Lost Luggage

Today I’d like to share with you a story about some of my recent travel adventures. As you might guess, my adventures have something to do with luggage. How many of you have travelled internationally recently?

Men have it easy. You can pack deodorant, a pair of pants, a t-shirt, and 7 pair of underwear into an overnight case for a week-long trip. You know that your hotel will have shampoo and soap and a comb. Not so with we women. Before the heavy duty restrictions on luggage, I used to travel with 3 suitcases: one for clothes, one for shoes, and one for toiletries (make up). Hah! Not any more. Now, I’ve had to learn to cram clothes, shoes, and make up into one small carry-on. I usually write out a list of everything I think I’m going to need on my trip, cut that in half, color coordinate my outfits, and select shoes and cosmetics that do double-duty.

For Chinese New Year, I planned a trip to Sri Lanka (a tiny island close to India). I knew it would be HOT and that I’d be changing hotels often, so I carefully packed summer clothes (shorts, t-shirts, sandals, swimsuit) and managed to fit everything, including my laptop, into a carry-on. Once in Sri Lanka, I started shopping. The gems and batik were easy to fit in my suitcase. The giant carved wooden masks, not so much. So, I purchased a duffle bag at the Kandy market and filled it up with exotic souvenirs. Two weeks later, I once again carefully packed most of my personal items into the carry-on and the masks, the laptop, and a few items of clothing into the duffle bag. Now, if you’ve never been to Sri Lanka, let me tell you, there is a lot of crime there. But, I was at an airport with armed guards everywhere, flying Srilankan airlines so I thought my luggage was safe. Think again. As I checked my one suitcase in, I had a strange feeling. Little did I know, watching my suitcase on the conveyer belt it was the last time I would see it.

My return flight stopped in Singapore where I changed planes to China Air. As I was checking in, something made me ask about my luggage; China Airlines could not find it on their system. It had disappeared. “It can’t really be gone”, I thought, “I just saw it a few hours ago.” China Airlines assured me they would do everything they could to find it. Now, 2 months, many, many phone calls and emails later, my luggage still has not been found. Apparently it grew legs and walked out of the Srilankan airlines cargo hold. The moral of this story? Do not check luggage if you can possibly help it, especially on an outbound flight from Sri Lanka!


If you think that my luggage adventures ended there, you’d be wrong. On a recent trip back to the US on China Eastern airlines, I had a 14-hour layover in Shanghai and the airline was paying for my hotel. Sounds like fun, right? It was, right up until it was time to leave to go back to the airport. My 2 bags (I guess I didn’t learn my lesson) were loaded into the very back of the hotel van. The driver got in and we headed to Pudong Airport. photo I was the only passenger that morning. The driver stopped by the China Eastern departures area and I went to get a cart for my luggage. And then it happened…the driver took off – with my luggage still in the back of the van!! I stood in disbelief and then thought “It can’t really be gone.” So, I was in a foreign country, at the airport with no luggage, and my flight was departing in 1.5 hours. It took me 10 minutes to find the right airline representative to explain my story to. Another 30 minutes for them to figure out the Chinese name and phone number of the OgOd hotel. (I knew the EN name, and the name of the street, but not the Chinese characters.) Finally, the airline representative called the hotel, and was put on hold. In the meantime, the airline was insisting that I check-in and board the plane. I checked-in (it’s easy with no luggage) but insisted I would not be leaving Shanghai without my luggage! Now what? Finally, the hotel talked with the airline rep but said they didn’t know when they could get the luggage back out to the airport. I asked the airline rep, as calmly as I could, to tell the hotel that I would go find a policeman and tell him that my luggage had been stolen. Within 15 minutes, my luggage was delivered to the airport and the airline had me RUN though the entire airport (it’s BIG) to my boarding gate. By some miracle, I made my flight! The moral of this story? Keep an eye on your luggage at all times, and do not check luggage if you can possibly help it.

Just back from the States….

Seems like forever since I’ve written anything and for that, dear readers, I apologize. Soon after my adventures in Sri Lanka (I promise to dish more on that later, in detail!), I needed to return to the US again: my Dad was scheduled for open heart surgery. It was a bit nerve wracking, especially since we had just lost Mom a few months back. I’m happy to report that Dad made it through the 12-hour procedure, 12 days in ICU, 10 days in a step-down unit, and 2 weeks in rehab and is now finishing finishing his recovery at home!

Sri Lanka 4 and beyond

Words you never want to have to say about a long-awaited vacation: I survived! With 4 days to go, I am finally relaxing at the beach (Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa).

Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna Beach

The Indian Ocean is a marvel: just as clear and aqua as you see in travel brochures. After a week and a half of too much driving and not enough sleep, I was able to spread a towel on untouched sand and listen to the sound of waves hitting the shore. Ahhhh, now that’s more like it. In the distance I could hear the sound of drums, part of a wedding celebration happening at the Sanmira hotel.

I’m writing this at the Thapraban Beach House, where I’m enjoying incredible views (and a strong wifi signal!) with my meal. Afterwards I’ll take a leisurely walk to the main street, checking out the shops along the way. Who knows, I may need to purchase those last few touristy gewgaws. Then I’ll take my life into my hands and flag down a tuktuk for a ride back to the hotel. Until my next post, wishing you all a very Happy Valentines Day!

Year of the Snake

It’s nearly Chinese New Year, that time of year when Taiwanese from all over the world return to their island home to celebrate the most important traditional holiday with their families. The decoration vendors are springing up all over the roadsides and alleys, their booths displaying bright red and gold items of every size and shape. CNY is supposed to mark the end of Winter but this year we’ve really had a super mild season. The sun’s been out for a couple of weeks now, with temperatures ranging from 16 to 23 degrees celsius. Last winter I had no cold-weather clothing and boy, was it cold! This year, I was prepared (hats, scarves, gloves, coats) so yeah, of course we have warm weather!

For the foreigners (and most everyone) CNY means a vacation – 9 days this year (Feb. 8 – 17), by government decree! And, it means food – lots of it – and money and gifts. The atmosphere is festive: my building lobby is all decorated up with red lanterns, lights, and golden snake images, and each floor still has its Christmas decorations out. Our annual Spring party will be held the week after CNY and folks are excited to see what sort of prizes (and cash) they could win.

I’ll be heading to Sri Lanka for 2 weeks to tour the island and learn to cook some Sri Lankan foods. I have my own personal guide/chauffeur: http://www.toursinsrilankabathiya.com/tour1.htm. The weather there is supposed to be HOT (34 degrees C); I’m hoping to come back with, at the very least, a tan and some amazing photos. I also want to shop for gems (spinel, sapphire, and zircon), batik cloth, and spices! My Asian adventure continues…Xin nian kuai le!

A hidden gem of a teahouse

A friend of mine just opened a teahouse, THÉ Beauté , (French for beautiful tea) and invited me to come check it out. He describes it as a “not traditional Taiwanese style,  more like a modern afternoon tea house”. Hmmmm, not sure what that means so I’ll just have to find out for myself…
If you think you know tea, you haven’t met Victor Yang! After a successful career in the high tech arena, he decided to make a change and has spent the past 5 years becoming a tea guru. Recently he opened a lovely shop, creating a tea experience where each little detail has been thoughtfully considered. His shop is sleek and elegant, every item custom-made: from the gorgeous menus, to the porcelain tea cups and hourglass timers for perfect tea temperature, to the tables and chairs covered in tea-colored velvet (what else?). What I love most about THÉ Beauté  is the education that comes with each cup of the world’s rarest tea. My favorite selection so far is called “Moonlight”. Picked only at night on a Sri Lankan mountain top, during a full moon in Spring, this brew smells as wonderful as it tastes! And there are only 5 venues in the world with access to these amazing leaves! If you’re hungry, try some of the locally-made tempting treats. (The fruit cubes are simply a little piece of sugared heaven!) A visit to THÉ Beauté promises not only a relaxing environment, but also tidbits of information about teas you may never have known existed. Enjoy!
The closest Metro station is brown line (文湖線) at Dazhi (大直) station, exit no.3. For detailed information (in Mandarin) see http://www.kireikan.com.tw/ .

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…