Amazing Race Elimination Station: When losing can be sweet

Losing the Amazing Race early in the competition isn’t all that bad, particularly for anyone wanting a sweet deal of a vacation. As soon as a team loses, the disappointed pair is taken to the Elimination Station, a villa in a lush location where they hang out until the end of the race. This season’s losers get to hole up in Ko Samui, Thailand.

Unfortunately, the two teams that have lost so far: Jennifer & Preston (last week) and Steve & Linda (this week) are still whining about losing, so they’re not enjoying where they are to the fullest. Hopefully, they’ll snap out of it and seek out a Thai massage before too long. If they had one hour massage a day, maybe the vision of losing would fade. Even a Thai hand or foot massage is sublime.

Here’s the link to the first video where Jennifer and Preston decide which room should be theirs. Check out the digs. Isn’t that furniture exquisite? Plus, there’s tropical fruit and people who will drive you where you want to go.

Amazing Race, Season 13: Cambodia, boats, breakdowns and beauty is only skin deep

After episode 4’s rest stop at Summerhill, that gorgeous sheep farm homestay in New Zealand, the teams barreling through the world in the Amazing Race were off to Cambodia.

This episode did a tidy drop of highlighting aspects of Cambodia’s culture and showcased its historical magnificence.

I’m still not sure which team I want to win. I do know which team I don’t.

Travel Tips from this episode:

  • If a travel agent says a flight is booked or closed, head to directly to the airline in case there might be room after all.
  • Don’t speed while driving in New Zealand. You could be stopped by the police.
  • If your boat breaks down in Siem Reap Harbor, if you use a stick for a row, you’ll eventually get somewhere.
  • Holding hands with your traveling companion can reduce stress.
  • Stay focused and calm, otherwise you’ll walk in circles and pass by the very place you’re trying to find.

Recap and Cultural Highlights

When Tina & Ken ripped open their destination details at 6:03 a.m., they were off lickety-split to Siem Reap, Cambodia, a place that evidently is not the easiest to get to from Auckland. There were only two flights left, both through Singapore. This separated couple, who seem to be getting along better by the hour, particularly as they won the last three legs, made it onto the first flight.

When Terrence & Sarah joined them, even after being slowed down by the who stopped Terrence for speeding 17 kilometers per hour above the speed limit, Tina & Ken took their presence in stride.

The rest of the gang, except for Ty and Aja who can’t seem to catch up, were close behind in plane two. Dan & Andrew squeaked onto this flight by heading to Emirates Airline’s ticket counter after they were told at the travel agent that the flight was closed. The ticket counter person, looking at their desperate, pleading faces, called down to the gate for the go-ahead.Their polite, but determined demeanor probably helped them score the ride. Ty and Aja weren’t so lucky and had to take a later flight. Which one? The next day perhaps? I have no idea.

Even though the flight to Cambodia went through Singapore, there wasn’t any mention of the slick polish of Changi Airport. I assume the teams had some time here because, according to Travelocity when I looked up possible schedules, flights from Auckland to New Zealand, average 34 hours or so. If you have any length of time to spend in an airport, Changi would not be the worst place.

Picking Cambodia as a backdrop for a leg of the Amazing Race, was a brilliant idea. It’s one of those countries where life is so different from the U.S., that senses pick up.

Whoever came up with the tasks the teams had to complete to get to the Pit Stop did a wonderful job using aspects of normal Cambodian life to create drama and provide interest. There didn’t seem to be the need to rely on gimmicks because the country is filled with unusual details, evident from the first task.

The first task was to take a taxi to a gas station in order to fill a truck’s gas tank with 25 liters of gas–five liters at a time. The only team to have trouble with hand-cranking gas, the typical method in Cambodia, were Dan & Andrew because they didn’t crank hard enough.

Once the tanks were filled, in a neck and neck pace, the teams climbed into their trucks to have the drivers take them to Siem Reap Harbor where they were to take traditional-style boats to the middle of the largest lake in S.E Asia to the floating Kho Andeth restaurant.

The truck ride was a mad dash as the teams at the front of the pack kept passing each other with whoops, hollers and High Fives. I enjoy watching this show the most when the teams seem to be enjoying each other and their surroundings. Tina & Ken, Terrence & Sarah, Andrew & Dan, and Dallas & Toni are those type of teams.

Sarah & Terrence certainly weren’t enjoying the process, though, when their boat broke down. The boats, similar to what you’d find in Vietnam or Thailand, were rickety, mostly wooden and equipped with buzzy motors. Each boat was big enough to carry a small group–although in this case carried passengers of two.

When their boat conked out, Terrence gamely started rowing, pushing on the lake’s bottom with a big pole. Sarah cheered him on as one by one, teams passed them. Neither of them took their misfortune out on the other which helped keep their moods from getting them down. Can do attitudes can work. At the restaurant, the driver was able to fix their boat quickly so off they went once more.

I would have liked to see a meal at this restaurant for future dining info in case I’m ever in Siem Reap, but there’s not time to dine on the Amazing Race. Have you noticed? What and when do teams eat?

From Kho Andeth Restaurant, it was off to do one of two tasks. “Village Life” or “Village Work” This was a fascinating segment since it focused on the life of a village that is totally set on water in a series of floating buildings, only accessible by boat. As Dallas said, “It’s like Waterworld.”

As Christy & Kelly made their way by boat, they kept noticing the poverty and wondered about children swimming on their own. As one of them said, “It breaks my heart.”

There isn’t a bigger eye opener when you travel than seeing the lifestyles of the world’s children. If one travels enough, so much of what might seem dangerous or poor seems normal. The vibrancy of life is what shines through.

Once the teams got busy with their tasks there wasn’t any more time to ponder.

For Village Life, teams went to three different locations to pick up three objects: a doll from the tailor; a pair of chattering false teeth from the dentist; and a basketball from a floating basketball court. To acquire the basketball, each team member had to shoot a basket first.

The funniest part here was when Christy & Kelly stepped into the dentist’s office, saw a woman with her mouth wide open and getting her teeth worked on by the dentist. At first, they thought, horrified, that the women’s teeth were the ones they were supposed to get.

For “Village Work,” the teams were to retrieve baskets filled with fish out of the lake, one basket for each team member. What a hard, totally not fun job. If I had picked this task, I’d have had hard time not whining and would want to change clothes afterwards double quick.

From the lake, the teams were off to Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s former capital city and temple that was built in the 12th century during the reign of King Suryavarman II. One person from each team was to find a specific room in the massive complex where, if you beat your chest, the sound echoes.

This task, although not phyically hard, required a sense of direction, or the ability to entice a Cambodian to take you to where you want to go. Up and down stairs and through hallways upon hallways, the team members doing the task scurried looking for the right spot. The task was a great way to highlight the intricacies of Angkor Wat’s architicture and details without anyone directly talking about its magnificence.

Nick found the room first, hit his chest, picked up the tablet with the next clue and and hid it under his shirt so he wouldn’t tip off the other teams. I’m not too fond of Nick really. He’s one of those people who appears to be used to winning. Of course, he is one of those people who is on the winning end, so he has a point.

Tina had a heck of a time figuring out her way around the temple and even walked through the room she was to find, not once, but twice. On one pass through, she wondered out loud what she was missing. Ken, to his credit didn’t take her lack of direction out on her when she finally appeared after several teams passed them.

The next stop was Bayon Temple, another 12th century beauty. Here was the Pit Stop location.

Who won this round: Nick and Starr

Nick and Starr also won round one and now feel like they are back in fine from. They are not my favorite team. I was hoping another team would have a shot at a prize.

What they won: A trip to St. John, Virgin Islands where they will snorkel in Trunk Bay and have a catamaran ride.

Eliminated: Ty and Aja

Words of wisdom: Think that the person you’re traveling with is utterly amazing and hold hands often.

At the end of this episode they walked away holding hands after Ty vowed he would move to California where Aja lives.

Aja thinks he’s the most beautiful person she has ever seen and that when she’s near him she gets butterflies. I’d say she won’t mind having him closer.

Who I don’t want to win: Christy and Kelly. They made a snide comment about Dallas’ hair. They said it makie him look like Teen Wolf. What snots.

What’s wrong with Teen Wolf anyway?

Amazing Race 13: Brazil has crappy taxis, beautiful beaches and travel lessons worth learning

This week’s Amazing Race dash from Salvador to Fortaleza, Brazil showed how much crappy taxis can affect travel, and pointed out how much mood and personality play into a person’s good time.

Travel lessons in episode 2:

  • Exchange money at the airport before you leave one destination for another in order to have money on hand when you need it.
  • If you are in a broken down taxi, find another one. Better yet, pick out taxis that look like they run.
  • If you are going to be making a quick stop in a remote location, have the taxi wait for you. This will save you from being stuck without a taxi and unable to easily find another one.
  • Write down names of the places where you want to go in order for someone to help you with directions. Showing people the names of places ensures that you will be understood, particularly when a location is hard to pronounce.
  • Don’t run-off willy nilly without paying attention to your surroundings and what other people are doing. Keen observers have a better chance at successful travel.
  • Knowing a bit of the local language can help make life easier.

Recap, observations and cultural highlights:

The before the crack of dawn start times of this game would just put me over the edge. The first team, bro and sis duo Nick & Starr, left the Pit Stop at 4:07 a.m. for the airport in a taxi with a thing for speed.

“He’s going a little fast. It’s making me a little nervous,” said Starr.

Yep, I’ve been in a taxi with that kind of driver–Nigeria, to name one place. White knuckles and heartfelt prayers of don’t let me die are not the best start before a morning cup of coffee. Close behind was the married, but separated pair, Ken & Tina.

After finding out that the next plane for Fortaleza was not until 11:30 a.m., the two couples refused to believe that nonsense and found a flight departing at 6:45 a.m. One catch though, there was only one seat left.

So what? Here’s a Travel 101 lesson that sometimes works. Refuse to leave the ticket counter and plead–or look flummoxed. A “no” can turn into a “yes.” I’ve looked flummoxed on a few occasions and it once put me on a Japan Airlines flight out of Tokyo when the Korean Airlines flight was sold out. I had a non-refundable, non-transferable Korean Airline ticket.

In the case of our Amazing Race friends, pleading worked like a charm. Tina’s perseverance led to a bigger plane so there was room for everyone. That included dating team, Anthony & Stephanie whose taxi belched smoke all the way to the airport, the first indication of woes to come. “Looks like you’re burning a little exhaust,” quipped Anthony.

At this point, Terrence & Sarah were having the biggest travel dissonance. Terrence, an emotional train wreck, relies on Sarah to make life better for him with kisses, band-aids and apologies. He bumps his head, whines for a band-aid and she gets him one. My word, Terrence, you’ve hardly begun this journey to be falling apart so soon.

Once in Fortaleza, all headed pell mell via taxi to Plaza do Cumbuco and their first task. With a knack for picking out clunkers, Anthony & Stephanie’s taxi stalled. Determined, Anthony tried to get the driver to pop the clutch while he pushed. After dumping that taxi for another, he observed, “Everything is broken in this country.”

At Plaza do Cumbuco, the teams road along the beach in dune buggies, a happy task for all.

“I love Brazil,” cried out one of the South Carolina blonds as the wind whipped her hair. Even Terrence, who has had a hard time deciding if he’ll ever have fun or not–ever, was pleased with the ride and felt love was all around.

On the way to Plaza Cumbuco, Anthony & Stephanie looked at the run down houses and said, “Makes you appreciate what you have,” followed by Anthony’s, “If they learn how to fix a car, they’ll make it rich.”

Humorous, in a way, but there is a point he missed. Fixing items is often a money flow problem. Of all the couples, Anthony & Stephanie are the ones who were shown noticing a bit of Brazil’s economic issues. Perhaps, if their taxis hadn’t had issues, they would have sped by the signs of economic distress as well.

The next task was to “Beach It” or “Dock It.” With Beach It, the teams had to push a traditional boat with the help of a two-man crew a few hundred feet across the sand into the ocean, a process that used logs to roll the boat along.

This task also gave a nod to Brazil’s traditional fishing industry. The other task pointed out Brazil’s role in the shipping world. The teams who chose this task were to head to a shipping yard and look for a specific container out of hundreds that held their clue to the Pit Stop.

Finding the container involved scrolling through the computerized list of all the containers, finding the corresponding area on the dock that held their container, and then finding the number match. Of course, this was right up Mark & Bill’s brain brawn alley.

Southern Belles, Marisa & Brooke also wanted this task because neither of them see themselves as physically strong. Not brainy either, they made a mistake and ended up at the boats instead of the shipping yard. To their credit, instead of whining, they got busy giving their boat the mighty heave hos to get it in the water.

Moving a boat across the sand is not easy, but the logs worked like a charm if placed correctly at the bow–just in case you’re ever in the situation where you need to move a heavy boat.

During this segment, it was evident how maintaining calm and paying attention to details affect outcomes. Terrance & Sarah didn’t pay attention to their surroundings and missed the taxi stand which seriously put them towards the rear of the pack.

Divorcees Kelly & Christy got their tasks mixed up and dug around in the sand for a container after they finished moving their boat. Once they realized their mistake, they sped off to Parque de Vaquejada in Ceará for the next task and another mistake. They forgot to tell the taxi driver to stay at this place that does not have a taxi park.

Who hasn’t had one of those travel days where it’s one thing after another? Hmmmm? Be honest.

At Parque de Vaquejada, one person from each team searched a wall filled with Portuguese words, several of them ads, to find the name of the place of the next Pit Stop. When in doubt, write down every word that looks like a location. It works like a charm as each team eventually discovered.

The Pit Stop, Cidade da Criança was built in Fortalesa as an “oasis for children.” What is an “oasis for children” exactly. It’s a park.

Ken & Tina hoofed it to the oasis, running neck and neck with Mark & Bill, and landed on the mat first. No children were bowled over by the efforts.

What Ken & Tina won: Two off-road vehicles.

Why Mark & Bill don’t care they didn’t win this leg after all. They said that if Ken & Tina’s marriage could be saved, it’s worth two off-road vehicles. How sweet.

Eliminated: Anthony & Stephanie. I was sad to see them go since they seemed to be the two people who were getting the most out of international travel.

Their words of travel wisdom:

Be thankful for what you have at home.

Anthony ran down the list: house, people you love, your looks. You name it, be thankful was the basic message. In his case, I’m sure he’s thankful for having a car that runs.

Irritating behavior to never do while traveling:

Kiss people you don’t know on the cheek. Starr kissed each of the two men who were to help them push their boat into the water. Her reasoning was to give them extra motivation. Gaad.

Funniest part: When Terrence saw an ice-cream shop and wondered if they should stop to get one. Sarah said, “As if we are on a tour.”

For last week’s recap, click here.

Gading Take FIVE: Week of September 27 – October 3

Each week, when I pick out posts for Gadling’s Take FIVE, I look for posts that fit together in some way. These week, I’ve noticed a numbers theme.

  • In David’s post on America’s most scenic train route, he noted that the journey between New York City and Montreal takes 11 hours and there are 90 seats left for the period between October 2 and November 11.
  • Abha found out that only 8 people in the Cameroon speak Busuu and that the human voice only travels 200 meters. You can read about this and more in her post on a website that helps you learn new languages.
  • When a man smuggles 200 canaries in 4 cages in 1 suitcase, there is trouble in international travel. Josh pointed out what that might be. Dead birds, 60 of them, for one thing.
  • Anna gave a heads up about 10 travel websites to tune into. Add Gadling, and that’s 11.
  • Jerry is also in the numbers game. He spent 16 hours in China’s Wild West and is writing about it in a feature series.
  • In Mexico there are 5000 condoms, 1 inflatable banana and 1 missing truck. Scott posted about why it would be a good thing if all were found.
  • And I’ve started watching the Amazing Race and posting recaps on that. This is season 13.

If you’re counting, you’ll notice 7 this week instead of 5.

Amazing Race 13 cast revealed: Yeah!

Joy! Rapture! A bit of excitement is heading to Sunday night TV on September 28 at 8 PM on CBS. Yes, folks. The Amazing Race returns. This round is season 13.

The cast has been revealed and is now up at the Amazing Race website. Thanks to Jaunted for giving me the heads up when I received my daily Jaunted missive yesterday.

There’s a link in the Jaunted post to the L.A. Times travel blog, “Daily Travel and Deal.” Here, editor Maret Orliss, senior programming manager for Los Angeles Times Events presents her impressions of each couple after chatting with them in person.

As usual, there are the team combos that we’ve come to know and count on for good TV:

  • The blondes
  • The parent/child where someone wants to bond more with the other
  • The incredibly competent couple who gets along so well that you’re left wondering what the hell is wrong with your own life
  • The couple whose non-stop squabbling is something you recognize, or if you’re lucky, leaves you feeling like the couple in the above example.
  • The older couple who is too sweet for words and have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning
  • The sibling pair who think that each of them are the best thing since sliced bread
  • The pair who is sure they will win because of they are so much better qualified than any others. Duh.

I’ll miss seeing two of the couples from last season when I tune in. They are:

Kynt and Vyxsin, the Goth pair who I consistently rooted for, and Donald and Nick, the grandfather/grandson team who came in second. Don was the oldest contestant to do so well and watching the two of them was TV worth watching.

Here are the countries the teams hoped to see by being Season 13 contestants, according to Orliss’s reporting. As we watch this season, let’s see if any of them get to go to the country of their dreams.

  • Latvia
  • Argentina
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • New Zealand
  • Egypt or another African country
  • Tibet
  • Nepal
  • Mongolia
  • Fiji
  • Israel

Click here for the video clip of “Meet the Cast.” As Phil Keoghan, the host of the show says, one reason to tune in week after week is that this is a chance to see “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”