Monday, April 25, 2011

Random Photo: Mekong Delta

Those who only give the Mekong Delta a $10 or $15 from Saigon only get a brief look at Ben Tre, which is nice enough but stuffed with visitors (though this shot is from that area). Lost over the past decade is how much easier it's become to visit the delta on your own -- using buses, hiring moto-taxis to go over ferries and roads not on maps. In some cases, as the one above, I had a boat and a driver to myself -- and saw about five tourists in a full week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

World's Worst Jet Lag Flight?

We all have our little tricks to minimize jet lag. Wearing blinders during day-hours en route. Sleep deprivation before a flight, followed by heavy doses of sleeping pills and on-board napping. Serious devotion to hydration. Magic. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn't. Jet lag is something we sort of have to live with.

But what's the worst flight for it? Maybe that monster 19-hour Newark-Singapore flight?

No. Any New York to California flight is the world's worst for jet lag. Seriously. And I can prove it, in a way.

When I fly west from New York, I take the first flight available (eg I fly to San Francisco at 6am this Sunday). Which means I'm usually up at 3am to get to the airport in time (I travel a lot, but I still show up very early -- I'm weird that way). That's midnight on the West Coast.

After landing at 11am (2pm EST) or noon (3pm EST), I meet people and do some talking and joking, get a burrito, a beer, and eventually stay up till midnight, at the minimum. Meaning I don't crash till after 3am New York time.

That's at least 24 straight waking hours.

No other flight I've ever taken am I up for more consecutive hours -- certainly not the Newark-Singapore flight, which I've done a couple times. And adjusting to the domestic jet lag of a NYC-SF flight takes me far longer than it should (gramma's rule: one day per time zone clicked).

Sure, I should sleep on the plane. But I never do. Maybe I should try more magic.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Random Photo: More Rush

I've long believed there are five principal reasons we travel: to see people we know ('telephone travel'), to veg out ('TV travel'), to learn stuff or work ('ABC travel'), to stack up places visited ('tick-off travel') and to get experiences merely to boast about later ('show-off travel'). So I'm going to show off a bit. There's me, above, sitting at the Rush offices in Toronto surrounded by awards and gold records. Serious cocktail-party fodder right there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rush! Live!!

Every time I hear a Rush song -- which is often -- I fall into a sad silence. Of triumphs unclaimed. Possibilities deflated. Failures realized.

It's not simple sentimentality, but the '76-Second Travel Show' episode that never was.

A few months ago I went to Rush's hometown Toronto and 'followed the band' -- with stops at the Rush office, Alex Lifeson's club, Alex and Geddy Lee's favorite sandwich shop and high school, and -- most memorably -- the suburban high school where they shot their quintessentially Rush video 'Subdivisions'; the principal suggested they do a Rush musical and invite me back, we talked while going through old yearbooks to find the subject of the video, Dave Glover, whom I'd later meet for coffee to talk Rush, rock, teen life and the meanings of that song's immortal line 'conform or be cast out.' He had a lot to say on it.

But my external mic had a short. Essentially all of the footage was lost.

As part of my healing process, I saw Rush for the first time in 25 years Sunday. I joined a sea of goatees, Giants jerseys, tummy pudge, raised fists and guys willing to sing along to songs from days long after Rush's albums started to mean less and less.

Rush have funny fans. Even in my peak Rush days, I was never sure I qualified as a 'Rush fan.' It takes a special quality to accept the band's distrust of anything resembling danceable rhythm, along with impossible time signatures, 12-minute songs and lyrics dealing with black holes, necromancers, Kubla Khan and Ayn Rand. Rush fans? Mostly male dorks in their 30s and 40s. And very very very few, if any, women.

In Toronto, a local fan -- and there weren't as many as you'd expect -- explained that the lyrics were 'too smart' for women. But it's not true! (Watch this stunner scene of young models dancing to Rush in BRAZIL.) And I was happy to see several women at Madison Square Garden, singing along to some songs and even swaying to brief moments when drummer Neil Peart stooped to the 4/4 beat.

Still, my lost interview with Dave Glover really smarts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random Photo: Me & a Mountie

The first time I went to Canada was at age nine on Canada Day. In the morning my gerbil Steve bit my finger, and I fainted waiting for a band aid. After a plane change in Denver, and a drive from Calgary, I found myself in Banff. The mountains were superb -- I still gauge all mountains in how they compare with Canada's Rockies -- but I was looking for something else: a mountie.

Last week, at a Canadian Tourism Conference in New York, I finally met one from Saskatchewan, and he had a spare outfit.

Forgive the crappy quality of the photo. Sometimes the biggest hearts are a little fuzzy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Royal London: Lonely Planet video

Recently I had the chance to search out royal sites around London with Tom Hall, Lonely Planet's UK Travel Editor. The video takes in Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, of course, but also drops by Scott the Horse and the best, and most historically accurate, way of reaching the Tower of London. There's more tips on seeing the sites in this piece I did for Lonely Planet.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Random Photo: Anti-Fun Bulgarian Town

This Bulgarian town near the Black Sea is pretty much against all fun. Or at least adults, children, balls, homes and means of transport. I guess video games are cool?