Spring Fever and Travel Delirium

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington 

Greetings from Seattle, where I have spent the last three days basking in the radiant glow of a 102-degree fever. (That’s 39 for my Celcius-loving friends.)

“What,” you ask, “could possibly be more enthralling than having a 102-degree (39-degree Celcius) fever?!?!”

I’ll tell you what!

Tokyo, Japan: Cherry blossoms bloom in Ueno Park. (Photo: flickr/Kabacchi)

Having a 102-degree (39-degree Celcius) fever when you are supposed to be leaving for Tokyo in four days! That’s what!

No, wait! Three days!

Ummm, wait! I mean, 37 hours!

And counting!

Holy crap!

The good news is my aforementioned 102-degree fever is now down to a slender 99.6. This means that I am now able to get out of bed for the first time since St. Patrick’s Day, and pack.

“But Dave,” you say, “you are a Scandinavian specialist. Besides, Tokyo is expensive! What the hell are you going to Tokyo for?”

Relax. I am only going for a day.

Actually, I had no intentions of going to Japan this week, but it’s on the way to Vietnam. I am going to Vietnam because I have articles to write, a tour to organize. And I can get there free with frequent flier miles. And once I am there, it’s cheaper than staying in Seattle. Call it a struggling travel writer’s creative solution to the so-called “economic downturn.”

It was a brilliant, profitable plan — until I found out I had to fly via Tokyo, and I could have a free stopover.

I can’t afford a free stopover in Tokyo. A day in Tokyo costs as much as a week in Vietnam. But it’s Tokyo, damn it! I’ve never been to Japan before. And the cherry blossoms are blooming. I can’t just turn down a free peek.

“Okay,” I rationalized. “One day. Twenty-four hours is all I can afford.”

Then I thought some more. I began arguing with myself:

“Twenty-four hours to see Tokyo, Dave? That is probably the stupidest travel plan you have ever concocted!”

“Exactly! What a brilliant story idea!”

Brilliant story or not, I found my rationalization.

So I’m flying to Tokyo Monday. I arrive Tuesday afternoon at 4:30. My plan: Get through customs, store my bag overnight at the airport, and high-tail it to Ueno Park. Rumor has it if I show up in the early evening, all of Tokyo will be there, picnicking under the pink, flowery trees and guzzling sake.

After that, I have no clue what I am doing, no idea where I will sleep that night, or if I will sleep that night. I just need to be back at the airport by 6:20 the following evening to fly to Vietnam. I’ll be in downtown Saigon around midnight Wednesday.

Or I might be passed out behind a bush in Ueno Park. I’m not really sure.

If I make it to Vietnam, I’ve got more articles to write. I contacted my friend Phuc (rhymes with “hook”) last week to see if he could work as my interpreter for a story I’m researching in the city of Can Tho. Phuc guided me and my girlfriend Kattina last year on a kayaking / cycling journey through the Mekong Delta. After I e-mailed him last week, he wrote back with a fair price for his services, plus a driver to get us to Can Tho and a hotel for the night. We had a deal.

Two days later, Phuc e-mailed me again: “Hi Dave. I have an amazing plan for you.”

His amazing plan: Forget the driver. He could take me on the 110-mile journey on the back of his motorbike. He’d knock 70 bucks off the price.

I’m all for saving 70 bucks. That should just about cover a bottle of sake in Ueno Park. But four to five hours each way, via motorbike, through insane traffic, in blistering heat and humidity, with jet lag?

Another brilliant story idea.

Or not.

Seeking advice about the motorbike (it is Vietnam’s favorite means of transportation), I e-mailed my travel writer friend, Amanda: “I don’t want to do this. I’m afraid I’ll end up splattered against a banana tree.”

Amanda had been awake all night, working on a tight deadline of her own. She was semi-delirious in her response: “Scared is good. Scared makes for great copy. Do it!”

So this coming week is going to be kind of busy. I have spent the last three days in bed when I was supposed to be getting ready to travel. Starting in a couple of days, however, I will be blogging from Asia as often time, technology, and banana trees allow.

But right now, if you’ll excuse me, I need another throat lozenge.

Last Year’s Bloggage from Vietnam and Hong Kong

Published on Sunday, March 22, 2009

2 Responses to “Spring Fever and Travel Delirium”

  1. March 23, 2009 at 12:54 AM

    Suffering + Serendipity = great travel writing
    Have fun!

  2. March 22, 2009 at 8:47 PM

    You should stay at a Capsule Inn in Akihabara for around $40 a night. Cherry Blossoms, Maid Cafes, electronics and night in a coffin sized room could combine for a great story!

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