a busy month at home, we're back on the road, headed for Southeast
Asia. This part of the trip promises some of the most exotic and
exciting destinations, activities, and travel modes of our year off.
It also includes the longest as yet completely unplanned segment.
Here's the overall schedule:
This is our fourth time to
Thailand (third for the kids), now tied with Australia as our
most-visited, and indeed favorite, travel destination. In the past
we've loved the food, people, scenery, wildlife, and incredibly low
prices. It will be interesting to see some other Southeast
Asian countries this time, a little more off the beaten track. (As an aside, the
"fourth time" realization triggered a tally of other repeat vacation destinations: three times to Baja, Belize, Hawaii, and New Zealand; twice to Alaska, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, and
- A week in the popular
tourist destination of Phuket
Thailand. Tim and Emily will take a four-day scuba course, while Alex
and Jennifer -- already scuba certified -- will gather massive provisions and
generally get us ready for the long sailboat cruise. (As can be seen from
photo 1, we did bring a few critical food items form home.)
- Two months sailing the
Andaman Ocean on Cyrene, a 36-foot "performance cruising"
catamaran. We'll visit a number of Thai islands, but
the big excitement is two international destinations: India's
Andaman Islands, and Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago.
We've had many sailing
vacations in the past, once even renting the very boat we're taking
We consider ourselves competent sailors and comfortable living on a
boat, but this time there will be significant differences: Our
previous charters were typically about 10 days, and our longest
anchorages were day-sails. The crossing between Thailand and the
is about 60 hours, winds permitting. (Major storms at this time of year are
exceedingly rare, the last one being 75 years ago. It's too-little
wind we need to worry about, but even that scenario is unlikely -- it's
a reliable place to sail.) In a first-ever breach of our family's "no
traveling companions" policy, for the long crossings we're bringing
along a third adult -- seasoned-traveler friend and Stanford colleague Jean-Claude Latombe -- to share the night watches.
Except for the two
major crossings, we'll always be near islands or coast. One misconception is
that sailing trips are about sailing. We don't actually spend all that
much time on the boat -- we're either enjoying
the water and reefs, or exploring remote beaches and islands. A
sailboat is nothing more than an ocean-going motorhome, or
maybe it's the other way around.
- After the sailing we'll
head to Bangkok to get ourselves organized for the remainder of our
time in Southeast Asia. We'll find a hotel where we can leave our
sailing and diving gear (photo 2), the piano keyboard (visible in photo
3), and myriad other
comfort items (some in photo 4) that we'll have room for on the boat
but not when we're
traveling backpacker-style. (After much debate and to his great
disappointment, Tim's french horn stayed home.) You can see from photo
3 that we didn't skimp whatsoever on books this time, although we'll
jettison (not literally!) many of them after they're read.
- Our tentative plan for
the last 4-5 weeks is to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, but we're
open to other options. We tried a little travel-by-whim when we were in
Europe, and it pretty much worked, although perhaps by the time late April rolls
around we'll have a better idea where we want to go. Our only constraint is returning to Bangkok for our flight home on June 1.
Our month at home was considerably more hectic than the previous visit
in October. In addition to preparing for the most complex part of our
travels, we headed out of town for two of the four weekends we were home:
We couldn't miss ski season in the Sierras, and Jennifer traveled to
Champaign, Illinois to celebrate a close friend's landmark birthday.
The rest of the time the kids went to school while Alex and Jennifer
worked. School was even smoother this time than in October: Emily's
visit coincided with two interesting 5th grade projects, not to mention
her last elementary school Valentine's Day (quite a candy-filled
occasion these days, for better or worse). Tim was discouraged initially
when he was dumped into the yearbook elective that nobody else wanted, but
he ended up liking it well enough, and that class even threw a little send-off
party on his last day. We enjoyed being home for the California primary, although our family allegiances were split (or, more
accurately, waffling). Emily declared her preference by seeing
Hillary Clinton at a rally in San Jose. We rounded off our home stay with music
lessons, soccer (Emily), and ice hockey (Tim), once again keeping us in
touch with suburban lifestyle.
California winter temperatures are admittedly mild compared to other
parts of the U.S, but we still felt chilly coming from summertime in
South America. Southeast Asia promises to be truly tropical. If all goes
well, the next travelog will be dispatched from a poolside lounge chair in