Milan was never high on the list of destinations - not because its not worthy, but because Italy offers so many other places. We're going due to geography - its a great place to rent a car and drive around Italy and Switzerland. So, that's what we're doing over the next 10 days or so.
Judging from the people boarding the plane, Milan should be interesting in a way that exposes our complete lack of euro-fashion sense. The city is one of the world's fashion capitals. I already feel like I'm not nearly cool enough for Milan - and we're still in Prague.
In Chiang Mai, we were offered two options to get to Luang Prabang, Laos. The slow boat would take a couple of days where you sit on a wooden plank for 10 hours per day and can't lean back on the metal siding because the sun makes it too hot to touch (though we've heard varied stories). Or fly in 50 minutes on Lao Airlines. We chose to fly.
As the plane took off I read our Rough Guide to Southeast Asia's instructions for getting around by planes. Here's what I read to Lee:
Most Western embassies still have travel advisories warning against flying Lao airlines. For some travellers flying Lao Airlines demonstrates bravado, but it's not really something you want to do unless you absolutely have to.
We made it just fine. Our bravado now seems to be unstoppable.
This has been a pretty high pressure morning, thanks to our ignorance of business closings on May Day yesterday.
You see, we really needed to get a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) for economical bullet train travel around Japan. It is only possible to purchase a JR Pass *outside* of Japan and we planned to buy them in Bangkok. We carefully planned our time in Bangkok to have a weekday for acquiring said pass. As noted previously, the May Day holiday through a monkey wrench into the plan- all travel agencies were closed.
So, this morning the goal was to take the SkyTrain at rush hour (with our backpacks), find the travel agency somewhere on the busy Silom Rd. that opened at 8:30, get the pass and make our 11am flight to Tokyo, JR Pass in hand. Delays in getting the pass or traffic could have caused us to miss the flight and not getting the JR would have cost us hundreds of dollars extra in travel. Stakes were high.
Things this morning went hurriedly, sweatily and luckily quite smoothly and here we are with our boarding pass and JR Pass safely in hand, ready for Tokyo.
One quick note: We were amazed and a bit worried when we tried to board the first train this morning. The doors opened to reveal people packed in like sardines- you could see that the opening of the doors gave them a little relief. We looked in there, then at our backpacks, and let that train go. When the next one came, I remembered watching the men board the train in Mumbai, India and as soon as the doors opened, we pushed in and made room for ourselves, much to the dismay of the man behind Sachi, who pushed her for the rest of the eerily silent ride. If nothing else, we're becoming more aware of what it means to give up person space to things done.