Through the Big Door - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

October 27, 2016

Through the Big Door

Portland to Hanoi

Dear little friends,

I don’t think this is uncommon but it really does suck when you can’t sleep the night before a trip. Yet there I was, up to my usual tricks, fretting about alarm clocks, baggage, shuttles, visas, the cat, my (grownup) kids, and so on while Bruce peacefully snoozed away. It’s annoying, is what it is.

When it’s all said and done, it is odd how much I can obsess over the details around the starting of a trip, then pretty much burn out of that mode once I’m actually where I was going to. But you have to admit it, the liminal qualities of transporting yourself to the other side of the world are vivid and bear describing. You start out one place and you end up in another place, a process our ancestors would never have dreamed probable.

So, the alarm clock went off as it should have with OPB’s Geoff Norcross reciting his, “It’s 7:01….(dramatic pause)...the news is next” mantra. All over the region commuters in their cars recite “the news is next” with him. And so did I, and then followed with a big long back stretch to prepare for many hours of cramped sitting.

Of course we need all this stuff! Why do you ask?
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Jeff and Kristen Arnim, when they aren’t riding their own bikes hither and yon, can sometimes be found at our house in Portland between all of their other interesting pastimes of sailing, construction, sleeping in a van down by the river, working at a farm, and building industrial grade websites. They needed a winter to work and settle a little, we needed a cat and house sitter. Perfect.

Plus, they could take us to the airport in their nifty Vanagon van.

On to the airport in the JeffandKristen mobile.
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Boxes safely delivered to the Delta queue.
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With the help of our buff young friend.
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The Delta staff arched their eyebrows at our funky striped bags and had us sign some kind of waiver, what is up with that? But everything was under the maximum weight, and we were through security and onto our first leg to Tokyo. I tried to nap but that was futile so when the flight tracker on my screen showed we were over Alaska I opened the window shade and there we were over a giant glacier, my first glimpse of Alaska in stunning snowy detail.

Wait. Is that Denali out there?
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And Russia! We flew over Russia! Every other Asia-bound flight has been from LA or San Francisco over open water so this was fantastic, the furthest north I’ve ever been.

Unfortunately our flight out of Portland was delayed so my hopes of using the amazing Japanese toilets in the Narita airport were dashed and so were we, dashing to our gate but oh, first we have to go through another security screening! Airport staff exhorted us to make our gate “Bangkok! This way!” And we skidded into our next claustrophobic seat.

Tick, tick, my little cheat sheet of details pertaining to getting us to Hanoi were getting crossed off. The shuttle to Don Muang airport to catch our last flight. The sleepy hours of lounging in a nearly silent airport until the agent desks opened at 3 am. The sticker shock of Air Asia’s baggage weight policy (a topic well-covered in bike travel forums so I am not going to add to it except to say, “Don’t fly Air Asia unless you only travel with a toothbrush and a pair of underwear”). By this time the exhaustion was really kicking in. I vaguely remember the plane going down the runway, I’m pretty sure I was asleep before it was airborne.

So by this time, things get woozy and you are asking yourself why the hell you even wanted to do this thing. The Liminal Door of Perception Askew that knocks even the hardiest traveler back a little. Jet lag makes you feel like something is terribly wrong because the sun is shining and your circadian alarms are all set to 11.

Our hotel is on a lane too narrow for the shuttle van, so everything was left out on the nearby street. And it's about 97 degrees with 90% humidity.
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The Real Hanoi Hotel.
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Oh man was it hot in Hanoi, and it was only 8:30 in the morning. The quaint alley our hotel is on was too tiny for our shuttle van so we and the lovely ladies at the Real Hanoi Hotel had to carry our heavy stuff down to their tiny lobby where they kindly stashed our boxes and led us up FIVE flights of stairs to our room with the little balcony.

One shower, two impromptu English lessons, a Bun Cha lunch down the street, an overpriced sandal repair, and one more time up those flights of stairs, and we were done. I fell asleep at 3 pm and Bruce was not far behind and we slept for 14 hours, or rather, Bruce slept for 14 hours and I woke up and fretted about routes, Vietnamese phrases and their proper pronunciation, currency conversions.

Our first encounter with Bun Cha. A new top favorite food ever.
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Coffee brews slowly in Vietnam, which makes us slow down and chill with everybody else in the coffee house.
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The next morning we were safely through the Liminal Door of Perception Askew and the heat seemed a bit less oppressive, the coffee so delicious, the streets charming and beckoning instead of insane. We will return to Hanoi after exploring the northeast, so we are saving exploration of it until later. Our first job was to release the bikes from their boxes, no small task as we had about five square feet of floor space with which to work that miracle. The patient staff smilingly slid around and over us as we worked with no complaining whatsoever.

A temple grounds in Hanoi.
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Assembling the bikes in the miniscule lobby. Space is at a premium in Hanoi, and buildings are short of square footage and long on height so we will be climbing lots and lots of character-building stairs.
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Our little bikes are stashed in the lobby, one decorated with a beautiful red silk rose by the lady who makes breakfast for the hotel. We managed to stay awake until nearly 9, after a beer out on our little balcony. It is 3:18 am and I am up writing this and Bruce is snoozing peacefully, so obviously the Liminal Door of Perception Askew will have some lingering effects for SOME of us. There are invisible mosquitoes biting my elbows but it’s no sacrifice. I do it all for you.

Tomorrow we ride.

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Ron SuchanekI googled it but no luck.... please explain Liminal Door of Perception Askew
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2 years ago
Andrea BrownTo Ron SuchanekThe key word here to google is Liminal: "occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold". For me, jet lag can feel like I am on both sides of that threshold, plus the doorway is skewed and strange, the key doesn't fit, and the bonus sleep deprivation makes everything oddly strange and heavy but also fascinating and enervating. Sometimes it takes me several days to sleep normally again. It's very vivid.
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2 years ago