The Ultimate Packing Challenge

Ultimate packing challenge???  Well, at least it is for me.  I’ll be gone for a month, visiting countries that have temperatures ranging from Lhasa’s average low of 31 F  to an average high of 105 F in both Delhi, India and Chitwan National Park.  Fortunately, I “met” a new virtual friend via OAT’s Forum.  She gave me lots of helpful hints, and most importantly, clued me into the existence of laundry facilities that are plentiful and cheap.  Thanks to her advice, I am able to be safely under the airlines’ 44 pound checked luggage maximum.

In the spirit of giving back, this post is all about what I’m packing.  Maybe a future OAT traveler to Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet will find my information as helpful as I found Janet’s.

There’s nothing like a visual, right?  P1140314

Being your obsessive compulsive kind of gal, I start packing many days before departure, loading articles on the bed in our spare room.  I use a paper list and check off as I go.

One of the many nice things about OAT trips is no one cares what you look like.  No one dresses to impress–it is all about comfort and adventure, so you will notice a total absence of makeup, jewelry, fancy clothes and dress up shoes.  But then, my family would tell you that’s how I normally roll.

Checked luggage:

Toiletries:  toothbrush, paste, floss, shampoo, conditioner, brush, comb, moisturizer, deodorant, soap, face cloth.  

I’m not bothering with a hair dryer because some of the places we will be visiting won’t have electricity.   I let my hair grow just for this trip, so I can pull it back and forget about it.

Miscellaneous: binoculars, sunscreen, Insect repellant, anti itch gel, lip balm, lotion, Ibuprofen, Pepto bismol, gasex, Imodium, Hydrocortisone, Bandaids, bonine, moleskins, z-pak, granola bars, small duffel (supplied by OAT).

I’m hoping I won’t need any of the medications.  Whatever I don’t use on the trip, I’ll give to the trip leader.  Might as well have someone make use of it before the expiration dates.

Clothes:  Rain jacket, down jacket,  Sun hat, Sweater, Underwear  (14 days),
socks (10 ), long underwear (2), Pajamas (2), Shorts (2), Short sleeve tops (7), long sleeve tops (5), Long pants  (4), capris (1), Sneakers, flip flops, keens, bathing suit, buff, chill band.

For the colder parts of the trip, I figure  I can wear long underwear beneath my lightweight pants.  No need for corduroys.  I’m counting on layers to keep me warm.

My goal is to get by for at least a week, maybe two, without having to do laundry.  I may have packed more  than I need; I will report back after the trip is over, identifying anything I took that I didn’t need, and anything that I didn’t take, but wished I had.

As with other OAT trips, we will be visiting a local family, so I packed gifts.  Our guide told me that warm socks are always appreciated for the cold winter months, something I never would have thought to bring.  Of course, I had to include toys for the kids, plus an inflatable globe.


On our OAT trip to Africa, we discovered that a duffel holds more than we ever imagined  possible.  We also learned there is no need for those fancy packing cubes.  My jumbo zip lock bags work just fine, allowing me to pull out only what is needed.   Take a look.


Shoes in the bottom, along with items I expect to need at the end of the trip.    P1140320

Yep. It all fit and I even have a tiny amount of extra room.

I know you’re wondering, so yes, that white decoration on my teal LL Bean duffle was my very own creation.  Nobody is walking off with MY bag and claiming it was a mistake!

Because I have a direct flight to Delhi, I don’t need to pack a change of clothes into my carry on.  Here’s what’s going inside.

Backpack:  Money, credit card, passport, etickets, travel info,  camera, batteries, charger, iPad connector, iPad, ipod, Bose headset, sleeping aid, Wipes, hand sanitizer, Glasses  & case, water bottle, cell phone, pens, pencils, notepad, gum, cough drops, copy of passport.


 That little black bag with the white decoration?  That’s my “comfort case”, which holds the small items –cough drops, pens, gum, etc. so that I don’t have to rummage through the many pockets of my back pack.

The good news?  I did indeed score the first class upgrade I requested back in November, so I probably won’t need to be digging into that comfort case the way I would have if I were back in economy.  United, you have been forgiven.

The sad news?   Because of some late breaking events, Mike and Greg won’t be able to come on this trip.  Thank heavens for trip insurance!

What a way to go!

We had to be at Hue’s airport by noon, so we started our morning early, with a boat ride up the Perfume River to visit the Beautiful Lady Pagoda and two of the Mausoleums.

Which dragon boat will be ours?
Which dragon boat will be ours?
Since we are the only passengers, we can sit anywhere we want.
Since we are the only passengers, we can sit anywhere we want.

The lady of the boat was also in charge of the “gift shop”. She’s very happy because I overpaid for a couple of items. Even Buddha is laughing at me! But she is pregnant, so I don’t feel bad about contributing to her unborn child’s well being.
At one time, each of the seven layers in the tower contained a gold Buddha statue, but overtime, they all disappeared.

Thien Mu Pagoda
Tower at Thien Mu Pagoda

Also on site is the car that was used to drive Thich Tri Quang, the monk that set himself on fire in Saigon. He was protesting the persecution of the Buddhists by the South Vietnamese Catholics, led by Diem.
Once again, I learned that I can’t leave Mike alone.

Everywhere he goes, Mike attracts attention!
Everywhere he goes, Mike attracts attention!

This guy attracted MY attention.

Yes, those eyebrows and that beard ARE made of real hair
Yes, those eyebrows and that beard ARE made of real hair

The ruling class did not suffer from low self esteem, as evidenced by their mausoleums. No humble hole in the ground for them. Their mausoleums also functioned as parks; they were so lovely the emperors used to spend time there while still alive.

There are seven levels, and 127 steep steps to the top.
There are seven levels, and 127 steep steps to the top.

Bao Dai, the “playboy” emperor, abdicated in 1945, but before he left, he constructed this tomb to honor his father, Khai Dinh. It was quite dazzling, with all the gold.

Life sized statue of Khai Dinh
Life sized statue of Khai Dinh

But one statue is never enough.
The queen’s photo hangs on the top level. She doesn’t look very happy, but then, neither would I if Mike had scores of concubines.

I know that if “my girls” had been with me, THEY would have put on a costume and sat on the throne for me to photograph. Mike was not as cooperative, so I had to make do.

Time to leave for Hue’s airport. There are no jetways, so we walked down a flight of stairs, to the outside, where we boarded a bus that drove about 100 feet to the plane for our flight to Hanoi.

Yep, we DID ride that bus all the way to the plane.
Yep, we DID ride that bus all the way to the plane.

The Citadel

As befitting the one time capital of Vietnam, Hue has a citadel, complete with a couple of moats, cannons and majestic gates with names like Gate of Everlasting Happiness.

If this isn't the Gate of Everlasting Happiness, it SHOULD be.
If this isn’t the Gate of Everlasting Happiness, it SHOULD be.
Gate detail. The Vietnamese are descendants of dragons and fairies
Gate detail. According to legend, the Vietnamese are descendants of dragons and fairies

We’ve all seen cannons, so you don’t need to see the whole thing, but I’ll bet you’ve never seen cannons as fancy as the ones at Hue.

The Vietnamese are incredible craftsmen. This is one of the "four seasons" guns.
The Vietnamese are incredible craftsmen. This is one of the “four seasons” guns.

The emperor lived in the Forbidden Purple City with his wives, concubines, daughters, young sons and female servants. If any male, other than the emperor, (or one of the eunuchs) attempted to enter the Purple City, he was put to death. I was quite excited about wandering thru the forbidden city, but unfortunately it was flattened during the Tet offensive or America’s response. Nothing remains of the emperor’s residence.

You'll just have to use your imagination to conjure up the Forbidden City. Here is where it stood.
You’ll just have to use your imagination to conjure up the Forbidden City. Here is where it stood.

These galleries of Hue’s citadel have been restored and give you an idea of the glorious days of old.

Restored gallery
Restored gallery

Our tour guide had gone to college in Hue, so he was full of great restaurant and bar restaurants. Instead Mike and I opted to have a wonderful dinner on the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, enjoying the perfect weather and the beautiful view.

The view of the Perfume River from our room
The view of the Perfume River from our room

Speaking of our room, I’m not sure why the Mercure Hotel thinks showering is a spectator sport. Both of the Mercure Hotels had a “viewing” option. See what I mean?

This might have been a good idea 30 years ago...
This might have been a good idea 30 years ago…

One more day of our private tour, a day in Hanoi, then I’ll be telling you all about my Global Volunteers experience.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for–the answers to the last contest’s questions
1. We visited Halong Bay on this trip. Although Angkor Wat IS indeed a wonder of the world, it is man made, not a natural wonder.
2. Early in the morning, in Luang Prabang, the monks beg for their food.
3. The best way to tour Hanoi’s old quarter is a matter of opinion. Both Cyclo and on foot are correct, and yes, Lis, this was a trick question!
4. This question was specially for Kristy because of her fondness for the dong. The answer is Vietnam.
5. I lost my glasses once, but was able to retrieve them, because I remembered where I had left them–but Mike and his hat have parted ways for good.
6. The GI’s called the beach at DaNang “China Beach” because of all the porcelain they found there.