When Mordecai and I got married, 10 years ago this month, we dreamed of honeymooning in Thailand, where we’d heard that though the airfare is expensive, the hotels are cheap, and everything is breathtakingly beautiful. The trip never materialized, unfortunately, since we found ourselves saving money for aliyah, for a house, and for the expenses that come with having kids. We tentatively rescheduled the trip as a post-graduate school celebration, until I found myself pregnant with #3 just days after finishing my final semester. Plus, by then we were house-poor, after buying the house we wanted to fit all the kids. And so, we thought, maybe for our 10th anniversary…until real life once again got in the way.
And yet, in what can only be considered a divine twist of fate, I did step foot in Thailand this week, on my way to Macau, an island off the coast of China, which has been dubbed the Vegas of the Far East. Sound exotic? It is, sort of. I must admit that I dreamed of this trip for weeks, envisioning myself relaxing in my sprawling hotel bed and catching a glimpse of the beauty that is the Far East in between business meetings. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
Throughout my brief stay in Asia, I found myself surprisingly lonely (though I did enjoy the relaxation, I must admit). As the only one from my company that came, I didn’t have the companionship of others that I knew – and since I would consider myself slightly socially awkward, I didn’t quite ‘make friends’ until the second day; by then the conference was just about over. I didn’t have anyone to sit next to me on the hour ferry ride required just so I could say I was ‘in Hong Kong’, nor did I have anyone to bounce ideas off of when doing my souvenir shopping (and if you know me at all, you know I simply don’t shop well alone). And I certainly didn’t love taking self-portraits, or bothering others to photograph me.
I know you’re thinking…boo hoo, poor baby, stuck in an opulent, gilded, 70 sqm hotel room with a bathroom bigger than a bedroom in our home (seriously!). But it should be said on record, for those who don’t often have this experience – ‘exciting’ business trips aren’t always the non-stop party that those left behind are imagining (at least they’re not if you’re a conservative, over-tired and antisocial mother of five who keeps kosher and can’t make easy small talk over the shrimp cocktail or the open bar).
Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the experience – of course I did. Was it a once in a lifetime opportunity? Maybe. But I’m hoping that I’ll have the chance to visit the Far East, and that maybe next time, or some other time in the future, I’ll be able to share the experience with the people I love.
Lastly, a few things of note/interest that didn’t seem to make it into the text of the post:
– The ticket agent in Macau asked me if Tel Aviv is part of Thailand. That was certainly a new experience.
– I got my spicy mayo confiscated at security in Macau, but not in Tel Aviv or Bangkok. They spent about 7 minutes looking for the ‘other’ liquid in my bag. What they didn’t realize is that I got Azi liquid soap in a car-shaped container…so they kept finding it, but not realizing. And no, I didn’t tell them.
– The ‘Far East’ doesn’t seem so ‘far’ when it’s 10 hours from Tel Aviv to Thailand, and 12 hours to New York.
– People in Macau and Hong Kong seem to drink a ton, but there are no souvenir shot glasses to be found. Perhaps more interesting is that apparently in Asia, ‘shotglass’ sounds like ‘chocolate’. Every time I asked for a shot glass, they sent me to the chocolate section…until Mordecai emailed me a picture of a shot glass to show the store workers. When I finally found one in Bangkok, I had to cough up $12 USD. For a glass shot glass. Definitely the most expensive one I’ve ever bought.
– It’s REALLY weird (and I mean intensely, ridiculously bizarre) to be on an El Al flight that is not filled with families, charedim and hat boxes flying everywhere.
– Haagen Dazs, like Coke, seems to be kosher worldwide. The server in the Haagen Dasz store in my hotel even knew what I was asking for when I asked to see the box of the ice cream crate. She asked if I was kosher, and pointed to the OU. Then she proceeded to serve me ice cream in a round bowl…with a square fork. (Needless to say, scooping was not as easy as it should have been).
– Apparently people find it weird that mothers with children travel for work (or even work). I can’t help but wonder why that would be OK for men, but not women? (Note: at least 75% of the 1,200 conference attendees were men. Is it the business, or the fact that women should be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen?)
– It’s very common to see Asian people walking around randomly with medical face masks. And it’s also oddly frightening. Do they have SARS? Or are they afraid of catching it from those of us dumb enough not to wear face masks? One of life’s as of yet unsolved mysteries. I guess we’ll find out if I start coughing tomorrow.