Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Home again...

May 19/09...

May 18th was the longest day I've had in a looong time... through the wonders of time zones and the international date line, our plane actually touched down in Vancouver a half hour BEFORE it left Hong Kong! Sure didn't feel like it though.

We left Hong Kong at 12:15pm on Monday May 18th and had a relatively smooth 4-hour flight to Seoul, where we quickly transferred to another plane to go back to Vancouver... this flight was scheduled for just over 10 hours, but due to some favourable tailwinds we arrived in just over 9 hours... unfortunately, despite cold pills, gravols, melatonin strips and beers, I did not get one wink of sleep on this flight... but the beers did help me fight off a good case of the "lemme out lemme out lemme out's" about halfway through the flight.

Off the plane, and I was hoping straight onto another... however the cheapest flight from Van to Vic was coming on $200 (!!) so I sucked it up and joined my tourmates to split a limo to the ferry terminal and a walk-on.... got the 2pm boat and had a very excited boy and wife waiting for me on the other end... I tried to be excited too, but all the adrenaline in the world couldn't overcome how bloody exhausted I was, so I smiled and hugged and asked very nicely and quietly for them to get me home as quickly as possible.

I always find the time change worse coming home from the far east than going there... I was hoping to mitigate that somewhat by getting some shuteye during the flight, but I should've known better, I rarely sleep on planes. So, 4pm at home, in my comfy chair... handed out gifts to Mick & Steve, then enjoyed the chicken & 4-cheese lasagna they made as a welcome home dinner... but then try as I might to stay awake until normal bedtime, I was passing out by 6:30pm... went to bed, and woke up about 3:30am. So the plan is to have as normal a day as possible and force myself to stay awake until at least 10pm tonight... wish me luck.

Closing thoughts... this was a great tour... the best tour, really... I've been on quite a few over the years and always by the time we're done I'm glad to get the hell away from the group... although I was very anxious to see my family again, I was happy to pass around hugs and well wishes and be truly sincere in looking forward to seeing them again in September when I return as this choir's conductor.

There was some thought that perhaps Prima's touring tradition might go by the wayside when I take over... but clearly it is such an important aspect of this group that there's no way I could let it go... so I am really looking forward to learning a new set of skills as I add tour organizer to my list of conductor duties. Won't likely be an overseas tour this coming year, maybe a bus trip down into the U.S. or across our fine nation... but there will be a Prima Tour 2010! Thanks for visiting this blog, I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures in southeast Asia. Signing off...

Wade Noble

Edit 2009-05-26... been home a week now, finally feeling like I've adjusted to home timezone. Going through pictures, what's posted to the blog is only a few of what I took. I used the iPhone for all of them, which resulted in some not-so-great shots, but you get the idea. If you'd like to browse through all of them, please visit http://photoshare.shaw.ca/gallery/wadenoble/

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hong Kong & Disneyland!

May 18/09...

The iPhone blogging software has been misbehaving and I completely lost Saturday's post, so am summarizing it in the beginning of Sunday's entry which I'm working on now (Monday morning).

Saturday was pretty uneventful, Rick & I took the subway to Mong Kok where there used to be excellent tech shopping, no longer though... still lots of tech shops here but the selection isn't what it used to be, and the prices were nothing special, so we didn't buy much.

We wandered around some more, checked out the Hong Kong Space Centre, and visited a bar we thought was a strip bar, but by the time we got to the bar we each had 4-5 women hanging off us and the bar clearly had a different purpose than just show... yoicks! We beetled out of there two steps at a time!

The rest of our Saturday was significantly less eventful!

So it turns out that Disney opened up a park in Hong Kong, so of course being the Magical Kingdom nut that I am, I had to go!

Rick, Andrew & I left around 7:30am for a 40 minute subway ride that involved two line changes. The final line change was clearly owned or at least funded by Disney as the train had mouse-shaped windows and character statues in the cars.

We arrived not long after 8am only to find the park didn't open until 10am, would have been nice if the hotel concierge could have told us this (isn't that his job to know stuff like that?) but we had a good time regardless hanging around listening to Disney music and chucking shyte.

Once we got in, we found it to be... well... Disney... lite. Hong Kong Disney is built on a much smaller scale than Anaheim, where we get our normal Disney fix. The castle is about 2/3 the size of the original...

... and there are far fewer attractions. The only thrillride is Space Mountain, no Splash, Matterhorn, or Big Thunder... no Indiana Jones or Star Wars... no Frontier Land, no New Orleans, no Toon Town... the list goes on... disappointing, but it was still Disney and it was in freaking Hong Kong! Would I visit Hong Kong just for Disney? Not on your life! Would I spend a day there if I happened to be in Hong Kong with some free time? Sure, why not, it was a fun day and crowds were as small as I've ever seen so even with multiple rides on Space Mountain it wasn't difficult to fit the entire park in a one day visit.

The staff were all Asian, the snack of choice was dried squid rather than churros and although the Disney princesses were white (except Mulan of course) they all spoke Cantonese! Whacky... but it still had that very clean "happiest place on earth" kinda feel to it.

We had to leave well before the closing fireworks as we had a tour dinner to attend, but it was a very full and enjoyable day!

The tour banquet is an important touring tradition, and a great way to close the tour. The highlight of the event is the Tour Awards, where a small representative community creates funny but kind "cheap shot" awards for everyone. Mine had to do with my uncanny ability to keep my wits about me in leadership situations even when under the influence of alcohol, I refer you to a past post about the Heritage Village in Sokcho, SK.

Was a great evening, but I was exhausted when it was done and went straight back to my room to get packed and off to sleep.

It's Monday morning now & I'm hastening to get this done before boarding the plane. I can't wait to see Mick & Steve again!

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Last performace day

May 14/09...

Today was a long day... up at 5am in order to make it to the school by 7am. We didn't actually need to be there until 9am, but the school's about 10km out of town and the only real way pf getting there was to go in with our host student who has early class.

We had two shows at the school, one for the primary/intermediate students, then one for the secondary kids. Both were well met with much enthusiasm from both the audience and our ailing choir (by now most of the choir has caught the "tour cold"... I'm next).

We then bussed into town to the "old" school campus which now houses a large church, had a couple hours free time to eat/rest/wander, then our final concert of the tour, significant for two reasons as it was the last time Bruce conducted Prima. The concert went well, then Rick & I made our way home via skytrain & taxi in the pouring rain.

I think I'm catching the tour cold, had a few sneezing attacks and some tickling in my chest... we'll see tomorrow I guess, at least I got all our shows out of the way first.

When I got home the tux I ordered yesterday had arrived. Tried on the jacket & vest, they fit great and are very light, will make fine working duds.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bangkok, home of the real tuktuk

May 13th/09...

We were out the door at 8am to meet the group at Siam Station... bit of confusion around where we were supposed to meet (Siam Station is pretty big) but eventually we all met up, not sure why we bothered, all we did was take the train to the river where we all caught a riverboat and then split up to do our own thing... coulda just done that from the start and not wasted an hour & a half waiting around... but such is the nature of the beast when touring in a herd.

Alex, Greg & I went off on our own to check out some Buddhas...

... we were taken under wing by a kindly Thai woman who told us she was vacationing from Chang Mai, but we were sure that was just her cover story and she was really on staff at Voglee Export Tailors where we ended up after a tuktuk ride to visit the white Buddha.

I ended up ordering a three-piece tuxedo (dinner jacket, pants, vest, tie plus 2 shirts), custom-made in Cashmere to my measurements not taken from a rack and altered, for the equivalent of $430 Cdn... easily a $2000 minimum at home. Can't really afford, but too good to pass up.

We had another pointless check-in, we thought for an organized dinner, instead it was a confusing train ride, a hot & wet 2 km walk to the night market and then we were on our own again... granted I was planning on going there anyway, but would also have liked to hit the MBK, a wholesale electronics market as well and would have had time if not having wasted it doing pointless herd stuff... oh well, that's enough bitching for me.

Rick and I had a great tuktuk ride from the night market to Siam Station...

... where we teed up with our host student and we made our way back home, had some enjoyable visiting time with him and his dad, then hit the rack for some much needed sleep.

Today I was up @ 5am, for a 6am departure for the school, where we're doing some performances & workshops, then a nighttime concert, probably won't post anything as what I've put here is pretty much the extent of our day.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On the road to Bangkok

May 12/09...

At the Siem Reap airport, checked in and waiting to board the plane (not for another hour yet)... no internet signal so this will be posted later.

I managed a skype call to Dad before we left the Jasmine Lodge... Mom's catscan came up clear, so that's a huge weight off my chest.

Feeling a bit stressed from yesterday, will have to find something ridiculously fun to do when we land to let off some steam. I'm thinking it may be time to rent a motorcycle and get some proper wind in my face. .

Ok, we're in Bangkok now... Rick & I are rooming together at a high school senior's place by the name of Lucky. All of our homestays here will be quite wealthy people, as the host organization is a high-end private school. We're staying in an 8th floor condo (the entire 8th floor)... haven't met Lucky's folks yet, theoreticall will do so sometime before dinner @ 7pm. We were picked up by a chauffeur and when we got home we were brought a plate of guava slices by the... maid... this will be a new experience.

We went out for a walk to explore the area and soon found out that the residents probably don't go out by foot around here... at ground level, it's a pretty seedy area.

More later... ?

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, May 11, 2009

Angkor Wat... helluva day

Well, today started early as I posted in my last entry... very quick busride to Angkor Wat... not just one temple but a whole archeological site.

Had a great time poking around the ruins spread out over three main sites.

The first site was very majestic, multi-level, in pretty good shape...

The second site is on a smaller scale, and is being restored by a team of international archeologists. Up on top was a group of women in Cambodian traditional outfits with a fellow offering to take pictures for a small donation.

There were also elephants here that one could get rides on going up the hill to another temple which is a popular place to watch the sun set.

The highlight of this first outing of the day was the third ruins which were not restored but left in their original state. The fascinating thing about this place are the huge trees growing through the ruins, which are in many cases actually supporting the temple.

From here we went back to the lodge to clean up and grab some lunch.

There was an optional trip to a silk factory which I skipped in favour of a quiet afternoon.

I phoned Powell River to wish my mom Happy Mother's Day, only to find that she has been admitted to hospital with a severe headache and is being shipped by ambulance tomorrow to Courtenay for a catscan to check if her cancer may have hit the brainstem. Suffice to say it was a difficult afternoon.

At 4:30pm most of us (28 of 40) bussed back to the Angkor Wat site where some walked up the hill the aforementioned sunset temple. With Mom in the hospital I couldn't not go via elephant so I bought a return ticket up the hill. Elephants move with a very rolling gate, so it was very difficult to get a decent picture.

Lovely shot of my foot on an elephant...

At the top of the hill, there were a ton of folks, I guess watching the sun set from that site is a popular thing. We gathered together and shared songs with a choir of Cambodian children, was a very powerful and moving moment.

I rode back downhill on my own elephant (shared with Rick on the way up) which gave me some much needed quiet time to reflect.

On our return to the hotel we were given 15 minutes to change then on the bus for a wrapup dinner for our Cambodian stay. Unfortunately the restaurant wasn't very good so dinner was somewhat anticlimactic.

Back to the lodge, several of our number had been drinking throughout most of the afternoon and were drunk enough to be a nuisance to the rest, and I was tasked with the responsibility of keeping order, oh joy.

I kept things relatively quiet and only had one particularly obnoxious drunk to deal with, then left them to their own devices not long after 11pm, been a long day.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Angkor Amazon.... ?!

So I decided to go with the herd and bus out to the dinner show after all... was very much like the buffet/luau type show you get in Hawaii... food was varied, plentiful and very good (although I ate quite sparingly, am finding in the heat my body treats me much nicer if I graze rather than eat large meals). Once folks are given an hour to eat the show starts... an exhibition of historical Khmer dance... very beautiful, although for my tastes it was not as exciting as I had hoped as most of the dances moved very slowly... impressive control though!

On our return Rick & I hit the racks, I was asleep not long after 9pm... good thing since wake-up this morning was 3:45am in order to fit in a Skype call (or voicemail message as it turned out) to my Mom and Mick.

We're leaving shortly for Angkor Wat in order to catch the sunrise there. More later...

-- Post From My iPhone