Tag Archives: travel

Missing Vietnam

Mosquito

Vietnam is a great place. The people are friendly, the architecture is charming, it’s amazingly safe, and the beaches are wonderful. It rained half the time I was there, but it was not so bad that I couldn’t explore the city. What surprised me about the trip was how cheap everything was. Food and drinks were cheap, especially compared to Seoul and other places I vacationed before. It was just insanity. I could see myself retiring there if my measly pension would not allow me to live in Seoul or Canada.

Another thing that surprised me was how safe I felt despite walking around in dark streets. I didn’t feel like I was gonna get mugged or kidnapped or anything. It’s more dangerous walking around in downtown Winnipeg. I was staying in a rural, touristy area, but compared to the rural areas I stayed at in the Philippines, my wife and I felt so much more secure. We felt fewer eyes looking at us.

What bothered me, however, was the apparent prejudice against Korean tourists. We stayed at Hoi An, the Old City. The place being a UNESCO heritage site, it is protected and needs maintenance. This requires funds from tourists, and some walkways welcome donations or have signs that ask people to present their tickets prior to passing. This policy appears to be enforced lackadaisically, as people just come and go without presenting any tickets or being asked to buy them. That is, unless you’re Korean. My wife and my sister-in-law’s family got asked to present their tickets, but not once was I asked. We also observed other tourists pass by and they don’t seem to be bothered by city officials. My wife and I thought it might be a colonial attitude, where white people are not hassled but other ethnicities are. But I wasn’t hassled, Chinese tourists weren’t hassled, it’s just the Korean tourists who were being asked for tickets. And we’re not crazy. We observed close by while having drinks. It seems like a scam, feels unjust, and was the only thing that really left a bad feeling in me.

That and the countless mosquito bites.

 

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Yay Dancing!

We passed by this one arcade during our vacation in Osaka. This dude and his group of dancers were always there. My wife suspects they are paid by the owners of the arcade in order to draw a crowd. I say it’s passion.

Back from vacation. I need to get back to working and making art soon. Unfortunately, reality hit me hard with a vengeance, along with a case of food poisoning the first meal I had when I got back. Of course, the doctor suspects days of alcohol plus heat fatigue might’ve contributed as well.

We’ve been to Tokyo several times but my wife enjoyed Osaka more than our Tokyo trips. It was her first time there and she finds the people friendlier, more relaxed, which is not to say that people in Tokyo aren’t friendly and relaxed at all. Osaka is also a bit more tourist friendly, with many attractions within walking distance to our hotel. The only time we really had to take deal with the confusing subway system was going to the Matsuri Festival. We had a good time. Some random observations though:

The Japanese really love their western music. Previous trip, I kept hearing Green Day in places I went to. Now it’s mostly pop peppered with 90s/2000 punk and ska.

The problem with ska is that it never really evolved to anything interesting. I love early ska and would listen to Skatalites now and then. But the last time ska became popular, it was the same rift applied to 80s covers. Lame. (You know what’s lamer? When punk bands cover 80s music.)

Pet peeves: Westerners in foreign countries calling attention to their western-ness. We get it. You’re white and Canadian/American/British or whatever. Everyone can tell. No need to act or dress like a douche in public in order to be seen. No one is going to scout you and ask you to be some guest in some Asian variety show.

Whale meat is overrated.

Raw chicken and raw liver actually tastes like fish. Or maybe that’s just the “taste like chicken” quality in reverse. Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t catch salmonella.

I could really use a pet owl.

There were lots of interesting things during the trip and the Japanese delight in things that are odd. But one of the oddest things I saw was when I passed by this wedding. I’m not sure why they would choose Putin, especially with what’s happening right now in Donetsk.

Putin

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Oh Canada!

Reyes_Joseph_Prized_Buck

I’ve been making images based on nostalgia, based on the Canada I left behind. It’s the Canada back in the 90s and early 2000, the Canada of my early adulthood. To me, it’s become this sort of mystical place that I can never come back to, a Neverland of sorts. But it’s not just me, wishing I was young again. It’s me wishing I belonged somewhere again.

I left Canada years ago and started working overseas. I fell in-love and got married. Canada on the other hand, moved on as well. My sisters all got their own families. My mom died, my dad moved, our dog was sent to the shelter, and our old house was sold. And now, whenever I can still call the country home, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel that way.

Here in South Korea, I can say that I have a home. I have a wife who loves me and my in-laws have welcomed me as their own. But still, this is a country that will never let you forget that you are a foreigner. Even my wife and my in-laws are guilty of this.

And this feeling… the feeling of being an outsider, is why Canada just doesn’t feel quite like home sometimes. I’ve spent too many years overseas that it’s going to take sometime to readjust to Canadian life should I ever move back. It’s going to take sometime before my old friends don’t associate me as “the one who moved overseas.”

In order to rekindle my relationship with the country (first world problems if there ever was one), I started reading books on law and even Aboriginal issues. It was my effort to become a “better Canadian.” Doing so, I re-learned some things, learned many I things I should have known, and appreciated the virtue of earning citizenship, whatever form that may take. Still, the whole exercise was torture. It’s me looking back and wishing things were different, that the nation and I grew together.

Don’t get me wrong. I love many of the things that I got in exchange. I’ve experienced a lot of things that Winnipeg would not have shown me. It’s just that there’s a cold, depressing hole in my psyche looking to be filled by a home, and it’s not quite where I am at the moment.

I remember talking to some kid online years ago. He found me when I had a relatively well-trafficked blog… when I was writing more interesting stuff than this. He lived in some small town in Ohio and said he’s stuck living in such a mind-numbingly boring place. He said it must be good to be able to travel and have amusing stories to blog about. I told him to leave the minute he could. Don’t settle for that factory job and instead find work overseas.

I forgot to tell him not to stay overseas too long.

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Travelocity, “Allen,” and the mysterious Elroy Lobo

Tentacular

Don’t do it! DON’T DO IT! Don’t book that flight with Travelocity!

It’s been a couple of months, but I finally gave up with Travelocity. They messed up my vacation last year and I’ve been waiting for some sort of resolution afterwards, but have received none. Well, here’s the story:

I booked a trip to Canada on Travelocity. A month before the trip, I got an e-mail from them saying that one of the flights got cancelled and we had to re-book. Re-booking had us changing our whole itinerary which forced us to transfer in Detroit, something which I was trying to avoid. They blamed Korean Air for the cancelled flight. I trusted the customer service representative on the phone, a heavily-accented man named “Allen,” and went along with it.

Had a decent flight to Canada but really didn’t enjoy my lengthy stay in Detroit International. There’s a couple of jokes about Detroit that could be made, but we should all just move on.

The day before my trip back to Seoul, I decided to check my iPhone app which tracks my flights. I noticed that the last flight of my itinerary (on Asiana) was missing. This was odd because it’s the day before my flight and I didn’t receive any messages from Travelocity. I decided to call customer service, and lo and behold, I get to speak with “Allen” again. After being on hold several times, he tells me that Asiana cancelled the flight and I had to stay overnight in Tokyo to catch the next flight. And since I would be staying the night, I had to book a hotel, but I shouldn’t worry because since Asiana cancelled the flight, they would be covering my expenses no problem. Actually, I was more annoyed that I was missing a day at work and that I was told about the cancelled flight just a day ahead. Still, I went along with “Allen” since they already had my money (“No refunds!”) and I really had no choice at the moment.

I arrived in Tokyo and went to the Asiana kiosk. The representative looked at the records of their correspondence with Travelocity and it showed that they repeatedly tried to confirm the booking with Travelocity but for some reason Travelocity just simply didn’t respond to them. The flight wasn’t cancelled, Travelocity just didn’t confirm my booking either due to ignorance or ineptitude. So I was forced to stay in a hotel because it was too late to get in the flight. And since Asiana didn’t drop the ball and they have proof that it was indeed Travelocity that caused the problems, I should settle my hotel bill with them.

I stayed in the most boring hotel in Tokyo. Roomy but boring, nothing around but a 7-Eleven, the airport, and other airport hotels.

The next day, I arrived in Seoul and sent a message to Travelocity recounting the incident along with the proof Asiana agents gave me. I also requested for compensation for grievance and missing a day at work. I got a message saying that I should send my complaint to another Travelocity address.

I sent my complaint to the other address, and then I got a canned response saying my business was valuable and that they’re looking into it. In the meantime, I should send my complaint to the address I sent my first message to. I did and I waited. A month later, I asked for a follow-up and I got a canned response. No explanation, nothing.

Last week, I sent another message and here’s part of the response I got from a customer service rep named Elroy Lobo, probably a bot:

“Please be advised that we have made a sincere effort to address the issues brought to our attention. We assure you that no attempt was made to trivialize or disregard your comments and observations. While we understand your position, we feel that our resolution was fair and equitable.”

WHAT RESOLUTION? WHAT WAS FAIR AND EQUITABLE?

I could be angrier, but weeks have passed since the incident and I only lost a couple of hundred dollars. I’ve read horror stories online of people losing thousands, and not just normal trips, but significant trips like honey moons or group vacations. It makes me wonder however if that is standard operating procedure for Travelocity. Mess up people’s flights, have them send their complaints to various addresses for weeks, then finally have them give up as their tempers cool. It’s actually funny how the Better Business Bureau has Travelocity at an A+ rating when thousands of stories online are more horrible than mine. It’s probably because ratings and reviews have to be vetted not only by BBB but the business itself… which kinda makes the review process worthless.

In any case. Don’t do it. Save yourself the hassle and don’t book with Travelocity. Elroy Lobo, I know you don’t exist. I hope you catch a computer virus. And to all the “Allen”s I talked to, I hope you’re proud of what your doing, messing up people’s vacations and making First World life just a tad bit miserable.

Each time I have spare time, I try hard not to crank call “Allen” and make his life miserable, and for that, I feel like a saint. Living a good life is the best revenge, but annoying the heck out of “Allen” would really hit the spot right now.

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Sick, depressed, bloated

Bloated

Back in Seoul… back to working. Though I’m no longer jet-lagged (I recover quite quickly), I am still terribly homesick. I told my best friend that I would probably be terribly depressed for a couple weeks or so after coming back, and that prediction rings through. A part of me is still trying to figure out how to finally move back to Canada… find a job, invest on a home, etc. But it all amounts to money right now. MONEY. I don’t mind working any job once I move back home. Any job will do just to be home. But I have to really save up before I decide to finally move. Just thinking about all the expenses right now, finding a place, living off my savings for a few months, etc. It’s all pretty intimidating. But I do miss Canada. I miss Winnipeg. And I’d gladly cut off several toes just to be back home.

Of course, that’s just me talking right now. A part of me worries that once I finally decide to move back home I’d feel stuck, etc. After all, I did decide to move out of the country before. Maybe I’ll feel stuck regardless of where I go.

It was great to be home, however. I wish I could’ve spent more time there, but we did make the best of it. It’s rare that my family and I get together, especially with us living in different places, so we celebrated Halloween and Christmas while I was there. My sister’s wedding was a highlight, and I’m so happy for her and her husband. Art-wise, I got to hang out with my artist best friend, Jordan Miller (http://www.jordanlmiller.com/), and we got to do some artsy things including attending a puppet show in her gallery. Comic Con was also held while we were there, so it was quite an eventful couple of weeks.

Again, I miss Canada… I miss Winnipeg. I miss “Friendly Manitoba.” It’s making me terribly ill not being home right now.

There’s several things I could write about right now, like my troubles with Travelocity, the experience at Comic Con, the art scene in Winnipeg, the beauty of having a wide selection of beer, etc. but maybe some other time. Right now I’ll just focus on being depressed and longing to be back home.

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Home

Skeleton

Off to Canada soon. I probably won’t be updating for a few days or so. My sister is getting married. It would be good to see her as well as the rest of my family as well. It’s one of those rare opportunities when we all get to be together, especially since my family’s scattered all over North America. It’s a shame that my family and closest friends can’t be my neighbors as well. Even as I go back, a couple of my friends are in Europe, other parts of Canada, or simply missing.

One of the biggest highlight though (aside from my sister getting married to an awesome dude) is that I’ll be seeing my best friend, Jordan (http://www.jordanlmiller.com/). I haven’t seen her forever, but she’s always been there to pour my troubles to, and vice versa. I’m going to be spending an unhealthy amount of time with her, but I don’t think that would cover the amount of time I’ve been absent.

My wife however is worried about how cold Winnipeg is. Fragile thing, she gets cold easily. I, on the other hand, am excited to once again experience real winter. The last time I experienced proper winter with proper snow was a few years ago in Sapporo. The place was almost like Winnipeg. Anyway, the cold will give her a good excuse to go nuts shopping for winter apparel.

After this trip, I don’t when I’ll come back to Canada or whether I’ll ever settle back. A part of me will always want to be back, or be all Neil Young and settle in Alberta (weather there’s good in the fall), but there’s always other places to visit, be it North America or wherever. Things are just harder when you’re an adult and you’ve got a family to worry about. Tickets are expensive, you could spend the money somewhere else, starting life in another place can be difficult, all of my family are scattered… there are so many things to consider, it could be maddening. In any case, I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I go back home again.

Home!!! Canada!!! Home!!!

 

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Oh Vacation!

Tokyo

Back from vacation. *sigh* I’m alright, readjusting back into the real world, but my wife is still missing Japan. She’s been looking at flight packages to Osaka, torturing herself.

I spent my vacation with an old friend from high school and her boyfriend. It made for a very interesting trip. I met her back in computer class when I was fourteen in Winnipeg, but now we found ourselves all old and roaming around Seoul, the DMZ, and Tokyo. Good stuff. Old friends are awesome!

We hit most of the hot spots in Tokyo, from the Sanja festival in Asakusa, to the weird and sad maid café scene in Akihabara. I gotta give it to the Japanese. Very polite and very clean! Despite the kookiness, it was great having my personal space respected all the time and no older folks trying to lord over other people with old school hierarchy. It’s damned expensive though. It would be great to work in Tokyo, but I doubt if I could save a dime.

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