Thanks to the kids’ aunties, we never have to buy Halloween costumes.
To celebrate the girl’s 5th birthday and as sort of a reward/treat/thank you to the kids for tolerating my premature mid-life crises and being in generally good spirits as we shlepped them through Southeast Asia, we got three-day passes to Disneyland and California Adventure. Our kids are so lucky to have us as parents.
Having just come from Vietnam, where it would be a miracle for any public bathroom to have toilet paper, my mom, Tom, and I couldn’t help making comparisons and questioning whether Vietnam would ever be in a position or have the infrastructure, resources and/or wherewithal to accomplish a small fraction of what Disneyland does so well: create a magical fairytale environment that is thoroughly entertaining and pleasing to its guests. Our conclusion, sadly, was no.
I don’t think I’ll ever again take for granted the wonderfulness that is my home country, the U.S. of A. It’s just so comfortable to be home! I wish we could have stayed at home a little longer, but the weekend after getting back we had to haul ass to Southern California to attend to some family matters. Since we were going to be in SoCal, I thought it would be a good idea to swing by Santa Barbara and then visit Disneyland for three days in honor of the girl’s 5th birthday.
If ever there was an antidote to Vietnam, it would be Santa Barbara. What perfect weather! What gorgeous scenery! What friendly customer service!
Tom and I both lost some weight in Vietnam, attributable to consuming mostly fish and vegetables, less meat, small portions, and recurring diarrhea. A highly effective weight loss plan.
I’m pretty sure I’ll gain the weight back and then some after about five minutes on an American diet. We drove straight to Grimaldi’s for some thin crust pizza practically as soon as we got off the plane, and the next morning headed to In-N-Out for some double-double love.
I also really missed simple meals at home like a plate of prosciutto with a plate of heirloom tomatoes and a glass of Pinot Grigio, which were virtually impossible to obtain in Vietnam. Asian food will always be my first love, however. What I crave every once in a while is very different from what I crave on a day-to-day basis.
At the beginning of our stay in VN, Tom and the boy got haircuts (for a grand total of US$2.50) and the unsanitary conditions and overall third-worldness of the local barber shop were very striking to me. The second time the boy got a haircut (toward the end of our stay), the same barber shop looked very standard and ordinary. You do eventually acclimate to your surroundings, and now that we’re about to leave, I’m getting a little nostalgic about sweltering heat and humidity, riding on the backseat of a motorcycle through heavy pollution, and enjoying endless meals with endless relatives. There are things about VN that I will remember and cherish…but not enough to come back anytime soon.
To recap our Japan trip:
Day 1: arrive to Chiyoda and attempt to explore the Imperial Palace East Gardens in drizzling rain;
Day 2: shopping and dining in Ginza;
Day 3: the highs and lows of Shinjuku;
Day 4: views of Tokyo Skytree in Sumida and exploring the adorable neighborhood of Asakusa;
Day 5: wandering around Shibuya;
Day 6: checking out the scene in Harajuku and then catching a train to Kyoto;
Day 7: walk all day throughout Kyoto;
Day 8: walk some more in Kyoto;
Day 9: exhausted from walking all over Kyoto so catch a train back to Tokyo;
Day 10: continue exploring Shibuya, Harajuku, as well as Omotesando (and a quick misguided detour back to Asakusa), and the Meiji Shrine on our last full day in Tokyo;
Day 11: depressed to be boarding a plane back to Vietnam 😦
I can hardly convey how much I loved being in Japan. It’s beautiful, clean, modern, efficient, its citizens are renowned for their politeness, and we didn’t have a single bad meal. In many ways it was the opposite of my experiences over the last six months in Vietnam. I’m ready to leave. The reason we had to squeeze 5 countries into a month and a half of back-to-back travel is that our return flights to the U.S. had been booked for October 16th. Originally we planned to postpone our return flights by six months in order to stay a full year, but after consulting the inner depths of my heart, mind, and soul, I realized that there was no way in hell I wanted to stay another six months in Vietnam.
Which means we only have a few days to pack up all of our crap, say our goodbyes, and get the hell out of Asia.