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Six steps to see Liz

May 17, 2012

The next series of blog posts will detail my first trip to Asia.  DT was invited to be a visiting professor at the University of Jinan, and he asked if he could bring along some TAs (i.e. travel companions).  Sarah and I leaped at the opportunity, so before we really understood what was happening, we were sending off our passports for visa applications and buying plane tickets.

The plan was as follows:  Sarah and I would fly to Vietnam, where we would meet Sarah’s friend Liz, who lives in Shanghai.  I had met Liz when she came to Eugene a few years ago (discovery of the squash soup!) and was excited to hang out with her in her city this time.  We would meet DT in Shanghai, say goodbye to Liz, and then spend a week teaching polymer classes in Jinan.  Let’s just say that this would be a learning experience for me as well.  The following few days we would visit Xi’an and Beijing before returning to the US.

Our journey began with an epic 24 hours of traveling.  We broke it down into six steps to make it seem less overwhelming:

Step 1:  Drive to Portland with ZK.  He would keep my car while we were gone in exchange for taking us to the airport.

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After sitting through traffic and a hail storm, we still made it to Portland early enough to grab some last American food at the strip mall near PDX.

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Yeah, that map – not so helpful this trip.

Step 2:  Fly to Seattle.  Wait about 4 hours to depart at 2 am (yes we realized we could have driven to Seattle during this time).CIMG0892

Step 3:  Fly across the Pacific to Taiwan.  This wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.  Due to extreme tiredness leading up to our departure and the help of a dramamine, I was so konked out that I missed dinner service entirely.  After sleeping for about 6 hours, there were only about 6 hours left of the flight!  Not bad at all.CIMG0893

Good thing I woke up in time for breakfast.  At 3:30 am we were served fish porridge.  YUM.  And this gem:CIMG0894

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You really don’t want to know what fish floss is.

Step 4:  Taiwan to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  No problems there.CIMG0896

Step 5:  Ho Chi Minh to Phu Quoc island.  This was the doozy.  Well, getting to Step 5 was the hard part, the actual plane ride was short and enjoyable.

The problem was that we had to retrieve our bags from baggage claim, go through customs, ask for directions, RUN across to the domestic terminal, recheck our bags, go through security, and find the gate, all in about an hour in insane heat and 110% humidity.  Not fun.  I was very nervous we weren’t going to get there in time (which would have been my fault since I picked what time our next flight would leave), but it all worked out, and the airline gave us wet towelettes to clean up with.

This is me being upset that I got my glasses knocked off by a lady with a bouquet and Sarah’s I-would-kill-for-a-bobby-pin-right-about-now face:CIMG0897

Step 6:  Airport shuttle to Mango Bay Resort.  Welcome to Vietnam!  This was a crazy ride through red-dirt roads, dodging between bicycles, motorbikes, cars, pedestrians, cattle, dogs… I thought it was nuts, but I had no idea what would be coming in the following weeks.  We drove out of the city and through the jungle right to the ocean’s edge:CIMG0900

Hooray, we made it!  All in all, not so bad.  Liz was waiting for us at the resort’s bar/restaurant, which was open-air and had an amazing view of the ocean.  Everyone at the resort was happy to see that Liz would not “be boring” without us any more (she arrived a day earlier).

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