Home is where the big suitcase is….

Hola Lovers of Random. I’m writing my latest Love Letter to you from {poolside atop the roof of my digs in beautiful Buenos Aires}{the workspace in Còrdoba}. Sometimes our accoms are total winners and {this}{last} month {is}{was} one of those months. But I’m not here to fill your heads with tales of Latin Love, as all I’ve really done here so far is sleep, and I’ve got far more to catch you up on than the {current}{last} month.

One question we get a lot as Remotes is where home is. Considering the only piece of my life from Birmingham that I kept was the amazing people I know there, and my family resides in a place I’ve never lived, I’ve maintained that home is where my big suitcase is – my home base for the month, usually my RY designated city. Once Earhart’s month in Chiang Mai ended, that statement became more – eh – fluid. I opted out of Kuala Lumpur as I embarked on my biggest travel stretch of the whole trip, so there was no place for my bag to reside while I hopped around Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand. I carried it, and my sense of home with me over the past 6 weeks – a more difficult task that I had anticipated, and not just because of the weight of the suitcase.

Lantern Festival

A good number of us decided to stay over a couple of extra days in Chiang Mai to experience the Loy Krathong Festival (more widely known as the lantern festival) that took place the weekend of our transition. On Friday, we scootered down to the river and I watched as our crew launched their krathongs, an offering to the river goddess, before walking down to the main bridge where the lanterns are launched and setting fire to a few of our own.

The next morning was transition day, so while the majority of Earhart loaded up to take off for KL, Marky, Kiwi, Eddie and I stuck Duffs and our luggage in a Red Car and followed her on our scooters to our temporary CM home. Our second night of Festival included parade watching, scorpion eating and an semi successful attempt to launch 6 lanterns tied together (4 made it up). After we almost set ourselves on fire, we joined Meraki (another RY group) at an outdoor riverside bar with a band that played alternative hits from the 90s. Not wanting to miss out on a delicious city team recommendation, Duffs, Marky and I stumble our way to Midnight Chicken and gorge on fried meats before turning in for the night.

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Sunday is our last full day in CM, so Kiwi, Mark and I take advantage of the gorgeous day and take the scooters out to the reservoir. On our way back, we stop in for some margaritas with Meraki before headed to meet the crew for dinner. Rems and Milana are in town, so we grab dinner with them and a few others that had stayed behind for the festivities. After we feast, Marky and I check out the Red Light District, play best out of five in pool (I can’t remember who won, which probably means I lost) and rejoin the rest at Zoe in Yellow. Lots of drinks and lots of dancing have us landing back at Midnight Chicken and I have no regrets.

Island Takeover

On Monday, Kiwi and I take our leave of the rest of the crew and head to Ao Nang to chill out for a few days before the Island Takeover. With four Remote Year groups in Asia, three in SE Asia alone, a meet-up weekend of debauchery has been organized in Krabi, Thailand – which is not actually an island, but peninsula getaway didn’t have the same ring to it (side note, it does have beaches, so my quest continues). Working nights leaves me the daytime to explore, so I check out Ao Nang beach, find it less than impressive and coerce Kiwi away from work and into a coastal scooter exploration. We end up at Klong Muang Beach, sneak onto a private resort and catch sunset while discussing loose plans for the rest of our lives.

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Wednesday we find ourselves without power and therefore wifi, the two most important needs of a digital nomad, so we take it as a sign from the universe and take a quick ferry ride over to Railay Beach, a beach not accessible by any other way than water. It’s epically gorgeous with lush, looming cliffs and clear blue water. After we return, we grab an amazingly delicious albeit spicy dinner and I head in for work while Kiwi hits the scene.

Thursday the rest of the crew arrives and debauchery weekend ensues. 53 remotes, 7 groups in total, all in one resort for an extended weekend of…. well… everything. There were dinners and brunches, beach cruises, pool days, games (both drinking and non), working (because we are digital warriors), networking, and one EPIC day long boat ride. But my favorite part of the weekend was meeting these people, my kindred spirits, my fellow crazies who decided to leave what they know behind and adventure for a year without question. It was truly something special to see how we all came together, and how just after a short weekend together, you had a whole new arsenal of people you could rely on, call on any time, people you now considered friends. The Remote Nation never ceases to amaze me in that regard.

Sorry for the lack of details, but here’s a video of the best day of the trip.

 

Kuala Lumpur

I started KL not only with physical and emotional hangovers from the weekend, but also some lost luggage and a solid 14 hours of praying to the porcelain goddess. (Question, if home is where my big suitcase is, and it is lost, does that mean I am as well?). My luggage showed as my stomach calmed and Marky took me out for a bite, but my appetite hadn’t returned as successfully as my belongings, so I passed on the dim sum and hit work instead. KL was highly underwhelming for me, but I was exhausted from being sick, super busy with work, and completely over the night shift, despite the pool table in the workspace. I made the best out of the sticky, hot, aggressive nature of KL with a rooftop dinner with the ever so charming DL, a swanky work afternoon with views of the KL Tower with the Dinster, and one horribly awful Tinder date.

Bali

I arrived in Bali for some much needed girl time and met Duffs and Kiminy for a bite. Afterwards,we trekked the treacherous stairs to their cliff-side Air BNB with sweeping beach views with my (now becoming annoyingly massive) previously mentioned suitcase. Once we were showered and ready, Duffs and I descended further to the beach for a beachfront walk to meet Kiminy and Em for dinner. But the tide was high. And it was pitch black. And we removed our shoes for grip. We’re laughing about our current sitch when Duff cries out in pain. Was it a shell? Was it glass? We’ll never know…. all we do know is it caused Kiminy to pass out and landed Duffs and I in an International SOS clinic getting her two stitches and causing us to miss our boat to Gili. But we swanked it up in a resort nearby for the night before catching a boat the next day.

Gili

A quick boat ride across the ocean has us on Gili Tarwangan, a small island off the coast of Lombak where there are no motor vehicles allowed. With Duffs semi-immobile, we take a horse drawn carriage to Wonderland, our accoms for this stretch and are delighted to see bike rentals next door. With Duff’s newfound ability to get around again, we take to the beach for some cocktails and the best pizza I’ve had since Lisbon (see this post). The island is small and cute and the water is clear and beautiful. We mingle with other travelers and locals at a club that evening, spend the next few days exploring and relaxing with the ample amounts of delicious tea provided at our hostel. I have one early morning of calls that I take on the beach sitting across from a local before taking my bike around the entire island (a short 30 minute ride) before we hop the boat back to Bali for Thanksgiving.

Balisgiving

There’s a good number of Earharts and visitors in Bali this week, so we rented a villa to spend the holiday together. There is a pool, private driver, in-house(ish) massages, and most importantly, a big kitchen with an in-house chef. The Dinster teams up with the staff to whip up a feast that makes us all feel at home, including mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and chicken that made us all forget turkey was a usual staple.

Nusa Pineda

After stuffing ourselves silly, I convince Isaac to grab a ferry to Nusa Pineda with me the next day for a little island exploring. Nusa Pineda is about an hour off Bali and rumors to have plenty of instagram worthy beaches and sites. We book a tour, board a boat and are scooped up by a van upon arrival. The sites on Nusa Pineda are breathtaking, from Angel’s Billabong to Broken Beach, Kelingking Beach to Crystal Bay, but it was also quite touristy. Line up, wait your turn, take your picture, move aside for the next. Still glad we went though.

Bali > NZ – Just Kidding

We return to Bali in time for one night’s stay before jetting off to the two week epic adventure orchestrated by Kiwi.  I hate to sound like a travel asshole, but I was over Bali… it was hot, sticky, hard to get around, and it was rainy season, so most afternoons were filled with thunderstorms.  My anxiousness grew as we approached the airport – Mt. Agung had been threatening to erupt for months, and the past few days had showed significant activity. We arrived at the wildly overcrowded Denpasar airport just in time to see our screen flash that all flights are cancelled because the bitch finally blew.  the next 16 hours are a blur of attempts to get off the island before we finally book a flight back to KL that will get us to NZ to meet the rest of the crew.  No questions asked.  Get us out of here.

I know this post is late. And it’s not on par with what I usually put out….. but I have a resolution to get better about writing in general, and that includes my etudes to you my darlings.  I don’t make promises, but if I did, I might slip you one that a post about New Zealand is headed your way soon.  In the meantime, keep yourselves entertained with pics here and here. 

Until next time my Lovers,

Specifically and Randomly yours,

SR

 

Easy Peasy Japaneasy

Kon’nichiwa lovers! Due to a five week stay in a country with a 30 day visa restriction, I found myself in need of a visa run while residing in Thailand. Many Earharts went about this different ways – some when to Cambodia to take in the culture of Angkor Wat – others took to Laos to visit breathtaking temples – one crew even went to Disneyland in Hong Kong. After touching base with a flyboy from back home who was being stationed outside of Hiroshima and a fellow Remote festival goer I met at Tomorrowland currently living in Kyoto, I decided my government mandated break from Thailand would be facilitated with a 10 day trip to Japan.

I really need to stop booking early morning travel, at least for the rest of my time here in Asia. My trip was not off to a good start after a late night work sesh followed up with some bourbon imbibing had me miss my flight to Kuala Lumpur. Luckily there are about 30 Air Asia flights a day from CM to KL, so I paid my stupid tax and hopped on a later afternoon flight. My layover in KL was still pretty hefty, and I unknowingly entered the “cheap” air international transfer terminal – which is a desolate wasteland of nothingness – too early and was stuck, bored off my ass, for HOURS waiting on my overnight flight to Osaka. My rocky start continued when I arrived in Osaka, fell asleep on my train and missed my intended stop. Disoriented, frustrated, and stuck in the rain, I booked the nearest hotel to Namba station that I could find – which just happened to be a sex hotel, complete with tie ups, a “mini-bar” of sex toys, mood lighting, and of course, in-room karaoke. I can’t make this shit up. I’m surprised I didn’t have to pay by the hour. Kink aside, I have to say it was a good spot, which was lucky for me because not only had I landed with a yacht week level cold (see Choose the Positive) but Typhoon Lan was LITERALLY raining on my parade. I spent the next couple days catching up on some writing, catching up on some Netflix, and wandering the streets of Umbo-Namba eating all of the street foods.

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I’d had my fill of Osaka, so I headed to the train station, procured my Japan Rail Pass and boarded my first Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. My favorite part of the Shin is getting to see the gorgeous Japanese countryside. This place is epically beautiful. I even managed to snag a sunset view of Mt. Fuji. Upon arrival, I navigated the Tokyo subway system on my way to my Air BNB in Shibuya. I step out the the station and am greeted with a Times Square like view, complete with the NYCesque energy and vibe – liking Tokyo already. Momma Joe is also here, so I grab a bowl of duck ramen at a spot right around the corner from my digs that had a very Waffle House feel before meeting up with him and his friends to catch the show at the Robot Restaurant. As promised, the show is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and Momma Joe and I agree that there are no pictures or words that can even come close to describing the experience. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you ever find yourself in Tokyo – and report back to me on just how many times you think/say WTF. After the show, we grab a few drinks at Scramble (diner by day, club by night) where some locals bravely proposition our table for kisses and end the night at some back alley bar where I have some of the best pizza I’ve had since being on this trip.

A coworker from my new firm also happens to be in Tokyo, so the next day I have my first in person meeting from HPC as he and his hubs take me to their favorite Japanese curry spot – Japanese curry, btdubs, very different from Thai curry, but delicious in it’s own right. Once again, my ignorance when it comes to the metric system bites me in the ass and I over order – can’t wait to tell Starbucks about my repeat of the this – he’s already made fun of me for it in his latest post. After curry, we grab dessert, take selfies to make the rest of the HPC crew jealous, and then I head off to work for the evening. The food at the aforementioned Waffle House raman shop was so good that I went back, set up my digital douche office and worked alongside a bowl of pork raman with a side of gyoza.

Waking up to a dreary and rainy day in Tokyo was my cue to catch the Shin to Kyoto and hang out with RY group Kaizen for a couple of days. After a solid evening of society contributing, I’m invited to join the crew at World for drinks, dancing and debauchery with an Aussie band that one of the Kaizens knows from home. After some Jack, some Jose, (and one drunken Jack with Jose), we hit a McDonalds that does not serve burgers before calling it a night, er, morning. I spend the next day exploring, eating all the foods, creeping on all the people in Kimonos, and relishing in how romantic Kyoto feels. That evening, I join the some of the city team and some Kaizen for dinner at Mizuiro Club, a super quaint art cafe that you would never be able to find on your own. We order the menu (which only contains about 6 items), and discuss everything from tattoos to the Yakuza to childbirth while sipping sochu and tasting all this place has to offer, my favorite of which was the Japanese curry. The night before my departure is debauchery round 2. Kaizen’s level of boozing and boogying is right on par with Earhart, and since we are all in KL next month, I have some fears for our livers. Good thing I am stocked up on Drinkwel.

My last weekend in Japan is reserved for catching up with my flyboy in Hiroshima, so another day, another bullet train. Hangover brain strikes me hard, and after taking the train from Kyoto to Osaka where I need to switch, I hop on the wrong train and go right back to Kyoto. Face palm. Back again, and this time I’m in no mood to wait for the next train my rail pass lets me on, so I take the advice of a fellow remote, sneak on the Nozomi, and pretend I’m asleep when the ticket agent walks by. After checking into my hotel, the flyboy and I roam the streets of Hiroshima in the rain looking for a bite to eat before hitting the karaoke joints (because when in Japan) and drinking all the Japanese whiskey.

I want to breifly mention that finding a bar to drink at wasn’t as easy as it sounds. If you read this blog, you most likely know me, or have at least seen pictures of me. As a white female, racial discrimination is not something that I have ever experienced until that night in Hiroshima. The flyboy had warned me, but it wasn’t until we were denied entrance to a couple places and straight up asked to leave another that I realized he wasn’t kidding about certain establishments not serving white people. It was an odd feeling, but I shook it off and we found an amazing joint run by two women from the Philippines who were so accommodating, it erased the bitter taste in my mouth from being denied based on race.

My hangover brain is even worse the next morning, but I get my shit together enough to visit the Hiroshima War Memorial and Museum, and for a second I almost understand why we were asked to leave. It was humbling to sit and hear the survivors recount that day in 1946 – it reminded me of my walk through the 9/11 Memorial – only this time we were the dicks that caused the pain. I make a mental note that war sucks and I catch the tram to Hiroshima station and my Shin back to Osaka for my flight home.

Fun fact about Osaka – it is home to two airports – and they are not close. Hangover brain strikes again landing me at the wrong airport, and I’m thankful I decided to head to there early, because now I have to take an hour bus ride to get to the CORRECT airport. Ah well, up until this point I had ridden the the bullet trains, regular trains, the monorail, subways and trams, but no busses – so I was merely rounding out my Japanese mass transit profile. I’m busted at check in with an overweight carry-on and get my first taste of in-airport baggage fees – the stupid taxes here are really adding up, but I booked a seat in the quiet zone and I *had* the row all to myself until this woman decided she didn’t like her seat….. she apologized when she caught me giving her the stink eye, so I chose not to hold it against her.  When I landed in KL, Momma Joe was there as we were on the same flight back to Chiang Mai.  We grab some overpriced beers and chat about this crazy life before boarding our flight back to our Thailand home.

I ended up loving Japan a lot more than I had anticipated. When it wasn’t raining, the weather was a perfect high 60s/low 70s, so it was a nice escape from the oppressive heat that was Vietnam and is Thailand. The public transportation is surprisingly easy to navigate, and runs like a well oiled machine – much like everything else in Japan – the whole place is so neat and orderly. The majority of the people were super friendly, the landscapes were majestic, and the food was everything I hoped it would be and more, placing Japan on the short list of places I’ll return to.  Outside of Japan, it’s food and the Japanese themselves, Kaizen made me feel right at home, fortifying my faith even further that the Remote Nation is a unique society of those of us who really understand what life out here is like, and how we make the most out of every second while still trying to exist as human beings who need to eat, sleep, and contribute to society through our work.  I won’t go down that rabbit hole here, but IT’s latest post delves deeper in if you want a good read –  you can also get a taste of Angkor Wat, another spot I intend to return to this part of the world to see.

My faithful Lovers, I know I’m behind on the adventure.  Despite being surrounded by beauty, Thailand has brought a good bit of writer’s block to me – and not so much the inability to articulate the experience, but rather a lack of initiative and desire to devote the time to it.  That said, I won’t leave you hanging.  There are posts in the works, so stay tuned for island adventures, all that is Chiang Mai, and the upcoming lantern festival.

Specifically Yours,

SR

 

Hanoi(ingly late)

Greetings from SE Asia my Lovers. Yesterday marked one week in my new home of Hanoi, and while I have spent the majority of my time either working or sleeping, I still have plenty to report on the Random front. I am truly in a different world, in every sense of the word. Europe was beautiful and romantic, not drastically different from home, and you could almost always find someone who spoke English, or you could at least fumble your way through the language. Hanoi does not afford us any of these luxuries – even if you can find “western” food, goods and influence on almost every corner.

Marky, DL, Ktunes and I all arrived in Hanoi on a 7 hour overnight flight from Dubai. I sat between the boys while they slept, unable to zonk out myself despite the copious amounts of free Jack Daniels Emirates provided. Customs was a breeze, contradictory to the horror stories we had been prepped with, but I was tired and cranky and a whiny little girl. They keys to my home (and my eventual sleep) were at the workspace (Toong) with Pigeon, so DL and I ubered/napped there to gain my access to my home and also my data – Vietnam is the one place that T-Mobile is not a thing. Our first introduction to the language barriers was arguing with our Uber driver who was supposed to carry us on, but it didn’t work out and we were left on the sidewalk with our baggage in hand. DL had a call, so we ducked into Cowboy Jack’s, a restaurant downstairs from Toong that can best be described as a Vietnamese Hooters. One business call, two plates of chicken cartilage, and a few beers later, we start our search for our Hanoi homes. The address provided to us is NOT accurate, so we spend the next HOUR dragging ourselves up and down the street, dripping with sweat, trying to find our air conditioned apartments for the month. Skeen to the rescue, we each find our destinations, I unpack a bit and go down for a much needed nap before my first taste of the night shift.

The next evening has me missing some faces, so I venture out to , my new favorite cocktail bar, to meet some fellow Earharts and have my first flaming Pho cocktail – which is every bit as delicious as it sounds. We leave Nê and wander to the corner for some actual pho, served on the sidewalk while sitting 6 inches from the ground on a plastic stool.  After lighting ourselves up with chili sauce, we move to Xofa for some iced coconut coffee to cool off in the monstrous heat and humidity.  The crew eventually breaks off, but Phil the Thrill, Bonina and I aren’t ready to turn it in, so we catch on Uber to the Old Quarter, follow some nice young expats into a ruin type bar that is entered to through a scooter rental shop, meet some english teachers (seriously, everyone here teaches english) who then take us to another corner where we drink Vietnamese beer and chat amongst our group of 20 or so until the sun comes up – sitting a corner on plastic stools 6 inches from the ground.

The next week is mainly me trying to manage the jet lag, a new work schedule (8pm-2am seems to be my jam), and one hell of a sinus infection. Its not until the end of the week that I really start to hit my groove, but a forced 10am wake up one day for Town Hall allows me to explore in the daylight, grab lunch and catch up with an Australian beauty, hit the grocery store, and stumble upon the cutest little park with a lake just a few blocks from Toong. Naps a plenty, grabbing 90 minutes here and there, I finally start to feel human enough to interact with the world, only my world now is limited to my fellow creatures of the night – those of us bound either loosely or tightly to US hours. We inhabit Toong until the wee hours of the morning, pack it in and head over to Puku, the late night joint that hosts us until sun up when we depart for our blackout shaded rooms for our 8 (or 10) hours of slumber.

The streets of Hanoi are filled with scooters and motorbikes – and the sidewalks, and the alleys, and, well, pretty much everywhere – you even see them inside.  Crossing the street was best described by Becks as a delicate game of frogger – although basic strategy dictates picking a moment, picking a speed and just going for it.  Which brings me to one of my favorite things about Hanoi: Uber. Moto. When you think about it, UberMoto makes perfect sense in the organized chaos that is the streets of Hanoi – and when you factor in that each ride only costs $.44 (read that right, forty-four cents), its a no brainer. Riding an UberMoto makes you feel like you are a part of the elite Hanoi scooter gang -each red light a new chance to be in a sea of motorbikes all revving at the same time to take off and ignore all proper traffic laws – lanes, lights, one ways – anything goes.

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Saturday night is ladies night, and we all get dressed up in our sexy best (much better than your Sunday best) and head to The Rooftop – a swanky joint on the 19th floor of the Saigon Hotel with expansive views of the Hanoi skyline. A girl DJ and drinks named “The Hot Lady” have us turning the joint into a dance club, because Earharts can start a dance party anywhere. Once we’ve exhausted our welcome there, we descend down to the lobby (with one daring rescue of a damsel in douchebag distress) and walk more than a few blocks in the drizzling rain to our next destination – The Toilet.  Despite it’s name, the club itself is quite swank, but the vibe is weird and we leave after not being about to dance the weirdness away.  Back to Puku, where there’s always Earharts to be found, a little sheisha, a little whiskey, and I’m home to pack for my 6am departure to Sapa (see Sleep When I’m Dead for overnighter status continued).

Week 1 recap: Hanoi is hot and humid and I mostly see it under cloak of night.  I moto as often as I can, eat food from street corners while sitting on cheap plastic stools and I questions anything that costs more than $4.  Side trips often require all nighters, and sleep is gotten where I can get it.  There’s more to come, so stick around Lovers; the Asian Random has just begun.

Specifically Yours,

SR

P.S. I know, this post is late – upon posting I only have two weeks left in Hanoi – but don’t fret, all will be revealed – I would never abandon your Love.  Kisses.