Take This Job and Shove It - Sabbatical 2003

Sabbatical 2003

We are Back !!!

Around the World in 180 Days

Beth Ruyle and Craig Hullinger have completed their sabbatical, January through June 2003. We spent 6 months traveling around the world. We checked out our roots, and had a very good time. Beth is now back at Ehlers and I am back to my consulting practice. In the immortal words of a famous Country & Western singer, we said,

“Take This Job and Shove It, 

I ain’t workin here no more”.

Well, now we are back to work. Beth and I thought it was time to recharge our batteries and we have. Now we have to work to earn our boat space on spaceship earth.

We traveled from January through June, 2003, and went to Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. We drove Beth’s red convertible sports car in Europe. Any road will do when you don’t know where you are going. We met lots of great people.

We have traveled west around the world. This corrected a problem I created when I went east around the world in 1970 / 1971 on leave from the Marines in Vietnam. I have been screwed up ever since and this trip unscrewed me. Of course, now Beth is screwed up, requiring an additional trip back around the world, which will unscrew her, but rescrew me. You get the picture.

Beth and I did not get very far on our spy/romance novel starring our significantly embellished ourselves and our adventures. I had wanted to go to more adventurous places such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Africa, etc for back ground material, but Beth said no. The woman has no sense of adventure. I have volunteered to go back on active duty with the Marines for the Iraq, but so far they have said no, telling me between the lines that I am too old and fat. But my Walter Mitty fantasies may work themselves into the spy/romance yarn if we ever get started.

Pre D-Day

Tuesday, January 7, 2003

How do you pack for a 6 month sabbatical? Very carefully.  

Beth came home from work at 6:30 PM.  She started packing immediately and was finished 2.5 hours later.  

She put all of our gear in four duffle bag suitcases with wheels, plus a small bag on wheels to carry smaller possessions. You need roughly ten days' worth of clothes for a six month trip. This means you have to wash or dry clean about once a week. The fact that we plan to be in both cold and hot climates complicates packing. She planned the four cases to be able to fit in the trunk of the car we bought in Germany. And it worked.

That done, we went out for drinks with Dave and Gudren Dorgan and Scott Neihaus for an impromptu bon voyage party. We left for Hong Kong the next day.

Day 1

Day 1:  Wednesday, January 8, 2003

We took the limo to O'Hare Airport at 0900 AM. We departed O'Hare Airport on United, non stop to Hong Kong for the 15 hour flight. Two Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) guys with big 45 pistols on their belts escorted a Chinese man on to the aircraft. They sent him inside the big 747, but stayed outside to make sure he did not leave until we took off. He was a very mean looking guy.
After a time he loosened up, and smiled broadly at Beth. I introduced myself to him, and asked about his story. He told me he had been a Canadian citizen for the past 15 years. He is a truck driver and forklift driver. 

He flew to Hong Kong, and then flew back from Hong Kong to Chicago. Immigration stopped him at O'Hare and took him into custody. He spent nearly a month in a federal prison in downtown Chicago. They did not even allow him to call anyone. His wife and family have no idea where he is. All his money was taken when he went into prison. They have given him a check for the cash, but he can't cash it. They apparently have lost all his luggage at the prison.

I commiserated with the guy. I told him it sounded more like the way we think you might get treated in Communist China with their record of human rights abuse, than in the US, "Land of the Free." But I also think there must be more to the story. If he did indeed have a valid Canadian passport, I think they would have let him go on to Canada. He spoke fairly good English, so I think he probably has been in Canada for a number of years, but I will bet his passport is not correct. Will never know for sure.

Steven & Miles were our two very nice flight attendants. We told them that we were taking 180 days to travel around the world, taking a sabbatical from work. They both live in Bangkok and gave us some advice on traveling to Laos & Cambodia.

We flew over Canada, and over the polar ice pack. We thought because we were heading west we would have a long day, but it was dark by 4:00 PM because we went so far north. Beautiful sunset over the polar ice pack.

The sunset was a line of black at the horizon with an orange tint, fading into green and blue in the darkness of night. It looked like a jagged piece of lightning split the ice. There was, of course, not a light anywhere on the ground. The flume from the engine exhaust gave a ghostly light against the background.

There was a guy doing Yoga in the galley at 2:15 am. Constant movies all night, most of them incomprehensible. The flight took 15 hours.

Hong Kong

We arrived in Hong Kong very tired from the long flight. Customs was easy.

We have been in Hong Kong numerous times, both before and after it transferred from Great Britain to the Peoples Republic of China. We don't see many changes, so the PRC seems to have kept things liberal, at least for tourists.

One humorous note. Beth had made reservations over the Internet for what we thought was the Peninsula Hotel, a very high end hotel. We instead got the Eaton Hotel on the Kowloon Peninsula. It is a very nice hotel, but not nearly as nice or expensive as the Peninsula.  

On the first night before sleeping Beth and I walked around town.  We were both very tired. She promptly fell on the booby trapped sidewalk. Nothing hurt but her dignity.


We did the requisite tourist things today, including a trip out to Stanley Market and a trip to Victoria Peak. The tram to the Peak is always fun.  Beautiful views all over Kowloon and Hong Kong. Bought Beth pearls and opals.  So far we have dined on Chinese, German, Spanish and coffee shop cuisine.  Have not missed America enough to go to McDonald's yet.  It is good to see that we have exported our American culture all over the world.  I also just got Beth a dozen roses, and have received points for that.

From a Previous Trip. 
The Chinese enjoyed the Blue Eyed Empress

More photos of Hong Kong


Bangkok, Thailand

January 14, 2003 Bangkok
View From Our Room

We left Hong Kong, flying Thai Air to Bangkok. We are staying in the Sheraton Royal Orchid on the 23rd floor overlooking the Chao Phraya River. The hotel is beautiful, as always.

The River is incredibly
Rooster Tail Boats
busy, with high speed rooster tail (James Bond) boats, ferries, commuter boats, express and cross-the-river commuter boats, and small barges hauled by tow boats. Families live on the barges and tow boats, where a small cabin on the stern doubles as their home.  You see children playing, tv aerials, and women washing clothing and cooking on the boats.  We count eight fan tail boats on the River in front of our hotel at the moment.  In the middle of all this frenetic activity is a small police boat, apparently serving to warn everyone to keep speeds down.

There are small Khlongs (Canals) connecting to the River. These Khlongs act as drainage ways into the river, and the larger ones are navigable.  We watch small boys swimming and jumping into the khlongs.

We are watching the sun slowly set into the river.  The smog overlying the city diminishes the attractive sunset.January is the coolest month in Thailand. Temperatures in Bangkok are average about 91 degrees.

January 15, 2003

We spent a lazy day in Bangkok.  We shopped a little in the beautiful shopping center attached to the Sheraton Royal Orchid.  Went swimming in the pool, beautifully surrounded by palm trees and next to the River.

The first time we swam in the Royal Orchid Sheraton jungle pool, I hit something twice with my hand. I am very near-sighted, and a little stupid, so it took me a few moments to realize that it was a large green snake that I had hit.  As I began to reach for the snake, my brain belatedly kicked in, and said,


So I just rose to the surface, and told Beth about my friend the snake.  Several pool attendants rushed over, netted the snake, killed it, tossed it in the River.  

They then told me, "don't worry, not poisonous."  I hoped they were right, but I went looking for bite marks anyway -- did not find any.

On another trip we found a large turtle swimming in the pool. And the grounds of the pool contains peacocks.The peacock strutted its stuff for Beth, unveiling it's huge fan tail composed of feathers that were sapphire blue and emerald green, and fragile like lace.  Many of them have an eye-like pattern.

Last night we had a nice Thai dinner with Chuck and Anne Kathrein. Chuck is an old Marine buddy, and Anne is his wife. Anne is Thai, Chinese and American. They founded a successful software company, Mustang Technologies, that services business in the far east. The name derives from the fact that Chuck (and I) were Mustang officers, meaning we were first enlisted Marines before we became officers (we are like wild horses). Mustang Technologies was the first business to open in Bangkok's new Technology Park. The Royal Princess visited their company, which is a very great honor in Thailand, where the Royal family is greatly respected.

Phuket, Thailand

January 18, 2003

Flew from Bangkok to Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is a lovely island off the coast of Thailand, about 1.2 hours flight south of Bangkok. Imagine Thai and southsea island ambiance. We are staying a very nice hotel with a swimming pool right outside our balcony window.

It is very hot here. Best to swim and relax during the heat of the day and then party at night.

January 19, 2003

Wandered all over the town this morning, when no one is awake. I always like it best at that time. Thais on motor bikes constantly offer me their services. Most of the time I don't know what they are offering. I usually politely decline, although I did pay on fellow a few Baht to drive me around on his motorcycle. I quickly remembered how much I hate to ride on a motorcycle when someone else is driving. And I didn't know this guy.

I wandered all over town to find a laundry to drop off our cleaning. They were all closed this morning. I finally found a bakery / laundry where I woke up the proprietor, who was sleeping in his loin clothe. It took him a long time to add the bill - he could not add very well. He weighed the laundry, and charged me by the Kilo. I think he said it would be 378 Baht. I hope it is not 378 dollars.

Beth got her toe nails and finger nails painted on the Beach. She has pink nails with white daiseys with a blue center, all for 200 Bhat (about $5.00) from Noya on the Beach. Noya also gave me a Thai Massage on the Beach for 300 Bhat. Whole process took 2 hours. Beth actually stayed still for the entire process, which may mean this Wound Up Type A woman may finally be winding down. Although she does dream about work almost every night.

I got my hair cut by a Thai lady barber. Beth hovered around giving directions and advice, None of which was understood by or followed by the barber. I got nervous when she got out her straight razor. Beth is not impressed with the haircut, which she says emphasizes my not so latent baldness.

Southeast Asia is an amazing amalgam of small business, hustling for your money. Not that many Americans here. Far more Europeans.

January 20, 2003

Went to James Bond Island today, made popular by the film "The Man With The Golden Gun". Beautiful huge rocks rising straight out of the ocean.

We travel in fan tail boats with the engines and propellers on the aft, with the boatman controlling direction by moving the entire engine and propeller. Also visited a Buddhist temple in a cave, where Beth fed small monkees. Also visited a Moslem Village built on stilts.

Tomorrow I am going sea kayaking into caves at night, while Beth shops. I think this makes it clear that she is brighter than I am.

January 22, 2003

I went kayaking today while Beth shopped. Beth acquired some very nice jewelry. I thought I would be back by 6:30 pm, but did not get back till 11:00 pm. Beth thought I was lost at sea, but the truth is I could not read the brochure. 

The sea kayaking was loads of fun. We took a ship out to

some very steep coastal rocks, and darted in and out of closed lagoons through very low cave entrances. The caves were very narrow and dark, and we needed flashlights to navigate. I was with three very nice young people, Reed from Boulder, Colorado, Cheree a nurse from Denver, and P___, a nurse from Hawaii. They were all camping that night on an island with Ali, our guide. Ali
decided I was Pappa, and continued to hug me. Ah was also a guide, who paddled the kayak with me. He and I taught each other English / Thai on the long return trip from the islands.

We went swimming as the sun went down, and paddled into a cave after dark with offerings that we made with incense and candles. We were to make a wish, and my wish was that Beth would not kill me when I returned 6 hours late that night. I am still alive, but also still in trouble. Looks like more jewelry to atone.

We called Beth's mother Mae on what we think is her birthday - we remain unsure of what day it really is since travelling past the international date line. It was good to talk to Mae - 6 months away is a long time. Florida time is 11 hours before our local time here, so we are nearly on the other side of the world.

We are having clothes made at one of the many Indian tailor shops. Mona is our tailor. She is from Nepal, while is her mother is Burmese. She tells us she works 70 hours a week. The people to work very long hours, and of course for very low pay. But Thailand does seem to get more prosperous each time that we come here.

The next day Beth and I hired a car to take us around the island. Very beautiful views at different points on the island. And of course each driver wants to take us to as many shopping points as possible.

We are two weeks into our trip, and getting very unwound. I knew we were getting acclimatized when Beth asked if the cars were on the same side of the road here as in the US (We have been in left side of the road driving since we left the US two weeks ago.)

Today Beth and I got tattoos, after a lot of heavy drinking. Beth has a butterfly on her ankle, and I have a Marine Bulldog on my shoulder with the letters USMC, which as everyone knows stands for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. Unfortunately we did not have the nerve to get real tatoos, and these are supposed to wear away before we return to the US. The cabbies barked at me in reaction to my Bulldog.

Chang Mai, Laos, Myanmar (Burma)

27 Jan - 2 Feb 2003

View From Hotel, Chang Rai, Thailand

We have been travelling around Thailand, with short trips into Myanmar (Burma) and Laos.  This is the Golden Triangle Area formed by these three countries and the Mekong River. All the people are great.  Laos & Burma are very poor, similar to Vietnam, because of the wonderful communist government, which keeps everything moving at a snails pace.

Buying lots of stuff, learning a little Thai.  Beth and I went elephant trekking and jungle trekking - the short tourist version.  About killed Beth, and none to easy on me.  Beth loved feeding the elephants, which we thought was important to keep their good will.  They eat an amazing amount of bananas & sugar cane.

Took lots of rooster tail boat rides on the Mekong River and Kok River. Thai massages are great. The Laotion Whiskey bottles all have a real cobra in them - I avoided drinking that.

We were in Chiang Rai for a week, and have now moved on to Chaing Mai.  We will take the train back down to Bangkok.

We will try to go to Ankor Wat in Cambodia later this week. The border is closed between Thailand and Cambodia now - big flap because a Thai actress said in a soap opera the Ankor Wat should be part of Thailand - so the Cambodians sacked the Thai embassy, and border is closed.  Then, on to Greece.  

I am putting pictures and stuff on the internet as we go.  My laptop is broken now and the connections are too slow to update, but I will update when I get the computer working.

Feb 8, 2003

Our visit to Southeast Asia is coming to a close.  We are now back in Bangkok. We leave for Greece in 36 hours.  We have had a fine time.  We visited Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Phuket, Bangkok, and Pattaya.  

We missed Cambodia and Ankor Wat.  A Thai Soap Opera Actress said in a soap opera that Ankor Wat should be a part of Thailand.  This upset the Cambodians, who burned the Thai embassy.  The Thais closed the border, and so we judged it not worth the hassle to visit.  Another time, perhaps.

We are now kicking back for the next few hours.  We will have a Thai dinner at the home of Chuck and Ann Kathrein.  Will probably spend some more time riding on the River and in Khlongs (canals) in long tail boats.

The Border at Myanmar (Burma)  Very Poor, a Police State

Nice lady surrounded by Giants

Sunset Chang Rai, Thailand

Everything goes well with us. We are near the end of travels in southeast Asia. We are back at the Sheraton Royal Orchid Hotel in Bangkok, along the river. Lots of long tale boats zooming by. We ride them on the River and the Khlongs (Canals). People live along the Canals, bathe in the canals, was clothes, etc etc  We saw some nice Thai dancing last night. They have very pretty costumes, straight out of the King and I We also ride around in Tuk Tuks (pronounced (took tooks) These are little three wheeled motorbike taxicabs.  You have to negotiate your price before you ride.

We did not make it to Ankor Wat. The border between Thailand and Cambodia was closed for a while.  We will have to see that on the next trip. My laptop is still broken, so it is hard to get pictures on the net.