February 20th, 2018
New Zealand is beautiful. Words don't do it justice. We started in Auckland in late March. Perfect weather. New Zealand banned nuclear power years ago. Some countries weren't too happy that their nuclear powered military vessels were no longer allowed to dock in New Zealand. Eventually everyone got over it. No Nukes. It's the law. Pretty impressive. New Zealand is all about sustainability and making the most of what they have. Sheep, wool, let's not have polar fleece. Polar fleece isn't good for the environment. Deer is raised and shipped worldwide for venison. ( I can't get rid of the herd in my backyard.)
The Maori culture is fascinating. There are no pure-blood Maori left in the world. They are a truly multi-racial people. Their culture was disappearing and employment opportunities were becoming scarce. Someone got the brilliant idea to preserve their heritage by creating a village, employing Maori to show tourists their culture and continuing to use traditions in shows and entertainment.
On the South Island, Christ Church is heart wrenching. They'd had two earthquakes within a five year period. Children were afraid to go to school or leave their homes. Families were moving away. Walking through some parts of town, you'd not see any damage. A block or two away, buildings collapsed. The yellow tape still surrounding the building. Two doors down, what appeared to be a sound building would also have the yellow tape surrounding it. The interior was unsafe. Built at different times to different safety codes. No different than in the U.S. When we were there, the town hadn't decided what to do about the church. After the first earthquake, it was rebuilt. Should they spend money to rebuild? Or use that money to rebuild other structures? Christ Church has a thriving art community, a vital business community and a beautiful botanical garden. I wish we'd spent more time there.
But it was time to head off to Franz Joseph to see the glacier and the rainforest. Hiking through the rainforest was neat. There are no snakes. Like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes. There are no bears, wolves or large cats. In other words, no predators. It was one of the most relaxing hikes I"ve had on a mountain trail. We were hiking to the gorge and met a couple from Mumbi. Later that day we ran into them at dinner. They had been in Queenstown before Franz Joseph and were going to Christ Church. We told them about Christ Church and they told us about Queenstown as that was our next stop. Travel is great. We've met some of the nicest people. Travel opens your eyes and mind to greater possibilities.
Queenstown, New Zealand. We'd move there we liked it so much. It has everything, boating, skiing, restaurants, art galleries, golf and the best flat white coffee. The water in the lake is so pure it can not conduct electricity. How cool is that? Breakfast and coffee at Halo, a small repurposed church. We returned almost daily because we liked it so much. The food was fresh and flavorful. The waitstaff and the owner were friendly and knowledgable. In Queenstown we found Siagon Kingdom, a Vietnamese restaurant. Pho Ga, almost as good as in Viet Nam. Dick engaged the staff with photos of Viet Nam. They loved it. Another restaurant is Botswana Butchery. Dinner was good. The restaurant was nice. The wait staff was French. Dick shared his photos from France. The staff loved it. One was from Provence and was homesick. The photos cheered her a bit.
When you go to Queenstown, you have to go to Fergburgers for dinner. It's a burger joint. Yes, you stand in line with dozens of other people, eventually get to the front and give your order then wait for your number to be called. One of the people with whom we toured Viet Nam had been a few years earlier and said, "you've got to go. Not for the food, but for the experience." We agree. You chat with other people in line, some locals, some tourists. It's the experience, and the burgers were good, too.
While we were on the south island, we did go out to Doubtful Sound for a couple nights. It is, of course, beautiful. It's so quiet. At one point, the captain shut down the engines. After a few minutes getting used to the stillness and quiet, the bird sounds begin to emerge. New Zealand has a goal to be free of all non native predators. I hope they succeed.
After nearly two weeks in New Zealand, we have to pack up and head to the airport. Time to move on to Tahiti. We leave on April 9th and land in Tahiti on April 8th.
February 20th, 2018
Sydney, Australia, is a terrific city. It's international with a great vibe and a cozy feeling. So many neighborhoods to explore. We arrive by plane from Canberra and take the train into the city. Our hotel, the Intercontinental, is a few blocks from the train station so we walk. The train station is at the harbor, they call it the Quay, and the port is there, too with boats to take you out to the beaches or even the other side of the waterfront. Of course, you can also walk the bridge to the other side which has a cool amusement park.
Our room is on the 28th floor looking east across the water towards Mrs. Macquarie's Chair. Breakfast is on the 32nd floor with a wraparound balcony that overlooks the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Great views of the city. We spend the morning walking through the Botanic Gardens, past Government House and down to the Opera House. I often get asked to take photos for other people so it's no surprise when a gal asks me to take a picture of her mom and herself. Turns out they are from the States. She is at University in Sydney and her mom is visiting. They are going to take the Bridge Climb later in the day. Climbers look like ants when they are on the upper arch! We say our good byes and wish them luck on their climb. We walk through other parts of the gardens out to Mrs. Macquarie's Chair and look back at the harbor. It's a great view. It's very popular for wedding photos and we see a couple posing with their photographer.
The next day we walk to The Rocks which is the area under the bridge then take a tour of the Opera House. Truly iconic and worthy of the adjective. Designed by a Danish architect, the plan was selected by an American and opened by Queen Elizabeth II. The interior is a beautiful as the exterior and the stories the tour guide shares are well worth the price of admission.
We really don't spend long in Sydney. It's the last stop of our three weeks in Australia. Time to head to the airport, by train, and depart for New Zealand.
December 10th, 2017
Barossa Valley, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra March 14th to March 23rd. Sometimes you just have to set the camera aside and enjoy the trip. We had done a lot of planning for this 90 day trip. Transportation was a key part of the plan. Fly into Adelaide and get a cab to the Barossa Valley. No worries, it's only 90 minutes and that's with traffic. Won't cost more than $65.00 Australian. Except when it doesn't. $216.00 to Adelaide. OUCH. We arrived at our hotel in time for a wine tasting. That was nice. Our room overlooked a vineyard. Can't complain about that! The next day we went on a wine tour. The other couple on the tour, Mo and Carolyn, were super fun. We made plans to meet for drinks before dinner that night in Tanunda. Turns out they were returning to Adelaide the next day, same as we were. 10:15 the next morning they picked us up at our hotel, crammed our suitcases, backpacks and ourselves into their Subaru sedan. We stopped at parks, a couple of wineries, had lunch in Hahndorf at a German restaurant and wandered around the town. The ride back to Adelaide was a lot more interesting than the cab ride down. We meet the nicest people when we travel. These chance encounters are what make the trip memorable.
Saint Patrick's Day in Adelaide isn't the big party it is in the U.S. but we managed. Pizza at Good Life - Modern Organic Pizza. OMG! Cheesy garlic flat bread and good local wines followed by pizza with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and cheese. So good! A couple days in Adelaide and it's off to Melbourne on an early flight.
Melbourne, it turns out, has the largest Italian population outside of Italy. We learned this from the owner of D.O.C. Gastronomia. He's Italian as are all the waiters. Took the opportunity to use the few phrases I know in Italian. It worked for a while. They appreciated the effort.
Melbourne is an easy city to manage. Walking from neighborhood to neighborhood, past or through the University, stopping to visit some museums. We had a great few days there. D.O.C. was a favorite stop. Our second visit there, we watched the chef prepare the special for dinner, lasagna. It was like watching a craftsman sautée, stir and simmer each ingredient, then put it all together. The next day we went back for dinner and sat at the table overlooking the kitchen. It was dinner and a show. By now, the staff at the restaurant recognize us and just chat away. Turns out the chef is from Florence, Italy. We were in Florence when Italy won the World Cup in 2007. So was he! My husband pulled out his cell phone and showed pictures of the different places we've been in Italy. The staff was so happy to photos of their homeland. We did do other things in Melbourne than eat. We walked to the zoo, we went to the Percy Grainger Museum. He was one odd duck!
From Melbourne, we continued up the coast to Canberra. It's the capital of Australia so I felt we needed to stop there. This is what happens when cities argue over which should be the capital. Neither Sydney nor Melbourne became the capital. They picked a place about halfway between the two. So, like many national capitals, Canberra is home to memorials, University, galleries, and the National Library. We had lunch in the Library and talked with locals. They love their city and are immensely proud to live there. We saw two exhibits in the Library. One was historical; the other was about advertising in Australia and how it has evolved over the last 100 years. Interesting.
It was raining when we left, so Security called a cab for us. Of course. Australians are so considerate and thoughtful and genuine.
We can't leave Canberra without mentioning a restaurant, because, apparently, if I'm putting down the camera and enjoying the trip, food is a big part of the enjoyment. Les Bistronomes is an amazing French restaurant. Small, intimate with yummy food. This is the place to go when you want authentic French food. The screensaver on my phone is my photograph of the Eiffel Tower at night. The server saw it and told Chef. It was another good night in a one of a kind local restaurant.
We arrived in Australia March 5th. It's now March 23rd and time to fly to Sydney for our last few days in Australia.
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.