Ahead of us was a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Lahore, Pakistan; leaving at ten pm, arriving four hours later, which due to time change was midnight in Lahore. We knew we would be stuffed by the time we got there which would be two am in our world. But as luck would have it…We received an email from Sri Lankan Airlines saying we could upgrade to business. All we had to do was put in a bid and if it was accepted, we would be travelling like the elderly should, but usually cannot afford to. The bid range was $30 – $90 USD so we reckoned midway would be good. We put in $60 and got business class seats. It turned out that the business section was mostly empty so we could have gotten them for less, but we were happy to have the better seats. Considering the ticket to begin with was $260 each it was good a deal.
Narda’s notes (italics) Terrell notes
My first impressions of Pakistan, after three days, is that the people are very friendly. For example, we can rarely go a block without someone wanting a selfie with us, shaking hands, saying “thank you for coming to Pakistan”. My other impression is from the pollution. My app says 305, Hazardous; avoid all physical activity outdoors. Yesterday it hit 670.
It hangs in the air. Brendan’s house is in a gated community with a lot of trees and I think that helps. We also have machines around the house that are supposed to suck in the bad air. I can taste it when I am outside. In comparison where we live in Adelaide is a breathable 8; . Apparently, it is the µg/m3 reading that is all the rage to know about; Micrograms per Cubic Meter of Air. Bottom line, the µg/m3 should be between 0 & 5. Anything above 35 stay inside and watch Oprah and eat chocolate.
What stood out besides what we saw, was how many people wanted selfies with us. It is usually Narda getting all the attention
but today, I would say I had a hundred selfies at least. It took forever to get through the temple we got stopped so much, perhaps not forever, because now is now and we are not there, and forever is not over. Fortunately, Sofie and Maryam were patient. The Pakistani people would shake my hand and say, ‘thank you for coming to Pakistan’.
It was amazing. A few weeks ago, at the first cricket game here since 2004 (that year the Sri Lanka team’s buses were fired upon, though no one was killed; but it did stop teams from coming here until now) the Pakistan fans held up signs thanking Sri Lanka for playing here (even though Sri Lanka won).
Pakistan has been treated poorly by the western media; these people are so grateful to have western visitors. I even had women in full burkas doing selfies with me. I didn’t know the protocol in these situations, so I didn’t put my arm around them…maybe next time.
https://youtu.be/s0iyHOJ76WQ our video for our tromping about the mosque.
The Badshahi Mosque is a Mughal era masjid in Lahore, capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pakistan. The mosque is located west of Lahore Fort along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore, and is widely considered to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks.
Brendan’s driver, Imran, took us shopping to Al-Fatah Mall. (https://www.alfatah.pk/): The grocery store, in the basement, has more western products than our local supermarket in Lahore. For example, we got peanut butter, but they were out of tofu. On the third floor I bought a shalwar kameez suit, black $26USD at Al-Fatah.
The dress of Narda’s was from material she bought and had made. We have a video and story of that later. Sales tax = 17% on clothes and most groceries. Milk doesn’t have any tax, yogurt has 10%, everything else at the supermarket had a 17% tax wacked on. We have been told by a few people here that everything costs more since Imran Khan became prime minister, including higher taxes. We thought locals would have a good impression of Imran Khan but so far those we have spoken with don’t think he is doing well. The most general comment is that he is trying to go to fast, ending corruption, changing stuff. For those who don’t know, before entering politics, Khan was an international cricketer and captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. We have liked his speeches we have seen on YouTube and on the news. Especially in relationship to India. We had the same feedback in Sri Lanka in relationship to their head of state, no one seemed to like him. Of course, it is the same in the States, so where does one go to find a head of state that a majority like? I don’t know.
Tuesday 29th October.
Imran took us to Liberty Market alongside Main Boulevard Gulberg. Liberty Market is made up of many individual shops with frontage to the streets. Mainly women’s clothing shops they are small and seem to be owner owned. We got there after eleven am only to find most of the shops closed. They open after noon and stay open until late at night which seems to be the way with markets in Lahore. We did buy a bedspread for about $32USD at Thar Maleer Handicraft shop. Heaven only knows why we would need another bedspread, but I just carry the parcels I don’t seem to understand why we need more. Narda bought another scarf ($4) at a street stall, and a dress for $19. Narda is finding getting a dress that fits her ten-foot frame difficult, even for extra-large. I would joke with the salespeople; one refined shop keeper remarked that she had a healthy body. At the end of a few hours of looking, on our walk back to our meeting with Imran, a dress in a shop widow caught Narda’s eye. She tried it on, it was a bit too small in the shoulder but otherwise what she wanted. The shop owner adjusted the hem a bit to make it fit.
What was interesting was an in-depth conversation with the shop dude. He was quite concerned about westerner’s perception of Pakistan, something that comes up quite often. He said Pakistan in the safest country of all and that Lahore is the safest city in Pakistan. That tourists are given a lot of respect. That it is the United States policy to create tension between Pakistan and India and others. We didn’t say anything as we have heard India’s side often that it is Pakistan creating division. He had recently lived in Belgium for three years and him and Narda could chat in Dutch. This is such a recurring theme here that people are so happy we are visiting, that it is the media creating a bad rap on Pakistan. We just listen. We will say that the people here are extremely friendly. We got a slight reprimand when Narda did a Namaste (a slight bow with paws pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. In Hinduism, it means “I bow to the divine in you”, or to us it is “you are cool too, mate”), and a man said that he was a Muslim and they just did the thumbs up thingy. He was friendly about it but I guess there is some mixing of culture we are not up to speed on. In India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, everyone is bowing and gesturing all over the shop. So, remember when in Pakistan it is thumbs up.
When we got home, we went off to our local market for dinner fixings
and as is so often is the case we were surrounded by folks wanting selfies with us. Firstly, a woman in full black niqab wanted a photo with us and her daughters about 8 to 10 years old. Next, a few young blokes with matching tee shirts, then more of them, then about a dozen, all wanting group photos and individual photos. They were a university cricket team all excited because they had made it to the grand final game which I think is tomorrow. Then there were a few other stragglers along the street that wanted selfies with us.
Just to keep the difference in women’s wear understandable, not that it is even at the best of time, here is something I grabbed off the internet so that I could sort it out somewhat:
The word hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
I even had to wear something on my head at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar in India last year.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close-fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and a tube-like scarf.
For more about what is what with garb see https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241
Narda writes about Brendan’s home below. I will just add that due to being a gated community, the chooks and cats wander through everyone’s yards. They had a routine they kept to everyday. At four pm the rooster followed by several hens and a try-hard rooster would enter our yard, peck around a bit, chase away a cat or two then wander on to the next yard.
It was the first time for the guy in Lahore who processed our visa. A bunch of earnest looking Pakistanis prompted him every step of the way, but despite that we got out and on our way with Brendan and his driver Imran. There was an important looking pollie…I think…who was met by fawning officials with papers to hand him and cameras…who shared business class with us. I think he had some anxiety, his legs moving from side to side for most of the trip.
Right now I’m watching a guy wearing a beige shalwar kameez sweeping our lawn.
He did it yesterday too. The flat where Brendan is living is enormous. Huge lounge with high ceilings, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on 2 levels. All the flats in this enclosed area have leafy gardens; there is a pristine swimming pool and serious security here, manned all the time.
We saw an accident, lots of blood on the road, Brendan told me not to look so I looked. Pretty disturbing; a motorbike rider. We continued our walk and finished up in a little enclave of western coffee and carrot cake. A couple of girls on the way out commented on my Punjabi dress…starting a nice conversation. Turned out that one of them also taught at the American school years back.
It’s a big busy city, reminded us of Delhi; without the cows. Though you do see the occasional cart pulled by a sad scruffy donkey. The road home was completely taken up by the devout at prayers…took up the whole road and we were diverted. I love all this stuff, new and exciting.
Brendan showed us his skills as a crazy driver in Lahore, narrowly avoiding hitting a tuk tuk, a beggar or another flash vehicle. Nicely done! We actually found a place to park, despite my doubts; he paid a guy some 30c to take care of the car, and we went inside a supermarket. Terrell found what he needed to make a nice, unusual veg meal, as we watched the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix. And I have been initiated into drinking Murree beer. First glass, ‘not sure’, but second glass ‘pretty OK.
This morning (Bren still asleep) two of his friends visited; we had a nice chat. It was 8am. They were wearing their bathers, and we were still in pajamas. The only way to make new friends.
Oct 24 Lahore
The top-end furniture guy cleared a couple of VIP chairs and made a space on his desk so that we could enjoy our cups of chai purchased from the local chai wallah. We had an audience of men, watching us closely, asking, with a head waggle, if it was all OK. ‘Sugar? OK?’ For me ‘Yes’. When we came back the next day, we tried sitting on the rough wooden bench, but the whole thing was repeated, as we enjoyed our sweet tea, like Lord and Lady Muck.
It’s about 20 minutes’ walk including dodging and weaving (potholes, tuk tuks, donkey carts and piles of unknown things) to our closest shopping area. We’re quite familiar with all that. We go to Jamals ‘(all air conditioned) for some groceries, some soda water for Bren, try to support the street stall buying fruit, buy some rich coloured chicken downstairs and then head home. Imran, Bren’s man and driver usually does his shopping cooking, irons everything (including underwear I think) and is generally the one to make things happen on a local level…a fixer. He’s a sweet, kind man. Yesterday he drove us to another market area where we bought a bedspread for home.
I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant but we had another experience of Brendan’s driving skills (and courage 😊) as we ate a beautiful Paki meal in a really nice BBQ place, owned by the parents of one of Bren’s students. And lots of leftovers!
Terrell and I are all Paki-ed up.!! He has a real cool shalwar kameez, ($22) in black with embroidery, and I have an amazing red dress with large ‘diamonds’ on the collar, looks really dressy; they had to let it out for reasons I’d rather not discuss, all for the total of $19. (All dollars quoted in USD; gives us the illusion of spending less 🙂
Sophie, Brendan’s friend, invited us to a big day out, going with a few colleagues from LAS for a tour of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort built in 1566. Sean; maths teacher, musician, ballroom dancer and crazy driver, drove us there. Mariyam, the HR person and I discussed the possibility of me doing a short replacement gig at LAS, to Brendan’s horror. Hmmm.
Now we know what it feels like to be famous. We were literally inundated by folks taking selfies with us. Most asking politely; once you pose for one, the next groups are awaiting their turn. It was fun actually. Terrell was accosted on the way home from our local supermarket by a bunch of cricketers, posing outside the shop that sponsored them. They asked me to join too, but that was being polite; he was the one they were after.
The girls (Sophie and Mariyam) did a wonderful tour guide job. The whole place is really worth visiting; at the end of the day we chose having a meal over another museum; that was unanimous. The view from the restaurant was specie; 4 (rickety?) stories up. We ate local food, yummy daal and naan….just like pizza, with some deep fried things….like giant pappadums, which were delicious. Sophie and Mariyam, generous and hospitable girls, paid for us, despite our protests.
‘There’s no way we want to reunite with India’, said the man selling me my red dress. He went on to say that it is the USA meddling that has caused most of the conflict between the two nations. ‘And it is 110% safe here’ he went on to say. ‘Very safe, you are welcome here’. He lived in Belgium for 4 years and was very happy there, even speaks some Dutch (this I could test!). Another interesting thing was that he said that things were getting more expensive in Pakistan since the new Prime Minister started. That the cost of living for his family is 30,000 rupees a month, (about $150 USD) but he can only earn 15,000 rupees. So it is very difficult. Taxes, we heard from others, have gone up a lot, and generally the cost of living. Others have told us the same, including Imran, Brendan’s man.
We have 2 Shalwar Kameez (plural?) for Terrell, a red dress, a bed spread and a whole lot of stuff for Bren’s apartment (that part thankfully funded by him). It’s actually looking gezellig, with plants and pictures on the wall, little table clothes and cushions; all ready for family to visit!!! Even a strange lamp. We bought it at an antique place, thinking this was very unusual, only to find it online in an Ikea store. Oh well. Still looks good.
It wasn’t only shopping. Yesterday we had a great breakfast /brunch, at a pretty nice restaurant together with a couple of women from the LAS community, Venla (Finnish) and Saeema (American); both long termers here. We’ve also been dashing about with Sean the calculus teacher (reminds us of Robert from DAIS), who took us to a very fancy western mall, Emporium Market. That’s where Terrell bought his second Shalwar Kameez.
I felt hopelessly inadequately dressed. I actually wore my black thongs (flip-flops for you shocked Americans!) and my new red diamond studded dress, but boy, do theses guys go all out. Gorgeous stuff, all trimmed and beaded and glittery. It was the niece of Brendan’s man who invited us, and we were indeed fussed over.
This was the 1st day of a 2 day-long reception, first day for the bride’s family, second day for the groom’s. I sat for short while I (didn’t want to push it) at a table with the men drinking whisky…or gin…not actually sure, but it was sweet and good. Brendan was also dressed in traditional clothes with an added vest, very smart…..and some strange shoes which he might show you.
Halloween was big. We attended a ticketed event at LAS, lots of security getting in. Bren had his class stall, where they made and sold ? sticky goo. All the kids were elaborately dressed up, and the music was excruciatingly loud; I was assured (by Brendan, my chief critic and advisor) that this was the way things are in Asia. All very interesting, we got a good look at the school and Bren’s classroom.
‘I’ve lived here for 57 years’, said Lulu at the International Club, where we went after the school event. Lulu (from somewhere else) and Franz (from Holland) were the coordinators of the club, trying to keep it viable. I enjoyed the chat with these folks, as the young ones, with Terrell, went to the bar. Aron and Sophie joined us at a table for a really good buffet, Turkish themed. Yum.
Lahore is surprising. You see folks from Biblical times, and then Gloria Jeans coffee places. Folks sleeping in the back of tuk tuks or in the park with their children, to shining, pristine shopping malls. I usually get annoyed at these malls in parts of Asia with their bullshit designer shops that nobody can shop at. This however is much nicer. More (still somewhat high end) shops with local style clothing, very stylish and for us anyway, affordable. And more people.
But the air is a worry. Last week the pollution index topped 500; today it is about 200 and most of last week it was in the 300’s and 400’s.
Nov 7, 2019 Lahore
Today, our last day, Brendan got what is for us a ‘snow day’. The head of school texted the whole community; a high of 650 was predicted (hazardous) and the school was closed. BONUS! So we get to relax, pack, have a lunch kindly donated by one of Bren’s TAs from last year.
Last night we could only just see the top of the Pakistani flag and the sun was orange/red. Imran took us to the Wahga border (sp Wagah, Wagha, Wahga????). Google assures us it’s the first one, but we see local signs with one of the others. It was a feast. We saw the Border Closing Ceremony once again (last year from the Indian side). We got VIP seats 4 rows from the front. I stuck wet tissue balls in my ears (we were dangerously close to the speakers 😊) and we had a ball. The guy dancing on one leg was still there; I even got the chance to thank him personally.
Cantt stands for containment. This means that there are army bases all over the place that do not want foreigners in them. We found “Food Street” but we were far too early, so no food.
This was a strange messy day (bit like this strange messy blog entry). Our driver took us part of the way, then got stuck with road closures, so we transferred ourselves to to a tuk tuk, which went a little further (this all in pursuit of ‘Food Street’) The tuk tuk driver also got stuck when a large demonstration (I think it was…people everywhere, many sitting down) appeared at the end of our road, also completely blocking it off to traffic. He turned around to us to explain this in Urdu or Punjabi. Luckily a young lady walking by put her head into the tuk tuk and translated for us. He was happy to continue, perhaps wait awhile, but we had to pay him $1 more.
Finally got there, no food, so we wandered around the old town, discovered the music street …pretty cool, lots of drums and guitars being made, and the shoe sole street, which speaks for itself. I have never seen so many shoe soles in one area in my life. OK, by then (the reader is getting exhausted) we had accepted that there was no food. So we got an Uber to take us to a mall. Always a safety refuge for us. The traffic was almost at a standstill. So the trip to the far away mall was long.
Now I am getting back to ‘containment’. We entered a military zone in the bloody Uber. They pulled us over and demanded our passports, which of course we ‘no have’. ‘Who goes shopping with passports’, demanded Terrell angrily from the gun-slinging soldier. Hmmm. They took him away, leaving me in the Uber. After what seemed a long time, maybe 15 minutes (seemed longer) he was duly returned, and we resumed our journey into the banned mall. A day to remember. I was a bit cranky; I must confess. All this protocol.
I had pizza with 4 cheeses and a nice thin base last night at a nice restaurant. Bren had Moroccan chicken, and Terrell had a creamy pasta dish. All good.
Lahore is a trip!!! Where else do people (complete strangers) come up to you and say ‘welcome to our country, it is an honour for us that you are here’.
Wagha Border video https://youtu.be/0AD8cmi1Ujo
General Lahore videohttps://tinyurl.com/rqayfep
Just to add to Narda’s wonderful narrative above; first some photos (we have over a thousand if you want to invite us to your home and we will sit and show them all – let us know)
This is Narda with the bride (the bride is on the left) – I call it ‘Narda giving Australian/Dutch wisdom to the newly wed’.
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
The poverty hits one hard. We all live in such rich countries and we visit these places. We did give beggars money but there is no end to it all. Near us is a park with several tuk tuks parked; families live in them, 3, 4, even five children sleeping during the day in them.
Narda is always so ready to get on the next transportation and head out. When she was four her family was getting on a ship in Rotterdam to migrate to Australia. They drove from their home in Utrecht to Rotterdam, about a three-hour drive. When they got there Narda said ‘it is really a long way to Australia’. Those three hours to the next place have become many decades long.
At the airport. The sum equation of all that is Lahore, or at least our experience of it. Enormous clouds of crowds everywhere. All so foreign. So as usual a person shows up, he has a badge, I didn’t trust him, he escorts us quickly past the crowds, we show our passport and ticket, get past a few islands of security, put bags through big scanners, and get to the Thai ticket counter and our helpful dude wants money.
So today we had a snow day. Bren’s school was cancelled for high pollution levels. 635 was expected (Adelaide has about 20) So Bren had the day off, which was a last-minute gift from the gods. As it turned out the pollution was ‘only’ about 130. Another gift. Packing, talking, Bren driving us to the local market, and then Imran made 2 airport runs, first run for Bren heading to Bahrain for a conference, the second 3 hours later for our midnight departure.
Passport was a hassle, we stood stationary for about 45 minutes as folks pushed in ahead of us, all dressed in white. Later we realised these folks were headed to Mecca, where all people wear white so that there is no distinction between rich and poor.
Arriving in Bangkok at 6 am we actually felt pretty exhausted. Bought some Thai sim cards and then took a shuttle the nearby Novotel for a great buffet breakfast. Worth the money!
Ahead of me I see temple spires, a phone tower, a restaurant with plastic lawn (they have good food!) and some quiet streets. I am sitting in the kitchen of our tiny modern, clean and secure little flat in the building in Udan Thani called The Base. 14 stories, with a rooftop garden, a swimming pool, gym and comfy bed.
Also some bits and pieces for the grandies. We observed small children gleefully eating a plate full of deep fried and spiced bugs. They looked like hornets and crickets. (see one-minute video of market and bugs https://youtu.be/t74hNiB9VCs )
Sizzler still serve that cheesy toast. Do you remember? This was in Central Plaza, a 10 minute walk away. No movies that suits us. Bummer. But we had a nice Sizzler buffet and got caught up on salads and veggies.
Now I’m sitting a home with a large lump on my head and left knee. I walked into the glass door of the Crocs Shop. You may well laugh. They were offering 15% off. No more squat toilets for me for a while. The knee has lost some function. Oh well. Not serious.
One of the most colourful festivals of the year in Thailand is Loy Krathong; full moon festival. This is when people go to their local waterway to float small bowl shaped containers called Krathongs in Thai. Inside are three incense sticks, a candle and usually a few coins. They float the Krathong to ask Mother Nature for forgiveness for polluting the rivers but also to thank her for water that brings life. Most people also take this opportunity to make a wish for good luck in the future. As they watch the krathong float away, they hope it will also take any of their bad luck.
Watching our little reed boat sail off into the lake was the highlight of Monday night’s Loy Krathong Festival. Everyone was there, all 150,000 Udonis. Incredible. Our reed boat had 3 sticks of incense, one for Leigh, one for dad and one for mum. See video at
An Irish guy named Martin gave us the low down on why Undonis don’t talk to us. Well actually he didn’t know why, but in the 12 years he has been living around here, they don’t talk to him either.
This is a strange thing and a complete contrast to the friendly Pakis. We are completely ignored. It takes a little getting used to, until we remember that’s why we are here. No hustle, no offers of tuk tuk rides. When you walk into a store you actually have to grab the sales person by the scruff of the neck to get some action…….almost.
And these folks are SO tidy! Not a scrap of rubbish on the ground, anywhere. Even when 150,000 of them are tromping, clockwise of course, around the market. Never seen this before. The dirt is all in the air, with an average reading of about 150 at the moment (remember, Adelaide is about 20). Furthermore, there is NO English. Well, maybe a tiny, tiny bit. Local restaurants have menus that are completely undecipherable. It is really hard to act out a dish you want. Try acting our Chicken with cashews, or worse still Pad Thai with no meat.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
our next blog will be from The Netherlands where we will be mid-January 2020 until mid April 2020
in the meantime
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Sri Lanka was the next choice. We spent three months in India in 2018, last year, and we were there in 2005, we’ll do India again some other day. The actual reason had to do with our wanting to cross the Wagah Border at Amritsar, India and go on to Lahore, Pakistan to see Brendan. Soon after Narda did all the work of getting us there, India and Pakistan began shooting down one another’s planes and there was talk of war then the Wagah Border was closed. After much looking how to get to Lahore, Narda found flying from Colombo, Sri Lanka would be the easiest, so she spent months planning a month trip around Sri Lanka and had us booked into hotels, Airbnb’s and train trips around the country by Easter (2019).
Then…on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches and three luxury hotels, a housing complex and a guest house in Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings; 259 were killed. The targets were Christians and tourists.
Indian intelligence agencies had provided specific information to Sri Lankan authorities about the method and target locations for the potential terrorist attacks to Sri Lankan authorities as early as 4 April, and again on the night before, and as close as two hours, before the first attack. This included information about the threat to churches, gathered from interrogation of a suspected ISIL recruit in Indian custody. The Sri Lanka government did nothing, and the attacks went ahead.
Nevertheless, we proceeded with our plans.
Slept well in the Amari Hotel (Bangkok). Alarms woke us up, we dashed around had a shower and packed, and headed to the departure lounge, checked in our luggage, paid for a good seat (about $22 USD). Our seats, 2E and 2D where in the front row, lots of leg room and we had a really good flight. I watched episodes of “Unbelievable” which I had downloaded from Netflix onto my phone. New technology for me!!!
Airport arrival was easy, friendly, not long to wait. Seemed to be very few tourists around. We bought a month long 16 GB simcard each which they installed for us. Now we are Sri Lankan locals. The public bus took us right to the central station in Colombo. First a fast freeway with tolls, then stop start crawling through a very busy Colombo. We got off at the Central Station and caught a tuk tuk to the hotel.
Since the time change meant it was earlier, we were settled by about noon. Easy. We enjoyed a buffet lunch in the dining room upstairs, with a speccie view of the harbour (closed to us unfortunately) It’s all pretty high security; they checked our bags coming into the hotel, and then again later going into a shopping mall. Then we took a nap, as we do!
Later we decided to walk along the foreshore; really nice actually, though lots of development coming. We had a few conversations with people asking us where we were from and so on, but always steering the conversation to….’now would you like to take a tour with my brother’s tuk tuk, would you like to see the gemstone shop, everything is very cheap today’. Kinda gets exhausting.
We came upon a lovely gathering of locals, some in the water, lots of kids, and lots of food stalls. Nice.
Slept well and ventured out to find some more evidence of Dutch settlement in the Old Fort section, where we are. Again a conversation with a friendly guy ended in him hustling us into a tuk tuk, an instructing the driver to show us everything. BLIMEY We put the driver straight and said we just wanted to go to the Buddhist temple and see the baby elephant. Which we did. But when it came time to pay (after being reassured that this tuk tuk was on the meter, he tried to charge us 10,000 rupees each. I laughed and said that’s a funny joke. He said no, just 1,000 rupees each……and he would not take no for “NO TOUR PLEASE. Really annoying.
Anyway…… the Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya Temple, was a nice experience, lots of little kids dressed in white, for some sort of trip and visit. Some of them wanted selfies with me, just like in Shimla. Cute.
Then off to the local mall to watch Downton Abbey. Nice movie, no violence. And we happily negotiated a public bus home. I think our tuk tuk days are over. We had to cancel the first part of our next leg as there is a train strike, so now we’ll stay 3 more days in Colombo..in the burbs.
OK here we are, still in Colombo. This train strike shows no signs of being resolved. When I google this, it appears that train strikes are rather regular. I see concerned tourists back in June, 2019 asking, on Trip Advisor forums, ‘when is the train strike likely to end?’ So this is not the same one, just a new one, now about a week old. Teachers are on strike too.
Can’t complain though. We extended our stay here. It’s a lovely house, we have tons of room, nice kitchen, comfy bed with aircon and a giant lounge. So we have decided to go into ‘long term, just living here’ mode. It’s pretty hot, but the fans are plentiful and effective. And lots of screened open windows, tropical style. I do like it. Our hostess is lovely, actually we found out she’s an Aussie citizen as well as Sri Lankan. We have had some nice chats with her about the local stuff.
Local buses are everywhere, many decorated with flashing lights and Buddhist bits and bobs. I think perhaps that we have ‘mastered’ the buses. Using Google maps, it’s pretty easy to get from A to B. Yesterday we ventured right to the other side of town, two buses, didn’t miss a beat. Had a nice lunch on the other side of town, near Decathlon. I had beef lasagne. It was so yummy, I ate the lot and felt very bloated for the rest of the day. OK vegetarian friends, I can hear your reprimand.
A note on the buses in Colombo. Holy Cow! They drive insanely. If you want the thrill of a lifetime take an owner’s bus (they are blue) not the government bus. How to tell? The ones that are colourful, driving erratically and very fast. They race one another to the next stop or wherever there is a passenger standing waving to them. On board there are a lot of shrines; Buddhist and Christian; hedging their bets of who will save them, loud music and sometimes video. Be ready to get on quickly, they don’t stop, just slow down. see our clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUjj6bd5dS8
Checking out the local library was great; a 5-minute walk away. You can sit there, under the fans, reading whatever you want. Quite a civilised way to spend the day. While Terrell happily devoured English newspapers, I found a book by Paul Theroux that I had not heard of. ‘Elephanta’; about America tourists trying to navigate India, three different stories. Well written as always, good for a chuckle. I started the book, sitting in the English section of the library (can’t borrow it, even with a passport..oh well). I thought we’ll see how those people go with a trip like that, feeling very superior. But, here is my confession, they sound rather eerily similar to us. So now, having crashed back to earth, I will finish this great book (perhaps on Kindle).
Spar is our favourite supermarket (I think the word is from the Dutch…meaning save). Not that Dutch though, not a salted dropje to be seen. We met Helen over coffee in the café section of Spar. She (Scottish) and her husband have been in Sri Lanka for some 20 years, running a textile company with a 45 million-dollar turnover. They also have factories in India, Pakistan and China. Amazing! Nice lady, recently retired and bored shitless. After a job like that I guess it’s hard to adjust to slumming around, as we are. We saw her again a few days later, this time in our other favourite supermarket, Cargles (sp?). Expat community probably not so large.
We’re sleeping well. Afternoon naps as well as early nights and getting up at 6am. It’s the humid heat; makes you pretty tired.
We are bus people over taxi people. Being so, we took the 45-minute airport bus to Colombo Fort, ($2.20 USD for the two of us including baggage) see our little clip of that ride at https://tinyurl.com/y3nhaua8
Off to the main bus station near to the Fort area. We took what would become the first of several overpriced hustling tuk tuks to our hotel for the outrageous cost of 600 Rupees for a ten-minute ride. OK, so that equals $3.30 USD but it did seem a lot in comparison to the cost of stuff in the area. We are at the Grand Oriental Hotel, https://www.grandoriental.com/ which is old and huge and on the waterfront. Narda had originally booked us before the terrorist’s attacks for three nights at their usual price of about $60USD/night. We cancelled and rethought our trip planning to stay only two nights and rebooked and the rooms were $20/night, no doubt because so many people cancelled their trip to here due to the attacks, which were about a block away, plus this is low season.
The hotel is 180-years old and showing its age as we all do. The rooms are comfortable, the outside is crumbling and in desperate need of restoration. We had their lunch buffet as we were settled by 2 pm (there is an hour and a half difference from Thailand, earlier here). Our second buffet of the day. It was nowhere as good as the breakfast buffet back at the Amari Hotel in Bangkok but there was enough to keep us full and entertained for about $8USD. It is the view that makes it worth the effort overlooking the port. It is one of the busiest ports in the world. Wikipedia has info about the two-thousand-year history of the port if that floats your boat. After lunch we went for a walk. As so often is the case when we go for a walk in Asia someone will suddenly appear, very friendly, asking questions about how many children we have; blah, blah, blah. The first one tried to sell us a tour, then a trip to his gem store; very special today only due to some bloody holiday, and on and on until Narda got us away from him. In our first day or half-day in Colombo we had five different people tell us about some bloody gem show. We told each the same; we are not into gems, we don’t know one from another, I don’t wear jewellery; blah, blah, blah. One fellow who saddled up to our walk said he worked at the Australian Embassy. We doubted that but as he seemed a bit more sincere than some of the others, we took a tuk tuk that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, as they all do, to the gem place. We went in to use the loo, and to be polite we thought listening to a five-minute spiel would pay the price of the loo. No, they had to show us this stone and that stone and tell us this story and on and on and ; blah, blah, blah, we got a tuk tuk home.
The next day, today, Sunday, the 28th, we got the same, someone walks alongside us telling us the quality of their tour, what they could do to help us; blah, blah, blah. We had two or three of those today. We just wanted to go for a long walk. No one understands that. Finally, we let ourselves get talked into ‘a short ride in a metred tuk tuk to a special temple…’ ten minutes later, with the tuk tuk driver trying to sell us tours the whole time, we got to the temple. The tuk tuk was not a metered one and the driver at first said ten thousand each ($55USD). We laughed, then so did he, well at least he tried it on. I think it is because we said it was our first day in Sri Lanka and they figured we are dumb as a brick, which could be true. He threw out a bunch of other figures, then continued about taking us on a tour after the temple. He said finally one thousand each ($5.50USD). We gave him five-hundred and walked away. Last night a fellow drove us home, it was a long way as we had walked for a couple of hours along the shore (see our video of that walk; https://tinyurl.com/y4uycbnk) , and he got lost, but thanks to our GPS we got us home. He had a meter and it came to 230 Rupees, so we gave him 300. We understand the difference in our economy, and that it is difficult for people now with so few tourists around but being hustled gets our back up no matter what country we are in.
We ended up at the Gangaramaya Temple and spent about an hour there. As so often happened in India, people, especially children, wanted selfies with Narda, so I watched that wondering why no one ever wants a selfie with me. https://tinyurl.com/y3ol83hp
The day before was some big deal holiday with an elephant that was 75-years old, ten feet tall, leading a procession. We saw a baby elephant that was tied from front and back feet and whom was very unhappy. There are many statues, a lot of ivory carvings (I thought that was illegal) and a jade Buddha which is one of their centrepieces. Apparently, it is the oldest temple in Colombo. When we were there today, Sunday, there were a lot of school children having classes and like school children anywhere they seemed quite jumpy/disruptive. Here is a twenty-second clip of them. https://tinyurl.com/y6slzdon
Before leaving the temple, we used our GPS to see if there was a nearby shopping centre and how to get to it without a million tuk tuk drivers descending upon us. Lucky for us, we found that The Mall at Colombo City Centre, Sri Lanka’s largest shopping centre was a five-minute walk away. So off we went, gleefully saying we didn’t need a tuk tuk. Even going into the shopping centre drivers came up to us saying they could take us for a tour when we came out. We got lunch, found there was a cinema and that was where we ended up. We saw Downton Abbey. The cinema was not as luxurious as ones in Chiang Mai, Phnom Penh, even Adelaide but the seats were comfortable, and the tickets were $5 bucks USD. We took the city bus home for 25 Rupees for the two of us (14-cents USD) and walked two blocks. It was a much more pleasant experience than the tuk tuk for so much more.
Narda spent so much time planning our trip around Sri Lanka, mainly by train. Guess what? There is a train strike for the past three days and no one knows when the strike will be over. We were to leave tomorrow, Monday, for Anuradhapur which would have been a three-hour train ride. The way to get there now is by crappy bus which would take six to eight hours. So, we just cancelled that trip and now are booking an Airbnb for four more days here in Columbo. If the strike is over in that time, we will continue our trip, if not, I don’t know. Perhaps we will just hang out at the shopping mall and watch movies.
A couple of examples of travelling in different-than-what-we-are-used-to spaces:
As we could not get to our next destination due to the train problems, we cancelled our accommodation and tried our best to get another place through Airbnb. We found what seemed quite suitable in another part of Colombo and booked it. The host wanted some national ID which we didn’t have, though we have our passports and photos on Airbnb. After an hour back and forth and Narda spending way too much time on the phone with Airbnb; getting to another of her speaking with the supervisor’s supervisor person with little progress. They would fix it within 24-hours, we had until next morning. A few more emails and phone calls and by ten pm we were told it would be taken care overnight. It wasn’t. Next morning, more phone calls. The message was the same that they would fix it within 12 to 24 hours. Narda explained in a Narda explaining type of way that we had to check out of our hotel in two hours and we would be on the street in a Colombo, a rather dangerous situation. Finally, we got a person who seemed to be able to do stuff. But now we had cancelled the person who was unable to take our ID and found another one. Narda tried to get the host’s phone number, to no avail. However, Crystal, our new best friend, was able to call the new host. Next, we knew we were on the way to the next place. Thanks Crystal at Airbnb, you’re the most. We got pretty much a whole house, a bit expensive for us for Airbnb at $50 a night, but the place was good and in a major city in a safe place. We were among embassies with the Thailand embassy in front of us. It was a traditional Sri Lankan, or what we would think would be a traditional Sri Lankan house. We cooked meals, wandered around the area, had good conversations with our host who was an Australian, though a Sri Lankan woman, she had family in Melbourne and spoke perfect English. One-minute clip of our Airbnb https://tinyurl.com/y4t2grmyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgtpI3n1tVA
October 9, Kandy, Ella. Hill country
Here we sit in a cloud, literally. Drinking Lion beer with a young couple; not actually a couple but 2 friends travelling together. She is from Melbourne, full of interesting ideas about alternative medicine, he is a Sri Lankan from France who also lived in Melbourne; quite the united nations, and disagrees vehemently with all her hippy medical stuff. We enjoyed talking about the cricket, Aussie rules footy, and Eudunda, where she hopes to buy a church and do it up as an Airbnb. Refreshingly, not a word about American politics.
Checking out the local library was great; a 5 minute walk away. You can sit there, under the fans, reading whatever you want. Quite a civilised way to spend the day. While Terrell happily devoured English newspapers, I found a book by Paul Theroux that I had not heard of. ‘Elephanta’, about America tourists trying to navigate India, three different stories. Well written as always.
So what happened? The rail strike is over!!!!! We were poised to take another driver for $60 USD from Colombo to Kandy, travelling east up the mountains. So we decided to visit the museum of the tooth relic (Buddha’s tooth, not Terrell’s).
The ride was uneventful, except for the most amazing toilet, a dark slimy set of descending stairs, a hole in the ground, no door (so Terrell had to stand guard), and all in pitch darkness. It got the job done. We bought some snacks at the café above and continued on our way. Oh, and we took a wrong turn and finished up on a single lane road of astonishing beauty. I had my moments about oncoming traffic, but all was well.
There was a lot of kerfuffle (Maggie, in this context it does not mean vomit) in the area, many folks taking photos of people dressed in white exiting the museum, and photographers eagerly photographing them. Something political, we never quite figured it out. However, by chance, we got into a conversation with on onlooker, and were told the train strike was over; already the day before. Blimey…good bloody news. We dashed over on the nearest tuktuk to the station and bought ourselves two 3rd class tickets with allocated seats for the 7 hour journey to Kandy. We had already booked an Airbnb there for 3 nights. Brendan assured us we would be OK in 3rd class. He, after-all, had completed the trip standing all the way, and loved it. Hmmm.
We arrived at the station the next day, more than an hour early, as we do. No one there yet. I went to the counter to ask if there any possibility of a cancellation…..ha….and there was. We could not get a refund on our previous ticket which cost us $2 each, but we decided to live dangerously and buy the upgrade regardless, for a princely sum of $5.50 each. For a 7 hour ride!!!!!!!
I missed a bit. We did take a driver to Kandy. He was a nice gentle soul, as the Sri Lankans seem to be. So very friendly, always smiling at you.
The Airbnb was one of the best we have ever been in. Stylish, modern amenities, a full kitchen with all the bells and whistles, 2 bedrooms and a gorgeous garden with the occasional monkey. The area around was also lovely. Very tropical, a steep narrow path that took us to the road above us (a little like our Shimla place in Indian Himalayas last year, but flasher). We discovered a nice local eatery, run by a family which specialised in dosa. I had pineapple dosa twice. This is the way to manage the spicy dips, cut it with pineapple. And the dosa itself was the best we’ve had and that includes India.
We enjoyed our homey stay in Kandy, though we did venture out occasionally between naps and eating and reading (just finished a great book; A Woman in Berlin, published recently anonymously by her family. It’s about the experiences of a young woman in the weeks after the defeat of the Germans, living in Berlin with incredible hardship, including frequent rape by the victorious Russian soldiers. Incredible story, and worth reading.)
Tea is a big deal in this country. We found a friendly, not pushy, tuk tuk driver at one of our hopeful trips to the deserted train station. He took us to a factory, where we got a complimentary guided tour though all the steps of tea production. Actually we had a very nice guide who was really knowledgeable. At the end, a tasting. Cups of tea, in different stages of strength; you took a teaspoon to taste the difference. Then we smelt all the different flavoured teas, which was nice. Bought a few overpriced packets, but it was worth the experience.
Sightseeing is not a prerequisite for us to enjoy a stay in a new place. I prefer the transaction with locals, the small things; like finding food, taking naps, checking out the mall. Our young couple, the ones we met inside a cloud in Ella, complained that there was nothing to do in Kandy. They were there for 1 day, saw the museum, the lake, the big Buddha high on the hill, and a museum. We were there 3 days, saw none of these things (except we did see the lake, from a distance) and loved it. OK, to each his own.
The train ride from Kandy to Ella was amazing. The scenery is gorgeous. Lots of tea growing, big vistas, waterfalls, small towns. The weather was bright and sunny, the last couple of hours of rain, which was also beautiful. A million photos were taken by my precious Terrell!!
I am now writing this, sitting in a dark bathroom on the toilet with a pillow (lid down). Terrell is happily snoring away. It is 6.30 am and I’m thinking (just thinking) of accidently waking him up. I’m getting hungry.
We decided to leave Colombo on Sunday; train or not. Sunday morning arrived and sure enough no train. We booked three nights in an Airbnb in Kandy, took an Intercity Uber for 8000 rupees ($40USD) and had a nice ride to Kandy. The driver had very little English, got lost and we ended up on a very narrow road that was more like a footpath than a road, drove for a while in a monsoon type of storm and arrived at our destination four hours later. We gave the chap 10,000 rupees, which he was grateful for. See our video of this ride @ https://youtu.be/SrR96tL7FKU
Our place in Kandy is good. More modern than our place in Colombo, two bedrooms, full clean newish kitchen, nice lounge and dining area. There is no air conditioning, but it is cooler in Kandy and there are ceiling fans everywhere. We are surrounded by well-manicured gardens and we are close to the centre of town. Ten-minute walk to a vegetarian restaurant and the supermarket. We love the place. $20/night. See our clip of our house and area https://tinyurl.com/y3jpyzhz this clip shows the craziness of the buses and streets.
Our second day we walked to the train station. Holy cow! We barely could walk the street, there were so many buses, like hundreds, due to the train strike, they were taking up the slack. We looked at buses to Ella, our next destination, wow! We could not have ridden ten minutes in them. Sorry, we are too westernized. Taking an eight-hour bus to Ella was out of the question. We changed all our hotels for the next few weeks and started over. Obviously, the train strike would continue. We had to decide by Tuesday what would we do next. Today was Monday. We continued to the train station. No one had a clue when the train strike would be over. Everyone said it was a political situation with the train drivers trying to force out the current government. We asked tuk tuk drivers, police, café people, strangers in the street. No one knew when the strike would be over. A couple of policewomen shrugged their shoulders, laughing, said ‘maybe next week’, ‘maybe next month’. I said maybe next lifetime.
While drinking tea at a scrubby little café next to the station tuk tuk drivers, all quite desperate for work, suggesting tours. One was very persistent, so we went with him to some tea factory ten kilometres out of town. He was a nice bloke, charged us 1200 rupees ($6USD) we gave him 2000, for the drive there and waiting for us for an hour, driving us to some tea fields, where we were hustled by several tea picking women to give them money for a demo, so we gave them a couple hundreds. See our clip of the tea tour… https://tinyurl.com/y2ugo2ut
The train to Ella, they say is one of the best in the world. Not sure about that, we thought the train last year up to Shimla, India was about the best one could get; https://neuage.me/2018/04/05/shimla/ (our video of that seven hour ride is at https://tinyurl.com/y6ne9x4d ) This clip of the five-hour trip to Ella is only two-minutes; perhaps we are shooting less video, enjoying the ride more… https://tinyurl.com
/y32tu5p7 And there is a story to it all…Of course. We had decided to go to Ella no matter whether the train strike ended or not. It had already gone on for twelve-days, so we would get another Uber and do the five- or six-hour hike. We were on our way to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, in central Kandy. Outside the gate we said to someone next to us something about the stupid train strike would never end. He said it had ended this morning. Holy Cow! (I think that is a Hindu thing to say) we got all in a huff and grabbed a tuk tuk to the train station, which was a ten-minute walk, but we were in a hurry. What if all the tickets got sold immediately? OK, not quite sold out, only a couple of westerns in front of us at the ticket counter. How do we get ourselves into such a knot? We asked for first class tickets, no sold out; how about second-class? No, sold out. Shit, we are stuck with third-class tickets and we have not heard nice things about third-class. Sitting in a third-class carriage at the station. At the end of the day this was not my carriage. We had no choice. We shelled out the 800 rupees for the two five-hour train rides (that would be $4USD) and were somewhat happy that at least we got on the bloody train. Well, I wasn’t too happy. This is a fault in thinking and life experience. Thinking I should be able to go first class when others can’t, why? Of course, why not. The only chance I get to ever go first class is in Asia. I can’t afford second class on flights or western trains. I always end up in the baggage section with the animals. Next morning, we were up at five. While packing I realized I had left my beloved hat (bought in Brighton, UK, last year, in memory of my best mate, Randy Dandurand) at the vegetarian Dosa restaurant we had dinner at the night before. In sheer panic, I moaned, walked around in circles, and thought there is no way they would be open at six am. Was I willing to miss our train for my hat? I found the caretaker of our Airbnb and told him my sad tale. He walked with me to the restaurant and there it was, on the counter. I gave the chap 500 rupees for his assistance (OK it equals $2.50, but still that is a lot in these parts). Would I have given up the train trip for my hat? Well, we didn’t get the answer, did we? We were at the train station at 7 am for an 8.30 am train. We thought we would at least try to upgrade, perhaps someone won’t show up. Holy Cow! There were lots of first-class seats available, but we would not get a refund for our third-class ticket. Four dollars gone. The first-class tickets were 2400 rupees ($12 bucks for the two of us). Wow! Narda told the ticket dude to give our third-class tickets to a poor person. Not quite sure how, but I think there is something wrong with a picture where we believe a poor person can go third-class, but we shouldn’t. Not to worry, that thinking didn’t affect me for long. We had wonderful seats, very comfortable, on the right side of the train to Ella, which is what the guidebooks say is the best side. We ate junk food all the way and got to Ella all happy. We left Kandy at 8.47 (that is my birth month and my birth year; how cosmic!) – arrived at 3.30. Almost seven hours. Ella was always going to be just a one-night stand. When we arrived, there was one of those monsoon afternoons they have in these parts. We got to our hotel, Grand View, Passara Road (www.9arch.com) and settled in. I think we only have two maybe three hotels on this whole trip with the rest being Airbnb. The streets are quite shocking, just muddy paths with lots of holes, but the hotel is good. We walked into town, in the pouring rain, saw a Mexican Restaurant and remembered the good Mexican meals we got a few months earlier in the States. NOTE: Mexico and Sri Lanka are not on the same page, the same menu, the same, nothing. We ordered some Mexican things that were far from Mexican, and expensive. We were the only diners. I wonder why. The cooks and waiters seemed more interested in the cricket game on the tv than serving us their crappy food. Lesson learned; don’t eat Mexican in Asia. Brendan’s comment “Rookie mistake”.
There is no train from Kandy to the coast. We had looked at this extensively whether to take a bus down the mountain, get a driver, perhaps even rent a car. There is no Uber. The hotel came up with a driver at 11,000 ($55USD) which we thought was a bit dear in relationship to other costs in Sri Lanka. For example, two first-class, seven-hour train tickets were $12. Due to rain, and we just couldn’t be stuffed, our proclamation to the hotel that we would let them know, fell flat, and ten minutes later we said we would take the driver.
The drive down the mountain was a bit nervy. Steep drops, our driver, though quite good in relationship to buses we have been on, passing vehicles on curves, dogs, cows, monkeys was a bit scary. The drive down, literally, was hairy at first. Pretty windy and steep, lots to see; waterfalls, and panoramic views. After about ½ hour we reached the flatter lands, featuring rice fields, small villages, lots of greenery and buffalo. I relaxed and tried to sleep occasionally for the remaining 4 hours. The driver has 3 children, aged 8, 11 and 16. He is very excited about the upcoming election (this seems to be a theme, I suspect the rail strike is somehow involved).
Another Narda fun morning. We are at the train station. We came here yesterday to purchase a ticket, rode our bikies, got a sunburn, stuck in traffic – see our video clip; https://youtu.be/j7gX6PakrwM, told to come back the day of the travel. Here we are. Eight am, took two tuk tuks; (try saying that fast!) one for our bags the other for our bodies. 350 rupees ($1.94USD) each for a short ride, oh well. So, we get to the station, bright eyed and bushy tailed; ticket dude says buy ticket at 9 am for the 9.20 am train. I say that is fine I will do some Photoshop or Premier video or write this…so much to do. Narda thinks no is the wrong answer and tells the ticket dude we want our tickets now at 8.10 not at nine. Ticket dude says no, come back at 8.30. @ 8.30 Narda is at the booth, the ticket dude says train is late come back in 45 minutes. Narda says that it OK she will just wait at the window. Of course, no normal person wants to have Narda standing looking at them for 45 minutes (except me) so now we have our tickets. 80 rupees each, 44 cents for the half hour ride to Galle, second class.It looks like a resort on Booking.com, but it’s actually a home stay. So the pool is not a dark blue infinity pool as illustrated, but an aqua pool, complete with algae. We love it! Right on the beach, you hear the waves (when the fan is off) all night. There are many mozzies, but I think we have that one down. The view and the area are spectacular. Last night we took our complimentary bicycles out for some exploration. We passed a restaurant on the beach which advertised chicken parmie 😊 This was not actually the case, but the food was nevertheless really excellent. We ate on a wooden platform RIGHT by the water, and looked for turtles, which the waiter swore were right there. We didn’t see any but will return. The sunset was speccie and the Lion beer was good. Our journey home was in darkness (no bike lights), despite our best efforts to leave on time. But no matter, we got back without falling into potholes. So we make our own brekkie, try to do our own washing, only to have it snatched out of our hands. It’s almost an Airbnb. I think we would stay here a good while if we could.
Checked out of our homestay/hotel this morning. It’s hot. Blimey. Yesterday we had a really great day with 2 bikes, just pedalling around the neighbourhood. Lots of narrow streets, with minimum traffic. We left pretty early, and just followed the roads that lead close to the coastline, figuring we would not get lost. 4 hours later we were not lost, but boy was I sunburnt! Oops. The heat is tiring, and we sleep more than usual.This morning we headed to the train station to go to Galle. We got there bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8.15am, and the train did not leave until 10.45 after a few announcements of delays. Oh well. I spent a lot of the trip standing in the doorway enjoying the breeze and the views. For a 50 minute trip in second class (still had to scrounge for seats……nothing reserved) we were charged around 55cents (USD). It’s worth taking the journey for sure.I’m sitting in the lounge of our new Airbnb, aircon on and enjoying some cold water. We need this air-conditioning to get our core temperature down; might take a few days. This place is right in downtown Galle, supermarket 5 minutes away, and the famous historic Dutch Fort about 15 minutes away, walking, I think.
Dinner in the Dutch Fort, in a western style place, pretty nice. Because it was a full moon religious day, they could serve no alcohol. ‘No matter’, the waiter reassured us, and brought the beer in a tea pot, complete with cups, and nice lacey table cloth. It tasted great, and I did not have to pour carefully to avoid a giant head. The food was good too, chicken satay. I must confess, I haven’t really got a handle on the local food yet. It is always spicy, despite assurances about “no spice”.
We’re heard some pretty heart wrenching stories about the tsunami in 2004, both today about his flat, which was under 6 feet of water, and the previous place in Matara where the whole property was destroyed. Apparently Galle was the worst hit, with the water coming from 2 sides. So many people were just going on with their daily work and did not see it coming. The guy told us that 42,000 folks died in Sri Lanka. I also feel bad for the struggling folks depending on tourism as there are virtually no tourists here at all, after the shooting in April. The owner today told us that the Chinese are still coming though; good on them!
Sitting in the Dutch Fort in Galle is pretty cool. It is considered to be Sri Lanka’s best preserved colonial landscape. In 1640, the Dutch captured the Fort, built by the Portuguese, and expanded the fortifications, creating a street plan which survives to this day. You can walk down Church Street and see a Dutch Reformed Church there built around 1755. The whole place is full of atmosphere, narrow streets, many original low-rise buildings that have been restored in recent years.So here we are. I said it was cool, but actually we were very hot, waiting for our food. The waiter thoughtfully brought us some little cold face-washers. He had some very strong opinions on the state of affairs in Sri Lanka, including the 41 candidates for the upcoming November elections. He says there is so much corruption here. (not the only ones…private thought) We asked him about the 2004 tsunami. He said the water was black, and so were the people rescued, covered in black. We guessed it might be volcanic ash? The tsunami did not hit the Fort; it would have remained completely intact, walls are about 20 ft thick!!! The area was protected by a peninsula; and the waves made a direct hit on the town beyond. He recalled losing several family members, and rescuing small children, all covered in black. Terrell would ask him questions about the history of the Fort, which he ignored and continued his passionate tirade about the state of things in his country, including the fact that the government had a warning from Indian Intelligence about the April, 2019 bombings and did not act on the information. I had also heard this version of things on a podcast from The Daily (New York Times). (thanks for the recommendation, Chris). Shocking really. The government was so busy with internal squabbles, this piece of deadly information was apparently ignored.
We walked to the station, bought second class tickets again (less than $1) and got great seats next to an open window on the ‘sea’ side. Two tuks tuks took us to White Villa, a modern 2 story place, all sparking white, roomy and nicely furnished. ($45 for 3 nights….this is low low season).
We met a friendly German guy, Peter, our age, who lives permanently downstairs and had a beer with him at ‘beer o’clock’. He’s lived in Sri Lanka for 40 years, goes home to Germany for 3 months each year. Interesting stories to tell. He’s had a lot of experience with corruption here, especially after the tsunami. For example, he came back from a trip to Germany with a decent amount of money donated by friends. He bought 10 computers for the local school with it. The local government officials insisted on handling the donation. When he went to the school to check, they had only received 5 computers. After that, he told us, he was doing it his way. Only directly with folks who needed help, despite being reprimanded by government officials who threatened to take away his visa if he did not do it ‘through the proper channels’. “But not,’ said Pete “this little black duck” (or the German equivalent). And he is still here. With a proper visa!
We took a local bus to the tsunami museum, down the road about 15 minutes. There are a number of little galleries displaying photos. The one we went to was owned by a couple in memory of his mother, who was killed by the flood. The photos are pretty graphic, you see much more than the media showed. Pretty shocking. This man gave us an interesting running commentary of all the photos. He is certain that there was some sort of poison in the ‘black’ water that washed in. You could see it, he said, in the bodies, and the way they blackened and swelled.
They had one of the carriages on display from the tsunami so I went in it – kind of spooky.
From Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Sri_Lanka_tsunami_train_wreck The 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami-rail disaster is the largest single rail disaster in world history by death toll, with probably 1,700 fatalities or more. It occurred when a crowded passenger train was destroyed on a coastal railway in Sri Lanka by a tsunami which followed the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The tsunami subsequently caused over 30,000 reported deaths and billions of rupees in property damage in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's seismic monitoring station at Pallekele registered the earthquake within minutes but did not consider it possible for a tsunami to reach the island. When tsunami reports first reached the dispatching office in Maradana, officials were able to halt eight trains running on the Coastal Line, but were unable to reach the Matara Express. Efforts to halt the train at Ambalangoda failed because all station personnel were assisting with the train, and no one was available to answer the phone until after the train had departed. Attempts to reach personnel at stations further south failed as they had fled or been killed by the waves.
We actually rode on the same train with perhaps a carriage from the tsunami on the same line in the same area – though of course fifteen years later. They fixed all the cars and the engine – except for the one I took a photo of above.
A hundred metres down the road was a turtle rescue centre and hatchery. A guy who collects turtle eggs from the beach and hatches them, then returns them when they are viable. He said the survival rate, in nature, is one in 100, but using his intervention, more turtles can be saved and preserved. Seemed genuine to us, though Pete the German was a little more cynical.
The bus driver said to us at the beginning, “long, long way”. It was long. We thought, we don’t mind a long ride along the coast, but this bus was the local of the local, visiting every single hamlet off the main road. But worth it. Gorgeous scenery; and who’s in a rush??
I woke during the night with a big headache; immediately thought, I have dengue fever. After taking Panadol and 8mg of codeine I slept. Woke up with a woolly head and a bit of a cold, but no dengue and no headache. Still woolly as I write this, but it is soooo hot. The humidity (no aircon here) really takes it out of you. The other day I took a 2 ½ hour nap. Blimey. We have a fan. The kids are out on the adjoining oval, in the sun.
Our first tour this trip was a river boat cruise. A small boat run by a couple of young blokes, one of whom basically followed us around the town for several hours, in the nicest possible way, before finally convincing us that it was worth doing. It was raining, pretty much all the time. Never cold, just wet.
We considered this trip and checked out the little boat. There was a black canvas cover, but the seats looked very wet, and for a 2 hour trip, we decided to wait for the rain to stop. So much to the boy’s dismay, we walked off and sat ourselves in an expensive western style coffee ship to eat carrot cake and drink coffee. We actually thought that the trip was all over. But one hour later, our young friend found us in the coffee shop, the rain stopped, we had checked with another group of travellers that these trips were OK, and we were out of excuses, so off we went with Bentota River Boat Safari. It was a great little trip, lots of mangroves, a couple of monitor lizards of the dangerous type. Apparently these guys have some poisonous barbs in their tails, which they use to swipe people or prey. And it can result in a bad injury.
But actually what I remember about this trip was the strange conversation we had with the boys. They, like other Sri Lankans we have spoken to, are some what anti Muslim. They say that the Muslim folks in the north, near Jaffna want their own homeland. The other Sri Lankans strongly oppose this, saying there is no reason why Buddhists, Christians and Muslims cannot share the country. They also told us that the Muslim doctors have been accused to secretly sterilizing non Muslim Sri Lankan women, so that the population growth of non Muslims is reduced. We also heard the same story from our homestay host, who seems quite rational and educated. I googled it. There has been a doctor recently arrested on these charges, but they have not been verified. Our local boys say this is because money has changed hands. Much to think about and you wonder what is really going on.
The boat safari dropped us off on the sand near The Eden Resort and Spa, a great western enclave where we can order whatever we want. The first time was tapas and beer by the pool. We considered buying a pass for the pool for $5 but didn’t get ‘round to it. A potato salad with satay chicken for lunch; all good.
Learned how to spell it, probably don’t come close to saying it properly but if I say to the bus driver or a passing monk where I want to go they seem to point me in some direction. We took the train from Galle. Only a bit over an hour; the second-class carriage was fine. See our video which includes a bit of the train, our visit to a turtle hatchery, a random bus ride, and well that is all in this video. https://tinyurl.com/y48x5pde
We left Galle on the 10.35 am express which set us back 44-cents USD each. We seem not to favour the humidity here. Temperature is OK at about 30C, which in Adelaide would a nice summer day. Here it is almost unbearable. In Galle and every other place, we had air-conditioning. In Ambalangoda we do not even have an overhead fan, just a stand-up fan that keeps us sweating. We have gone for walks in the morning, which is fine, but by ten am it is too hot. We have a nice apartment, on the second floor with a balcony in both front and back. Keeping all the doors and windows upon during the day helps a bit but come evening we need to close everything due to mosquitoes. It is setting us back $15USD a day so we hope to find an air-conditioned restaurant for lunch – dinner – breakfast; anything. So far we have not found any in our first couple of days and I doubt whether they exist.
A short clip on Bentota, Aluthgama Train Station and our Bentota river safari which was two hours with most of that time looking for crocs, lizards, birds, mangroves and just chillin’ as one does in Sri Lanka. https://bit.ly/2J3IPuT
Our guest house in the rain – https://youtu.be/Gefj3TThunA
Train to Negombo https://youtu.be/SrR96tL7FKU
We asked someone about the shacks along the train track. Apparently the government, after the tsunami in this area build apartment buildings and put everyone in them. The locals don’t want to live in a modern apartment and built shacks along the rail line which is where they prefer to live.
Got into a conversation with a couple of girls from Chile. They urged us to visit; ‘very safe’. This area of the world has been neglected by us; we seem to follow the same paths, Western Europe, USA and SE Asia/Indian subcontinent. Yesterday was a big train day. It started at Aluthgama Station, our closest largish station. Anyway we boarded the train, plenty of window seats in 2nd class, cranked the window right up (also for the girls) and enjoyed a spectacular ride along the ocean. Best train ride I’ve ever experienced, perhaps even better than the Kandy to Ella one.
We arrived at Colombo Fort at 1.10pm and some helpful locals waved us on to the nearly departing train to Negombo. Nice, no waiting. But then we realised that it was the local commuter train, with folks also standing (we did find seats) for the next 1 ½ hours. But interesting still. Lots of rain, and entertainment. A child throwing a tantrum which lasted the first half hour; the mother was amazing. Some train food, rice-bubble crumble? And lots of city….almost the whole way. The houses seem more middle class, compared to the coastal ones south of Colombo. In fact, on that south coast we went past some really poor areas, tiny little houses made of temporary material enjoying the most specie view of the ocean. Like a little slum…..a long narrow one. We found out later that these folks are offered new small flats to live in, but they prefer to stay where they are.
The place we are staying is excellent; aircon, 300 metres to the beach and (so we were told) ‘360 restaurants nearby’. At around 4pm, we enjoyed a great meal at Dolce Vita 27 Restaurant. So much to choose from, so little time 😊.
We are right on the Dutch Canal, built by….you guessed it, the Dutch a couple of hundred years ago. The water is the same colour as the canals in Holland.
Have you ever heard of tuk tuk racing? It’s a thing I am told. A bunch 6 crazy New Zealand chicks checked into our quiet hotel, having just competed a tuk tuk race around Sri Lanka. All in their mid 50s, some having never ridden a motorcycle, these girls called themselves “Birds of a Feather” flying flags and wearing chicken beanies. What a hoot. We joined them for drinks and stories as they polished off a significant amount of gin. They left again at 4am next morning leaving their ‘vehicles’ in the hands of our host. A nice end to our Sri Lankan stay.
OUR NEXT BLOG STORY IS ON OUR TIME IN LAHORE PAKISTAN AND WILL BE AVAILABLE HERE 25ST NOVEMBER 2019… we get back from our trip on the 19th – and we will finish assembling our Pakistan and last ten days of our trip (Udon Thani, Thailand) when we are home in Adelaide, Australia.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Our first leg of our Asia 2019 trip (September) Narda’s notes / Terrell’s notes
When does a journey begin? Perhaps like all of us entering life itself. Conception (we’ll give those details a miss); the conception of this trip I think began when Brendan accepted an offer to teach year four(which turned out to be grade 5 at the Lahore International School, Pakistan. Nine months of planning for whatever is to pop out and challenge the parent’s perceptions of everything possible for as long as the journey goes; in our case the planning, Narda, the master planner, said easily, we’ll go to India for a month or two then cross the Wagah Border at Amritsar, and bingo there is Lahore and Brendan. She had us going up to the foothills of the Himalayas, up to Darjeeling, then a train across to Varanasi and a stay in this or that place. Then bingo… Bloody Hell, who names their baby Bingo? Well it all became unstuck when Pakistan shot down a plane or two and India did the same and India and Pakistan made faces at one another then closed the border. OK, easy, regroup and find another way into Pakistan. More on that later.
Then birth. The first sounds of life on the journey. Well we started early, yesterday to be exact, the 16th of September. We stayed at the new airport hotel. So much easier than getting up at four in the morning, cleaning house a bit, getting a family member, or taxi, or Uber, etc. to the airport. We have spent a week cleaning and setting up the house, tarting up the garden and lawn. We even bought a power sprayer and I spent three full days cleaning the patio bricks, the carport, driveway, footpath, front porch, sprayed the car, windows, neighbour’s cat… a new toy that gives results. The reason for such an extra clean up is that we have a family from France staying for six-weeks, with whom we will exchange in the future.
We got to the airport hotel at four pm. We took the bus from in front of our house and that was the birth of this journey. The Atura Hotel is good. We had dinner and the buffet breakfast that was included – a very good buffet. We were on the sixth of seven floors with the runway view, nice to watch the sun rise over Adelaide. Below photo isn’t the sunrise, night-time – we live at the foothills of the Adelaide Hills in the background about 45 minutes away, or an hour on bus.
Next time we will ask for the opposite side which we reckon is the seaside and sunset. Also, with check-in, next time we will check our bags in when the gate opens at 6.45 am for the 9.45 flight. That way we can walk back to the hotel and have an hour for the buffet, read the paper, get ourselves all worked up about the world’s issues (today was when some unhappy folks sent drones over to Saudi Arabia to bomb their oil wells taking out 5% of the world’s supplies, and Trump saying he would deal with whomever that the Saudi’s (the ones who bombed NYC on 911) told him to do, such as bomb the shit out of Iran. When travelling it is best not to be too alarmed with loudmouths. Anyway, we still would take the extra time for the buffet as we did it in less than half an hour which made me feel rushed. Hey, I am 72, everything makes me feel rushed. The hotel restaurant is a couple of minutes to the check-in gate, they are connected. It has taken Adelaide a long time to catch up and get an airport hotel and it sure is good. Everything is getting better in our little town, which was recently rated as #10 in the most liveable cities in the world.
So we rush through security, Narda is in one line with all our stuff, taking computers out of bags, keeping track of stuff, I am opening my shirt to show my implant, waiting for someone to compliment me on all the gym work I have done in the two months back in Adelaide, no one does, and I get the usual extra Leo treatment, being special and all. Then we must go through another security line in the international area, why they can’t have one security check for both domestic and international I don’t know, perhaps when they do Adelaide will be #8 in the world’s most liveable cities category. Anyway, this time they aren’t doing body checks, just the carry-on crap. I have my usual two items, the backpack with camera, laptop, gadgets galore and my shoulder bag with what doesn’t go in the other bag + my hat. So, we are sitting in the lobby waiting to board our plane being board and I realize I have left my shoulder bag back at the security area. In my usual panicky way, I run back and get my bag. Now I am in the doghouse with someone next to me a bit cross with me wanting to know why this has happened and why I could not keep track of two bags + my hat. I try to explain to deaf ears that I am having a hard transit of my Mercury from Saturn and it’s making me feel a bit loopy. If anyone has ever read any of our other posts, this could be a recurring theme in our travels, me losing stuff and a significant other being a bit cross with me.
I travelled with my two boys in 1985, when they were two and four to New York from Adelaide and again in 1992 when we stopped in Hawaii, LA, and New York to see family and friends then on to Europe. Both times I came back with very little of what we started with though we had other stuff replacing the misplaced somewhere in the world items. Sacha still talks about those trips; he is scarred for life. Buys the best luggage available and does the pack-supreme routine that the significant other next to me has adopted as a way of travel.
Right now, I am keying away on Malaysian Airlines, MH138; Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur with a one-hour pit stop then up to Bangkok.
The last blog, USA2019, took a couple of months to complete. A couple of months after the trip. Narda had said, not again, she edits, keeping some of my more stupid/silly/ridiculous/too wordy stuff from getting too out of hand, and adds the intelligent stuff. So, the mandate is to complete this soon after we get home in the middle of November, nine-weeks after birth of this journey and my corny metaphor. Plus, a month after we get home is getting close to Christmas time and we are expecting everyone to visit. You will probably visit too. We have the four boys and family; Sacha and Georgia driving over from Melbourne, Chris – Jessica – Liam here from Washington DC, Brendan from Lahore and Stu, Clare and the girls from the next suburb over. We have a lot to do before then. I even want to paint the house and cover a section of the patio that is too open for Adelaide’s hot summer. Then we are out the door again with a three month stay in the Netherlands, January to April 2020, and two lots of home exchanges from there staying at our house, six weeks each. So, what doesn’t get written on this trip will never be shared, lucky for the reader who skims this. And that is the introduction that you could have skipped to get to the actual trip.
Hopefully we will be able to add to our magnet collection. Narda’s rule is that we had to have stayed at least one night at a place before qualifying for space on fridge. There is still room…
18 September Wednesday
Thailand is our first stop on this trip. The changeover in Kuala Lumpur as usual was smooth. We had a couple of hours between flights and took the shuttle train over to the international departures. Note: if you are hungry and in search of a meal, there are more restaurants in the main terminal where overseas flights arrive plus there is the great tropical rain forest to wander in. To go international from KL hop the aerotrain over to the Satellite Building. There is a Starbucks and a local eatery. We grabbed a couple of quiches on the go as we did not have much time for our two-hour flight to Bangkok. We were served good meals on the flight so the rush to grab a bit was not necessary.
We made a bit of a mess getting to our hotel in Bangkok. Thinking we could get there by the metro from the airport we navigated our way onto the train and happily headed off into the night. To the end of the metro line as we believed our hotel was across the street from there, in the rain. The stop that we had thought was our stop was the Bangkok railway station, unofficially known as Hua Lamphong station, and not the stop we wanted. Bangkok has less English-speaking people than other places we have been in Thailand and it took us quite some time to get tickets to wherever it was we thought we were supposed to be going. Needless to say we got the next metro stop confused and got another metro line, eventually getting within walking and grumbling distance of our hotel by ten pm. A couple of hours of wandering lost around Bangkok in the rear-view mirror. Tip: take a taxi from the airport.
We stayed at the Hopeland Hotel (1110, 5 Sukhumvit Rd, Khwaeng Phra Khanong, Khet Khlong Toei, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110) http://hopeland8.com/ The website looks a lot better than the place itself. The many girls behind the counter when we arrived seemed more interested in their cell phones than in serving us. Narda rang down immediately when we got to our room saying the bed was too hard and we could not sleep on it, could they bring us a mattress topper, which they either did not have or could not be bothered with. We were so exhausted that sleeping on a hard bed didn’t matter by the time next morning arrived. We paid the USD $22 for two buffet breakfasts which was good. The swimming pool is outside the dining area. We wanted to go in, do our aqua-fit/Zumba exercises we do three mornings a week back in Adelaide, but to be thrashing about in front of people eating seemed like an idea to miss. We paid an extra 1000 bahts ($33) to keep our room until 6 pm. I found an exercise-weights room which we both made use of; well I used the equipment and Narda did the vibrating electric chair exercises.
It was a long long drive in gridlocked traffic to the train station to go Chiang Mai. The station is full of homeless folks living there permanently. It was nice to see a bunch of volunteers distribute food in little take away containers to them. We had lots of time to spare, so we ate a meal in a hotel opposite the station. Pretty nice food, and a view. We almost got caught in a sudden monsoonal downpour on the way back to the train. Really hard rain with strong winds! Blimey.
Not knowing how to get to the ticket office from where we were dropped off at the train station we marched across the road; big multi-lane roads, three of them, dodging traffic to get to the DOB building where the likes of us get tickets. Narda had paid for them online and we had to collect them in person. Note: Book ahead by months to get a train as they fill up, like in India where we had to book three-months in advance to have any hope of getting a train. Boring story short, there is a tunnel, from the train station to the metro to the other side where the DOB building is that we found to get back to the train station then back to the other side to eat. Note: Don’t expect to find a good meal at the train station, there are a couple of coffee shops and a very local suspect looking eatery. Narda spotted a restaurant at the top of a hotel so we trudged off in search of a feed and ended on the 12th floor of the Prime Hotel Central Station Bangkok, see photo below. The food was good, expensive, but it was a good place to spend more than an hour away from the crowded train station.
Narda found Dunkin Donuts and bought us each one which unfortunately I sat on when we were on the train, so they were merged, flat doughnuts, paper thin.
The train trip was very scenic. We both hit the sack, me on the top bunk. I slept pretty well considering; rocking and people talking a lot, and the fluros on all night. A friendly conductor tried to teach me some essential phrases in Thai. He said, “You are a teacher?” Not sure what to make of that??? It’s a slow train, but well worth the trip. You do need to rug up because the aircon is pretty cold.
video of the train ride over at…. https://tinyurl.com/y69zv9ry
The train left on time at 10 pm and arrived 12.30 the next afternoon. Narda got settled quickly, I stayed up writing and playing with photos I had taken. It all seems secure; our main bags were outside of our cubby house along the hallway. We kept our bags with laptops, cameras, phones, etc. in our sleeping areas. There is a first-class train with individual cabins but that left earlier and arrive six am. We wanted to see the last section, through the mountains and only the second-class train did that. The bed was comfortable, softer than the previous night’s hotel. We were both up at five am then slept a bit more, then off to breakfast which was eggs, toast, coffee, and Narda had the roadkill, probably whatever the train hits along the way fried up for meals. The lower bunk, my bed, folds back in to two seats.
According to the internet – “Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.”
It’s cooler today; been pretty hot and humid. The last few days we walked around the area, discovered the Ping River, a China town nearby where I bought 3 metres of nice material to make something. Not sure what yet. The dentist was all good, no cavities for either of us. My kind of dentist! I’ve been bitten by mozzies despite my best efforts. Big inflamed bites. But it’s only 1% that become Dengue fever, so the odds are ok, I guess. Yesterday we saw a cool movie Ad Astra. Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.
We rarely don’t go to the same place for meals but the restaurant across the road has such a good breakfast. Chedi Home (22/5 Chaiyaphum Rd S. 1. (chedihome.com) 100 Thai Baht ($4.82 Australian / $3.28 USD). First a fruit dessert like thingy; todays was purple substance wrapped around banana and rice in a banana leaf, yesterday’s was something else quite good and the first day was banana in a sweet milky substance. Then there are two plates of various fruits that we mix and match, and Narda gets eggs, toast, salad, roadkill and I get three eggs, toast, salad. We eat at 7 or so and not again until noon we are so full. Our Airbnb doesn’t have a cooking area so all our meals we eat out. It is a bit of a challenge for me as I have been on a low-carbs diet for years and here it is impossible, so I am just relaxing and letting my blood sugars go nuts for a while. View from our balcony.
Narda does an early morning coffee run across the street. We even take our own cups. The coffee lady opens her stand about 6 am and her official hours have her there until two pm. However, we have found that she nicks off about 10. No doubt because she runs out of coffee by then. Narda says that she brings the boiling water with her and brews at in her stand. The longer one waits in the morning the cooler it becomes so we get ours early. Here is a one-minute clip from our balcony of Narda doing the coffee run. https://bit.ly/333T1ep
We took a songthaew, the Thai pickup taxi truck, (The songthaew takes its name from the two bench seats fixed along either side of the back of the truck) to Maya Shopping Mall – SFX Cinema and saw the flick ‘Ad Astra’, which Narda reviewed above (Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.) 450 baht, for the two of us, about $7.50 USD for the luxury seats. The price has doubled since we were here last (February 2017). We are paying seven bucks Australian, seniors’ rate, for movies in Adelaide in luxury seats now so not such a great deal. We find the eatery in the basement the best place to eat. There are many vending stalls and I loaded up on sushi at five baht (sixteen cents USD) each. We left the mall at 2.30 thinking we would go home and have a bit of a nap. We got home at 5.30. A series of missed directions a couple of songthaews and a tuk tuk finally got us home. It took us twenty minutes to get to the mall and three hours to get home. And yes, that is with GPS using maps me or some such app. We were so fatigued we didn’t go back out for dinner and had crackers and cheese for din din which didn’t sit well during the night. See, even at 72 years of age one doesn’t do everything correctly in life.
And a video of our tuk tuk rides; https://bit.ly/2nhHkSb
In the evenings we ate dinner at local dives/eatery across main road. One we did not like and we would say to give a miss was Sompetch Kitchen, I had mushrooms in sauce which was OK, Narda had Pad Thai which she didn’t like and the spring rolls were coldish and yuckish.
Narda watching Thai television in Thai wondering if the narrative is worth understanding in some soapy soap opera, while waiting for our takeaway Pad Thai meal.
Of course, the real reason, we tell ourselves, that we are in Chiang Mai is to go to the dentist. We have been here a few times with the most recent being in February 2017 – https://neuage.me/2017/03/10/thailand-2017/ our dentist says we should come more frequently. Hey mate, Australia is a long way to go every six-months for a teeth clean. Which is all we needed this time, thankfully. It set us back 1200 Thai Baht, $39.38 USD, about a tenth of the Australian price. Yes, we get free medical stuff (not prescriptions, they are set at about $5.60 Australian/month/script) in Australia, scans, blood tests, doctors visits (including the many specialists I go to), everything except dental and glasses. The last time we needed fillings, crowning and etc making it quite worth the while. http://www.chiangmaidental4you.com/ They are top notch, having the latest crap to drill around with. Our friend Frank had implants there a few years ago and said the cost was a tenth of what it would have been in the States. It is our fourth time to the dentist.
We spent a week in Chiang Mai, thinking we may have to go back to the dentist after our first visit, but lucky us, we just got to hang about for a week. We were staying outside the walled old section and we did the usual, went to a modern shopping centre (nice air conditioning on a hot, as every day is, day), got a massage at the local Women’s Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners for about eight-dollars each for our hour’s labour. Narda got the full body massage, I got the foot massage for an hour. Very good, highly recommended. Do so every few days to stayed tuned into something or the other; the cosmos, inner Self, afternoon nap… http://www.dignitynetwork.org/womens-massage-center/
We did do some shopping, nothing significant. Narda saw some material she went ga-ga over so we bought it, realized once home we didn’t want to drag it around Asia for the next few months and trudged off to find a post office to mail it back to Adelaide. The local river, The Ping River, is a lovely shade of brown. Here is Narda going across it. My concern, after seeing some fish, floating haphazardly on the top, was that perhaps eating fish here was not the best idea.
And there are many temples and shrines all over the place, well worth the wander through. We didn’t do temples this time as we have before, though we know they maintain the happiness culture of the Thai people in Chiang Mai. I enjoyed watching the monks each morning stopping at the restaurants and food stands in front of our house collecting stuff from the locals. For example, two adolescents from the restaurant in front of us would each morning stand in front of their place with bags of apparently consumable stuff, when a monk would come they would be on their knees, the monk saying stuff, probably singing a Dylan song from the 1960s, give him their bags of goodies and then go off chatting as any two adolescent girls would (oh dear is that sexist? Millennial Me-2ers shoot me).
24 September Tuesday
25 September Wednesday
OK time to move on. We checked out of the nice little air bnb and all of its mozzies. I think we finally got control of them; our electric Indian mozzie plug, plus the spray on, plus me wearing long sleeves all the time, plus the tennis racket slapper…seemed to do the job and I did not get bitten again.
We took a red songthaew to the bus station, way too early, and enjoyed our business class bus to Chiang Rai (VIP Green Bus!) Big seats that almost recline to lying down; there are 3 across the bus, 2 on one side and one on the other. Nice.Tim and Agnes were waiting at terminal 2. We had a lovely reunion with our dear friends, so nice. Lots and lots to talk about.
We always get inspired by them; their generous life and attitude to others. We might try some of their ideas. Online courses in just about anything for free. One of the courses is about the human biodome, which I think I would like to do. Also courses of health and the human body. And perhaps this new diet that some folks are doing, where you eat for 8 hours a day then fast for 16. Not sure if I have the stamina for it. It is supposed to rejuvenate your cells and hence your body.
They had a nice meal prepared for us and we (Tim and I) drank beer.
The second day we had a relaxing morning, an interesting lunch where we made our own fresh spring rolls, then went for a nice drive around the countryside; saw some beautiful views and different areas of Chiang Rai we had not seen before.
Then in a nice lake setting we had afternoon tea, and Tim and I made some good headway on our beer drinking. In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant belonging to people they were friends with. I had chicken satay, they all had mystery vegan stuff.
Dinner at Give Green Farmhouse Restaurant
Then off to the airport and a short flight back to Bangkok; the other airport. In the Amari hotel now; just ate some expensive but good pizza. The hotel actually joins right on to the airport which was wonderful. A 4-star place for sure.
26 September Thursday
Our video clip below with Agnes and Tim and how to make Butterfly Tea and so much more is at https://tinyurl.com/yy8rmbhf
27 September Friday
As so often is the case of life with Narda, we had a major, perhaps minor, incident at the airport. We checked our bags in and went through security. I did my usual sidestepping to avoid the radar due to my implants and Narda’s bag set off the alarm. OK, she forgot to take her precious Swiss Knife with all the gadgets out of her carry-on bag and put into her checked in luggage. They tried to confiscate it with Narda pleading to keep it. Finally, they said she could put it into her checked in luggage if it was not already on the plane. She went back to the check in was told in no uncertain terms that they would not retrieve her bag to put the bloody knife into it. Narda said, as only she is capable of saying, ‘No, is the wrong answer’. Which of course confused everyone present. She asked for the supervisor’s supervisor, getting someone saying that if the bag was not already on the plane they would go get it from the trolley headed to the plane, which they did, as Narda had already pointed out that no was the wrong answer. She slid the Swiss back into her bag and triumphantly returned through customs to tell me her good news. She would never have gotten away with such antics in Australia or the USA or anyway else in the world for that matter. We have many stories over the years like this, my favourite being the, ‘Do not take my Vegemite’ story, https://neuage.me/2013/08/11/do-not-take-my-vegemite/, where some mean official-acting people tried to take Narda’s jar of Vegemite from her at an airport in China.
There is an adequate series of restaurants on the top floor; Narda had another Pad Thai, her fourth in a week and she put this as number two of OK Pad Thais. I had some stringy vegetarian slop, that like all food in Asia makes my blood sugars go up and up.
As we had the paid equivalent of ten bucks more for upgraded seats on the Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok, we were in the first rows. The plane was full, from row five back meaning we were the only ones in the first five rows. We could see why no one had paid the extra ten bucks, the seats were the same as the rest of the plane except for a red cloth on the headrest. There was no more space between the seats, and they were not wider. However, we both had a row with the three seats to ourselves and I took another zillion photos of clouds to illustrate my writings with.
We arrived at Don Mueang International Airport at 4 pm, staying at Amari Hotel connected to airport $60 USD/night including buffet breakfast. It is a four-star hotel with a gym and swimming pool. We had dinner there choosing Western meals; pizza and beer for Narda and spaghetti for me. Both were quite expensive for Thailand. Narda liked her pizza and beer, my meal was quite average and definitely not low carb. As we were a few minutes from the terminal we went over and checked on our early morning flight and paid eleven bucks extra for seats in the first row of the plane as we were told these were the best seats.
We were up at five am and at the check-in counter for our flight to Colombo by 5.20am. As were the first people in line of no one else (then I suppose it is not really a line) we had our bags checked in and we were headed back to the hotel by 5.30. The buffet breakfast did not open until six; but when did silly time rules apply to us? Seeing there was already food set up we went in and started filling our plates as several people came running toward us to say the buffet begins at six. Too late mate we already have food on our plate. We were very polite though firm as we are when we know we are pushing boundaries in order to get what we want. At St Lukes School in the village, New York City, where Narda worked for five years the staff have a saying, ‘what would Narda do’ and the verb, ‘I will Narda that’. Even new staff members who never had met Narda sometimes use that term, we were told. (It means that sometimes it is easier to get forgiveness than permission and , and sometimes ‘no’ is simply the wrong answer). We did say our flight was leaving early, the buffet was included in our hotel price and besides they should have opened at 5.30 for people catching early flights. We did compromise and sit in a section of the restaurant that was not visible from the front. By the official time of six arrived, and folks came in to hurriedly eat breakfast before their flight, we were almost finished. BTW, the Amari Hotel at Don Mueang International Airport is the best breakfast buffet we have ever had. There were so many islands of so many foods and drinks that we left quite full.
By 6.30 we were through immigration and sitting in the waiting section for our flight which left at 7.55 feeling quite full and content with our front row of three seats which had more leg room then the rest of the plane and we had the middle seat to spread our crap out on. I got to take another zillion photos of clouds and we arrived in Colombo three hours later.
As I have done since the mid-1960s, when I used to call my work picture-poems; including years as a street artist in New Orleans (1972-74)/ Honolulu(1980)/ Baltimore, Maryland (1977 – 1979 (/Adelaide, South Australia (1994 – 1996). I write on to illustrations and photographs: now my stuff is called ‘Thoughts in Travel’ and I update them often daily on Twitter, Linkeden, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr
Or all of September’s are over at Behance
We are now in Sri Lanka and will post that one at the end of October.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
As is so often the way we do things, this USA 2019 trip has been a long time coming. We started with planning to be at Narda’s son’s Chris’ 40th birthday, several years ago. We wanted to do a combination of Airbnb, Chris’ home in Washington DC and Home Exchanges. This is how we have travelled the past few years in Europe. In Asia we combine Airbnb and hotels/guest houses. The idea was to stay out of hotels for this three-month trip and we succeeded. We first contacted a couple in Denver, 9th of November 2017 and they wrote back soon after. We confirmed exchanging in July 2018 for now, April – May 2019. They are looking at our house for early 2021; their winter, our summer. Currently they are sailing in the Caribbean. In 2018 we began speaking with Lawrence, our teaching mate from our China years, for a trade in Florida. Quick jump in this story is that we had a wonderful stay in Orlando at his home toward the end of this trip.
We have the rest of this year long ago planned/paid (Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), as well as next year, 2020 (settled last year). Currently we are negotiating with people for 2021. I am saying this as even when I re-read our blogs, I think we do so much travel, how does this happen? Narda does the legwork of getting places to stay, tracking down incredible flight deals, and generally does so much that all I need to do is play on the computer, look out the window and excitingly exclaim what a marvellous place we have suddenly been transported to.
Instead of many videos this trip we have made sixteen slideshows and only one video. They are grouped together here or view them as they are slotted into where we are speaking of. The slideshows are about a minute each.
All USA Playlist https://tinyurl.com/y4o3halm I have also made a QR image to click with your phone if that floats your thingy.
15 April Monday
Our last days in Adelaide and we “child sat’’ the grandies. Can’t say babysit anymore now that they are five and seven. We spent a day packing; how to get all we need for three-months into seven kilos carry-on and 22.7 kilos (50 pounds) check-in stuff. Narda is the master-packer, I easily make my piles of all that I want, and she makes ‘executive decisions’ of what is taken, as I see my many favourite tee-shirts and other garments find their way back on to their shelf.
Getting our home ready for three months away is always a project. People will be staying, coming and going and we always seem to have too much stuff in our bulging suitcases. We have been doing this for twenty-years and have yet to master the luggage thing, though we do well leaving home, it is returning that becomes a nightmare with all we collect along the way. This trip was exceptional too much stuff brought back home – I will get to that, later. I am sort of responsible for this excess.
We left Adelaide in the afternoon and had an overnight in Sydney. As we had an afternoon flight, we had planned to take the bus from the front of our house to the airport. Knowing that we can go to our bus stop and 45-minutes later be at an airport then off to anywhere in the world is a wonderful feeling. However, the day before we were to leave, Narda’s sister, Caroline, offered to drive us to the airport which was a nice option.
I try to go to Sydney each year as a memorial to my son, Leigh, who died there in 2003 and this year the only time we could get to Sydney was by doing it on this trip as a stopover to the States. We stayed at the Budget Ibis as it was near the airport and was cheap. Note to self, yuck: location sort of OK, but we had to cross lots of traffic getting there with our crap, though we got a shuttle the next day. The rooms were old, small, dingy which is OK. It was getting from there to the metro to get to Olympic Park that was difficult; lots of construction, crossing busy large intersections. Nevertheless, we had lunch downstairs at the Ibis-Novotel that we try to get to each year. We spent the rest of the day getting back to our cubicle at the Ibis.
Friday we were on the 9 am flight, 17 hours from Sydney to Houston. Long flights are boring, and we
have found United as one of the worse airlines; unfriendly staff, food not very good, though the movie selection is good, and it is the cheapest. We ignore the yucky parts and move forward. We had three hours in Houston before our flight to Washington D.C. A rather uninteresting note; the pilot announced that we had left Sydney at 9.06 am Friday and arrived into Houston at 9.06 am Friday. Groovy. We had just spent seventeen excruciating hours flying, only to discover that we had not used up any time.
We were to stay in DC from Friday evening until the following Tuesday when we were to fly to Denver. However;
Narda’s friend from her teaching days at St Luke’s had a tragic event in her life which changed our plans. Her eldest son, only in his late 20’s, died suddenly several days before we left Adelaide. The day before we left, we learned that the funeral would be on Saturday, the day after we would arrive in DC. Instead of going to Chris’ home after we arrived in DC we decided to continue.
Two hours after arriving in DC we were on the Acela Express to NYC. We booked the overpriced Doubletree Hilton at Times Square (much higher than usual as it was Easter Weekend) and finally got to lay down after close to thirty hours of travel. We were back out around midnight as hunger got the best of us. Luckily, there was a Taco Bell a block away and we got to eat with the denizens of the night before going back and passing out…until the hotel clock radio woke us up at 6 am, no doubt from some previous weary traveller heading out of town.
Once again hunger entered our world and we took a subway to the West Village. Getting off at West fourth we headed to Rocco’s (Pasticceria Rocco) on Bleeker Street for a wonderful NYC breakfast. The funeral we were attending was a few blocks away on Bleeker.
I wore a suit and tie for the first time since working at Dalian American International School in China, five years earlier, such is retirement.
The funeral was incredible, full of JD’s many friends, some dressed in the colourful blazers he loved to collect. The room was decorated with lots of his stuff, notably Star Wars memorabilia. His love of Star Wars was celebrated; after each of his friends gave a eulogy, they would say “may the Force be with you”, and the gathered folk would respond “and also with you”.
After the funeral we went to Cowgirl’s for lunch (519 Hudson St) a couple of blocks away from where Narda taught for five years (St. Lukes). After Cowgirl’s we went uptown and spent time at Ronnie and Karen’s place.
Not having an American sim card, we tried several phone companies; Verizon and some other losers could not help us. The problem is that US sim cards are not compatible with our Australian phones. T-Mobile at Times Square thought they could help and after hours of little success (one of their cards worked in my phone but would not in Narda’s) we left late at night back to our hotel. Times Square is a miserable place. It is used to be groovy in the 1960s, even in the 1970s, but now it is worse than Disneyland.
On Sunday (21st April) we took the bus from NYC to DC. The bus was $30 and took about three hours depositing us at Union Station. It was comfortable with Wi-Fi to keep us from needing to talk with one another. Narda’s son Chris collected us and left us at the church he preaches at and at the end of his session we took Liam home, stopping at his favourite eatery, Chipotle Mexican Grill. I rarely eat at chain restaurants, except for McDonald’s in Australia because they give seniors a free coffee for a purchase over three dollars. Since a coffee cost $3.70, we order one coffee and get the second free and get to read the newspaper. A big day out in our world when in Australia. Chipotle is good though, probably not good for a low-carb diet but they know how to make a vegetarian and a meat eater happy. We spent the next day walking Liam to school, riding on buses and mainly catching up on sleep and getting used to a new time zone that is 13-hours different from what we had been used to.
Well not exactly getting into sync with our new time zones. Though we have been in NYC for a couple of days, one would think we would have gotten some sleep, but we got even less in NYC. We were up too early the next morning and packing ready to fly off to Denver. Believing it would be warm(er) in Denver we left a suitcase behind for when we would return in a month. As we usually do when in DC we took the shuttle to the airport and were off to Denver. Our roundtrip to Denver set us back about twenty bucks for the two of us as we used our United points.
I have been wanting to see Denver Airport terminal since first reading the conspiracy sites about it. One theory is that there is a secret bunker located under the Denver Airport. DIA is the largest airport in the United States, the second largest airport in the world behind King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the conspiracies began shortly after the invention of the internet in the mid-1990s (the internet was invented in 1990) as most conspiracies have. [For example, layout of the runways of the airport is in the shape of a swastika. But it is the artwork on the walls that has everyone going nuts. Murals that can be viewed in the baggage claim area feature content that, according to some, feature future military oppression and a one world government like the concept of “big brother.” The most memorable of these pieces is a large green soldier of sorts with an eagle symbol on his hat, a bayonet tipped gun and a large curved sword in the other hand. Underneath the soldier are signs of poverty and distress, a woman clutching her baby and children sleeping in ruins. Viewers of the piece state that it appears to represent themes of future military oppression and a one world government. The artist of the piece, Leo Tanguma, however, claims that the mural and others like it represent man-made destruction of the environment and genocide while the people of the world come together to live in peace. The two large murals are entitled “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “The Children of the World Dream of Peace.” Within the Denver International Airport there is a dedication marker which is inscribed with the compasses and square associated with the Freemasons. Additionally, this marker lists two of the grand lodges of Freemasonry located in Colorado. Among all the odd decor of Denver International Airport is a statue of an open suitcase. Within this suitcase is a honed demon with its head in its hands.] This stuff is from this website if you want to read more, https://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/denver-international-airport-conspiracy/ And there is more about bunkers beneath the airport, statues and other silly stuff. So, were we rewarded for all our research? No, the whole bloody airport is going through a reconstruction and the walls are covered. Next conspiracy…
We have a house exchange in Denver. Our hosts had left their car at the airport long term parking and we found it with little effort and were off to our new home. American freeways in the dark, with lots of road construction, after driving on the other side of the road for the past whenever months in Australia is a challenge. Not to worry we rocked up at our beautiful new digs and found the remote to open the garage and we were able to get inside and say wow. The house was three sizes larger than ours. In our month there we decided to move into the basement as that was large enough for us, it had a lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and a big table to do our never-ending computer work on. We never used two of the lounges upstairs or the master dining room or several of the bathrooms.
We slept in. We have a month to explore Colorado so there was no need to rush out into the high altitude. That was our first ah ha moment. Not only jetlag, then after sort of adjusting to eastern time for three days we now were in Central or is it Mountain time? Then there is the height thingy. A mile high. Cool. After a couple of trips between the basement, the main floor, the next floor up we were puffed out. I get altitude sickness at two and half thousand metres, or I came to learn of that when we were in Quito, Ecuador, 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) a few years ago. After a couple of days, we had to flee, unfortunately, we only had those couple of days to see that wonderful city. Recently when we spent a couple of weeks in Shimla, India I was fine. There the altitude is 1924.00m (6312 feet). Denver is around 1,730 metres (5,700 feet). Not quite sure why we both got puffed out more in Denver than in Shimla where we walked heaps. We drank lots of water as recommended.
Our first full day in Denver, our stay for the month was in the town of Centennial (Arapahoe County), about sixteen miles from Denver City Centre, “the safest City in Colorado for the last eight years” according to their site, http://www.centennialco.gov/ Not sure as there was a school shooting while we were there, more about that later. We found the area friendly and it was easy to find what we needed. We were in a very suburbia area meaning a car-friendly area; though we did find walking trails not far from our home. We (well me in particular) excitingly found Sprouts Farmers Market, within walking distance. A giant health food store with those wonderfully high-priced products, which happily we found later at Walmart for much less. Left to my own devices I could have walked home with a suitcase of ‘health foods’, needless to say, I didn’t. We stayed home most of the next day too except to go to a nearby Target store to get photos printed. I seem to be stuck in the digital world of photos and Narda likes to print photos and put them in her diary. As we travel, we look for stores that have a photo machine that does small prints, for her book. As Narda points out, we still have family photos from many years ago (I have family photos from the early 1900s from my parents, not with me in them in the early 1900s, I am only 72) and we have lost many digital setups. So, there you go. Having both is the way to save those fleeting memories that last for hundreds of years. We worked on our projects at home; Narda’s writing diary and my online textual-photos I post on too many social sites.
On our third day we got out into the world and found a T-Mobile centre to try and sort out our phones. We found a friendly chap that not only got us a three-month card but gave us new phones with it. Not top of the range of course but they work as phones and not as computers and cameras, recording devices, navigational, and all the other useless bells and whistles that phones have. They still took photos and had navigation and all the basics, just not high quality, which all we wanted them for was as phones, and for that they were fine. Our Australian ‘high-end’ phones were still useful as cameras and computers when there was Wi-Fi.
After three days we rose from our zombie-zoned-out times and felt normal. Our friends, Frank and Kay from teaching days in Dalian, China, came to visit. The last time we saw them was in 2014 in Bagan, Myanmar, when we were also with Jean and Sean from our Dalian teaching days and who we will visit later during this trip, in Florida. They stayed for a couple of nights with us. It was fun.
After an evening and next morning of catching up and sharing stories with our friends a bit we Frank drove us on a sight-seeing tour of some of the mountains. We went to where Buffalo Bill was buried and did some stuff and learned about cool Bill, found it all quite interesting took photos then moved on to Red Rocks Amphitheater. http://tiny.cc/b6xdcz
Red Rocks Amphitheater at Morrison, Colorado, https://www.redrocksonline.com/ is the home of outdoor music on steroids. Most music stars since the early 1900s have played in the 9500-capacity arena. My personal experience here was great. We were trolling around the place looking at the music hall of fame, looking out at the view, taking too many photos when I realized I did not have my phone. (I change lenses on my camera and thought I must have set my phone down when putting the zoom on our camera) Not only did I not have my phone but my phone was one of those wallet setups that us post-millennials (decades-post…) put our credit cards, driver’s licenses, photos of ourselves or our loved ones, which ever fits in the most… in panic we all looked all over, spoke to people, left phone numbers and went off to find the best way to cancel our credit cards which of course would have stuffed us up no end. As we were walking out of Red Rocks toward our car one of the staff came running up to us and said, “is this your phone”. It became our Red Rocks miracle.
Frank and Kay live in Loveland, Colorado. There are about three excellent sculpture parks in Loveland. Benson Sculpture Garden is the one we spent the most time at. Well worth the visit. Our little slide show of the sculpture garden is over at http://tiny.cc/4cydcz.
We spent a few days, two different times at their home. They were such great tourists guides, we had experienced this in Myanmar five years earlier when they showed us around their hometown, at the time, of Yangon. We spent a day driving up into Rocky Mountain Park, and even in April there was snow on the ground. See our one-minute slideshow of this amazing area at http://tiny.cc/yeydcz
We had a couple of down days staying at home, eating low-carb, organic, allegedly nutritional substances, walking around our area, acting out the same routine as we do back in Adelaide with our morning walk. I have a bowl of seeds, probably bird seed, but I like to think it is doing me good, have our super healthy dinner and watch Netflix series. We watched ‘After Life’ (http://tiny.cc/bgydcz); series created, produced, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. We haven’t liked too many shows that Ricky Gervais is part of, he seems to appeal to the millennials, (we rarely think he is funny) but this series was well worth the watch. I see there will be a season two so that will be what we will watch in some other part of the world. (Netflix has announced it is renewing “After Life” for a six-episode season 2, which will launch in 2020. … But now I have to make sure the second season is even better, so I’ll probably have to work much harder than usual. Annoying really“ said Gervais. Apr 3, 2019). We also watched ‘Hell on Wheels’, which I describe a bit below when writing about Cheyenne. Really the series to be watching when in this part of the world.
As excited as children possibly can be, we awoke 30th, April to snow. We went bananas. It may be difficult to discern, but there is snow falling in the below photo. I built a snowman (on the outside table) and posted the photo on Facebook. (spoiler alert, I did this photo in Photoshop)
We found a local cinema (AMC) and the only movie that looked interesting was one about India partition; ‘Kalank’, a 2019 Indian Hindi-language period drama film set in 1945 in the pre-independence British era (http://tiny.cc/bkydcz). As we are going to Pakistan for a few weeks in October, originally crossing the border from India, but due to some conflict between those two we are going from Colombo, Sri Lanka, we are trying to make sense of what their beef is. The next time we visited this cinema there is a school shooting, described below, but this time we enjoyed the film. Though apparently, I fell to sleep for a portion of the movie according to Narda. But the part I saw was interesting.
We went to Loveland for our extended visit with Kay and Frank.
Cheyenne Wyoming Slideshow http://tiny.cc/ypydcz A lot of photos of our day in Cheyenne.
I had wanted to go to Cheyenne since the start of this trip. A blast from the past and all. I lived there in 1974 in one of those strange moments in one’s life where we look back decades later and think, I did what? I was in a cult group; The Holy Orders of MANS, in the 1960s (I joined in Hawaii), then left in 1971 and returned in 1974 to the San Francisco centre. Bottom line, they sent me to Cheyenne as they had one of their many cult-houses there. I was in a subset of the Order called the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. Meaning I had to wear a robe and be in that group for a year. The Brown Brothers was the celibate section of the Order, where I was sent off to, for former ‘indiscretions’. What was tough was walking around Cheyenne in a brown robe. People would laugh, (you are probably laughing right now), call me names and whatnot. I spent six-months in the winter of ‘74-’75 there, not very happily.
That was then, this is now…all those celibate years later, caught up in the Me2 hype of being an appropriate male, or not.
This year (2019) Wyoming celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, they were the first state to give women the right to vote along with lots of other women’s firsts:
If you get to Cheyenne visit the ‘The Cowgirls of the West Museum’, what’s not to like about such a museum? http://cowgirlsofthewestmuseum.com/ and it is free entry. Checkout the slideshow above for shots of women in cowgirl gear, and other random pics of Cheyenne.
Cheyenne is also an early railroad hub – See the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Frank and Kay told us about the Netflix series, “Hell on Wheels“, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s and is about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. Well worth the viewing if you are into historic fiction, with a bit of Hollywood. To get the lowdown of how the story goes check out, “Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”? Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight”. https://tinyurl.com/y2aydorc Well there, I spoiled the narrative, but still, look it up.
On a trip to Denver, we took a tram around the city to get a feel for the place. On the tram I took this photo of this girl with a service dog. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with her. Where we come from a service dog is the eyes or ears for someone who does not have physical sight or hearing.
I did not realize why this girl had this service dog until now, back home in Australia, when I was writing up our trip. We did notice a lot of people with ‘service dogs’, at airports, bus and train station. Everywhere. Wow, what was going on in the States? We did not learn until two months later when we were visiting our friends in Florida that people have ‘emotional support animals’. What?
If you have an emotional disability, you can legally qualify for an ESA, short for emotional support animal. You must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other duly licensed and/or certified mental health professional.
Damn! What is going on over there? We lived in the States from 2002 – 2010, and of course, I am a Yank from the get-go, though I left in 1981, for the stable sensible land of Australia and neither of us had ever heard of an ESA.
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!).
OK folks, here is the reality. Another word for an emotional support animal is pet. Get over it. I think people were just looking for a way to get their pet onto flights for free and not have Fido stuck in the hold of the plane. Of course, I don’t have an opinion on all this but it did take us by surprise. We both felt that America is in crisis, people were more upset, insecure, paranoid, than when we lived there (during the Obama era) and now the good citizens of the USA need support animals to protect them from the harsh reality around them.
We left Frank and Kay’s about 1 pm, stopped at a thrift shop and I got a Colorado tee shirt for a dollar (big spending tourist that I am). I was looking for a cowboy shirt with a fringe. I thought it would suit me but in Denver they were around the $200 mark and I had a budget of five dollars. I want to look like a rodeo rider when I get back to Australia. Unfortunately, in months of looking in thrift shops I never found one so I will look like another elderly person riding a bike in Adelaide instead of a stud in a cowboy-rodeo shirt, on a bike.
Our favourite shop is Walmart and we did most of our shopping there. My friend, Randy, Eugene, Oregon, never went into a Walmart all his life. Principles or something. But it was our shop of choice, so much cheap crap. Now, with the mass shooting in El Paso (August 2019), I am not sure whether we would go to Walmart. And the tweets that say the owners make 11-million dollars an hour and workers $11 an hour do not make it the shop of choice. However, for the likes of us, retired, on a budget, why pay twice as much for the same thing at the local hippie organic shop?
I always have projects I am working on. I have been doing a combination of paintings/photos/text since the mid-1960s when I first started being a street-artist in New York City. My longest time in one place was in New Orleans 1968 and 1972 – 1974, though I had about the same length of time being a street artist in Adelaide (1993 – 1995). Other places have been Waikiki (1980), Baltimore (1978 – 1979) and in the mall in Washington DC (summers of 1978 and 1979). I no longer sit in streets displaying stuff but do it online on numerous sites. I was working on my ‘Thoughts in Patterns 7’ on this trip which I managed to complete and make available on Amazon as print and as an e-book. They are really ‘thoughts in travel’ with the combination of images of places we are in with thoughts embedded. Book 7 with many photos and textual impressions is at https://amzn.to/2NgoQvU
My nephew lives in Denver (his mother, my sister, lives in New York) and we visited him on a couple of occasions. We have a short photo album of Denver at https://is.gd/Vkpvyd
Back home in our little burb we went to the picture theatre. There was little of interest except for comic book films so the one that looked least painful to us (meaning we did not need to know a backstory or have seen a previous edition to understand it), BTW, we still didn’t understand it (Captain Marvel) but that is not what we remember about the day. Actually, now a couple of months later I have no recall of the movie but of the day. As we entered the car park, we saw many police cars, ambulances, a couple of helicopters I looked on my breaking-news app and saw that there was a shooting nearby. This photo is from the cinema door. We went into to see Captain Marvel, at this time the report stated that the shooters had not been found. We live a short distance from Columbine High School, site of the Columbine High School massacre which was commemorating the twenty-anniversary of the shooting, this week. Seven years earlier, also in Aurora, where we were seeing the movie a person went into a theatre and killed a lot of people. At the time, the attack had the largest number of casualties (82) in one shooting in modern U.S. history.
When we came out of the film, they were still reporting the incident, the people involved were in custody. As we constantly pay out Fox News, not believing anything they say, at least politically, re. climate change, etc etc, Narda wanted to meet face-to-face Fox news people. Of course, news gathers are not the same as the nut cases that fill the Fox channel with their incoherent drivel (not that I have any opinions about this fake-news media.
As we are in Littleton, we explored the town. We discovered that Littleton is a sister city to Bega, Bega is a town in the south-east of New South Wales. They have a statue of a kangaroo and their idea of Australia. There is even the Ned Kelly pub. Not having been to Bega, Australia, we cannot confirm whether these two cities are sister cities or just me2 wannabes. We had a couple of other snowy mornings, each time just a bit then gone with the sun. We found what looked like a typical USA taco joint (Taco House – 1390 W Littleton Blvd) for lunch in Littleton, not sure if they have one like it in Bega. For anyone passing through Littleton, it is a bit of a dive, though cheap, probably authentic. We both had indigestion for a while after which simply could be that we are not used to this type of cuisine or the over-saturated oiled Mexican dishes we ate.
Toward the end of our stay in the Denver area we went to Colorado Springs. Narda has an Australian nephew living there. After a visit we spent the rest of the day in the rock formations nearby, Garden of the Gods, an amazing place to wander around in. See our one minute slideshow of this area at https://bit.ly/2k5frLm
We also visited Suzanne, who worked with us at the school in Dalian, China. She has an amazing house built into the same type of rocks as there are tossed about at the Garden of the Gods. I had wanted to go to the top of Pikes Peak, but the road was closed due to snow or some sort of wintery mix. One of the Yank’s favourite tunes, “America the Beautiful” was put together by Katharine Lee Bates after she visited the Pikes Peak summit in 1893. Not having made it to the summit I was unable to match her creativity. This is close as we got (using our 300 mm lens). The 14,110-foot summit is visited by more people annually than any other peak in America, and it ranks as the second-most visited mountain in the world, after that one in Japan (now I am really upset I didn’t get to the top).
Before we left Colorado, we had another big day out with Kay and Frank. We looked at motor-homes and chose ones we would tour the world in (houses on wheels) and had lunch at a famous truck stop; Johnson’s Corner. https://www.johnsonscorner.com/ “Retro American diner & travel plaza opened in 1952 serving classic comfort food & cinnamon rolls.” In 1995, Johnson’s Corner was a location for the Hollywood movie “Larger than Life,” starring Bill Murray, Matthew McConaughey. The film was financially and critically unsuccessful. Not to worry the restaurant was good.
We not only had a large beautiful house but a good van to explore the Denver area with. This is why we love house exchanges; we get to live as if we were locals. So far, we have spent time in Denmark (six-weeks in the beautiful town of Ringkøbing), Spain (Noja), Berlin, a few places in the Netherlands, with many more coming up; two more Netherlands, a few in the UK, France and lots in the planning. We still do a lot of Airbnb. After nineteen years of travelling we have just begun, there is so much more to experience.
This was an especially easy place for us, our hosts left their car at the airport and we left it there again at the end. How easy is that? Again, I had hoped to find all the conspiracy images at Denver Airport but due to remodelling the walls were still covered. Obviously in preparation for a future alien invasion. We had an easy time through security – even got through with a few pounds over our fifty-pound suitcase limit.
My little special treatment for each flight; can’t go through the security scan because of my defibrillator/pacemaker thingy. They should let me choose which person gets to frisk me. ‘I will take that lady there please…the agent with the red stilettos, & the USA flag tattooed on her thigh …’ bloody ‘me-too’ movement put the kibosh on that didn’t they?
We arrived Newark at 1 pm with a six-hour layover on the way to Albany, New York. We had recently changed our Chase credit card to a different one, same United points setup, but about $50 a year cheaper than their other card. With it we get priority boarding which is great in the States. Unbelievable you Yanks. In Australia, as well as with international flights we get seven-kilos carry on. This includes all carry on, camera bag, computer bag, and all the other crap we drag around the planet that has to be at our beck and call at any moment (well me, I need a computer and our Nikon, and zoom plus other lenses, always, Narda seems content with just a Kindle and a passport – wow how thrifty) but in the States? Wow! Firstly, there does not seem to be a weight limit, secondly the size is close to a regular suitcase, plus the extra bag is equal to a large backpack. Then there are the service pets that the Yanks need to comfort themselves in these trying times. I have seen people barely able to lift their suitcases. This all makes it very difficult to get bags into the overhead once on the plane if there are a lot getting on first. Priority boarding put us up right behind the first-class suckers (no jealously intended). They also now wave foreign transaction fees (which has been costly in the past), give us free luggage check-in (saving $30/bag) and the other fantastic ‘reward’ with our new Chase card was that we had a free hangout in a United First-Class lounge, Over in the A section where you enter through security, near gates 27, 26. Newark Liberty International Airport, as you would know, is the worst airport in America, and is only 16 spots shy of being the worst airport in the world. It must be true, the report (study) is on the internet – https://njersy.co/2U0BIYu. Not to worry, we had the United Lounge thanks to Chase. It was wonderful; good soup, the cheddar broccoli was fantastic, lots of finger foods, salads, free alcohol (pity I stopped all alcohol in 2005, and Narda only had one glass of wine, now Narda is sleepy, but just the thought of unlimited alcohol made me a bit drunk with memories of when and why I don’t anymore), juices, coffee and on and on, good Wi-Fi, comfy seats. I was obviously a bogan (an Australian term, look it up) in the wrong setting but who cares? I had my stuff spread all over; computer mixed with food and drinks; clothing scattered about… Life is good. After six-hours we had to leave our natural habitat and go sit with the riffraff, waiting for our flight to the world-class-cosmopolitan city of Albany, New York.
At Albany Airport we rented a car for the week. Albany is an important place in our world. We lived there 2002 – 2006, teaching at Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys. That was a neat gig; Narda was the chair of performing arts and I was the chair of technology, for both schools. We even shared a small office; two chairs living the life. I also taught part time at the State University of Albany and at Russell Sage College, Troy. We were in the area for those years to look after my father who was in his late 90s (he hung out until he was 102 – https://neuage.org/100) I grew up (well, made a grand try of it) nearby in the town of Clifton Park, leaving there in 1964 when I was 17 to explore the world. The farm I grew up on is below, that is my brother and me on the barn roof. I think this was taken early 1960s. Now route nine is four lanes and the farm is all concrete with Cracker Barrel exactly sitting where our house once did. As usual when in this area we ate at Cracker Barrel and as usual I thought about what a change in sixty-years. Where I used to live I now eat – not so unusual – though in this case it is. Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain restaurants we go to. Not expensive and a good feed, especially when one is a vegetarian and the other eats roadkill.
We went to Oneonta, to visit my sister and her family for a couple of days. She is a very talented artist (https://omordah.com/). Narda sang with Susan’s dog Kota,
The Dog Whisper (video) https://bit.ly/2kq3dNO
we talked about our lives, explored the Oneonta area had lunch at some nifty cafe then drove back to our Airbnb in Clifton Park. We like going to this part of the world, having bought two one-hundred year old houses and renovating them https://neuage.org/house in the boutique historic town of Round Lake, New York. Returning to one’s childhood stomping grounds is a mind twister. I left when I was 16-17 years old, came back over the years to visit my parents in the 1960s, a few times in the 1970s, twice in the 1980s (once as a single parent with two children in tow; age six-months and two and half), 1992 (again with children following along), then not again until Narda and I moved there in 2002. As all places it has changed in my seventy years back and forth. Lots of suburbs, shopping centres, freeways. I grew up on a farm; they don’t seem to exist anymore. Clifton Park was established in the 17th century and named in 1707, not really a new burb. I went to Shenedehowa Central School. When I started in 1954, there were 1700 students for the whole school now there are more than 9800 students spread over a few campuses. Just an example of the growth of this area. Where I grew up there is a shopping centre. When I lived there Clifton Park had one small general store, the church I got dragged to for many years, and two pubs. The cemetery is there, though a bit shaggy. We went and saw my father’s, mother’s, and brother’s grave. There were several people raking up leaves. A couple of people remembered my parents and one fellow remembers my mum as his elementary school teacher in the early 1950s at the old school on Cemetery Road, just a hundred metres from the cemetery.
We sold our houses in Round Lake a few years ago. In our large house the new owners found a box of stuff I had left behind. Instead of tossing the content they wrote me so we went to visit and collect the box of stuff that should have been tossed. There were a lot of records from the early 1900s. I kept two for us and two for my son who likes to mix tunes in his studio back in Melbourne. This happened to us the last time we were there, a couple of years ago, several boxes of stuff we didn’t really want in the first place were waiting for us. Stuff that was more than a hundred-years old. Stuff that was never meant to be dragged across the world then down-under to Australia, but I did. More boxes in the shed laying in the trenches for declutter day. Or as I recently said to my son, good luck when we die sorting out our stuff. Of course, Narda and I know everything will be sent off to landfill. Four sons, no collectors. Where have we failed.
This has been another one of those ‘catching up’ trips. Everywhere we go. To add to our list we had dinner with several of Narda’s teaching mates from Albany Academy. By the end of the trip we would have caught up with six from our teaching days in China (in Denver, Colorado Springs, and in Florida), four from upstate New York, everyone Narda taught with during her five-years at St Lukes in NYC, as well as friends of mine since high school in the mid-1960s. As well as my sister and family, Narda’s sons, and other once-have-known people. A lot has to do with Facebook, keeping up with folks.
We also met an old fellow probably well into his 90s at De Voe’s Rainbow Orchard, there on Route Nine, Clifton Park, who remembers my father. DeVoe’s has been around since 1931. My father used to pick fruit since it opened. I used to pick fruit there too; apples and strawberries that I remember, in the 1950s and early 1960s. When we lived in the area 2002 – 2005 we used to go there for our fruit and vegetables. If you are in the area, get off the Northway (the freeway between Montreal and New York City) Exit 9, Clifton Park and go up Route 9 – it is right before Walmart. Tell them Terrell and Narda said hi.
By 26th May it was time to head toward our next adventure. We dropped off the rental car at Albany Airport and got a Lyft to the Albany/Rensselaer train station for the ride to DC. It stops for a change in NYC and got us to DC at 8.30 pm where Narda’s son, Chris, collected us. Amtrak is a better train than the Overland. We took the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne recently (722 Kilometres) and the eleven-hour ride was good but there is no Wi-Fi, or electric outlets. Amtrak to DC from Albany (600 Kilometres) took about seven hours and we had Wi-Fi and we could charge our laptops. However, the Overland provided us with good meals, ( we paid extra for that) and the seats, though old, are comfortable with a lot of leg room. We love trains everywhere. The ride along the Hudson from Albany to NYC is great. We used to love taking that train in the winter when it was snowing.
The day after we got to DC we went to the Memorial Day Parade (see our one minute slideshow) https://bit.ly/2kCjmPY
The parade seemed a bit boring with mainly high school bands but still worth the watch. We walked many hours, following the parade and wandering around DC. There are many things that make DC amazing. One is Rock Creek that goes through the district. It was a ten-minute walk from Chris and Jessica’s house where we were staying to the creek. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890. It was only the third national park established by the U.S., following Yellowstone in 1872 and Mackinac National Park in 1875. Three-year old Liam would ride his bike alongside us, and it became almost a daily walk. One can be in nature, on a wooded trail following a mountain stream then be walking or bike riding to the White House, Capitol, museums all in a very short space of time.
Narda, Liam, Jessica, and Stuart at Rock Creek on one of our frequent walks.
Here is our one-minute slideshow of Rock Creek Park Sunday Walk. https://bit.ly/2lZzoUq
See our slideshow for the Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonian Museums https://bit.ly/2lCwHrP
Brendan, Narda’s son teaching in Pakistan, arrived on the third of June and we went to collect him at the airport. On the sixth the rest of the family arrived from Australia; Stuart (making the third son to be present in DC), Narda’s ex-husband and his wife. Narda’s birthday was on the eighth, making this her favourite birthday of all time: three sons, two husbands and a grandson. A couple of days later was Chris’ 40th birthday, the reason we are all in DC. We had Brendan’s 40th birthday in Phnom Penh a couple of years ago (we went to that and so did Stuart and the other husband), the next 40th will be my son, who lives in Melbourne. We haven’t sorted what to do for that yet. Stuart wants to have his 40th in Bali in a couple of years. Fact being, Narda and I may be getting old.
We drove Brendan to Union Station so he could catch a bus to Pittsburgh for a few days visiting a friend. Being near the capitol building we thought we would just park the car nearby and go catch a senate hearing. Life seems so simple before having a clue that there could be more than the original idea. Any original idea. Firstly, we were unable to find a place to park, obviously, and carparks looked expensive, and we saw a few tow trucks sneaking around looking for customers – like our car, so we just kept going away from the capitol. Going up Third Street or Third Avenue, not sure which now, we noticed it looked quite residential and folks were street parking with no meters or harassing signs to tell them to piss off. On Rhode Island and Third we shoved the car into a spot and headed out. As we needed a toilet (bathroom to the Yanks) and there were no shops anywhere within sight we saw a bus stop and thought that a random bus ride would get us to some place of relief. Along came bus number 96 and we got on having no idea where to. We have always enjoyed random bus rides in various cities and where this was going, we didn’t care as long as we saw a shopping centre or public loo along the way. Lo and behold the bus wound around hither and thither ending at Union Station, right where we had left Brendan a couple of hours earlier and a couple of blocks to the Capitol. The Hill and all that. Can’t recall but I think we found a loo which was our original mission – no doubt at Union Station.
There were long lines everywhere in the visitor’s centre, except at the international desk. We showed our Australian Driver Licenses and became our own little line, getting into the senate with seats to spare. Sucked in Yanks, waiting in lines. Apparently, if you are from the US of A you need to get a note from your representative, we don’t have one because we are foreigners.
Well, I am a duel citizen but we didn’t tell them. As long as I keep my mouth shut no one knows that I am from these woods. It was all quite boring as there was a vote being held on some person or the other taking on some position on some committee. The vote was in the 80s or 90s for and only 8 or nine against, so everyone seemed to like the dude. We got to see Chuck Schumer who we favour and Mitch McConnell (Moscow Mitch) whom we don’t. If we had done it all correctly, we would have gone to the Congress chambers. AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was there and they had a big vote about The Dreamers thing that has been in the news for quite some time. AOC, is my hero in politics at the moment.
We easily found the bus back to where we had parked, and that was our day on The Hill.
As Chris and Jessica’s house is so full we were lucky that we could get an Airbnb two houses away from them for a couple of weeks. We still spent most of the day together but how many family members fit into a three-bedroom house? Chris and Jessica were working on making their basement into an Airbnb while we were there, it is finished now, so if you want a great place at a great price a block from bus service, not far to DC central with all their buildings and the metro to everywhere, let us know. We have a good connection to help you out.
On Narda’s birthday we found that there was a gay parade so we went to see floats and folks dressed up. As it started rather late in the day we were there for only a bit and did not see much as we were all going to dinner for the birthday girl. This was good for lots of reasons for Narda. From 2002 – 2015 we were overseas (from Australia) on her birthday with only me around. Since being back in Australia we have had a few birthdays with her family though not with all her sons since 2001.
Birthdays are why we are here, not just us as humans on planet earth, we the visitors for family birthdays in Washington DC. One could say the main event was Chris’ 40th birthday. Or we could say the main event was Narda’s 65th. Or are we here to celebrate Father’s Day in the USA? (Father’s Day is in September in Australia). Or are we all here just to groove? Nonetheless, Narda’s birthday was first, not first as she is the oldest ever, but first on the list of celebrations. 8th of June. After twenty-years of gift giving I was having a difficult time finding the best next thing. Fortunately, in Denver, Kay and Frank had a nifty wine bottle top that chirped. (ChirpyTop Wine Pourer) Kay got me one and I was able to keep it hidden for a month in my bag. (they have some over at Amazon, so when you are purchasing one of my books and need a chirping wine pourer go to https://amzn.to/2lMfpZc) Nothing unusual about that except Narda is always repacking my bag and for a month I was constantly rushing to pack my bag. She thought I was taking responsibility for my packing, ha ha, the month is over. I always get her an Amazon voucher for her birthday and she buys books for her Kindle all year with it, so it was good to have something to go along with the usual. Of course, Narda’s best-ever birthday was because she had her three sons together. And a couple of husbands. One of Narda’s sons is a pastor and the previous Sunday (my rare times I go to church – with Narda to see her son) one of his congregation, thinking I was Chris’ father, made a mention of something and I said, ‘oh, that is her other husband’. So Narda’s three sons, her ex and his wife, Chris’ wife and the grandkid, Liam, Narda and me went for a walk along the beautiful Rock Creek that flows through DC, and in the evening went out for a great birthday dinner.
Narda’s three children, (Chris, Stu, Brendan) not such children now, watching the Adelaide Crows in a rare win early one morning DC time, evening game time in Adelaide. Or perhaps they were watching something else, as they have wine glasses, so maybe not early in the morning. Though I did see them with their father, Peter, one morning, five am, glued to the telly watching a Crow’s game.
Narda and I moved into the neighbour’s Airbnb leaving a crowded house for the others. It is great, we have meals together and spend the day tromping around DC. The Aussie males had a great first morning in DC, arriving Saturday, on Narda’s birthday; Stuart, Peter and Marion were just in time to watch the Adelaide Crows game that was being played Friday evening in Adelaide along with Chris and Brendan. And to make everyone happy the Crows won. In my Australian family the Crow’s situation makes the weekend around us. Narda and I are not really fans, though we went to a game once. There are two teams in Adelaide: Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows. Narda’s family are Crow supporters except for Chris who favours a team in Victoria. Funny how wins and losses can affect a family for a couple of days, and it spreads all the way to Pakistan. If the Crows lose, which they seem to do often, we can hear the groans all the way up to Pakistan with Brendan expressing his grief. I suppose it is like the Yankees and the Mets in New York. Being a New Yorker, I grew up liking the Yankees and even though I no longer follow professional baseball in the USA I still would be a Yankee fan if I were a fan of baseball at all.
By the 10th of June we were all settled for Chris’ 40th birthday. We had a nice family gathering at a Mexican place in town, and then on the following weekend, a party a block away at a pub that was decorated for us and Chris’ friends. All fun and party!!! As is always the case, Narda and I left and were home and asleep before ten, probably before nine thirty.
As it was the end of the school year, we all toddled off to watch Liam graduate from preschool in full graduation drag. They sure won’t do such a production in Australia. The excited family (Narda, Stuart, Brendan, Peter (ex), Chris, Jessica, Marian (ex’s wife) watching the event of the year with Liam expressing excitement beyond belief.
I spent a couple of days wandering around DC on my own. One show I particularly liked was THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH PRESENTS:
THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY See the Washington Post on this at http://tiny.cc/46eybz
18 June Tuesday
The Washington Express Bus is cheap, $30, takes about 3.5 hours, has Wi-Fi, power points, and comfortable seats. I was so comfortable that I left my phone on the bus, rang them as soon as we discovered I didn’t have a phone on me (minutes – such is the importance of always being connected) but the bus had already left and they said come back the next day. Sure enough the driver had found my phone and once again I felt whole. Not that I lose stuff (every day)… outside of my phone at Red Rock Amphitheatre, Denver, a month earlier but I sort of left my laptop on the same bus company a year and a half earlier. We discovered so when we had gotten settled at Chris and Jessica’s house in December 2017. At midnight we drove to their depot in the back blocks of Jersey City, recovered the wandering computer, and got back home intact hours later. No point in going re. other items gone astray (some returned) over the years, suffice to say, Washington Express Bus is a good company.
Our flat in Bronx. OMG. Narda puts a lot of effort in finding us places to park. NYC was pretty much booked full due to gay month or some such gathering. Brendan was at a conference at Columbia University for this week, sent there by the American School of Lahore, so Narda was tasked with finding a place not too far. Brooklyn was too far, Manhattan too expensive and the Bronx, just right. The Goldie Locks of burbs; close enough to Columbia, affordable, transportation, local Bronx vibe. The apartment was a bit small, two small bedrooms, Narda suggested the boys could share one room and sleep foot to head. Of course, why not, the girls do (age 5 and 7) when we go camping in our caravan. Brendan took the coach, Stu the small bedroom and we took the master suite, meaning there was enough room to turn around in. We had a small, one person could fit, kitchen. And the lounge was large enough for us to sit in when Brendan wasn’t sleeping. Across the street was the local ambulance centre, 8 – 10 ambulances about the place when they weren’t sounding their sirens and roaming the Bronx. Next to our four-storey building were 25 storey projects, blocks of them. Being summer, the locals were sitting in front of the projects playing loud foreign Bronx music, until when, I don’t know, once the earplugs were in deep enough I could hear them but eventually would go to sleep, by morning it was qui except for the usual sirens, babies crying, dogs barking – just like in those TV detective shows. We, being fearless, would walk the fifteen minutes to the nearest subway, which was at Yankee Stadium. Even at night. We were the token whites for the hood, and everyone ignored us. We had a key lock outside of the building to leave the front door and our apartment door key in. One evening, Stuart had gone home earlier than us, and the keys were not in the ‘secure-keylock box’. Poor fellow had to wait quite some time for us. Narda rang the Airbnb owner who did not seem alarmed and said she thought she knew who would have it. Considering we each had a laptop (mine was one day old, Narda’s a couple of months old – both expensive) and our passports, money, etc were all inside, we were not impressed. Eventually someone let us in and we were all highly annoyed.
Growing up in New York, of course, I was a Yankees fan. My long-time friend, Marta, a Yankee fan, suggested we catch up at a game. The last time we had a quick breakfast with her when driving through Poughkeepsie, New York, a couple of years earlier. We have known one another since the mid-1960s, when she was my brother’s girlfriend and we try to catch up when we can. A few years ago, she wrote a book on my brother, which I was fortunate enough to contribute to. ‘The Art and Life of Robert J. Adsit’ (https://martawaterman.com/).
Narda and her two sons, Brendan and Stuart, had never been to a baseball game. I had stopped following baseball after my son, Leigh, pitcher the for the LA Dodgers, died in 2003 (a couple of weeks after turning 20), and for me this was closer to watch a game again. Since the age of ten, Leigh said he would play for the Yankees when he grew up, and he never got far enough in life to fulfil his goal.
We met Marta at a well-known eatery (I forgot the name) a block from the stadium. We were all excited. It was raining and we were worried the game would be stopped. Our tickets were the next to the last row at the top. Marta had said this was the best place as it was undercover in case it rained. Lucky us, the section in front of us, seats being in the $150 range were wet, our seats were $28 and dry. The game started at 8 pm instead of seven, after the rain stopped. Narda and I forgot to bring jumpers and getting cold we went to the stadium shop and found the cheapest jumpers, $75. In the future we forget about the cost and remember the experience. Well this is three-months later, I have the jumper on now, and still remember the cost. The Yankees were doing well, there were some homeruns, and we were all very happy. By 11 pm there were still a few innings to go, we were tired, Marta had a long way to go home to Woodstock, New York, so we left and discovered the next day the Yankees had won. If you would like to share the photos of our one-minute slideshow see them at http://tiny.cc/2kt2bz
We spent the rest of the week wandering NYC. I got to tell Brendan and Stuart stories from when I was a hippie in NYC in the mid-1960s; about 1963 – 1967, before I wandered on down to Florida, New Orleans and finally to California and Oregon ending the 1960s in Waikiki. (I saw myself as a beatnik at the time instead of the commercial hippie label). Whether everyone wanted to hear my stories or not they got them. I even got to show them St Mark’s Church on East 10th Street where I read poetry with famous poets such as Alan Ginsburg in a 1965 Fast for Peace reading. St Mark’s Place (East 8th street) was my stomping grounds in the 1960s and on the top of my list of places to see again and to show the family.
In her 400-year history of St. Mark’s Place (St. Marks Is Dead), Ada Calhoun called the street “like superglue for fragmented identities” and wrote that “the street is not for people who have chosen their lives … [it] is for the wanderer, the undecided, the lonely, and the promiscuous.” St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street.
‘A’ train to JFK to Florida arrived 7 pm, dinner at airport – Lyft to Lawrence’s.
Lawrence is our last house exchange for this three-month trip. We taught with Lawrence in China. He was a principal at our school. Lawrence helped me set up one of my most fun-filled positions at any school. I put together an inhouse television station. See sample of DAISlive at https://bit.ly/2ltar3z I still have Lawrence’s greenscreen and lights, they are in the shed for our little video studio that we use to make silly movies with the grandchildren. We spent a couple of weeks at Lawrence’s home. Because Lawrence belonged to the local country club nearby, we did a daily swim in a very warm pool. Our only mishap was when Narda picked up a hitchhiker – a tick, as we walked along the lakefront amongst the grass instead of going around on the road. This is the view from Lawrence’s backyard. I pulled out the tick (the photo has been censored, in other words, Narda doesn’t want me to share it with you – the tick waving from Narda’s leg), we put it in a jar, with its little antennas gyrating furiously, we went off to the nearest emergency room. Just to be sure we did not pick up Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia which is spread by these little buggers. We spent a good fifteen minutes at the hospital, the nurse looked at it, the doctor looked at it, prescribed an antibiotic, she did not want to see the still dancing tick in the jar, and, I watched the clock, spent a whooping five-minutes with the patient, Narda. The next person came in with the bill for us to pay on the spot. $1500. OK, we are insured but hey that is a bit rich. We were told the doctor bill would come separate, and it did, a few weeks later, $950. OMG! What a corrupt system the US medical institution is. If you have a calculator handy, let’s say the doctor sees 5 people an hour at about a thousand each, times five hours a day for a four-day week…. Gee, a new Bentley every month.
Around the lake there is a lot of wildlife. We heard that there was even a bear and a cub or two, but we didn’t see them. We did see deer that came up to the house and lots of birds that visited.
Our first trip was to the Cape Canaveral Coast https://bit.ly/2kgCbs6 We enjoyed our newish Mercedes, quite a luxury compared to the tug we drive back in Australia, Billy, who pulls our caravan, Holiday, around various destinations in Australia.
We had set out early in the morning having seen online that there was a space thingy launch. After finding a good spot along the coast someone passing by said it had been scrubbed. Nevertheless, we went to Cape Canaveral then on to Coco Beach which advertisements claimed to be one of the more famous/beautiful beaches, in the universe? Living in Australia, beaches everywhere, and having been on beaches on several Hawaii islands, as well as beaches in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and lots of other places, we were excited to go to a ‘must put on your bucket list’ that we saw advertised in many places. Wow what a dump. Sorry, just first and only impression. We went to their idea of a fancy pier, ‘It’s Not Just a Day at the Beach, It’s the Ultimate Beach Adventure! A historic landmark on Florida’s Space Coast, the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier …’ Really? Last year we were at the Brighton Pier in the UK. Now there is a pier. We trotted out to the end of the pier; overpriced restaurants, wannabe pubs, generations XYZ struggling to look relevant. Nothing special. Nevertheless, I quickly added it to my bucket list so that I could cross it out. On the way to the coast is the beautiful Manatee Sanctuary Park, located at 701 Thurm Blvd. It is a 10-acre park that is set on the Banana River.
Lawrence’s daughter was still at home. Lawrence and the rest of his family were in Russia on a visit. She is attending her second year at University of Central Florida. It is the first time we have ever been in an exchanged home with someone still there. But what a lovely young person. Young people could take lessons from her in social skills. Perhaps growing up in Russia makes a difference. Having an academic family (mother has a school in Moscow that she can run from anywhere online; Lawrence has been a principal at a few international schools, and they are both teaching in Orlando.) She shared some meals with us (being a vegan was the first compatible thing) and was always willing to listen to us, something few people would do – respect us old tarts. She showed us around her university and gave advice of places to visit. Her name is Sasha, my son’s name is Sacha – and his mother is Russian so that was interesting. She also drives a new Subaru Outback, the same as my Sacha in Melbourne, same colour too. That is where the similarity stops, though Sacha is a hard working determined young person (well not quit so young – edging 40) and Sasha (maybe 20) is extremely determined, talking about what she wants to do her masters in, something mathematical and beyond our brain space. An example, we went away for a few days, coming home on the eve of the 4th of July, party time for most Americans, got home about eleven pm and she was at the kitchen table studying for an upcoming test. A young person not covered in tattoos, or on drugs, that values education above all and that had the time and patience for the likes of us. I didn’t know they still made them.
Slideshow for Orlando, Disney Springs, https://youtu.be/eg4iZ-DXhF8
We were not interested in Disney crap, which is what this area is all about. “Orlando, Florida, had 75 million visitors last year as the theme park mecca continued to be the most visited destination in the United States” Why? What is wrong with humans? OK, so I did take my kids to Disneyland in LA (twice) during my single-parent days, but that is because my friend Daniel Bushnell, who we were visiting (1985 & 1992) talked me into it. Suffice to say that Narda and I did not have interest in going to such an overrated overpriced thingy. Saying all that, Sasha recommended going to Disney Springs, which is a bit like a free Disneyland without the silliness. We even took one of their free buses to some Disney village place and back. There were OK restaurants there and lots of children wearing Disney hats, and their parents too.We took two more road trips. One to St. Augustine / Daytona Beach and the other to the west coast, see here for a one-minute or so, slideshow of our trip to and west coast of Florida, https://bit.ly/2lCu1dy
This picture, is the result of a very long trip in my world. I left home in 1964, before I turned 17. I had a few mishaps/missteps in life back in Clifton Park, New York / Shenendehowa Central School. Suffice to say that I left before completing tenth grade, not that I was doing well, I was a terrible student and the only subject that I passed was band. I took off on my motorcycle, ended up in Florida, not sure why in Groveland, but that is where I ended. When the next school year began, I was 17, sort of midway between tenth and eleventh grade, I signed up at Groveland School. My parents must have funded me, I don’t think I worked. Believe it or not, my apartment became a hangout for teenagers. I think there was some beer and females involved, short story shorter, my academic career came to a grinding halt, I lost my apartment, so I went to Key West, Florida. This is in my book, ‘Leaving Australia’ available from Amazon. I remember reading an article when I was there that Disney was buying up land in the area for another Disneyland. If only I had bought land, there then… so on our trip to Englewood we had to go through Groveland. I think I remembered something or the other but where I lived, who knows? The original school had burnt down (no it wasn’t me) but I had to return to the place where my life was a bit shabby. Here I was parked in front of where I once was a crazy teenager, now with a new Mercedes (OK, not mine, but still I was driving), and with a PhD. I had my tenth grade education until I was in my mid-40s then did the long haul of seventeen years of school in Australia, getting my BA in journalism, Honours in Children’s literature, and Masters in communications from Deakin University in Melbourne, then the seven year stretch of completing a PhD at the University of South Australia. A few years later I got a teaching degree too.
Thanks Australia, you’re the best. And of course, hooking up with the supremely cool and popular, all-star wife, Narda and my groovy son, Sacha. And I am only 72, just starting this exciting trip called life.
Back on track… we were on our way to Englewood to see Sean and Jean, whom we worked with in China for a few years. We saw them last in Myanmar (remember the photo of us with them and our friends in Colorado; Kay and Frank, all of us on motorbikes, earlier in this short narrative?) and as this trip seems to be a reunion of people we have worked with a couple of more were on the ticket. (this must be a reunion year as we will be seeing our friends; Tim and Agnes, in Chiang Rai, Thailand in a few weeks)
On the fourth of July we went up to Tarpon Springs to visit Kathleen and Jimmy. Kathleen, I have known since my strange days at Shenedehowa, she was my girlfriend back in tenth grade before misadventures/missteps/mishaps found me headed to the wonderful town of Groveland in 1963. The wonders of Facebook, we had gotten in touch about ten years ago, forty-five years after last seeing one another. We caught up for a dinner a couple of years ago in Clifton Park, New York, and we were planning to stay a couple of days this time in Tarpon Springs. Unfortunately, it did not work out and we only had lunch at a very nice seaside restaurant. Also unfortunately we do not have any photos of our visit, but of course we all look the same as we did back in 1963 so if you have the Shenendehowa Yearbook for 1963, as I do, you can see how we still look the same, except my hair is a tad bit longer, there is some grey shit sneaking into my once beautiful black hair, now brown through no fault of my own, and I am more educated, somewhat.
Knowing we had a five-hour drive ahead of us, and it being fourth of July, we left as darkness overtook our visit. It was an interesting drive with fireworks throughout the night especially when we got into the Disney-Madness area there were fireworks welcoming us back to Orlando on both sides of the highway and in front of us. When we got home around eleven pm, they were still going off in our neighbourhood, as I mentioned earlier, Sasha was home studying for an exam when we came in.
We had a few down days, going to our local pool and gym and getting caught up on writing. I completed two more books and made them available on Amazon;
In my world a biggie as I have spent a lot of hours over this past year, including three-months on this trip getting them finished so it was all making me feel a bit accomplished.
It is terrible with the gun stuff in the USA, one marketing tool that was creepy we saw was a gun-proof backpack for children. It was quite heavy and for $250 seemed a strange way to protect a child. Firstly, children’s backpacks are heavy as it is. I watch Mabel, age 5, and Maggie age 7, with their backpacks and they seem to weigh as much as the child carting them about. Then what is a child to do? Someone starts shooting at them and they put their heavy bag in front of them to stop the bullets?
We did one last road trip up the east coast to St Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. The area was first spotted on April 2, 1513 by Spanish dude, Juan Ponce de León. The city grew, the Spanish killed off lots of Indians with Smallpox and Measles and were themselves raided in karmic led attacks by pirates and the Brits and various other unfriendly folks. Nearly a century of conflicts and raids convinced the Spanish that a strong fort was needed at St. Augustine. In 1672, the Spaniards began construction on the Castillo de San Marcos, creating the fort as a barrier to enemies. The structure still stands today. That is the history lesson for now.
On the way to St. Augustine we stopped at Daytona Beach. I had only been here once, back when I had left home in 1964. I had gone to Daytona Beach for a holiday – perhaps that is not the exact narrative, I don’t remember why I was there but I was walking through town along the boardwalk thinking of sleeping on the beach at night as I had little or no money for a hotel, and at the time did not have a house to exchange and there were no Airbnbs, if I had money. Short story shorter, police stopped me, put me in jail for vagrancy, so I had to call my parents for money to go wherever I was headed in life at the time. This was another one of those closure moments. Hey Dayton police, look at me, driving a Mercedes through your ungrateful town. Meaning they were not grateful for someone returning and spending money in their town (we had lunch).
We took the scenic route from Daytona Beach up to St. Augustine along route A1A along the coast, so much better than the freeway which we took back to Orlando from St. Augustine. Hurricane Matthew in 2017 wiped out much of this road and it is currently going through a rebuild, especially at Flagler Beach where it is slow moving but interesting to see. Lucky for this area Hurricane Dorian, September, 2019) came close but did no more damage. Check for hurricanes before driving along here, otherwise, enjoy.
With a few days left in our USA odyssey we flew back up to DC to say a final goodbye to Chris, Jessica, and Liam. When we were at Chris’ birthday party at the local pub, I got to talking with the neighbour who gave us his Airbnb for a couple of weeks, and he said that he was a bell ringer at the Washington National Cathedral. I said we would love to see the bells and the cathedral, and we made arrangements for when we came back after Florida to get the tour.
In morning went to Washington National Cathedral with Alex for an hour and a half – walked around the cathedral. If you don’t look at any of our slideshows do check out this video of the bell ringing tour we had, https://tinyurl.com/y4ydfdym
Simply amazing. He has been a bell ringer here for more than a decade, including a four-hour session on the fourth of July. He knows about what places in the world have bells, such as knowing which cathedrals in Adelaide had them. This is not a common gig in the world as most places have recorded bells ringing. Also, this is not one of the tours on offer by the Washington National Cathedral, making us feel special, well we always do, but this was extra special. We were up in the tower overlooking the city, even went out on the roof. Did you know that the CIA/FBI have listening devices and cameras straight across to the Russian Embassy from where we were? Of course, we are not admitting or denying that we know anything about this. It could have just been something we saw once in a comic book. Or not.
And that is it. One other thing, we do not eat out much, my crazy dietary desires/wants/requirements (vegetarian, low-carb, organic, blessed by a Tibetan monk/Hippie minstrel, and all the rest) along with our opposition to tipping (hey, if you come to Australia, don’t tip, it is not done here, no no no) precludes our eating out, but because it is Liam’s favourite place we did a few times have Chipotle’s takeaway. No tipping, inexpensive, immigrant-flavoured dishes, vegetarian options. I personally only had the food twice as it is high-carb and my blood sugars went to high, plus it is not blessed by a Tibetan monk or Hippie minstrels. But if you want a good feed Chipotle is OK.
That was our little trip. As I got several of my books from Amazon delivered to Chris’ house, we had them in our luggage. When we opened our suitcases in Adelaide, we saw that they had been thoroughly inspected. My books were separated from their lovely envelopes. What did they think were in these packages? As we have been watching Queen of the South on Netflix, we thought obviously we look the part of drug mules. Saying that, if you get the opportunity to see a great movie, see The Mule, directed and starring Clint Eastwood, I would say his best flick.
See ya next time. Next week we will be in Thailand, taking the train up from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, spending a month in Sri Lanka, couple of weeks in Pakistan visiting with Narda’s son, Brendan, then back to Thailand for a couple of weeks. Just a nine-week trip instead of our usual three-months. Perhaps, we are getting older and need more time at home. No that would not be correct as we are home for two months for Christmas when hopefully Narda’s three sons come and my son Sacha and his partner are here then to The Netherlands for three months. Follow our blogs to see if we are in your neighbourhood somewhere in the world. Cheers Narda and Terrell
In the Aljazeera interview today 16 September, 2019, with Imran Khan “Imran Khan on ‘genocide’ in Kashmir and possible war with India” Khan said he could see Pakistan starting using nuclear weapons against India – we will be there in a month – hey mate, wait for us… https://bit.ly/2lXohv9