Saturday, May 23, 2015

When In Danang: Part Two

When in Danang, hang out in coffee shops. 

The entrepreneurs of this middle sized Vietnamese town have, strangely enough, perfected the art of the hipster cafe. Keeping the menu focused on the basics - coffee, tea, a few fruity blends, and a short sample of baked goods - the owners have poured out the balance of their creative energies toward interior design. 

If there was ever any doubt that Pinterest is a global phenomenon, let these shops demonstrate the truth. Every mid-century table leg, industrial-chic light fixture, vignette of vintage accessories and sweetly styled succulent screams post-millennial popularity, and as a fan of the same trends, I find endless delight in soaking up these details  

I've been to half a dozen different coffee shops here in Danag; this one, called Wonderlust, is no more or less charming than all the others. Focused on a crisp Scandinavian palette of blacks and whites, this upstairs lounge is a perfect heaven of light, life and visual delight.

I don't drink the coffee or the tea, but I can say with certainty that the blended mango  is a dream. 

When in Danang, hang out in the coffee shops. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

When In Danang: Part One

When in Danag, ride across the bridges. 

The Han River slices the city in half, but no worries. There are at least four bridges that connect the two halves and I never tire of zooming back and forth across them. 

On our first full day in the city, we took a long, rambling ride around the city and crossed three: 

the Han bridge, 
the so-called dragon bridge which literally has a bright yellow metal sculpture of a dragon running down the middle of the span
and this one, which we call the bridge to Monkey Mountain. 

And on thie first dpfull day of our visit - a very hot day indeed - we drove to the highest point of the span, pulled our motorbikes over to the side, and took a few moments to drink in our surroundings. 

When in Danang, ride across the bridges. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Scenes From An International Getaway

I had every intention of visiting my third-born this summer. 

When she committed to teaching English to children in Danang, Vietnam, I promised to come visit her every year. And I am definitely a mom of my word. 

And two of my other daughters planned to travel with me. Cool. Definitely looking forward to the trip 

I was thinking oh going for two weeks in July. Possibly June. 

But while I was across the planet in Hyderabad, reading Go, Dog. Go! and making puzzles with the Indian princesses, my daughters figured out that the Vietnam trip needed to happen sooner. 

My second-born bought our tickets and applied for our visas. 
My third-born reserved our hotel room and scrounged us up some motorbikes. 
My fourth-born? Well, she took her finals and packed up her dorm room. 

And that's how I found myself on a plane bound for Asia just five days after flying home from India.  

^ Mount Ranier's handsome face wishes us safe travels on a cloudy Seattle morning. 

^ While passing through customs at LAX on my way into the country last week, I'd noticed a fascinating web of colored string overhead as I marched along a corridor. I wanted to stop for a photo, but since the surrounding crowds would have surely trampled me underfoot, I relented. 

Imagine my surprise when I saw the very same colorful installation from a different vantage point just a few days later. While awaiting our big flight across the Pacific, I looked up and saw the ceiling of that incoming passageway directly above my outgoing gate. 

This time, I didn't skip a beat before snapping off some photos. 

^ A caviar and champagne bar at the airport? Umm, no thanks, Los Angeles. That's a bit excessive for me. But my eyeballs drank up those copper spheres and delicate chaniliers against that turquoise paneled wall. Yum. 

This installation featured a changing display of panels that worked together to create a single moving image. Each overall effect featured a different international destination: my mind has lost track of the first two inspirations, but that jungle motif represented my very own Kuala Lumpur so, you know, that was pretty cool. 

^ No, this was not my plane. I flew Singapore Airlines. But my Airbus 380 was jus as breath-taking as this magnificent beast and I never tire of such a sight. 

^ McDonalds in Singapore. These cute little private booths provided a bit more privacy than Asia typically affords and I was fascinated by their design. 

^ Well, the equipment for the final leg of our journey was humble. And since only maybe 25% of this this tiny plane's seats were filled, I was reminded once again that Danang, Vietnan is not exactly a trendy ecotourist destination. 

But for now, it is the home of my very own third-born and I could not have been more excited to board that tiny plane. 

A Moment In Mukilteo

After three weeks in India and a road trip from Tucson, I finally rolled up to my home sweet home. 

^ To my delight, my garden was going great guns. These clematis blooms cast their lovely spell on me; I stepped outdoors to set my suitcase in the sun for an airing out, caught a glimpse of their pinky-purple perfection, and the next thing I knew, I was yanking weeds for all I was worth. 

^ And I was inspired to make my own chicken curry, which I had been dreaming of during many a curry-filled meal in India. Oh sure, give me the rice and curry, but don't skimp on the veggies, hard-boiled egg and chopped peanuts. And I'll take a double helping of that naan. 

But these domestic pleasures, lovely as they were, lasted only a hot minute. Because within forty hours, I repacked my bags, grabbed my passport, and headed out the door once again. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Three Things About India

I make no bones about the fact that india freaks me out. 

Some people are drawn to the mystery and allure of this exotic place. Others crave the sense of adventure and unknown that rugged India represents. And some people are understandably obsessed with the bedazzled glamour and Bollywood mystique that is so incomparably Indian. 

I appreciate all those reasons to want to visit India . But I just don't feel them. 

Without a doubt, I went to India only to support my friend, Natalie, and her foster girls. Those people drew me in, pushed me past my fears, and compelled me to walk onto the plane. 

But after the first week of my visit, Nat asked me an interesting question. Now that you're here, what can you find to like about India?

Fair question. I definitely discovered some fascinations with Indian life, once I settled into the rough rhythms of Hyderabad. And while most of my affections still lie close to the girls at Joy Home, here are three things that I learned to truly love in India. 

^ Marble floors. 

The girls' home is a nice one and every inch of the floors are smooth, cool marble. It felt luxuriously soothing to my overheated senses, and I never tired of walking across a freshly mopped room. Yum. 

^ Sunlit skies. 

Hyderabad lies 17 degrees above the equator. That means that the sun is much higher in the sky than at my home in Mukilteo, at a latitude of almost 48. And that means that the sunlight has a different quality, lighting the sky from the top, rather than an angle. Which results in heavens filled with a pale blue glow that never fails to sweep me right off my feet. 

^ Cozy beds

The bedrooms at Joy Home fill me with, well, joy. Clean and fresh, the simple rooms are set off with brightly colored, geometric patterned bed sheets and a generous assortment of stuffed animals sweetly lined up against the pillows. These spaces remind me in all the best ways of my daughters' childhood bedrooms and even my own girlhood bed. They are every inch the cozy, cheerful refuge that every girl deserves, and I feel deeply content knowing that the Indian princesses now have such a precious place to lay their heads each night 

Desert Blooms

Sometimes, making bucket list dreams come true is harder that expected. 

I suppose that's the nature of the beast. I mean, if a dream easily comes true, then it is hardly worthy of bucket list status, right?

But even so, I thought I had worked through all the complexities of my latest obsession. 

I wanted to see saguaro cacti in bloom. And of course, capture some photos. 

And thanks to the timing of my fourth-born's college schedule, I was destined to be in the right place on earth at the right month othe year. With a cacti-hunting side trip and photo shoot carved into the stone of our morning agenda, I figured the rest of the dream-realization process would be gravy.  


Little did I know that it's relatively easy to find saguaro cacti in bloom and admire said blossoms from afar. But to get up close and personal with those pale yellow beauties, I soon learned, is a tall order. 

Here's why. 

^ The flowers perch on the tip top of he cacti. And those saguaros are big boys. 

As my almost six foot tall baby so aptly demonstrates, the saguaro blossoms are a long way away from the human eye. 

^ A long, long way away.

Ugh.  So frustrating. 

Not gonna lie, I got cranky right away. I was dog tired and quickly melting in the Arizona sun. I was facing a 1500-mile solo two-day drive and in no mood for messing around. 

No doubt about it, my grump factor was taking the edge off this bucket list moment. And I was just about ready to give up on the photos altogether. 

And then my daughter did a beautiful thing. 

She made it her personal mission to get some shots of those flowers. 

She scrambled up and down the steep, gravely hillside until she found a cacti within reach. 
She used every inch of her impressively long arms and legs to hoist her camera up, up, up and over the top of that enormous and lethally prickly cactus. 
And she snapped up some bucket list-worthy photographs of those darling little flowers. 

And now, I am very, very happy for my desert bloom bucket list dreams have all come true. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Three Fantastical Deserts

On a Wednesday morning, at 4 a.m., after almost three weeks in India, I said goodbye to the Indian princesses, jumped on a plane and flew away. 

After a quick jaunt west to the eerily lit and entirely sandy fantastical desert of Dubai, my plane turned north and we sped across

And the North Pole. 

My mind was completely and thoroughly blown 

From the top of the world, we journeyed south (since there is no other way to go) and set down in Los Angeles. Which is a pretty fantastical desert as well. 

Milling through customs in Los Angeles, the delicate balance between order and chaos is reflected in the architecture of the ceiling overhead

At LAX, I traded out my Airbus 380 for a Hertz rental car, pointed myself east on the 10, and headed for Tucson. Eleven hours later, I was walking with my daughter through the cool still air of the high desert night. Fragrant flowers perfumed the walkways; towering cacti and palms cast their shadows across the darkness. 

Pure and pink, fragile and sweet, these Arizona desert blooms are an antidote to an impossibly long day of travel

And that lovely Arizona desert may have been the most fantastical of all.