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2012 in Review

WordPress does an interesting job of compiling mundane facts about blogs on their service. I thought I would share this with my readers just so you know you are not alone!

I also feel like maybe you would want to see a re-post of some of my favorite photos of the year, so here goes. They are not in any particular order, and if you want to know more about our trips, you can always navigate to them on the top of the page.

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My wife in front of the worlds largest beer mug. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Royal Selangor is a pewter shop. They make jewelry, picture frames, well just about everything from pewter. A great place to visit in KL

Sri Lanka

A restaurant in Sri Lanka that I just did not want to eat at!

20120425_325

On a tour in a medieval town in Italy, the mayor took my wife, the librarian, on a tour of their library which had thousands of volumes from medieval times. They actually let me hold one! They do not make books like this anymore. The art is hand painted. Amazing.

Uganda, equator

I have crossed the equator many times in my travels, but this was the most fun. This was taken in Uganda on a tour with Intrepid travels.

albino turtle

In Sri Lanka I visited a turtle hatchery and saw an albino turtle. Very unique!

assisi alley

In what was my favorite city in Italy. A street scene in Assisi.

berninis fave

We spent a few days in Rome, which everyone should do. I became a fan of the sculptor Bernini. His work is all over Rome, and all of it is exceptional. This was reported to be his favorite.

bocci

I tried my hand at Bocci. A game even an old guy like me can pick up. The old Italian gentlemen were quite patient with me and I had a great day.

emperors seats in the roman coliseum

When in Rome, be sure to pay for a good tour of the coliseum. We did, and we saw many things you will not see if you just walk in. This is a view from the emperors seat!

This is the original "senate floor" in the senate building in Rome.

This is the original “senate floor” in the senate building in Rome.

hitchiker

On my safari to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, this monkey jumped into the vehicle to ride along. Africa is wonderful!

We also visited the beautiful island of Mauritius. A bit out of the way, but a paradise.

We also visited the beautiful island of Mauritius. A bit out of the way, but a paradise.

Every year we make a trip to NYC. I think I am starting to like the place.

Every year we make a trip to NYC. I think I am starting to like the place.

While in Burma, or Myanmar if you wish, we went to Inle Lake. Besides these fisherman who row with their feet, there are dozens of other unique things to see there, and the rest of Burma.

While in Burma, or Myanmar if you wish, we went to Inle Lake. Besides these fisherman who row with their feet, there are dozens of other unique things to see there, and the rest of Burma.

An extreme bucket list item for the year was visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan, the happiest country on earth.

An extreme bucket list item for the year was visiting the Kingdom of Bhutan, the happiest country on earth.

miss Rwanda

My favorite shot of 2012! I call her Miss Rwanda. A mountain Gorilla posing for me with a welcoming bouquet!

There were more trips in 2012, and thanks to you readers for reading about them. You can go back and read them again if you so desire.

Please share this with FB friends! Please make a comment.

I am changing my entire look and feel in 2013, but I will still get to you somehow.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 30,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Around the World in a Daze

My faithful readers will already know I am married to a wonderful woman who has made my lifelong wanderlust sustainable. To my new readers, trust me, I married right.

This will be the next to last post on this blog for 2012. I intend to do a “year-in-review” post soon, and what a travelicious year it has been.

This is a short look at a long trip around the world. I had never done that before. Due to circumstances and needs, I had all the excuses I needed to circumnavigate the coconut.

My trip took me across each and every of these time zones!

My trip took me across each and every of these time zones! I crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, the Tropic of Cancer each twice, the equator twice, the international dateline and the prime meridian. Hey sister teacher, do I pass my geography test?

We live near Dubai, which just happens to be a fantastic place to travel from. Everywhere is close it seems. We flew Emirates Air, the first of six airlines I would use on to get around the globe.

This trip starts on a tiny rock in the south Indian Ocean called Mauritius.

First flight, Dubai to Mauritius. Emerites Air. 6 hours. No upgrade needed, Emerites treats you well in all the cabins!

First flight, Dubai to Mauritius. Emerites Air. 6 hours. No upgrade needed, Emerites treats you well in all the cabins!

Mauritius can be driven across in less than two hours. Volcanic in origin, it has a very picturesque mountain range which you can see from anywhere on Ile Maurice.

Mauritius can be driven across in less than two hours. Volcanic in origin, it has a very picturesque mountain range which you can see from anywhere on Ile Maurice.

Perhaps I am a spiritual descendant of the now extinct Dodo bird. Mauritius is where they were before the first white settlers caught them all because they could not fly. I hear they tasted like chicken.

Perhaps I am a spiritual descendant of the now extinct Dodo bird. Mauritius is where they were before the first white settlers caught them all because they could not fly. I hear they tasted like chicken.

The Island has an interesting history. First settled by the Dutch who named it after their Prince, it was taken over by the French. The French used it primarily as a port to launch attacks on  East India Company ships taking spices and silks to England from India. The East India Company, owned in large part by the royals, did not like that inconvenience one little bit and sent the worlds best naval power to put an end to the piracy. Consequently French and English are both spoken all over the island along with a native patois that combines the languages of India with African dialects. The main agricultural crop is sugar cane, which of course means there is production of rum, ummm, good rum.

rum

Turning sugar cane into rum, honest work!

My wife was with me for this part of the trip. It was a break from work for her and she wanted a no hassle week, so we stayed at a Club Med. On Mauritius? Yes, in fact they have two on the island. Mauritius is circled by luxury beach hotels. Tourism comes in second in the local economy.

Like all Club Meds, there is no shortage of recreational activities. Like most Club Meds, this one was on a fantastic stretch of beach.

Like all Club Meds, there is no shortage of recreational activities. Like most Club Meds, this one was on a fantastic stretch of beach.

All inclusive not only means ” have fun with our toys and eat until you burst”, it means drink your butt off if you desire.

The local beer. Here we are on a catamaran trip and Mary Ann took advantage of the "all-inclusive" thing.

The local beer. Here we are on a catamaran trip and Mary Ann took advantage of the “all-inclusive” thing.

Now 8 hours on a sailboat, and many “la bieres” can lead one to be a bit clumsy when you set foot on land. Mary Ann headed to the room to change, and tripped over her flip flops.

A few minutes later she was a patient in the Club Med clinic.

A few minutes later she was a patient in the Club Med clinic.

The clinic insisted we take an ambulance to the hospital, fearing a minor concussion. She got a cat scan which revealed no damage.

The clinic insisted we take an ambulance to the hospital, fearing a minor concussion. She got a cat scan which revealed no damage.

The hospital was not ony modern and efficient, it was on the beach! We (I stayed  overnight with her) have had less attractive hotel rooms.They kept trying to feed us. The room, the multiple MD visits, the cat scan altogether cost less than US$300. We had bought the Club Med trip insurance, and paid NOTHING out of pocket.

The hospital was not only modern and efficient, it was on the beach! We (I stayed overnight with her) have had less attractive hotel rooms.
They kept trying to feed us. The room, the multiple MD visits and the cat scan altogether cost less than US$300. We had bought the Club Med trip insurance, and paid NOTHING out of pocket. You can see here Mary Ann’s eye starting to puff up. The next day she looked like she had done 3 rounds with Mike Tyson.

Besides the catamaran trip, we took one overland excursion across the island. Pretty small towns, one big city, and a lot of sugar cane!

Perhaps the slowest way to see the island!

Perhaps the slowest way to see the island! He was not much of a guide, but I still tipped him well.

Mary Ann returned to work. I took off back across the equator for Thailand. I flew Air Mauritius to Kuala Lumpur, then Thai Air to Bangkok, then Air Asia to Chiang Mai.

I have been getting some extensive dental work done there, and this was going to be my last trip. I have covered life in Chiang Mai in previous posts, and they are worth navigating to. It is a very excellent city. I stayed three weeks and walked away from the land of smiles with a new smile. I promised my wife I would use it as much as possible.

From Thailand I flew  South China Air into some city in China I cannot pronounce or really even spell. The airplane we took from Bangkok to China had one of the windows in the cockpit held on with duct tape, I kid you not. I tried to get a photo, but it did not come out. Trust me, duct tape.

I had a 90 minute layover before I connected on a flight to LAX. This was both the least expensive flight from Thailand to Los Angeles, AND the flight to LA was on an A380, which I had never been on.

This a truly large aircraft. A double decker. Everything was quite modern. I cannot wait to fly on one where everything is in English. My Chinese is  rather bad. The flight was 16 hours!

This a truly large aircraft. A double decker. Everything was quite modern. I cannot wait to fly on one where all the instructions are in English. My Chinese is rather bad. The flight was 16 hours! Brand new plane, no duct tape.

I arrived in LA during rush hour (as if LA is not a 24/7 rush hour), rented a car and sat in traffic (managing not to fall asleep after that flight) to my sister’s house where I occupied her living room and had a fantastic turkey day spread. Thanks sister.

Then I went to spend a week in my personal Valhalla, Big Sur. This is simply my favorite place on the coconut, and has been for close to 40 years.

My buddy John lives 6 miles and 3500 feet above Highway 1 on the very worst road I have ever been on. The road keeps the tourists away so I do not mind!

My buddy John lives 6 miles and 3500 feet above Highway 1 on the very worst road I have ever been on. The road keeps the tourists away so I do not mind!

An Oak grove near his house.

An Oak grove near his house.

Cutting firewood. Split wood not atoms!

Cutting firewood. Split wood not atoms!

Even the firewood here is pretty. These " designs" in the wood should be sold as Chumash Indian art!

Even the firewood here is pretty. These ” designs” in the wood should be sold as Chumash Indian art!

Now for a couple of sunset photos from John’s house. Eat your heart out.

The sun reflecting off clouds foretelling a rainstorm.

The sun reflecting off clouds foretelling a rainstorm.

Just another sunset in Valhalla.

Just another sunset in Valhalla.

With a sad heart but a happy mind, I left Big Sur. I drove back to Los Angeles in a rainstorm. I got to LAX early, too early. I was flying Virgin Atlantic from LAX to LHR. A five hour layover in the most confused airport in the world, and then onto DXB and finally home’

For this 10 hour flight I upgraded to  "premium Economy" class, whch is VA's way of saying business class. It was worth it. Big comfy seat, excellent food and good service except thattheydo not have Tabasco Sauce for a Bloody Mary

For this 10 hour flight I upgraded to “Premium Economy” class, which is VA’s way of saying business class. It was worth it. Big comfy seat, excellent food and great service except that they do not have Tabasco Sauce for a Bloody Mary. Come on Sir Richard Branson! Geesh.

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The last leg of the trip. 6 hours, 4 time zones. I was glad to be home in Sharjah. When I laid my head down, I realized I had missed Saturday altogether! I had a wicked case of jet lag. Next time I go around the world I want to do it longitudinally so I can stay in one time zone. Is that possible?

Well that about wraps up the coconut for the year! Look for my 2012 recap soon. Meanwhile, please make a comment and/or share this with your FB and real friends!

From Bhutan to Borneo

 

We were warned that  the Paro airport in Bhutan is visual only, and the least level of incremental weather shuts it down. Which seems only right because it is surrounded by mountains. They tell you to make any connecting flights with a day lapse in case you cannot get out of Paro.  Well, we arrived at the airport on a cloudy morning with drizzling rain. Nothing that would stop an Airbus 320 anywhere else.

A druk Air A 320 going nowhere because of a light rain.

However our flight was delayed hours, waiting for perfect weather. Druk air served us lunch and tea in the lobby so that people would not be absent if the clouds lifted.

Our flight was back to Kathmandu. We were not on an 320, but a small prop plane.  That meant we should have gotten a great view of Everest.

Right after we boarded the plane, the rain returned, but we made it out of Paro anyway.

We did get a decent look at Everest. This is the “other side” of the great mountain, from the Tibetan side.

We got back to Kathmandu on a nice afternoon. We went back to the KGH. We just relaxed for the next day. We spoke with people who had tried to get into Tibet. They actually had their permits and/or visas. But when they got to the border, the Chicoms turned them around, with little or no reason given. We spoke with our travel agent about a visit to Tibet someday, but he was as perplexed by the Chinese constantly changing the rules as  we were.  Maybe someday we will be able to go, and maybe someday pigs will fly.

We left Kathmandu for Bangkok. We had both been there a few times before, so we looked for something different to do. We signed up for an Intrepid Travel Tuk Tuk tour. It was fun. We saw some interesting and different stuff.

I had never been to the flower market in Bangkok before. It was awfully pretty. This is a table of Lotus flowers on sale

We left BKK for KL. That is Kuala Lumpur. We flew Air Asia, which is an excellent low cost airline that covers that part of the coconut. I hear that the main terminal in KL is beautiful, new and efficient. The low cost terminal is, well, tired.

We went through this airport 3 times on this trip and each time it was crowded, even at one in the morning. There were no jet ways and no buses. You had to walk a long way from the plane to the terminal, dodging luggage trucks and jet blast.

The KL airport is 1 ½ hours away from KL. We were only going to stay in KL overnight, and leave the next morning so we stayed at a  hotel only a ½ hour away, which obviously exists to serve people in transit.

We flew Air Malaysia to a city called Sandakam in the state of Sabah. We were still in the same country, but it was a 2 ½ hour flight, definitely the longest domestic flight I had ever taken in Asia. It was like flying from NY to Chicago. Amazingly, when we got to Sandakam, we had to go through immigration!  Oh well, at this point another stamp in my passport is just another stamp.

We were now officially in Borneo. I am not sure just what I expected. Headhunters?

Our tour was arranged through AMAZING BORNEO TOURS. They picked us up at the airport. Our lodge was n the Kinabatangan river, about two hours away. For the next two hours we drove through nothing but palm oil plantations. Miles and miles, thousands and thousands  of hectares of land that used to be jungle, is now producing palm oil. It is definitely the cash crop of Sabah. Why all this palm oil?  Is this a good or bad thing? Go here to find out.

We got to the lodge after a the long drive. The lodge was OK, nothing to write a blog post about. Our adventure in “wild” Borneo was to start the next day.

The first thing on the agenda was Orangutans.  I was thinking that this was the third endangered species I had seen this year, kinda cool.  We went to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. This one of those places that somehow get orphaned or injured critters and raise them until they are prepared to go back into the wild. They showed us an interesting video of their work. I noticed a glaring error and afterward tried to bring it to the attention of the docent. No big deal, but they ought to get their facts straight. I’m no biologist, but I know the film was flawed.  This place was billed as a chance to see orangutans play together. After a 45 minute wait at a staged area, in the Borneo heat, we saw ONE. He was led to the feeding area by a refuge worker, and did not look all that enthused about being on display.

The rehab center put out a basket full of fruit, he ate one and then swung away like Tarzan, back into the jungle. Mind you, there were at least a hundred tourists who had paid like US$30 apiece standing around sweating and pointing cameras. All in all, this was a disappointing excursion.

we transferred to another lodge where we took trips on the river. On one trip we actually saw Orangutans in the wild, and my favorite, the Jimmy Durante of  primates, the Proboscis monkey, on another.

Although we could not get too close, we were in a boat in a big river, we were pleased and amused to see Orangutans in the wild. Actually we saw quite a few.

My favorite sighting was the Proboscsis monkeys. Their noses are humorous. They are kind of cute. Apparently not endangered, except for loss of their homeland to the palm oil business.

In case I have at all led you to believe we were “explorers” in wild Borneo, this next photo should cancel that idea.

This is just a sample of the tourist boats on the river that day, during LOW season.

We were treated to a great sunset.

I love a good sunset, don’t you?

The next day we left the lodge and the river. We drove through palm oil plantations for another hour to see the second cash crop of Sabah, birds nests. Yup, this is the primary source of birds nests for birds nest soup, of which the Chinese are apparently quite fond. They pay a LOT of money for these nests, harvested from a cave.

The best photo I could get in a dark cave. There is a walkway built of rotting wood that you follow through the cave. The birds nests (Swifts) are all up on the roof, and for me impossible to get a good photo.

Mary Ann and me in front of the opening to the cave on the slippery wooden walkway. It was slippery because it was covered with birdshit. If you fell off, you would land among the 10 billion or so cockroaches on the ground.

Mary Ann showing of her hand covered with birdshit from holding the rail along the walkway. We were ready to leave.

Well folks, that was it for Borneo. Is it worth your time and treasure to go? Only if you want to say you have been there!

Thanks for reading, share with a friend, make a comment, or go order a bowl of birds nest soup cooked with palm oil.

 

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