Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sao Paulo

Hot, 90 degrees today. Check out the view from my room at the Grand Hyatt in Morumbi... just an immense skyline!

Amazing how the decline in the dollar has an impact. It is now around 2=1 here in Brazil, so t-shirts that go for R$40 used to be cheap but are now US$20 each! The other thing is the payment system... I had to ask someone in a shop (who spoke almost NO English) why they were charging everything like "R$79.90, 3x$24.90"... I finally remembered that in Brazil, they offer payment plans for everything... very easy to be misled and think it is 3 for that price.

Today was relaxing... massage, lunch with a friend, now a glass of wine and... work. Oh well, it had to happen.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mendoza, Argentina

Working on the front patio of the Park Hyatt Mendoza, overlooking the plaza

So last night I was in my hotel in Santiago and flipping channels on the TV trying to wind down from shopping hell at the mall. I turned to a movie that appeared to have the Golden Gate Bridge on, but then it panned out and they were obviously not in SF. I continued watching and got wrapped up in the *sense* of time and place - it was very mid-60's with girls in mini skirts and go go boots, men in shorter than short shorts, Cadillac convertibles, modern furniture and great mod music. The plot was not important - obviously a couple on their honeymoon taking the brides father with, and he is a dirty old man who goes after the hot blondes. A comedy.

I finally figured out by looking at a doorknob sign in a hotel room that was in portugese that the movie took place in Portugal or Brazil.

It wa dubbed from Portuguese into Spanish. So I didn't understand a word of it!

Sitting at El Patio at the Park Hyatt Mendoza now having lunch after a swim. Nice, partly cloudy and 82 today. Too bad it's all work from here on...

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Why I like Santiago:

1. Mountains, Mountains, Mountains all around! Even in the height of summer they are snow capped.
2. Climate. Sunny and dry, like central California.
3. Green and Clean. The streets are clean, that is; not the air.
4. Modern infrastructure. Great highways, clean subway, nice shops and lots of modern skyscrapers. Reminds me of Vancouver in some ways.
5. Grand Hyatt. The hotel is chic and the grounds make it feel like a resort. And the restaurants.... oh my, are they good!

Shopping today at the mall, it was a strange experience to hear "White Christmas" when it is 82 and sunny out. The mall itself is as good as any one in the USA. In fact, it feels like the USA when you walk by Ruby Tuesday next to Ralph Lauren next to Wrangler next to Timberland. But I had last minute Christmas shopping to do, so it worked.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Santiago de Chile

Christmas tree in the atrium of the Grand Hyatt Santiago

Happy Christmas from Santiago, Chile! In the Grand Hyatt is the tallest indoor Christmas tree in Chile... 16 meters tall (that's 4 stories tall)... 2,400 lights... 1,400 balls and bows... Weather here is truly spectacular - as are the sunsets. Pollution always makes beautiful sunsets, and tonight was a bright orange/red velvet combination. Gorgeous!

Spanish is a funny language; it is easy to pick up and understand, but I need to practice more. I would really love to go back to studying it, but this takes time and tenacity. I need to not put it off and schedule classes for the Spring.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Acapulco (view from my window this morning)

Snow and Sun, with a little Soccer thrown in.

Yesterday after a long day of work, I checked the weather and discovered that the biggest snow storm to hit Chicago was to be right now; so I changed my flight to leave later and enjoy a bit of sun in Acapulco and miss the storm. Good choice - the top news story on CNN International is the massive storm dropping snow from Texas to Michigan. Apparently nearly a foot of snow! And here in Acapulco, a gorgeous day of sun and sky, maybe 80 Fahrenheit today.

Last night, Daniel the GM took me to a fun bar called "Mango's" where we watched Guadalajara vs. América in a Soccer game. It was fun, with loud fans and music, but my table was pro-América which proceeded to play a shitty game and lose 0-2. Outside, all the less fortunate locals were watching the game - and our partying - through the windows of the shop. 4 Pacifco's later, the game ends and we got home by 11.30pm...

Off to the airport this afternoon, home - to snow - by 10pm! Perhaps I need an hour in the sun before I leave...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Mérida, Mexico

Been inside 99% of the time; walked over to the InterCon for a brief site visit the only time I've been outside. It is truly amazing to get off a plane and feel the blast of heat and humidity whenever getting to Mexico. Now off to an even hotter place tomorrow... Villahermosa!

They needed to room move me due to a sold out situation, so I'm in the Presidential suite tonight. Boy is this thing huge. Nearly the size of my condo; I'd say 1,200 sq. ft. The bathroom itself is as big as my living room... nice place! Living area is spacious, with its own desk and kitchen too... all just for lil' ol me! (see above)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Benton Harbor, Mi

Driving to East Lansing last night the rain was so bad we could not see the road. Halfway to EL we ended up stuck in a seedy Holiday Inn off the freeway... For $85 a night! What a rip off but it was needed... Includes cheap breakfast! All this to see State lose! At least we can see the girls and visit with Michelle!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


So I am on the El with my new blackberry and I am amazed how technology allows me to instantly post to my blog this irritating girl-she thinks she is being sassy but instead just irritates me!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Buenos Aires

A few photos from the hotel...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Buenos Aires

A gorgeous hotel! The Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is really a stunner, gorgeous art and I love the gardens between the Palace and Posadas building. I forgot that I could see the water from the top floor...

Working a ton and haven't even set foot outside the hotel since my arrival, but the meetings have been productive. I am hopeful to finish by 7pm today so that I can take a bit of a walk, but I hope the rain subsides... at least there is minimal jet lag - the best part of travel to South America (that and my colleagues down here)!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Miami International Airport

I absolutely LOATHE this airport. It is too big, too crowded. The renovated areas have few food stands and they are always overcrowded. And I get a 3 hour layover.


Monday, October 16, 2006


What a strange experience - it is SO WINDY right now, my door keeps squealing from the wind beneath the cracks. I've had to put my heavy marble table against it to keep it from making that whistling noise which is going to drive me nuts. Between the disco next door and the squealing wind, I've had no more than 5 hours sleep a night since last Wednesday. I'm exhausted.

Tomorrow is my last day here for the presentation, then I am traveling home.... with my sunburn. It is a doozy, I am so mad. All I wanted to do is sit by the pool for an hour and now I got a bad sunburn... even with suntan lotion. Crazy! It hurts but it should be better by the time I'm on the flight on Wednesday...

I love hanging out with all my colleagues in South America and Mexico... they are so funny and fun! It truly is my favourite region of the world, I feel so lucky to be working with these hotels... I will be back in Mexico in mid-November, then off to South America in December, January and likely April. Lots of trips down south!

I hear my pillow beckoning. For once, the disco isn't blaring and I have stopped the door squealing. A night of sleep?!?!!!!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


So hot and humid here... in Chicago apparently it is snowing in early October, but here I am sweating bullets! The Hyatt Cancun Caribe Resort has really improved, they have done a wonderful job. I've worked hard the last two days in our meeting and am just exhausted... tonight we are going to downtown Cancun, which I've never done before, to have a few drinks. Hopefully I will make it for an hour or two before I collapse!

The most amazing experience happened on our first night; we had a reception on the beach, and the hotel arranged to get baby turtles that had just hatched that morning for all of us to release into the water. They were so small, they fit right in the palm of your hand and were so cute! We all let them on the beach and they ran into the water and off they went. It was a great and unique experience; apparently it is seasonal so we were very lucky to experience it.

Tomorrow off... time to spend by the pool and catch up on my emails. I just hope the weather will be nice and not quite as hot. Caught the score of the Michigan State game... they lost big time. Coach is gonna be fired!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cancun, Mexico

The destination looks great!

Only 9 months since Hurricane Wilma hit, there is little sign that a category-5 sat on it for more than 2 days. In fact, it looks better than ever… the beach is replenished and both cleaner and bigger than ever, the streets and hotels manicured with great face lifts. The Hyatt Cancun Caribe Resort looks incredible, a much needed improvement – it feels like a brand new hotel.

It is so hard to be here and work all day, to come back to the room and see the very turquoise blue ocean… with nary an opportunity to visit. Do emails, work out, go have dinner, sleep and get up early to do a day of work all over again, then off to the airport!

Look forward now to the reopening of the hip new Hyatt Regency Cancun…

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tokyo - photos

Very nice posh place, the Park Hyatt is! Weather is cloudy so I can't even see Mt. Fuji... I have a lot of work to catch up on, so I think I'll spend some my Sunday doing that... might as well do it in luxury!!

Got a coffee in a machine at the airport that was so confusing to use! Also then threw the cup away afterwards, and there was an option in the waste for "Pet Bottles" - what the hell are those?

Took the train to Omote-Sando and saw some bizarre girls dressed up like S&M Animé. They were total posers, so I took a few pictures but then got bored as I'm sure they were of me. Walked through a park to to Meiji-jingu, the main shrine of Japan. Pretty but exactly like the one Andy and I saw earlier this year, so I just moved on... I could not believe how HUGE the park was though, quiet too, and it is in central Tokyo. Amazing. Then hit this cute area totally by accident, lots of windy streets going up and down hills with bakeries and eateries... then off to enjoy my luxury at the Park Hyatt.

Home tomorrow! Yeah!

Ho Chi Minh City - photos

What an interesting day.

A few things to note before I forget: I've seen more older people with severed limbs here than in any city; I was told by a young Vietnamese boy "Honey, I love you"; older women really DO wear pointy straw hats here; pollution from all the mopeds is terrible; the Viet currency has the funniest name in the world - it is called the Dong; I am the only blond in the entire country right now; I look so foreign, locals just hound me to sell anything to the point that I am tired of going out and fighting it anymore.

I walked to Reunification Palace which is the seat of government and is also a museum in some ways kept exactly unchanged since the Vietnam War. Strangely, the areas still used by the President are also unchanged since the war - meaning very bad condition and very bad taste. Look at the photos - one room actually has a stuffed leopard and a chandelier in it amongst 70s carpet.

Most interesting was going to the roof and seeing a helicopeter there from the war; also interesting was the bunker in the basement, kept as a museum used just as during the war. The ending was very interesting - a museum of pictures and mementos about Vietnam's occupation by the French, the American war and subsequent victory by the Communists. What was most interesting was not that it wasn't factual, and in some ways very fair, but also very slanted anti-American; there was not a single positive comment about the American war. I'm fascinated and will likely want to read more about it politically (rather then the 1.5 million movies on the battles).

Then went shopping, including buying a linen print of communist propoganda. This was truly a fascinating store, much of it so anti-American that it actually made me feel bad; curiously, some other Americans were in there as well looking to buy a print, but they said exactly as I felt: "Well, we're not going to buy any war posters." There were many that showed USAF planes burning and crashing from the sky, some posters showing South Vietnamese soldiers tied up on a post and being shot. Fascinating. I ended up getting something not quite so harsh but still rather Bolshevik. Very cool.

I have so much crap to take home! I look forward to sleeping tonight and just relaxing in Tokyo tomorrow; I think I will just stay at the hotel, relax and other than go for a walk just work in my room. A lot of catching up to do!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ho Chi Minh City

I've fallen in love with this place!

The people here are so nice, the service level is just astounding. Everyone smiles... the city is bustling with so many people, it is amazing. The food is great and of course it is incredibly cheap!
An oddity: I tried to place a call today to Switzerland, but apparently it is illegal to call there from Vietnam. A strange political fallout from a communist country? I thought Switzerland was neutral...

Had a 90-minute Thai Massage here, feel great. The Park Hyatt Saigon is just truly amazing, extremely luxurious in a city where you just would never expect it.

All day shopping and relaxing tomorrow, then off to Tokyo at midnight!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Wow, what a place.

In the first ten minutes of arrival I experienced more culture than I had in 3 days in Sinagpore... the airport arrival outside of the baggage claim was filled with more people than I have seen at any third-world airport, but unlike the chaos that usually ensues, it was eerily controlled - no screaming babies or people asking for taxis, rather, just 3,000 people looking at us hoping we were their loved on/associate/friend/potential ride/whatever...

As we drove down the streets, what really struck me was how at there were almost no cars, but about 300 mopeds at each stoplight. Intersections filled with mopeds, one guy was carrying a shell of a computer between his legs while driving it. Along the streets, it looked like lots of little colourful buildings similar to Mexico City without the grafitti - but in front hanging from the telephone poles were not only a few cables but hundreds of them, as if the growth to commerce has been so fast they haven't had time to put the cables underground.

The drive to the hotel was past Reunification Square - a park with a museum holding two tanks from the Vietnam war, with big red flags and building sized posters of crowds of happy people.

The hotel itself is stunningly gorgeous, a throw back in time. When you enter you feel like you just walked into 1948 Saigon. Gorgeous potted palms, huge shuttered french paned windows and a grand piano adorn the lobby.... the male employees in white banded shirts and black slacks, women all in long black robes, both uniforms perfectly pressed and hair clean and kept back. Rooms are just stunning, old simplicity...

Had dinner in an open air local restaurant, with a tree in it. The outdoor edges were covered with a sail underwhich were the kitchens... freshest vegetables I have ever had, we had to make our own spring roles by hand... neat. Cheap as hell.

But now I am just exhausted so going to sleep...

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Oh, the joys of webcams!

Setting up the webcam has been hilarious... when I go to the computer the dogs are invariably in the room locked up. It is funny to look in and spy on them when Andrew is not there... generally they are bored waiting for someone to come home, but my favorite is to knock on the desk and shout out "who is it?" They run around barking acting like someone is there and it was just me playing a game with them from Singapore!

The amazing thing is to see Jake will bark when he hears me walk around or talk on the phone here in Singapore. His ears are so good he can tell it is me and he barks thinking I'm home . Whenever I mute the speaker, he is quiet. Truly amazing.

My last day here... yesterday after going to breakfast I went shopping... my God I spent a lot of money. My credit card got security halted and I could not clear it until 11pm last night because of the time difference. How frustrating! I really was spending a lot of money!

Today it is raining a bit... I am off to Ho Chi Minh City for a conference, so I have to pack and run soon. Danielle and Mark are coming over to the house so while they have a beer they will go on the Webcam and say HI to me in Singapore where I will be having coffee... a party 6,000 miles away and I'll be a part of it! Too cool!

Friday, June 16, 2006


I'm always surprised how busy it is here... like New York, tons of people everywhere... and they just shop shop shop. That's ME tomorrow.... I so badly need some new clothes, I am going to spend lots of money. But luckily it is the shopping sales - "The Great Singapore Sale" is from 26 May - 23 June and I'm in the middle of it!

So tomorrow will be just to take it easy... nice, given how hot and humid it is. It is 82 degrees - feels like 92 - and it is almost 10pm! Crazy...

off to bed!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Buenos Aires - photos

You know, getting older is kind of a funny thing. I still get thrilled about opening a luxury hotel - all the activity, seeing the finishing touches, the buzz of excitement in the community. But it is tempered with so much more now - I miss home, Andy, my friends, my parents. My mom is in Ireland - how was her trip? Dad mentioned how well the lawn looks; what did he do to get it that way? Andy's been dealing with the rain in Chicago - has it been that dreary? Are the dogs restless? How is Kim's new job? Funny how I'm more rooted than I ever dreamed I would be. Yet I am happy about it, it keeps things in perspective.

The hotel here is really amazing, and I can't wait to come back and see it in operation. The people are just so wonderful, really warm and truly excited about working at such a spectacular place. Room 208 is just AMAZING, I can't even believe what it will be like with all the activity, guests rushing past the Piano Nobile forgetting they had reserved a Spa suite or a table in the dining room near the cheese room. Just a wonderful place. I can close my eyes and see it happen, but for now, it is just construction and dust dust dust everywhere! The staff gave me a wonderful, personal sendoff... I was very touched...

I haven't worked out for two weeks, I've been sick, working on emails from 7am-8am and 10pm-12am every night, plus dinners and drinks... what a trip! All I want to do is sleep... sleep... sleep... but until then, how about a 12 hour trip from B.A. to Chicago?!?!!!

Look forward to my next trip here when I can actually visit the city! What a concept!

And on a final note... yes, I have now heard of Diego Maradona!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Buenos Aires

Raining today after 4 beautiful days of sun and near-70 degrees. We've been working nonstop downstairs in the basement of our beautiful hotel that is about to open. It is exciting! I look forward to my next visit... after many delays, it appears relatively ontime.

A lot of fun on this visit but a lot of work, too. I have never laughed so much and worked so late. Every night lasts until around 11pm because everyone in S America dines late. So strange to go to dinner at 10pm with almost noone in a restaurant and leave at 11 or 11.30 and see the place full!

The Recoleta district is full of trees and nice buildings....

Leave for home tomorrow!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sao Paulo - photos

I love this hotel! Truly amazing.... not only is the food incredible and the decor nothing short of perfect, the hotel unpacked all my clothes while I was in meetings and the rest is being sent down to the laundry. I didn't even ask to do this, and I can't wait to get the clothes back because they will look GREAT as if I just bought them from the store! Best hotel in the company!

Literally worked all day and exhausted but looking forward to sleeping in late and then going on a city tour, then come back and change for a fun night of dinner...

But now, off to a massage at Anakena Spa at the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Santiago de Chile

Another long day yesterday... very hot here, unusual for this time of year; I am certain it must have been 80 degrees F. Pollution was real bad, you could barely see the Andes. The new freeway is finished, it now only takes about 25 minutes from the airport to the hotel - it goes for 6km directly under the river in a tunnel.

Will be working most of the time, I am hoping to have some free time later today to at least go to Pura - a great local art store in Las Condes - as well as maybe the nearby mall for a walk; but I am here for work and honestly don't have much free time due to meetings and training...

This morning the Andes look so beautiful as the sun rises over them. Such a spectacular setting for a city!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Earthquake in Mendoza!
(earthquake map to the left, this quake in red)

In a deep sleep, I was awakened at just a few minutes past 6am by a quite strong quake. It lasted I would guess 15 seconds and was in a rolling motion - I was sufficiently certain that the quake had awoken my colleague Maria, so I called her in her room.... and yes, Maria was wide awake!

I tried to look on-line to find a registry but so far haven't found it listed.... will keep looking, but if it was centered here, my guess it was between a 5.0 and a 6.0. Definitely strong enough but no damage, I'm sure....

Lest anyone forget, Mendoza was famously destroyed by an earthquake in 1861; its wide boulevards and strategically placed plazas were created to allow buildings to crash into the street yet provide space for people and emergency equipment to move around them to the official congregation points - the plazas. The ruins of the cathedral remain to remind the residents of just how dangerous the area is...

The USGS posted this on their website... a 5.1, but at 129.5 miles, very deep in the earth... a good guess by me!

MAG UTC DATE-TIMEy/m/d h:m:s LATdeg LONdeg DEPTHkm Region
5.1 2006/05/09 09:02:27 -32.374 -69.266 129.5 MENDOZA, ARGENTINA


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mendoza, Argentina - photos

Cloudy skies this mid-Autumn day in Mendoza. The wide boulevards appear as tree-tunnels with ceilings of orange and gold. The plazas are quiet as any typical Sunday afternoon, the occasional family or couple walking by.

Such a pretty little city. The hotel welcomed us in open arms as always; after settling in, I called Dave who runs He has a tasting room on the edge of the plaza and he knows my friends Aimee, Kim and Cheryl. We had a nice glass of Cabernet and talked about our mutual friends and what we are doing in life. It was a fun, relaxing conversation in a comfortable slick tasting room just steps off the Plaza Independencia. He invited us to an asado, which is an Argentine barbeque, tonight at 9pm.

After our talk, Maria and I walked around the streets and up through the park to the lake. A long walk, but very nice on a Sunday afternoon. Very peaceful, but it was funny to see some Americans (obviously) walk by in their t-shirts and shorts (too cold for that) and dogs. Now it is a rest with a glass of Malbec by Trapiche (just had this in Chicago last Thursday!) in my room before a walk through the art fair and then the asado!
Aeropuerto - Santiago de Chile

It amazes me how great it is to fly down to South America... because there is relatively no time change to North America, there is no jet lag, only what I call travel lag.... that is, just feeling tired from being in a seat for 12 hours. Since I had dinner on the flight to Miami, I literally skipped it on the flight down and slept 20 minutes into take off, waking up only 45 minutes before landing. That's 7 hours of sleep on a flight! I feel a bit groggy but good!

Flying down here is so cool, along the Andes mountain range. The sun was just starting to rise - that deep blue/red colour on the horizon - and you could see the outline of the mountains, still snow capped of course. Incredibly gorgeous. Nearing landing, as is usual this time of year, you can see the low fog hugging the valleys, nooks and crannies of the low mountains. Pretty. At least not enough to delay my arrival!

I am waiting in the Admirals Club (strangely like its namesake - an old ship Admiral's office, wood and plaid seats - yuck) drinking my powdered orange juice waiting for Maria. She is getting in any minute from México D.F. and then we fly together to Mendoza. Today, we will meet Marlenne at the airport, then after getting settled to do some wine tasting and join an asado - a traditional barbeque of Argentine beef. Yummy! Oddly, Aimee's friend Dave moved to Mendoza so there will be an MSU contact there... we're everywhere!

Ok, off to finish my Tang...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Washington, DC

Fourth week of travel in a row.... wow, I'm tired. At least the weather here is great... the hotel runs an apartment building next door, it has been nice to "live like a local" for a change. I went to the supermarket on Monday and bought food for the week; went for a walk in Georgetown on Monday, then nice to be able to walk to the health club and relax a little more instead of living in a hotel for a week. Comfortable.

Next week I'll be in Chicago the whole week.... hooray!

Always forget how nice the city is here. Georgetown is so charming; cobblestone streets and old colonial row buildings with cherry blossom trees shedding their buds. Very pretty.

I also am now totally addicted to American Idol. I was for sure that Ace (the pretty boy) would be kicked off this week, but he actually did alright - the pretty dumb chick, Kellie, is for sure saying sayonara. She totally messed up! A fun thing to follow while I'm traveling... I call Andy after every singer commenting on who was the best.

Home on Friday!!!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Mexico City

I'm famous! Check out the publication of some brief questions asked of me at my conference here in Mexico...

Next stop, Entertainment Tonight!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mexico City

I'm always surprised how much I like this city; perhaps because I'm staying in the nicest area, Polanco. Parks, cafés, boutiques all over. The architecture is great - old traditional Mexican homes next to modern marvels. Really eclectic, neat, upscale.

The first day here it was so clear you could see the mountains, but not today... very smoggy, which is per the norm. Warm though, nice to be here in April - that is, if I every get outside!

Worked a ton, that is the worst part of work travel. I work until midnight, then get up before 7am and work more. Work work work work work, it is truly exhausting.

Home tomorrow... and Minneapolis next week!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Washington, DC

In town to help re-open the Park Hyatt Washington. Flight delayed due to rain at ORD... funny how a 3 hour delay seems like no big deal as long as you travel domestically... even if I were flying to California, it still would be shorter than most international trips...

Always surprised every time I come here, which isn't often. It is a pretty city with so many things to do, yet I never take advantage. This year my H.S. reunion is here (20th, no less!) and it will be at the Grand Hyatt. I stay there tomorrow night... city is sold out, so my first night is in Crystal City - not exciting at all.

Weather incredible, I hope I get a chance to enjoy it. Probably not tomorrow however - I have an 8am conference call, a 9.30 meeting, then a 12pm conference call and more work the rest of the day, dinner at 7.30 and a conference call to India at 10pm. I'll be pooped...

Ciao for now... (p.s. watched American Idol for the first time last night, that girl Paris is quite a singer!)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cancun – post Hurricane Wilma - photos

What an interesting journey.

A trip to Cancun to revise the pricing for one of our two hotels in Cancun, and I must admit, I was fascinated with what a “disaster zone” might look like. I had heard the news reports that much had been cleaned up; however, when I tried to book a room, I could find few hotels and the rates were high. This was an indication to me that things weren’t auite back to normal yet. Boy was I right.

From the airport, you couldn’t tell – even leaving it, it was perfectly clean and manicured, as always. However, a few kilometers in and you could see many of the trees stripped of their colour, many simply with their tops removed. About 10 kilometers in, the road rides a levee of sorts; on the lagoon side the edge was filled with toppled, naked trees.

The Hilton is the first hotel at the edge of the hotel zone, and immediately one can see the sign and patches of paint stripped, the glass roof gone and many windows boarded up. As you enter the hotel zone, you continue to see such damage, interspersed with completely rebuilt hotels (Fiesta Americana, Le Meridien) next to hotels that had been really badly hit (the Aqua, which was completely torn apart; the Gran Melia, whose glass domes – four of five – were completely gone; the Sheraton, which was literally leveled, now just a sign and bare grass with specks of rubble).

The Hyatt Cancun Caribe managed relatively well considering; “average” damage. The Hyatt Regency was torn apart, now stripped bare even of its doors by the insurance company. Nothing left but a skeleton.

I think the most amazing scenes were those of the Gran Melia – it is such a large hotel, to see such damage was astounding – and the edge of the Hyatt Cancun Caribe one could look in at a room from the beach and the iron rivets inside the concrete were literally bent up. I could look straight into a room from the beach, nothing left, no wall or windows.

Wow, the power of a hurricane!
But in all this damage, the people were keeping the places as clean as possible and working hard to restore…

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Well, we're at the airport waiting to get home. Tokyo has been a bit of a surprise. We arrived to a blinding snowstorm, they had their heaviest snowfall in 10 years the day we arrived. About half a foot! Coming from where we left Bali which was 85 degrees at 11pm, this was a shock to our system...

We took the subway (clean, a little confusing to figure out) to the Dingka-gai (Electric Town) area to check out all of the electronics. It was a blast... especially when we adventured into a Pachinko Machine Gambling place. I had totally forgot about pachinko machines, we had one as a kid - kind of like a pinball machine but many more and smaller balls, and very colourful. Unlike with a pinball machine, though, you turn knobs to get the balls into certain holes (whereas in pinball you move bumpers to keep a single ball from the single hole). People were gambling with the number of balls they were gathering, then they turn them in. Fasinating.

We also then walked into many electronic shops and realised we don't need anything (!!!), so we went to these anime toy stores. Totally cool - Andrew bought a doll for around 5,000 Yen ($50) that is a sexy girl wearing a band uniform. Artful, different. Awesome.

At night we went on a tour of the Park Hyatt Tokyo and then the hotel took us to drinks and also took care of our dinner at the New York Grill - where Scarlett Joahnnsen and Bill Murray had dinner in Lost in Translation. Quite a treat, and the blizzard finally cleared to show a spectacular view of Tokyo - all snow covered under the city lights.

Today we went to a famous shrine (forgot the name) - we wished for a friend of ours to get well and got a fortune. Then went to Ginza where we went down a side street and bought lunch at a place that spoke no English and thankfully had pictures on the menu of the food - tempura vegetables on rice plus noodle soup. Safe and easy. Finally went home, packed and here we are!

Final note - the airport must be further away from any major city than any other airport/city combo in the world. It takes over an hour to get to the airport from the city edge!

Look for a note for photos, will post them when we get home. Actually looking forward to it! Time to go see Andy, he's bored watching TV in Japanese...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

This place is awesome. We already have two full suitcases full of stuff to bring back from Bali and we still want more! Extremely inexpensive and truly wonderful. Today is our fifth day here, so here are some of the highlights:

- Five hour spa day at the Bali Hyatt, in Sanur, just north of where we are now (the Grand Hyatt). Massages, milk bath, even lunch. Truly relaxing and amazing.

- Ubud is art, art and more art. Never seen so much art lining the streets for miles even getting there. Very touristy but well done.

- People here very poor and life is difficult. At the Grand Hyatt there literally must only be 20 guests in a 750 room hotel. Every local we talk to says work is "bad", you're the "first customer in a week" or a month even. The Balinese don't consider themselves Indonesian and are unhappy about the terrorism - only that. Very happy people despite such difficult working environment.

- Went to Monkey forest, with a temple, etc. Monkeys everywhere, at first amazing, now just irritating, but it is interesting to see them wherever there are temples. Aggressive, grab at your sarong/backpacks for anything.

- Temples everywhere, so beautiful but there is one every 500 feet. Get a bit desensitised, but they are truly amazing.

- Took a drive and got lost (worst driving conditions I have seen anywhere, period). But we got lost at the most amazing place, in the middle of nowhere and found out later we were in the center of the island - rice fields, small villages, poor, spectacular scenery. Can't wait to get the pictures published.

- Went white water rafting in a gorge in a rain forest, jungle with waterfalls and hanging bridges all over. Never seen anything like it, every once in a while a hotel will be perched 1,000 feet up the cliff from where we were. Truly spectacular, out of Jurassic Park.

- Massive rain storm last night, about the loudest thunder we've ever heard. All night! But rain is only part of the day, then gets clear or partly cloudy rest of day.

That is it for the time. Can't believe trip is almost over, leave for Tokyo late Friday and then there all day Saturday, come home on Sunday. See you all soon...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Kuala Lumpur

What a great trip so far.... we've had nothing but splendid weather, lots of fun and rest. Hard to believe we aren't even half way through the trip. Our last day in Thailand we went on an elephant ride, it was awesome. Andy fed a baby elephant and hugged it, it was so cute - it even danced and played the harmonica for us!

Kuala Lumpur has been as hot and humid as I remember, just miserable - although not quite as bad as last time. We toured the mosques and went to the Petronas towers where we also had lunch. Amazing to see an area filled with culture, then take the train and 10 minutes later be in a mega-mall. This city is filled with such yin and yang. I'm in the executive club lounge at the Hilton (ha ha - got an upgrade thanks to American Airlines, they have no idea I work for Hyatt) and we're about to go off to Petaling Street, which is a huge section of streets in Chinatown that are covered over the top of the buildings and have a street fair at night.

Tomorrow, off to 8 days in Bali!

Ciao for now...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hua Hin, Thailand

We are doing well here in Thailand. After a grueling 30 hour trip to Bangkok (thank God for the Cathay Pacific business lounge in Hong Kong, at least a little luxury on the trip), we had an amazing river tour of the Bangkok canals and visited the Grand Palace just as the sun broke out and it hit 90 degrees. Boy was it hot! But when we get the pictures up when we get back, you'll have to see it - just amazing. We also went to a transsexual cabaret show which was... interesting.

Now in Hua Hin, a tiny town on the coast. Beautiful hotel and a cute town, did the night market last night. We've already got tons of stuff and we're only at day 4 of our vacation!Today we are going to hike to the little hill at the end of the beach and visit the temple. Then I am taking a Thai kickboxing class after spending time by the pool... tomorrow we are taking elephant rides and more pool time before heading to Kuala Lumpur.

Already feel a world away and we only started the vacation! Weather cooler than normal, except for the one hot day, it has been mid 80s and sunny all the time.
Biggest surprise: how clean Bangkok is and how friendly everyone is. A very, very happy people.

Until next time... got a beach to visit...