Asia Here I Come – But it’s been a Rollercoaster and it Continues

Asia Here I Come  – But it’s been a Rollercoaster and it Continues
This has been a more than hard week. I want to pay my respects to Chip Fawcett, my son’s father, who died last Sunday. He was a special man and Miles, Myrna (his widow) and I, plus other members of his family were by his side to salute him as he eased into a “better place.”  This time next week, I’m scheduled to be jetting off to Asia. I’ve considered axing it. But my son Miles is insisting I go. He’s aware of my deep affinity for that part of the world.  Miles feels I shouldn’t cancel a trip that’s been in the works for more than six months. I’m going with a Toby, a woman who’s an extended member of our family and with whom I’ve traveled before. The first stop on this marathon is Seoul, South Korea. It’s not that I’ve had a deep and dirty yen to visit this country. But, since we’ll be flying from New York, Seoul is a good spot to acclimate to the time change. We’ll have time to take a quick look-see, explore the tiny streets and alleys in the city’s market that people report deserves exploring and 30 hours later, proceed to Bangkok on our way to Laos. Or so we thought and still hope. As of today, the airport is closed, a battle is brewing and there’s general unrest. Tourists are unable to fly to the main international airport. Some planes are landing and taking off at an auxiliary airport. But the situation is a mess in so many ways. When the news broke over the radio and TV, I could sense impending trouble. The first call I made was to Sivan, our travel agent at Imperial American Express Travel Services. Within minutes, she had made additional reservations via Hanoi, Vietnam. At the same time, she advised us to wait and evaluate the travel situation until after the Thanksgiving holiday and it’s still in flux. This is when you’re grateful for a really competent travel consultant who doesn’t flinch after receiving high-stress emails or semi-hysterical phone calls. Traveling between Paris and Washington, DC is one thing. But a trip across Asia with late-minute changes requires a pro, who has immediate access to all of the booking engines and can accomplish things with the click of a mouse. OK – I can (try to) be laid back but it’s not really my style. And if it were mine, it isn’t Vietnam’s. Visitors are required to have a visa to enter the country and it doesn’t come fast or cheap. A passport expeditor said he’d get the visas within 24 hours. But we’d be required to supply proof of flights and confirmation of hotel rooms. Thank goodness for the Internet … but who needs the drama, trauma and the stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Vietnam. But we’ve been there three times in the past three years and wanted to see Bangkok this go-around. Thailand has already experienced a dramatic drop in tourism. This isn’t helping the situation to be sure. Then again, who wants to go to a country in the midst of civil disobedience? I’ve contacted people I know living or working in Thailand. They have responded it’s safe to come to Bangkok. The media tends to loop video segments dramatizing the situation. However, landing at the airport may prove problematic, no matter what my friends have to say. Yes, I will use my city smarts, be on the lookout for pickpockets and people up to no good. And if the flights are taking off and landing, I’ll request a hotel car meet us. There are times it’s worth the extra money to have an extra barrier of protection. If we go to Bangkok, know you’ll hear more about the experience. And yes, we’ll definitely register with the Embassy. There are other options we’re exploring and are waiting to make the final decision. If we go via Singapore, we don’t need visas and I’ve reserved hotel room that can be cancelled. We’ll return and spend a night and two full days in Bangkok after our time in Laos. Some people have called to say they think we should cancel the trip considering what is taking place in Mumbai, India. I am in mourning over the situation. It’s tragic. But I will never allow terrorists to impact my travels. It’s important to be prudent. However, there’s probably a greater chance I’ll be killed crossing the street than finding myself in the midst of a terrorist attack. © Paris New Media, LLC [email protected]
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Karen is the original founder and former president of Bonjour Paris. Follow her musings on Substack.