And they’re off…
After a hectic few days of airline booking and bag packing and visa procuring and hard drive backing-up and impulsive camcorder purchasing, we find our hero (that’s me) at Munich airport preparing to board an Emirates flight through Dubai to Bangkok.
He is is hunched over the last few crumbs of a bagel (not poppy seed — more on that in a sec) and though excited about the adventures to come in the next six months of travel, he already looks a bit worn-out. His eyes droop and his shoulders sag.
Why, you might ask, with this rich bounty of travel ahead of him, and his amazing and sparkling wife by his side, why does he look like such crap?
Part of it is Bangkok. In the opinion of our hero (still me), Bangkok is a sleazy migraine headache of a city. Bangkok is way too stimulating and a little bit disgusting, like accidentally putting on someone else’s underpants in the locker room.
But Bangkok is just a means to an end. It happens to be the only city in the world where our hero, ok, where, I and my wife can get a visa for Burma in less than one day. Which is essential, because we have booked an AirAsia flight to Burma on Friday for two weeks of unplanned exploration. We have a hotel room for the first two nights in Yangon, and after that we’ll just go wherever the wind takes us. A favorite way to travel.
But the main reason for the baggy eyes and dark circles is that amidst all the planning and packing, I stayed up way too late the last three nights hacking.
For some reason, my best ideas come at the most inopportune times, and three times in the last week I was so completely taken by an idea that I hacked deep into the night. The German winter sun is a shy bastard and stays hidden until late morning, giving you long, uninterrupted periods of darkness in which to work. I am convinced this is a major reason for the unstoppable power of the German economy.
Of course, each time I went to bed at 10am, it was after working on a completely different idea, so now I have three brilliant, unfinished hacks on my hard disk. I’m trying to delude myself into thinking that I’ll work on them while traveling, but experience says otherwise. We’re going to be moving every two or three days and there’s so much to do and see. Between that and, hopefully, keeping you apprised of our movements, there just won’t be enough time.
Which brings me to the itinerary. In the next three months we plan to visit Thailand, Burma, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Nepal, Bhutan, Assam, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and Komodo. It is strange even to be able to tell you that. Normally when traveling, we tend to just wing it, but this time around we wanted to go to several places that require advanced planning, and so we had to get ourselves organized. Google Docs was involved and spreadsheets were produced. Print-outs were even made. It’s unheard of.
After Komodo we have a brief stop in Tennessee for my sister’s graduation from college, and then we go to South America for 6 weeks, and then Africa, and then finally we move to San Francisco to live happily ever after by the end of the summer.
But first we have to get through Dubai. Which brings me to the issue of the poppy-seed bagel. As it turns out eating a poppy seed bagel before transiting Dubai is a good way to end up in Arab prison. If you don’t believe me, google “poppy seed swiss dubai” and check out the story of the poor Swiss schmuck who was imprisoned for three poppy seeds found on his clothing as he passed through Dubai. He didn’t even eat the bagel in Dubai! Other similar stories can be found – google for “dubai melatonin,” for example.
So the bagel I ate was covered not in poppy seeds but pumpkin seeds, in true German-bakery fashion. I’ve searched extensively but haven’t yet found any sign of punishment for fragments of pumpkin seeds, but I’m worried nevertheless. I’ve gone into the bathroom and shaken off my shirt a few times already.
And now they’re calling us to board. Wish me luck.