table. He did the same and put away the magazine. He pulled the airsickness bag from the seat pocket ahead of him and examined it closely, turning it around in his long slim fingers. (Please, BeeBee thought, not that!) For a few moments, he put his arms on the seat ahead of him, as if braced for a crash landing.  Then the elbow returned to BeeBee’s ribs. (His arm was hot.)

For the final touchdown, his left arm left BeeBee’s ribs to brace itself against the back of her tray. Once on the ground, he again screwed his head tightly into the window. To BeeBee, it looked as if he intended to exit the airplane by squeezing himself through that small porthole.

As soon as it was allowed, he called someone on his cellphone and spoke rapidly but not for long. BeeBee imagined a dismayed person on the receiving end thinking “It’s you again. Already!”

When it was possible to unbuckle her seatbelt, BeeBee followed Pati into the aisle crowded with other passengers. It was a relief to have even a tiny bit of breathing room. Glancing back, she saw that the man had already scooted into the aisle seat. Pati and BeeBee did not let him out into the aisle.

When the line started moving to exit the aircraft, BeeBee courteously stood still to allow passengers to exit their seats ahead of her. After they exited the airplane, BeeBee glimpsed the man a few times but soon put him out of her mind. Until writing this blog post.

(Ladies: You have been seated next to this man or his cousin many times. Gentlemen: Take note. Ladies do not like this behavior.)

(Footnote: This story, unfortunately, is true.)




Day 5 extra: today is colored orange

In Thailand, the days of the week have colors assigned to them:

Sunday is red.

Monday is yellow.

Tuesday is pink.

Wednesday day is green.

Wednesday night is gray.

Thursday is orange.

Friday is light blue.

Saturday is purple.

So: today is colored orange.

The color assigned to a person is the color of the day of his birth. The King’s color is yellow, which is why there are so many yellow flags seen everywhere.

Day 8 extra: Sticky Rice

When Pati and BeeBee participated in the Living Land experience, they were learning the steps of growing sticky rice. These steps have been followed for thousands of years. Growing sticky rice dominates the economy of Laos.

Their guide in Luang Prabang told them:

Every Lao eats three meals a day.

Sticky rice.

Sticky rice.


sticky rice.

Day 3 extra: No Durians

No Durians

The hotel where Pati and BeeBee are staying has a peculiar sign posted at the entrance to the restaurant and beside the elevator doors on the ground floor. They have seen similar signs in India. These signs say “No Durians” in bold red letters.

The musang king durian is known as the king of fruit in Malasia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. According to Pati and BeeBee’s guide, it has a green spiky outer skin, a large inner pit, and flesh similar to, but creamier than, that of the avocado. The taste has been described as similar to an overripe banana.  It is popular in other countries also, and is especially prized by the Chinese.

The problem with the durian, according to Smithsonian Magazine, is that the durian smells like “turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.”  Others say it smells like dead rat. It is banned on some trains and in some airports, as well as in hotels in south-east Asia.

The guide described an instance in her experience where a guest at a hotel brought in a durian. The staff said they would keep it for her, wrapped up tightly. If she wanted to eat it, she would have to go out in the nearby field to do so.

As with kimchi, the durian is beginning to have followers, even in the UK. Pati and BeeBee will probably forego this fad.

Day 3 extra: les voyages forment la jeunesse

On Day 3, Pati and BeeBee were walking through a shop with artisans who would hand paint small images onto phone cases, purses, whatever you had with you. Above a beautiful large painting of a Thai countryside, hanging on the wall, was a simple sign in script:

les voyages forment la jeunesse

BeeBee’s French is not as good as it could be, although she recognized the words for “travel” and “youth.” The guide had taken French in high school, a long time ago, so she also could not translate. She asked the ladies in the shop what the sign said. None of them knew.

Back at the hotel, BeeBee searched the internet for the answer and found the idiom:

Travel broadens the mind.

It certainly does.

Day 2 extra: Sparks fly in Chiang Mai, or, don’t hire this electrician


As described in the Day 2 post, Pati and BeeBee were present at the kiddie fairgrounds in the Night Market periphery when power failed to the ferris wheel and blow-up slide. Pati had hoped to take some night pictures of the lights of the turning ferris wheel, but had just managed to adjust the camera settings when the lights went out.

They decided to wait for a few minutes to see whether the ferris wheel would be restarted. After a few flickering mis-starts, a man with a few tools began to work on the thick power line running along the ground from (somewhere?) to the ferris wheel. Taking a large wire stripping tool, he began to work on the end of the power line nearest the ferris wheel. That appeared to be unsuccessful. A second man began pulling power lines from the merry-go-round to the ferris wheel. No one was riding the merry-go-round, and the ferris wheel was attractive and visible from farther away. Now all the rides were dark and disfunctional. This tactic didn’t work, or perhaps it was a precurser to the next step. The “electrician” then carried a tall stepladder across to a pole carrying a thick bundle of power lines about 12 feet above the ground. Taking the end of the line that he had just stripped and a tool, he climbed the ladder and calmly connected his line to something in the bundle. Meanwhile, a child climbed into the ferris wheel bucket nearest the ground and waited.

A few minutes later, and success! The ferris wheel began to turn. Propping himself and the camera cautiously against a metal pole, Pati got the shots he wanted.

(For the faint-of-heart: the photo above is a time-lapse shot. The buckets and child did not go spinning out into the night.)