Saturday, May 11, 2013

Significant Slumbers (Part One)

I have been lucky enough to sleep in some hilarious and bizarre places. I think we should go ahead and make that my epitaph. I'm not even necessarily referring to an experience at an eccentric hotel, but more a place that while you're falling asleep you think to yourself, "There is simply no way that I'll ever forget this." Usually we associate "unforgettable travel moments" with an astonishing view, or a meal that delights our senses, but for one reason or another I can recall the following random assortment of places I've slept with unusual clarity. I don't think I often reflect too much upon my sleeping arrangements while travelling, thus today I'm going to devote a blog wholly to obscure places I've rested my head over the years while on the road. This post will be a light-hearted affair, so please, put on your finest smile. Here, dear friends, is the first list of places I've slept over the years that allow me to put on my finest smile. I've decided to make a series out of this, so this shall be part one, including 5 destinations:

1) Stavanger, Norway - 2010 - The Prius/Tent on the Fjord

The year was 2010 and the country was Norway. If you've read even a hint of my blog, then you'd likely understand how very much I love this fine country, but I digress. Rumblings of a road trip began one night over a few beers, and eventually these rumblings became a reality. Neil, Grant, Thevishka and myself decided we would rent a car in Oslo and drive that bad boy all the way Stavanger, which is no small feat (Oslo --> Stavanger). The idea was to spend some time around Norway's picturesque fjords and do some extensive hiking on snow capped mountains. That we did, but along the way we slept in a few noteworthy arrangements. One night, we pitched a tent on the edge of a fjord and woke up to a sight that made me wonder if I should ever leave that very spot. I recall another night when the four of us slept in our miniscule Prius in a park in Stavanger. The funniest part of sleeping in the Prius, at least for me, was that apparently in the middle of the night I jolted my leg from the passenger seat and created a sizable crack in the windshield. Insurance saves the day, once again.

 2) Koh Tao, Thailand - 2012 - The Overnight Ferry 

The overnight ferry from Koh Tao to Suratthani is one of those things that you shouldn't tell your mother about until after you've arrived safely in your destination. Mom, if you're reading this, then I believe you'll be finding out now - love you! This wasn't the type of boat that inspired a whole lot of confidence from the outside, and even less from the inside. Essentially, the inside was a large room that had an array of blue, potentially dirty, makeshift mattresses that you could sleep on. More or less, it was shoulder-to-shoulder sleeping, regardless if the person next to you was a stranger or not. Honestly, it was cost-effective and not that bad at all, except for the powerful, anonymous waves that rocked the boat throughout the night. I'll be writing more about my experiences in Koh Tao later, so I'll leave it at that. The bottom line is that Bri and I made it safe and sound to our eventual destination of Krabi, and now we've got an interesting story to look back upon.

 3) Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - 2012 - A Versatile Vessel

I have actually written a post on Ha Long Bay previously, but I kept it fairly short and concise as I was on the road at the time. What I didn't elaborate on too heavily was the sleeping arrangements that Bri and I afforded ourselves for a few days. We had a cozy little room on the ship that we could call our own. The window we had brought in surges of fresh air off the water, and the views were spectacular. This very window wasn't altogether that many feet above the water, which made it all the more intimate. We spent several days on this tiny vessel, and loved every minute of it. It helped that we were cruising through Ha Long Bay, one of the natural wonders of the world.

 4) Hong Kong, China - 2009 - One Bed Fits All

This was the last stop on an extensive China trip that included a whole host of cities, so our pockets weren't necessarily bulging if you know what I mean. To add to this, we arrived in Hong Kong from Zhuhai during a typhoon, so we needed to find a place to stay as soon as we got to the bus terminal to get out of the storm. Mike, Lawrence, and I stumbled upon a hotel that was exorbitantly pricey, seeing as it was Hong Kong and all. We bargained with the receptionist (actually Lawrence did because he was the only one who spoke Mandarin), and managed to get a room that was the size of the closet and featured two single beds that could barely sleep a cat comfortably. The solution? We accepted our circumstances and put the beds together and slept across them like peas in a pod. That was a hilarious night then, and it still gives me a chuckle when I think about it.

Yes, I was younger and fatter in 2009. I also noticed that.

5) South Korea - 2011-2012 - Ondol Floors

When travelling around South Korea, it seemed that Bri and I spent a fair portion of time sleeping on those glorious ondol floors. I've explained them before in my blog, but they're essentially a Korean method of heating floors. It's not uncommon to find a hotel room with a pleasant, heated floor with no mattress at all, but rather a selection of blankets and pillows. One of these blankets tends to go under you (as it has a little more structure to it), while the other goes over. In the winter they get fantastically toasty, and in the summer they do the job as well. Whether it was on Seonyudo Island,  in Taebaeksan, or at the Mud Festival, I always appreciated this kind of sleeping experience, which you just can't find in Toronto. Not to mention, the room is devoid of any beds or clutter, so you can have large social gatherings, then bring out the "beds" when it's time to sleep. The Koreans are efficient with their use of space, of that I am sure.

There's a saying that goes, "there is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock." I agree wholeheartedly with that, and I'm fairly sure that's also the theme of the new Newfoundland and Labrador tourism commercial. Anyway, I think a civilization is equally hopeless when its people are desperately intent to be confined to the same, comfortable bed each and every night. I understand individuals can get homesick, but that's a much better affliction than never leaving your home in the first place. I won't try to come to some grandiose, literary conclusion in a post where I'm merely taking about places I've rested my head over the years, but if you're going to take something from this, then it is this - live a little. When you fall asleep in a foreign land, in a foreign place, you also tend to wake up there, and there is nothing better than waking up and thinking, "what city am I in again?"


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