November 6th, 2017
Good by, Bali. Hello Australia!
Our first stop is Brisbane. It's nice to be back in a city. Brisbane is the capital of Queensland. Great vibe. Lots to see and do. We ride the City Hopper which is part of their mass transit system. It's a double decker boat on the Brisbane River. A great way to see the city and the weather was perfect. We had to spend some time in the Apple Store. My iPhone started giving me problems in Viet Nam and this is the first Apple Store we encountered. Some of the problems were resolved. The best part was, I got a recommendation for a hair cutter. Usually my hair is cut every three to four weeks. It had been 6 weeks since we left America and I needed to get my hair cut. (If you're ever in Brisbane and need a hair cut, Stefan's is the place to go!) We did a lot in the few days we were in Brisbane. Went to the botanic gardens, played a round of golf, ate dinner overlooking the Story Bridge which is really cool. It's lighted and changes colors. And we experienced our first "Flat White" coffees. Aussies are crazy about their coffee and they have every right to be. Their coffee is crazy good!
Next stop is Cairns. Nice little beach town. Very livable, flat, we rented bikes one day. We walked the Esplanade through the parks to the marina. We wanted to go to the Great Barrier Reef, but not spend an entire day getting there and back. We talked with an owner of a Jet Ski rental business and got the number for SKEDADDLE. OMG! That boat moves. Twin Rolls Royce jet engines. Sit down and buckle up. Next stop, Hastings Reef. It was amazing. Colors of coral and fishes like I'd not seen before. Sadly there were also patches and spans that were brown and others that were white indicating bleaching, Climate change is real and it isn't pretty. We were in Cairns March 9 - 12. Cyclone Debbie tore through the town on March 26. I can't imagine the destruction the storm did to the reef.
Time to fly to Ayers Rock. Less than three hours to fly from the beach to the desert.
Uluru, that magical, mystical outcropping in the middle of the Australian desert. It is the spiritual center ofAustralia. Some areas are more sacred than others and no photographs are allowed in those areas. Now a national park, the land was returned to the native people in the early 1980's. It is leased back to the Australian government for 97 years. Like our government would ever do something so noble, return to the native people that which was theirs in the first place. Uluru is definitely worth the trip. The stories and folklore, and the drawings in caves and on the outcropping itself, preserved all these years is pretty impressive. I"m glad we went. We were there just two days and it was time to head south to the Barossa Valley, cooler temperatures and tasty wines.
October 18th, 2017
Whew! I've spent the last week and a half selecting photographs of Bali and doing a bit of editing on them. The Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort was perfect. After a month of non-stop touring and traveling, five nights on an island was just what we needed. It was our 'vacation within our vacation'. Tabanan, the village where the resort was located, is located on the south-west coast of Bali. The sunsets were spectacular. We could have chosen a resort on the east coast of Bali. They tend to have beautiful white sand beaches, but I didn't want to get up early for sunrise picture. Remember, we are on vacation!
Our accommodations were lovely; third floor overlooking the sixth green of the Greg Norman designed golf course. Coffee on our balcony in the morning watching the early golfers. Wine in the late afternoon watching the late golfers. And we did play the course. It was the first time I had a caddy! They are so helpful.
Breakfasts were delicious. Sushi, fresh tropical fruit, pastries, fresh juices and great coffees. Dinners were tasty. The restaurants on property were nice. The wait staff was super! Every morning we'd be greeted by name and led to a table by the koi pond. The water lilies were in bloom. We'd spend the afternoon a cabana by the pool complete with a waterfall. We'd read books, doze, read the American papers on our iPhones. The Drift Bar was there if we got thirsty or hungry. This is my definition of Paradise.
One day we wandered the property, followed a cart path past the Hindu Temple and found ourselves in a small shopping area called Tanah Lot. It also had a temple and restaurants. It was nicely nestled on the cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Sadly the Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort no longer exists. The staff told us it had been sold and would be closed the end of July. A thousand people would lose their jobs. One woman we spoke with explained, she was in her mid fifties. She couldn't start all over. It had taken decades to reach her level. She would not be able to get another job. There are only so many hotels and resorts she can get to, transportation being limited and expensive. She would look after her grandchildren so her daughter could work two jobs. Nirwana Bali was slated to be plowed under. All the trees, flowers, the golf course, the pools and the buildings would be demolished. The five-star resort is slated to be replaced by a "6 star resort with super luxury villas and mansions as well as high-end condominiums." There goes the beauty and charm. I'm glad we had the opportunity to go to this property and meet the staff. The people of Bali are gracious and engaging. I recommend visiting Bali. I'm sure you will find another lovely resort.
October 6th, 2017
Singapore is every good thing anyone has ever said about it. It has a great public transportation system, easy to manage, on time and incredibly clean. Our daughter lives in Washington, DC and Metros to work daily. My husband took a picture of the floor of our MRT car and sent it to her with the caption "Clean enough to eat off the floor" The first time we took the MRT we were reading all the signs and looking at our map, walking slowly. An elderly woman asked if we needed some help. No, we told her, we were fine. She asked where we were going, we told her and she she was going on the same train. "Follow me," she said. On the train, she checked to make sure we got off at the right stop. Just one example of how nice the people are.
Our hotel was in the Marina Bay area, easy walking distance to the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay with the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. I love taking photographs of florals. I was in heaven! Another great thing about our hotel location, every night at 8:00 and 9:30 there is a light show over the bay. The lights originate from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and reflect off the water. The show lasts about 15 minutes, but the laser lights dance across the sky changing colors and no two shows are the same.
The mango we had in Singapore was the freshest I'd ever tasted. We went to the food hawker at Maxwell Road. Imagine an outdoor food court with over 100 permanent food trucks. We went to Stall 78 and Miss Irene took great care of us. We ordered more food than 2 people should eat, tiger prawns, seafood fried rice, deep fried squids, but we managed. The chili crab was outstanding and everything goes with Tiger Beer.
Our last day in Singapore and we wandered around Chinatown. As luck would have it, we entered a Buddhist Temple just before the service began. It was beautiful and moving. Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Singapore were so different from the culture we know so well. We've been traveling for 28 days. We've seen and experienced so much and we have 2 more months before we return home.
September 27th, 2017
From Cambodia we went to Thailand, specifically Bangkok, for about 48 hours. It was mid February and the people were still mourning the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. We visited the Royal Palace grounds which has many buildings, temples and statues, most covered in gold flake. It's very impressive. Wat Pho (the Temple pf the Reclining Buddha) is located on the grounds. The Buddha is 46 meters long and 35 meters high and covered in gold leaf. The temple was constructed around the Buddha. Like all temples, before entering you must remove your shoes and leave them outside. Hundreds of pairs of shoes are left on racks outside and they are all there when you return for them.
Our Round the World trip was ninety days. It wasn't possible to linger in every place and explore everything each stop hard to offer. Choices had to be made. We could have spent more time in Thailand but it was time to move on to Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur is so different from Bangkok, clean, green and vibrant. We walked through the Burkit Nanas, the Canopy Walk. It's a tropical rainforest located within the city limits. We ended up at the Kuala Lumpur Tower. Of course we went up. Great view of the city including the Petronas Twin Towers, and we looked down on the Canopy Walk. Kuala Lumpur is easy to manage. They have super transportation. We traveled by cab, shuttle bus and monorail all in one day!
We weren't in Kuala Lumpur long, but we did find a great restaurant. Bijan Restaurant had great food. I had chicken, my husband had duck. The wait staff was knowledgeable and attentive without being intrusive. The place had a good vibe.
We left the United States January 31st. It's now February 24th and time to fly to Singapore.
September 20th, 2017
Cambodia will touch your heart and your soul. It is a Third World country. Many villages don't have plumbing or a well. Water is carried from a nearby stream, pond or puddle, often teaming with parasites. The children go unwashed. Cleanliness is not next to Godliness. Anamism is part of their beliefs. As it was explained to me, the spirit world admires beauty. The beautiful child is in danger of being taken to the afterlife by the spirit. The unkempt child is safer.
We stayed in Siem Reap. The capital city of the province in northwestern Cambodia and very near Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and The Pink Temple as Banteay Srei is known. Part of our first day was spent exploring Ta Prohm Temple. We walked through the ruins of what was once a school. The temples were build centuries ago, flourished, were abandoned and overgrown by the jungle. Huge trees now grow out of the structures. Temples are still being discovered as the area is surveyed using laser radar.
Our visit to Angkor Wat began well before sunrise. We rode in a tuktuk to a parking lot near the temple grounds then began the long walk in the dark along well worn but uneven paths. Luckily my husband had a light on his head. We waited by a pond outside the temple walls for the sunrise. Slowly the structures began to differentiate themselves from the dawn sky. There were hundreds of people gathered there but it was so quiet. Slowly people began to enter the grounds.
As impressive as Angkor Wat was from the outside, the inside was even more impressive. It's huge; it's well laid out and those steps are steep! And if you think they are steep going up, wait until you go down. The walls of the main building have the entire Hindu Bible carved in pictures - hundreds of meters long. Most people couldn't read, but they understood the images. It made me think of the tapestries in The Vatican. Every picture tells a story.
September 18th, 2017
Before I leave Viet Nam and put up pictures of Cambodia, I want to talk about Halong Bay. We spent a night on a ship in Halong Bay. It has an 'other worldly' feel and it was foggy the night we arrived so that added to the eerie feel. Halong Bay is comprised of mountain outcrops surrounded by the Gulf of Tonkin. The people of Halong Bay don't live on the land. They are fishermen. For the most part, their homes float on large plastic drums. This has been their way of life for generations. The boat that comes to pick up the fish they caught brings supplies the 'village' needs.
All this is about to change. The Vietnamese government is relocating these people to apartments in the cities. In many cases, three generations will continue to live together, but in an apartment on land. They will no longer fish. The grandparents will remain at home. The parents will be given jobs in factories. The children will go to school. That's the deal. The education of the children will be paid for by the state until age 18. No more fishing. My understanding is they weren't given a choice. The UNECO World Heritage Site will be preserved. Tourists will visit by boat. But at what cost?
September 5th, 2017
I am so glad that we visited Viet Nam. We spent a day in Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was like stepping back in time. The village is perfectly preserved with wide streets and cobblestone sidewalks and quaint shops and restaurants. You need a hat? There are shops with hundreds of different hats. You want a suit or a dress? The seamstress can make it for you in a day and deliver it to your hotel. And the food markets had baskets full of fruits and vegetables you don't find in most grocery stores in America, like Durian fruit, mangosteen, dragon fruit, longan and pomelo. Wandering around the village , you still need to be aware of people on motor scooters and bikes. Everyone rides a scooter or bike. Viet Nam is still a Third World nation and petroleum is expensive so the motor scooter is the way to go quickly.
August 29th, 2017
The flight from Dubai to Viet Nam took all night. We arrived in Hanoi late afternoon and began dodging motor bikes. Everyone has a motor bike. It makes sense. They're less expensive to operate. Viet Nam is a busy, growing country with great food. We toured the grounds of Ho Chi Minh Palace, the National Arts Gallery, which has incredible statues of Buddha, and Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the "Hanoi Hilton". We learned the prison was originally built by the French and used to incarcerate the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese then used it to incarcerate American soldiers.
But, Viet Nam is more than its darker historical episodes. I'm glad I had the opportunity to spend time in Viet Nam. I'll be honest, it wasn't my choice, but I wasn't on the world trip alone. It took a long time before I agreed to including Viet Nam, but I realized it would be like my parents refusing to go to Germany. The war is over. The world has moved on.
August 15th, 2017
me "I've always wanted to visit Australia."
him "Okay. After I retire, we'll go."
And that's how it all began.
After two years of planning, (we were only going to places we'd never been) we left the United States and landed in Barcelona. It was warm for early February; no need for more than a light jacket at night. One day we wandered around the city heading towards the water determined to get to the beach on the Mediterranean Sea. The beach was wide with soft sand and a few children running in and out of the waves. All too soon it was time to wander up La Rambla. We'd found a great little Tapas restaurant, GATS, and were going back for dinner. They have great sangria. If you're ever in Barcelona, I recommend GATS for food and drinks.
August 15th, 2017
We left Barcelona, Spain, and flew to Dubai. Flying Emirates Air on an A380 was an experience. Yes, it is a double deck plane. Yes, they have a bar/lounge area. Yes, the flight attendants are friendly, engaging and overall terrific people.
How do you build a modern city out of a desert? At sea level? Dubai is amazing. They are building 24/7 and the buildings are so unique. Architects from around the globe design the buildings. They are unique, striking, incredible, one of a kind. We had lunch at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah on the 27th Floor - except it was really the 54th floor because all the apartments/ condos have 2 floors. The restaurant protrudes from the side of the building. What a view! That night we went up to the 148 floor of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Dubai at night is glowing!