Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Traveling with Girlfriends vs. Traveling with Your Partner

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Traveling with Girlfriends vs. Traveling with Your Partner

at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport

The only section of Asia that lies partly within the Southern Hemisphere is the region called Southeast Asia. Many view it as exotic because of its varied and distinctive cultures. They are of Chinese and Malay ethnicities mixed with western influences obtained from shared histories of subjugation by foreign colonizers such as the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, and even British and American. Picture the varieties of colorful native costumes, graceful exotic dances, ornate temples and historic churches. Vestiges of WWII mark white beaches, world-class diving destinations, undulating rice terraces, and perfect volcanic cones. String them together in one unforgettable getaway because the same shared histories produce the warmth of its peoples, the foundation for fun in the Orient.

with Buddhist monks in Vientiane's Buddha Park

Bill is most interested in traveling to this part of the world, but it was not enough for him to join me in a tour of Southeast Asian countries last September: Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and Brunei, four countries in just four days!  I was back in Manila for business, and I used the opportunity to steal time to take a trip with my long-time girlfriends: Jingjing, Ann, and Tess. Even I must admit that four days is way too fast!

dinner in Kuang Seafood Center in downtown Bangkok

Now I realize how traveling with girlfriends is very different from traveling with a partner.
Difference #1: Fast vs. Slow Travel. Fast travel attempts to squeeze as many sights or cities into one trip as possible, quickly scanning and simply planning to return to the place you could not get enough of later. On the other hand, slow travel means taking the time to explore each destination thoroughly to experience the local culture. Bill thinks it’s just insane to see only a little bit of many different areas rather than to get to know one small area well; but not with my girlfriends. We can be satisfied with getting our photos taken at famous landmarks. Then, next!

at the biggest mosque in Brunei

On our four day trip, we started with an overnight layover in Malaysia, stayed at the airport hotel, and arrived in Laos the following day. We had a day and a half targeting the top 6 attractions: the Buddha Park of 200 statues, the majestic Golden Stupa, the Patuxai Victory Monument (Asia’s Arc de Triomphe), the Presidential Palace, and two other Wats (temples). We even heard a Laotian mass at a Catholic Church. Then we had another overnight layover in Bangkok, where we also stayed at the airport hotel. A Wat was just around the corner and, not satisfied with that, we hired a car to take us on a trip to downtown Bangkok, getting awesome night views of the Grand Palace, the iconic Wats, and the home of the father of the King. The next day we were ready for our day and a half in Brunei and visited eight top attractions: three Mosques, the Water Village, the Royal Regalia Museum, the sprawling Official Residence of the Sultan, his modest boyhood home, and the 6-star Empire Resort and Country Club.

at the lobby of a 5-star hotel in Vientiane

Difference #2:  Shopping. It is so true! Women take their time at shops before selecting something or scour an area for different outlets to survey the available local supply of all things women love. And when we zero in on something we just have to have, we love bargaining for a reasonable price and best value. Men, on the other hand, don’t have the patience to do this and would rather wait for us at a cafĂ©, reading a newspaper and drinking their lattes. At the Malaysian airport, we shopped for souvenir items. In Laos, we were able to squeeze in a trip to a Night Market near our Ibis Vientiane Hotel. We even made it to the Chatuchak Night Market, the biggest Night Market in downtown Bangkok, to buy $1 scarves. Never mind how much the car ride cost! And in Brunei, we happily got stuck in the shopping mall when heavy rain poured. We were able to get lovely scarves (again) for a steal.

at another mosque in Brunei

I am sure Bill would have gone shopping with me too. Girlfriends, however, invariably find something and then the others would say, “I gotta have that too!” Or there is an honest answer when I ask, “Does this look good on me?” Shopping with them becomes quite synergistic. The only drawback is, Bill’s not there to pay for the item(s). The solution, of course, would be to have him give me an extension of his credit card! Oh, I forgot that he has already given me that!

at Vientiane's Golden Stupa

But, there are also similarities, I must say. Similarity #1: Love of Culture, History, Sights, and Landmarks. For one, the love of exploring local culture, history, sights, and landmarks is shared by men and women. Bill would also have gone to all the attractions we went to; the only difference being that he would have taken a couple more days to do it. And he probably would spend more time exploring war memorials or playing in the water more than me, the former because he is a man and the latter because I am deathly afraid of drowning. And the coup de grace? He would spend less time taking photos!

A luxury lunch at the 6-star Empire Resort and Country Club in Brunei

Similarity #2: Dining. The other major similarity is the love of good food. For example, it was great that the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Food Court had the most popular chicken rice chain in Malaysia so we didn’t have to go out to look for it. In Laos, we spent big bucks to savor a Laotian meal at a 5-star hotel. In Bangkok, before the Night Market shopping spree, we had a sumptuous seafood dinner at the popular Kuang Seafood Center. Finally, in Brunei, we again splurged on a full course lunch at the 6-star Empire Resort. Bill would have taken me to those fine dining places, too.  And paid for them!

at the Water Village of Brunei

I am happy that I can enjoy both sorts of travel. My girlfriends are ready, willing, and able to travel with me. And then there is always Bill. He has even orchestrated our next phase of slower travel for two months in Europe at one week per country and even much slower travel with extended stays of two to three months a year of all-inclusive accommodations at El Cid Vacations Clubs in Mexico. Don’t you think I am one lucky lady, past 70 and still cruising both ways?

at Royal Regalia Museum in Brunei
at Patuxai in Vientiane