Vietnam 2017 – Trip Report 32

2-3 November – Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne

 

A sleep in, of sorts.  Up about 8.00am, but don’t actually get downstairs till a bit after 9.00am.

The combination of a big month, as well as trying to work up the courage to face our last day, perhaps.

And maybe that’s the problem; too many ‘lasts’, over the past few days.

Last full day in Vietnam.  Last actual day in Vietnam.

And now, last day of the holiday.

But it wasn’t really a holiday.  And I’m not sure I actually do ‘holidays’.  It was much more an adventure.

Interspersed, of course, with the occasional ‘doing very little’.

Although, perhaps it just looked like ‘very little’…

Said it before, you don’t always have to be doing something, to actually be doing something.

On the way out, we speak to the receptionist about airport travel options for tonight.  The two choices are taxi for 90 Ringgit, or the train for 55 Ringgit each.

While the train sort of appeals for something different, the easy, and cheaper option of the taxi is probably a bit of a no-brainer.

Hey, it may even enable an extra beer before we leave….

So, the plan for today?

The Petronas Towers.  Apart from experiencing Jalon Alor, the only other thing that was a must for our flying visit to Kuala Lumpur, were the towers.

So, reaching into the dark recesses of my brain for what TN007 had told me about getting there; something about a covered walkway that goes from the shopping centre, all the way to the towers; we head off in the direction of Pavilion.

We soon arrive, and then begin the scouring of signs for something that confirms, what I hope, is my correct belief in how to get there.

We walk through a part that has a number of bars and restaurant type places, and while it’s still not much after 9.00am, there’s music blaring from a few of them already.

And then, hopes and wishes confirmed!  A sign directing us of the way to the towers.

Hmmm, brain still works….

And once again, thank you TN007!

We then end up in the covered walkway, which kind of surprised me, as I was more expecting to be ‘on’ it, rather than ‘in’ it.

But that’s alright, it was much cooler than being outside.

So the walk began.  And it continued.  For quite some time.

Funny how walks always seem to take much longer when you’ve never walked that particular way, as well as when you don’t really know where you’re going…..

We occasionally see a sign that tells us we’re still going in the right direction.  That’s comforting.

While we’re somewhat cocooned away from life on the streets, the fact that the walkway is raised, and mostly windowed, it still gives us the opportunity to see what’s going on down below.

Which is good, but unfortunately, it’s not overly interesting.

Our walk continues, and eventually, we end up back down on the ground.  Outside the Convention Centre where the Aquarium is, it turns out.

A lack of signs, or perhaps just an inability to actually see the signs, slows and confuses us, somewhat.  Not to mention, worries us.

We take a chance and walk in the direction we think is right, which is always dangerous, but we quickly get confirmation from another sign that we are actually heading in the right direction.

Well, that hardly ever happens….

We walk on and eventually come to another shopping centre.  Great…..

But worse than that, the signs have run out.  Geez, maybe we took a wrong turn?

We walk aimlessly around for a few minutes, but all to no avail.

We’re going to need to ask someone, and my fear is that we’ve got ourselves well and truly lost.

A western looking guy, who looks like he might live and work here, walks past.  Lisa asks if he knows where the towers are.

I actually expect him to quickly blurt out directions, seeing as if he does live here, then the Petronas Towers would be the one thing that you would definitely know where they were.

He stops for a moment, and it seems that he’s not completely sure of how to get there.

Great, maybe we are completely off track…..

Then, he comes good.  Or I hope he has.

“Around this corner”, he says, pointing in the general direction, “Up the escalator, and then out through the door at the top”, he continues, seeming to be reasonably confident of his answer.

“Thank you very much, we really appreciate your help”, is our reply, as we begin following his instructions, perhaps not as confident in his directions, as he was.

We soon manage to find the door at the top of the escalator, and walk out.  We’re now outside, and while there are still no Petronas Towers visible, a sudden, possible, realisation comes over me.

I turn around.  And then look up.

Yep, we’ve just actually walked out through the doors of the Petronas Towers.

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And there they are!

I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a building, prior to actually seeing it, before…..

And the towers?

They are impressive.  Really impressive.

We walk a bit further, past the water fountain thing, that isn’t really a water fountain at the moment, seeing as it’s currently missing the water component, to get in a better position to take some photos.  While also trying to avoid the tour group that’s there.

Hmmm, tour groups.  Always looks like so much fun…..

And as we walk, it begins.

“Want to buy an iphone?”, asks the guy, looking about as legitimate as a guy can, when they approach you on the street offering telecommunication devices.

“Ummm……, no thank you”, is my not so surprising response.

We walk a little further.  Second offer of an iphone, from second dodgy guy, is made.

Answer is still no.

We get to where we want to be, and start trying the photo thing.  You know, trying to get the camera to capture what I’m actually seeing.

As well as trying some of those slightly arty shots, for something a little different, that never really work out, anyway.

 

Nonetheless, I keep trying, but I quickly come to the belief that I’m apparently not capable of taking any good photos of the towers, because while we were standing there, we were offered the opportunity to pay someone else to look after the photo thing, more times than I care to remember.

They were certainly persistent….

All offers politely declined, I persevered with trying to will my camera to do the towers justice.  Which, while not perfect, ended up doing a reasonable job.  Well, it did a much better job than when it was trying to capture the landscapes of Northern Vietnam, three and a bit weeks ago.

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They certainly have a presence.
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Just to prove that we were there…..

Camera memory card now slightly fuller, we begin our walk back towards the towers.

The third offer is then made.  “Want to buy an iphone?”

Like his two dodgy mates before him, he too is disappointed a sale can’t be made.

Hey, they must obviously get lucky from time to time, seeing as how many were there, but I’m just not sure who would take up the offer.  Not that we got that far, but perhaps they come with a really good warranty…..

Back into the towers, past all the shops, and because we don’t really have any plans for the rest of the day, apart from that shopping thing that I’m trying to put off for as long as I can, we head out to have a look at KLCC Park.

Large garden type attractions aren’t generally too high on my radar, but like I’ve found in Vietnam, there’s a pretty big appeal to them in places that deal with temperatures, along with humidity, at the upper end of the scale.

They have such a cooling effect, as well as calming, I suppose, and I’m really surprised that it’s taken me this long in my life to really understand and appreciate that.

Yep, I’m obviously not the quickest…..

Anyway, the park itself?

Yeah, it’s nice.  Just a really enjoyable place to walk around.  Lush and green, along with heaps of kid’s playground equipment, lots of water, and even a swimming area.

Oh, and good views looking back towards the Petronas Towers, as well.  This time from the other side, though.

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The towers from KLCC Park

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KLCC Park.

We do a lap of the park and then head back through the convention centre, and past the aquarium.

Back outside, and because someone is hungry, that’s our next challenge.  Priority, even.

Over the road, and down a bit of a laneway, we can see a café.  That’ll do, so we take a seat outside, which is always much better than inside.

Menu perused, decision made, we wait for someone to take our order.  It’s then pointed out to us that you have to do the ordering yourself, by filling in the order form that’s actually on the table.

Ahhhh, I wondered why each table had a supply of pencils….

A sandwich each, as well as a couple of iced coffees; just trying to re-live an experience from a certain previous country; all for the grand total of 25 Ringgit.

Which was pretty good, and not all that far off Vietnam prices.

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Close enough, I suppose….

We take the opportunity to sit, cool down, and relax for a while, along with the usual people watching thing, and just generally try to understand Kuala Lumpur.

I do like it, but I still don’t really know what it is.  I probably don’t need to know, and I’m not really sure why it’s that important to me.  Yep, wished I’d read up on it a bit before we arrived…..

Now well and truly sick of overthinking, we head back to the covered walkway and make our way back to Pavilion.

As usual, the return walk seems to be much quicker than the walk there.

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The covered walkway from the street.
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Inside the covered walkway.

Into Pavilion, and the time has arrived to begin that dreaded shopping thing.  This is going to hurt….

We walk around looking, but I’m not really sure what we’re looking for.  Whatever it is, I’m not convinced we’re going to find it here.

High end shops with high end prices, along with a few that have their own doormen, doesn’t really scream out token holiday presents for the kids.

But Lisa is adamant that she saw a couple of shops yesterday, that looked promising.

So we keep walking.  And looking.

All to no avail.

Eventually, and after some unappreciated input from me; yes, she’s pissed off with me again; she reluctantly gives up.

Thankfully back outside, but now it’s time to check out Fahrenheit 88.

Wonderful…..  But at least it appears you can purchase things without the need to sell a kidney to pay for them.

Which is good, except she can’t find anything she likes.

So we continue with the walking and looking.

“The boy won’t wear that”.  “That won’t fit the girl”.  It just goes on and on.

Aaaaargh!!!!!!!  We leave for the airport in six hours and we’re looking at clothes!

It’s driving me nuts.

And then, just as there’s a reasonable chance that one of us may not survive this shopping expedition, we have success, with two t-shirts purchased.

Thank f%$#, for that!

Not yet out of the woods, though, we still need something for the girl.

Having been virtually useless with the boy stuff, I realise that I’m going to be of absolutely no help at all with the girl stuff, so I head off to wait out the front like all good husbands.

And because, for quite possibly the first time ever, Lisa is struggling to spend money, I decide to do my bit for the Malaysian economy by buying a 10 Ringgit bottle opener.

Lisa is soon back out, and while we had a small degree of success in Fahrenheit, we’re still not quite done.  Back outside and past the ice-cream guy who is tormenting a poor little three old girl with an ice-cream cone, we soon find Sungei Wang Plaza.  Yes, it’s another shopping centre, but at least it has a bit of character, or maybe it’s just age, and it’s far more interesting to walk around.

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Every time she went to grab it, he would pull it away.  Was funny, but also a little mean….

It actually feels like I’m in another country, which I like a lot.

But gee, I wish I’d waited till we’d got here before buying my bottle opener.  Could have used that extra 3 Ringgit….

Final couple of purchases made, and we head towards the exit.  But that quickly gets put on hold, as there’s a bit of water falling from the sky.

And when I say a bit, I mean shedloads of the stuff.

We head back inside to wait it out, as I’d rather not deal with soaking wet clothes at this stage.

Fifteen minutes later and it’s pretty much stopped, so we make our way back to the hotel.  Lisa crashes; she’s still feeling a little ordinary; and I decide to partake in a recovery session as well.

That done, and now feeling a little more refreshed, we get ourselves organised by having a shower and then packing up for the final time.

Yep, that hurts.

We head to Jalon Alor about 4.30pm; geez, countdown is now well and truly on with just two hours until we leave for the airport; and while most are still in the process of setting up, the place we had the satay sticks at yesterday, is already up and running.

A beer, a coke for the still slightly struggling one; she’s not a good flyer, so suspect that thought is also not helping; and a serve of satay sticks to get us started.

Decide to practice some parenting skills by phoning the boy back home.  Well, it was partly to see how they were doing, but probably mainly to make sure the house was in a half decent state.

Food is good, beer is, as always, even better.  And the people watching ain’t half bad, either.

A couple more beers, a plate of spring rolls, and some roast duck, which for some reason, we never seem to order enough.  Lisa moves on to pineapple juice, which almost tempts me to do the same.

Almost….

Nah, not really.  Not when it’s beer o’clock.

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Our final overseas meal.  For now.
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People watching in Jalon Alor.
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Chicken wing guy.
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Nope, not aquarium fish….

So now, twenty four hours after arriving, which is nowhere near long enough to give an informed opinion, I still don’t really understand what Kuala Lumpur actually is.  It’s certainly not Vietnam, but I do like it.

However, one thing I haven’t been able to achieve, is any sort of interaction with a local.  To be fair, we haven’t been in too many positions for that to happen, but when we have, it’s all been a bit ‘business as usual’ type stuff.

Even the hotel staff have just done their ‘job’.  And not in a terribly warm manner, either.

We get chatting to one of the guys who works at the restaurant; he may have been the owner; and he’s quite surprised when we tell him we’re flying out in a few hours.  He seemed like a really friendly guy, and while it was only a brief conversation, it reminded me of how much I’d missed that.

Our time is fast running out, and Lisa heads back to the hotel about 5.45pm to get ready.  I’m not done yet, and try to eek out the remaining minutes for as long as I can.

A couple of tourists walk past and are looking for a place to eat.  They look a bit apprehensive and glance in my direction.  No words are spoken, but I give them a recommending nod and smile.

That’s enough for them, and they take a seat.

A few minutes later my restaurant guy walks past me and says something, as he puts his hand on my shoulder.  I didn’t hear what he said, but it was perhaps some sort of acknowledgement for helping him pick up two extra customers.

Or maybe he was just happy for me, seeing as Lisa had now left me alone…..

Hey, these trip reports are almost done, I can’t stop now, and there won’t be too many more opportunities left to hang it on her.

Finally, and hugely regrettably, the time has come to make a move.  And for the first time in a month, there is no further destination or hotel we’ll be moving too.  The next bed we sleep in will be our own.

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Almost time.  Sniff…… :,-(

As I get up to leave, my restaurant guy races over and shakes my hand.  That interaction thing finally happened, and I wasn’t expecting that.

It was nice.  Really nice, actually.  But damn it, he just turned it into a ‘goodbye’, and that’s now made it that little bit more difficult to leave.

I walked back to the hotel, and while that was something that I didn’t really want to do, I was just that little bit happier about how my final few minutes in KL, panned out.

Back to the hotel about 6.15pm, final tidy up and bags grabbed, and we’re downstairs by 6.30pm.  Our taxi is already there.

And just like our driver on the way in, this guy is also very friendly.  He then warns us that the traffic can be particularly bad at this time of night, and the drive out could take over an hour.

Hmmm, our ‘friendly’ receptionist had said under an hour….

Our flight isn’t until 10.30pm, so we still have plenty of time, but I really, really hate rushing at airports.

And in the back of my mind, but not all that far back, is the memory of yesterday’s fun and games at immigration, when we arrived.

The traffic is bumper to bumper for the first ten minutes or so, which you’d expect, but then it does start to move okay.  We’re soon out on the highway, or maybe it’s a freeway, and apart from one section where it slows for a few minutes, it’s all rather uneventful.

We end up having quite a long chat with our driver, and the topics span several subjects.

From politics, which is mainly about their dodgy prime minister, to the ethnicity make of the country itself.  Which apparently, is 60% Malaysian, 30% Chinese, and 10% Indian.  This surprises me a little, as I felt like I’d seen a lot more Indians than one in ten.

Apparently, the Indian population is greater in Kuala Lumpur, though.

Ahhhh, well that explains it!

I still know very little about KL, but our chat certainly helped with my level of ignorance.

And then, at one point, it happened.  And trust me, it doesn’t happen very often.

A light bulb moment.  Or perhaps the dropping of a penny.

As we drove past a petrol station, I noticed the word Petronas.

“Oh….., is Petronas an oil company?”, I asked, quite excitedly, and perhaps almost ‘kid like’.

“Yes”, came the reply, as my mind raced to comprehend the towers, along with the Petronas badged Formula 1 car I’d seen hanging in one of the towers, earlier this morning.

The thought also crossed my mind that I probably should have known that.

Our driver then went on to explain that the way I was pronouncing Petronas, wasn’t actually the correct way.

Which, now that I know what they do, kind of makes sense.

Anyway, they say you learn something every day, so it was nice that that finally happened….

Just after 7.30pm, we pulled up outside the airport.  90 Ringgit fare paid, and because he was so nice, as well as educational, the fare was rounded up.

We bid farewell and went in to face the music of checking in, immigration, and security.

Well, check in was done in less than 15 minutes, immigration less than 5 minutes, and then security was less than a minute.

Although, I think I perhaps should have been held up a little longer at security, as I was sure their metal detector went off when I walked through.

Happy to be allowed to continue, but at the same time just a little concerned that I was.

Off in search of our gate, although for me, finding a bar was slightly higher on the agenda, while Lisa was more interested in finding some lollies, or the like, for the flight.

Bar, however, is found first, and it turns out to be the same bar that I sat in on the way to Vietnam.

Geez, one month ago tomorrow, I sat here with it all before me.  Sigh…..

Pint of Tiger ordered, and at the captive audience prices of an airport bar, well, that just adds to the depressing feeling of a holiday that’s ended.

It, perhaps not surprisingly, doesn’t stop me, and I also use the excuse that it will help me sleep on the plane.

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Somewhat forced smiles….
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Going out with a bang.
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But the occasion, as well as the price, made it all a little grey….

End up having a third; stuff it, might as well go out with a bang; while Lisa goes off in search of those elusive, and seemingly oh so important, lollies.

I sit, ‘enjoying’ each 3 Ringgit sip, and think about my last month.  Which, interestingly, I haven’t really had the opportunity to do.  I can remember aspects, or moments, of every single day of that month, and while there were occasions that didn’t pan out exactly as I hoped; hey, it’s Vietnam, and stuff rarely goes perfectly to plan; I have some memories that will last a lifetime.

Not to mention a friend or two, that will mean a visit, purely to catch up with them again, could be a very real possibility.

Yep, it’s been an amazing adventure.

The realisation that time is fast running out, jolts me out of my reminiscing.  The gate closes just after 10.00pm, we still have another security check to do, and Lisa is still not back.

Finally, she returns.  Still empty handed, but at least we’ll be flying back together.

Yes, I probably would have left without her.

Through the terminal, then onto the security check, which was relatively painless, and then managed to fill our water bottles.

No, we’re not buying anything on the plane after spending all that money on the beer….

And then, we’re in luck.  Or Lisa is.  A shop that sells, amongst other things, lollies.

So we stop, even though there’s a number of people in there already trying to purchase whatever it is that they were purchasing.

I’m starting to get a little nervous; damn beer was supposed to help with that; and it’s then not helped by the guy that is trying to pay for his things with four different currencies.

Yes, I kid you not, four different currencies.

I was tempted to pay for him, but the desire to inflict bodily harm was stronger.

Finally sorted, we’re on our way, and in the end we get to the gate with 15 minutes to spare.

We pass through into the holding area, and then, as boarding is called, most of us jump up to get on.

We sit back, as usual, for a while, and then get up to deal with the inevitable.

As we make our way towards the start of the aerobridge, a Chinese guy decides that he needs to be in front of me.  Yep, he will do whatever it takes to make sure that I don’t get there first.

I don’t actually mind being behind him, but I do have a slight problem seeing as I was actually in front of him in the first place.

He continues to push in, and in the end, I just let him ‘win’.  Rude p%#@!

We then get to the aerobridge, him still in front, and he pulls to the side to wait for his wife, who is somewhere behind us.

Seriously!!!!????

Idiot….

Finally on to the plane, find our non-window seats all the way back at the non-pointy end, and sit down to watch the frustrating and incredibly annoying process of people getting themselves organised.

God help us if there’s a fire…..

My Chinese ‘mate’ then turns up, a couple of rows in front of us, and proceeds to get him and his belongings sorted, while managing to impact everyone around him with absolutely no regard for anyone else, whatsoever.

The word ‘idiot’, is now not an accurate description, and it is replaced with something far more suitable.

Seriously, some people….

After what seemed an eternity, we’re finally pushed back.  And just as that happens, a baby begins to cry.

That, in turn, causes another baby to start.  Geez, they’re like barking dogs…..

A guy a bit further down, obviously suffering from whooping cough, then chimes in with the symptoms that are associated with it.

Aaaaargh, it’s gunna be a long flight….

And it is, with the inability to get any worthwhile sleep, contributing.  I didn’t expect to get much, but I did hope for a little more than I got.

Obviously I hadn’t had enough beer….

The lights being switched back on at 3.30am, which is now really 6.30am, didn’t help, and we begin the process of breakfast, food purchases, toilet visits, and duty free purchases.

Finally, and not before time, we begin our approach into Melbourne.  It’s a little cloudy, but at least the sun is shining.  Which is good, until the pilot informs us that it’s currently 10°C.

Wonderful…..

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Not long now…..

Our landing is, ummm, interesting, as we hit the ground fairly hard, as well as feel like we skid a little to the right.

It doesn’t look windy outside, so maybe it’s just a case of our pilot being far better at the taking off thing…..

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It got us home.

We’re at the gate around 9.00am, and then through immigration very quickly using the electronic passport check.

Bag collected after what seemed a really long time, and then through Customs in less than two minutes.

Quickly outside, and yep, it’s cold.  I’m not sure it’s as warm as 10°C.  I was very happy with my decision to wear shorts nine hours ago, but now, not so much.

Geez, nice welcome back…..

I phone the car park, where our car has spent the last three weeks, and we wait to be picked up by their mini van.  Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes, and we’re soon in the car trying to remember how to drive again.  As well as re-aquainting ourselves with something called a heater.

Just before 11.00am, we pull into the driveway.  The house is still standing, which is a good start, and inside it’s actually not too bad.  Not great, but alright.  The kids have done okay, but in the interests of my sanity, I decide it’s probably best not to think too much about what went on over the last few weeks.

So now, it’s done.  Finished.

One month ago today, Lisa dropped me off at the airport to begin an adventure that I could never, in my wildest dreams, have imagined I’d be doing, when we first visited Vietnam three years ago.

And now, one month later, it’s over.

And what do I have to show for that month?

A handful of souvenirs, including a cow bell that means much more to me than a cow bell probably should.

A heap, and I mean a heap, of photos that I haven’t really been able to look at yet.

And memories.  Lots of memories.

Memories that include some of the greatest, most spectacular, scenery that I have ever seen.

Memories of some, what could be described as fairly insignificant type everyday interactions with locals, that will live with me for a very long time.

And memories, that hopefully will be added to in the not too distant future, of spending time with some of the most incredibly kind, caring and generous people, who helped us to have the adventure that we had.

And yes, it was most definitely an adventure.

Cheers,

Scott

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Photo taken of a photo (because it fascinated me and I’ve never see a ‘feather duster woman in Vietnam) from the inflight magazine ‘Travel3sixty’. Original photo taken by Claudio Sieber – claudiosieberphotography.com

And just a few that I’ve played around with –

6 thoughts on “Vietnam 2017 – Trip Report 32

  1. What a great read Scott. You really have a great recollection of your travels. Hoping the frost has lifted now you’re back home (back date 8 months 🙂

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      1. I hear you about ‘doing something about that’.
        We’ve just returned from our 3rd trip to Bali in 21 months!
        And yes, there are parts of that country that are quite relaxing, unlike the crowd who end up on tv for all the wrong reasons!
        We still want to revisit VN but as Mr 14yo is not quite old enough to leave behind & has made it known he’s tired of Asian travels its known as a conundrum!

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  2. Thanks very much, Jo.
    Yes, Vietnam will be seen again. But with a bit of time in Cambodia as well. Unlikely to happen until the end of next year though.
    There’s also a reasonable chance of a couple of weeks in Thailand, too. But that would still be about 12 months away.
    Oh well, now that the trip reports are finally done, I’ve got plenty of time to research and plan.

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