While we are still on Santorini in Greece, we are forming an exit plan!
Firstly, we were able to finally arrange our ferry off the island, on June 6th to Athens, Greece. This is a great first step, without hindrance from the Port Authority Police. BUT, we are still being instructed to contact the ferry office the morning of our departure day, to make “sure” the ferry will run! 🤔🙄 If we do get off the island, on schedule, to Athens, we have a hotel booked for two nights which we were forced to pre-pay. Not showing up won’t mean we get our money back. This is the new normal of travel with lodging, since the disclaimers now indicate, “you are traveling during a pandemic, so know your cancellation policies;” for which there are no cancellations for not being able to actually show up, because transportation fails to operate.
We HAVE to be out of Europe no later than the 9th of June, or pay steep fines and fit grit future EU travel, so if we can’t get a working ferry, we are to contact the Syros police, to ask for their help on our visa deadline. Even if they do help, by granting a few extra days on our visa, this will not help the cost of the hotel we won’t be able to arrive on time for. It will be at the discretion/kindness of the hotel, if they change our dates. LETS JUST HOPE OUR FERRY ON JUNE 6th, RUNS!
Once we arrive in Athens, we will have a very small window to collect our luggage that has been stored at a hotel in Athens, where we left it back in March. Since our departure from that hotel, so long ago, (when we only planned eight days on two islands), the government lockdown demanded all hotels close. I’ve been emailing and calling the hotel in Athens for a month, now, but no response. We do know, from being in Greece, year -around hotels can open first; maybe in June. Seasonal hotels, can open later; maybe in July.
What I have done is made a booking after our June 8th departure date (checking to ensure I have till Jun 5th to cancel With our penalty of funds) just so I have another form of communication through booking dot com, with this hotel. (I call this creative desperation). We really would be sad if we can’t collect our belongings, from that closed hotel, before we have to leave by the 9th. FYI, that closed hotel told me in the last conversation, even though closed, somebody would meet us at the hotel just to collect our bag, but now they are ghosting me; so, a complication, still.
Secondly, provided we can get off the island on the 6th, collect our belongings on the 7th, and get our pre-paid bus ticket changed from the date of March (the original date we were to leave Greece) to a new date of June 8th (do not know if buses are running yet, but will find out, soon, hopefully) we will ride an early bus from Athens to Ionnina in 5.5 hours. From Ionnina, Greece, we will find a taxi to take us the rest of the way to the borders of Albania. Or, if we can find a driver with dual citizenship in Ionnina, to take us to our destination on Albania that would be great! Since we are hearing Albania 🇦🇱 is opening borders June 1st, with no 14-day quarantine required, we are hopeful!
Thirdly, (if all goes well above), we have been super fortunate to meet an Albanian woman who is helping us find a hotel that is open for business in Saranda; along the beautiful Albania 🇦🇱 Riviera, where we can book for at least three weeks. From there, we will transfer to another Albania location called Vlora (also quite beautiful) for another three weeks. By the end of July, we hope travel can resume a bit easier for us, and we can take a bus to the border of Macedonia, where we will try to rent a car for a week, then hit the border of Serbia 🇷🇸 to rent a car to also tour, then the same in Serbia and Bosnia 🇧🇦.
Fourthly, because we could not leave Greece when we wanted to, our extra visa days we tried to save, so we can do our Rhine River Castle cruise that was canceled in May, and rebooked for August 23rd so we could go. Now, we can’t re-enter Europe (Schlegen zone countries) till around September 10th. It may be possible to rebook a new cruise date, in September, we are unable to re-enter the Eu countries on a temporary waiver. I will learn more from the cruise company on our options, if our August cruise does not get canceled.
Some facts on our European cruise:
This Rhine River Cruise is a bucket list trip for us. We planned in advance and paid for the cruise of May, when we booked, back in February. We paid $7000 for the two of us for eight days, traveling from Amsterdam, through Germany, into France, then ending in Switzerland.This is not chump change for us!
When we booked, we knew that if the cruise company, themselves, cancelled on us, their policy was to refund 100% . Unfortunately, they changed their own policy, just before they cancelled, and said 100% of monies can go towards a future cruise in 2020 or 2021. (how convenient for them). 😡….Given the businesses going bankrupt around the globe, this has us concerned. We rebooked for August 23rd, when we could only “hope” we would be granted an extension on our 90-day EU visa to remain in Europe; to which we now know we were not granted the courtesy (by the Syros Island Greek Police) to stay in the Schlegen zone.
The Good News:
When we rebooked for our August cruise, we got a much better deal on the exact same cruise, and the cruise company, in writing, said we would be receiving a $2000 refund.
The Bad News:
We have yet to get our refund, after almost two months, and when I inquire, I get told “refunds are taking longer than usual.” 🙄😥
So, that is the update, as of today, anyway, in an ever changing world of travel. In the meantime, we will enjoy our down time, which has given us renewed energy, and prepare ourselves for our imminent departure from Santorini. We have loved it so, BUT, we are ready for new adventures!
Normally, for summer months, we would be far away from any place like Europe (high season and far more expensive) plus the hot weather and crowds (well, we anticipate less crowded this year) makes it tough to tour in. But, these are trying times to travel in, period, and because it’s our choice to remain free spirits in the world; with more unknowns, than knows, we will roll with whatever comes our way, and weather it, just as we always have.
The Original Wonders of the World eventually became so old, most of them have since crumbled into nothingness. The exception being; The Pyramids of Giza, (as seen below), which we have been lucky enough to visit. It matters little how any of these sites rank, because we all have different desires in the kind of travel we do, or enjoy, so with that thought, here are my choices for man-mad and nature-made wonders I have seen.
Currently, the NEW seven wonders of the world are in great debate, but one thing is for sure, there are a couple of good lists circulating out there. Being a World traveler, and having seen some of the most astounding sites known to man, and I have created my own list. I made my selection, based mostly on how the “wonder” made me feel when I saw the magnificence for the first time, as well as the mystery behind the origin of the sites.
After visiting 77 countries, to date, it is very difficult to narrow down my favorite visits, anymore. I have been blown away by so many fabulous trips, all over the globe, so it now makes more sense to break my favorites down by continent. I’ve been to all continents, sans Antarctica. Maybe in 2021.
The country visits, which stand out, can be for many reasons, but for me, the highlight is what I got see and do, and how, overall, that country visit made me feel. When I find myself thinking back to a certain trip, and continue to think fondly of the memories; still fresh in my mind, though the visit may have been years ago, I know that visit was a very special one. That being said, there is not one country visit I disliked. Every new country experience is educational, fulfilling, and satisfying in one way or another. It’s just that I feel more “moved,” by being in some countries than I do in others.
Kenya 🇰🇪 was my first trip to Africa, and my first of the eventual 13 Safaris I would get to enjoy in many circles of this earth, so far to date. There are no two Safaris alike, so that why I continue to put them on our itinerary! If you have ever been on a wildlife Safari, you may agree; you never forget, AND my first Safari is happily the most lasting in my mind.
My first choice of Safari was Kenya, African. This first, choice was not based on anything other than I probably read more about the African Safaris than any other. It would be many years later, after returning to Africa several times, I would become even more enamoured with Kenya, Africa, than any other African country to date. Why? Kenya was everything I had made up in my mind, as being all encompassing “Africa!” There are the Tribes which still live similar to their ancestors, I saw traditional dress and dance, and love the Kenya music, and I especially loved hearing the African drums beating, deep in my soul, as I fell asleep. I remember the bright African colors, worn by the locals, the warmth and friendliness I felt from the Kenyans, throughout my travels there.
I would visit four different Wildlife Reserves, and would live in tented c roughed out in the center of the Reserves. All but one camp was tented, and was, instead, a hotel setting. I much preferred the tented camps. In my mind, they can not be beat for authentic Teddy Roosevelt-like accommodations. As far as wildlife? Oh my, there was not a single experience I did not get to view. I saw the big five several times, many prides of Lions; including mating Lions. I saw the enormous African Elephants. Water Buffalo, Giraffes; all species. I saw the Wildebeest migrating; there must have been thousands. There were wild Rhinoceros, and even a blind Rhino which had been brought in from the Masai Mara to live its life out, safely in captivity. I fed the blind Rhino sugarcane. I got to touch its amazing ivory horn, and feel around its mouth. THAT was super cool! I saw Ostriches, and all the deer-like creatures that can be found on the plains. I saw Cheetahs, and even (sadly) a Cheetah kill. Not my favourite thing to see, but I get the circle of life and all. I saw so many Baboons, I lost count.
Other monkey varieties were also seen, and my favorites would be the ones who made their way into camp. So entertaining, watching the monkey vs the man struggles throughout the camps. The staff carried around sling shots. Trust me when I say, the sling shots were not used for real that I saw. They were only shown to the marauding monkey as a warning. Monkeys are smart, and if they ever did experience the working end of a real sling shot, it only took one sting of a pebble, and they got educated. My favorite memory of all, was going to bed at night, and hearing all the wild animal noises, as I lay in my comfy bed, in my comfy tent, as I fell asleep. A nice touch was the hot water bottle the staff placed inside my bedsheets, while I was away eating dinner. I chose to have the staff leave my zippered screen windows open; all the time on my tent. It was best for viewing and hearing anything that may go by my tent. I loved the Hippos in the nearby waters, sounding off early in the morning. They were great to listen too! They grunt very loudly.
I will never forget my first night in my first tented camp. I was far too excited and worked up to actually sleep; though quite tired from the long day on the road, but I just laid there and listened. Soon, just as I was settling down, I heard a loud “crack,” right outside my window. When I turned to look, lo and behold, there was the largest African Elephant I had ever seen, standing right outside my tent; not 15 feet from where I was. His tusks were enormous and he was about as perfect of a specimen I could have ever imagined seeing! It brought tears to my eyes, and they were joyful tears. I never thought I should have been concerned or scared. I just wasn’t. I was captivated by this huge giant, though if he had a mind, he could have town up my tent. BUT, I knew in my heart that was not his intent. He was a gentle giant. My heart was racing from the thrill of such a moment. Lucky for me, my tent was at the far corner of the camp, where the wild Elephants crossed the river. I came to expect seeing the Eyes every night I was there in that camp.
I would see the activity of such, during the daylight hours too. would see this same Elephant, again, before I left camp to go out on Safari runs. I would learn from the staff, he is a wild elephant that grew up in the area. There was a fig tree next to my tent, and when I had time, I would pick up the fallen figs on the ground and lob then over the electric fence that surrounded the tented camp. The Big Elephant appreciated that.
Close to the end of my Safari, I got to experience the most amazing sunrise Balloon ride I have every been on. After the balloon riding, it was time for a delicious brunch, served on the Masai Mara. YES, treasured memories in the Safari department, indeed!
Ethiopia 🇪🇹 was really important for us to explore. We knew it would not be an easy trip, but we had heard enough about the country, we got curious. We spent 20 days traveling North, South and East. This would require days and days of endless driving, plus domestic flight to accomplish our goals. Like Papua New Guinea, this region of Africa is very raw, hot, dry and poor. We visited many tribal communities and observed their lives. We would end our time in Harar, where wild Hyenas roam the walled city, just like they have for hundreds of years. “Lucy,” the oldest human remains ever discovered, also came from Harar. Aside from the Hyenas, the Stone Churches Lalibela were incredible and a real highlight to explore on my birthday, in fact! We found Ethiopia to be overall very noisy 24/7. TV and radio and bars till 3AM. Needless to say, we were completely exhausted from lack of smell and being road weary. We would learn there is a small elderly populations in the cities, so this might explain the noise level of the youthful crowd. I posted highlight photos, but it barely touched on what we saw. Here is a link to my photo website; Enjoy
Uganda 🇺🇬 was our pick for my ultimate Bucket List trip of trekking to see the Wild Mountain Gorilla; face-to-face! This was an incredible adventure; one I’ve wanted to do for about 10 years, and one I will treasure my entire life! Also in Uganda, we tracked Rhinos, Golden Monkeys and Chimpanzees; all wild; no joke! It was all so thrilling! Also, this trip like other “off the beaten path” trips we have chosen wasn’t easy, but we find the most interesting and fascinating sites to see aren’t easy to get to. Having traveled on the Nile River a couple of times, it was interesting to see where the mouth of the Nile actually begins.
South Africa 🇿🇦 was a great visit; good enough we would like to return, someday. Who knew Africa had a Penguin 🐧 population! Our favorite part of South Africa was our much anticipated self-drive Safari through Kruger National Park. By this Safari I felt pretty seasoned, till a Male Elephant charged us (unprovoked) down the road. I was driving backwards around 35MPH. Hair raising to say the least, and he was obviously in musk, and at the same time protecting his herd with tiny babies. Breeding herds are very different from small isolated groups of elephants. Watch out! We would spend 12 hours a day on Safari, and would stay over in four different camps; over a 10 day period. We had 110 degree temps, but we saw so much and enjoyed this visit so much! I enjoyed Cape Town very much, and had looked forward to cage- shark-diving, but the weather turned and we got cancelled 😌
After we left Cape Town, we headed towards Aguila Reserve. It was beautiful there!
Papua New Guinea 🇵🇬 was hands down for me, meets the criteria of the most incredible expedition of all time. It would also go down in history as being the most tiring and hardest trip I ever been on. All in all, definitely the most memorable. Being greeted and feeling welcomed by the tribal members of these parts, is something I will never forget as long as I live! Young boys of the villages would always lend a helping hand with our bags, food and camping gear. We would sleep in six different tribal villages on the Sepik River; and would come to know four different tribes in our time on the Sepik.
In addition to our unbelievable Sepik expedition, with the indigenous tribes, we were able to observe all segments of a two-day skin-cutting ceremony while on expedition. These “coming of age” ceremonies only take place about every five years, and the ritual is rarely seen by outsiders. Four different tribes came together for the celebration. It was two full-days and nights of a surreal experience, to say the least!Outside of paying the cost for our guide, or canoe operator and fuel, as well as a guard, plus the provisions, and the lodging costs and being able to enter the village “Spirit Houses” and get the benefit of watching tradition Sing Sing dances paid to the tribes in each village for this unique adventure. We also paid $1200 JUST for the privilege of seeing the traditional skin-cuttingceremony. This expedition in PNG has, to date, been our most expensive adventure of all; at over eight grand, once we included the cost of the carvings, and getting them shipped. WHEW!
Below is a link to my Photo Website, where you can few unedited photos of the skin-cutting ceremony, as well as many more photos of the tribal members and scenic beauty of the Sepik.
The tribes of the Sepik have a symbiotic relationship with the Crocodile 🐊, and have for hundreds of years. Tribes live as their ancestors did, so the experience is 100% authentic, (sans the occasional generator which we were so grateful for so we could charge our phones) Anyway, the skin-cutting represents the skin of the Croc, after the healing. Elders do the cutting, and it is truly artistic. Nobody is forced to get cut, but if girls want to marry, they are required to be cut. No requirement for males. Completely voluntary.
We purchased the most amazing carvings, from the artists themselves, at all villages. There is great talent amongst the people, and though it was a big ta do getting our purchases sent back to the states, but with the help from some locals who cared, we managed to get our carvings all the way from Wewak to Port Morseby, PNG, then to the East Coast of the United States. Not an easy process, going through the Museum of Antiquities of PNG, to get approval for our items to be allowed to leave the island, plus the requirement to fumigate for bugs, and necessary quarantine time. We would eventually wade our way through the red tape, and we are so glad we did!
Italy 🇮🇹 is my favorite European country so far, for all there is to see, there, and we have made many trips, to explore it properly! The food is the best we have ever had; including the pizza, and Gelato, which we had always heard was the very best!
Croatia 🇭🇷 We booked this tour, and we were quite excited about another European adventure, but we had no idea how cool this country would be. As I learned with my Romania visit, Eastern Europe hold old-world charm that leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I love the history, the architecture, and the people watching. We would travel from North to South in Croatia and we loved all of the towns we got to stop in. Being a big fan of “Game Of Thrones,” I especially enjoyed seeing where many of the scenes were filmed. I think the photos will speak for themselves. If interested, here are all the photos from this amazing country: https://picsbypen.smugmug.com/Places/EuropeanLife/CroatiaLife
Montenegro 🇲🇪 When we were in Southern Croatia, we were very close to the border of Montenegro; Kotor Bay. We got to take a boat from Perast, out to “The Lady of Our Rock” Church. Beautiful! It took my breath away! I also enjoy “legends, and this place has a good one: The legend was formed as a result of the local sailors taking an oath in the 15th century. As the story goes, after sailors from Perast found a picture of the Virgin Mary and the Christ-child here in 1452, after every successful voyage they would lay a rock in this very spot so that a church could be built on top of these rocks. This tradition continued down the centuries and eventually this is how the islet was formed.
Slovenia 🇸🇮 in the North of Croatia, it was easy enough to cross the border into Slovenia, so we did. Wow, just wow! We stayed in a hotel right on the shores of Lake Bled. Quite scenic!
Romania 🇷🇴 holds a particular special memory for me, for European travel, because this Far Eastern part, became my European backpacking adventure. I just Loved the interesting old-world people. I would ride the trains from city to city, and pack throughout. I loved Romania for its old-world charm, Ancient Castles (especially Count Draculas Castle) and other Fortresses.My photos are less than, during these earlier years of travel, but you get the idea.
Scotland 🏴 was was one of my first European trips. I felt such awe just being in Scotland. Somehow I felt a kinship when in country, that I can’t quite explain. I had never been, but felt so at home. I traveled to Lockness, but unfortunately did not see the Lockness monster. Stonehenge also held something quite mystical about it. Such an intriguing place. I saw the Queens hunting lodge (palace actually) and its beautiful grounds. The bagpipes are really amazing to listen too, and the Scottish brogue can’t be beat! I traveled with my mom and my Grandmother on this trip. It was certainly a memorable trip!
Ireland 🇮🇪 ran a close second to Scotland for me. I had wanted to go for so long, before I actually got there, I was so happy the trip ended up being as good as I hope it would be. I traveled with a girlfriend, who I just love to death. We rented a car, and would drive 1600 miles, before we were finished. We saw all the highlight places; castles, manors, coastal towns, cliffs of Moher, and pubs. We enjoyed friendly locals, and helpful with directions. We stayed in very cute places, and enjoyed the ambiance of the emerald isle! BTW, I ate fish and chips every single night. SO good!
Turkey 🇹🇷 Istanbul is where the east meets the west; as in, there is an Asia side, as well as a European side. We saw the Asia side, from a distance, but visited the European side. I have to say that Turkey is the country that surprised me the most. I did not know how much I would enjoy Istanbul, especially since big cities rarely hold my interest. Istanbul was fabulous to visit, and we would spend a month or more exploring all this unique city had to offer. We enjoyed the friendliness of this predominantly Muslim county very much. Such kind people, everywhere we went. The government also implements care for their feral four legged animals. Dogs and cats get “fixed,” and are provided additional vet care to keep them healthy. The locals feed all the cats and dogs of their own neighborhood. It was heartwarming to witness.
The Hamam or Turkish Baths were incredible, and we enjoyed them once, because one is not enough! The food was yummy, too! There are Mosques, Forts, Palaces, museums, Bazaars, and the ever present and beautiful Bosphorus that connects the Black Sea with the Marmara and by extension the Mediterranean. Taking a boat tour on the Bosphorus was really fun, because like with other European cities, the really old history and ruins can be found along the water.
United States of America 🇺🇸 is my home country. On the same note of Backpacking trips, my favorite USA backpacking trip was in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Seeing the wildlife and beauty along this rewarding trek was amazing! I will never forget being completly alone in my tent one night, in the middle of this immense wilderness, when a Grizzly came snooping around. I saw it’s silhouette by the moonlight, and I smelled its musk as it pawed the ground and grunted. My hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I help my breath, so as to not make a peep. The Grizzly would eventually move on (thank goodness for beard-proofing our camp) but I never slept the rest of the night.
I have had the pleasure of living in four different states in the USA. I was born in Oregon, and loved living elsewhere, too: Colorado, Texas, and California. Colorado holds a special place in my heart for its beauty. Estes Parkin the mountainous region, is my favourite place in the USA. Thats saying a lot, because the only states I have not visited, are North and South Dakota.
Another trip I (we) took was a fabulous road trip from South California toNorthern California. On this trip we stopped and visited all 21 Spanish Missions on the El Camino Real Trail. We had the best time, and enjoyed every minute!Here is a link to my photo gallery on my photo website, if you want to see all 21 Missions. I think it’s worth a peek
India 🇮🇳 is one of those countries we returned to a couple of times; first, because it’s so large, and second, we found we really enjoyed the photography opportunities. Between the people, colorful clothing, and ancient historical sites, I felt like I was in a live storybook most of the time. Before I visited India for the first time, I had heard from those who had been; it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Outside of New Delhi, I found the locals very friendly and welcoming. Yes, there is a great deal of poverty, and that is the hard part. But, this was not off-putting for me, as I have seen worse poverty in other places. Will there be a third trip to India in our future? Maybe. My favorite places would be: Tala/Bandhavgar National Park, Jaisalmer, Kerala, and Agra
Bandhavgar National Park ~Tiger Safari
This Safari would be our second attempt at finding the elusive wild tiger, while in Safari. Our first try was in Nepal: Chitwan National Park. Chitwan was beautiful and we scored high in wildlife, but no Tigers. Bandhavgar would deliver! In five days; two Safari runs per day, we experienced 12 Tiger sightings; 9 different Tigers. It was a dream come true and in my Safari experience, Tigers trump Lions. Both great to see in the wild, but Lions were aloof after would hardly look my way. The Tigers? They would look right at me and longer. We were so close, it had me chills. Bandhavgar was also a beautiful reserve, abound with other wildlife, too.
Jaisalmer ~Thar Desert in Rajasthan
I absolutely loved our Camel Safari/three nights in the Desert. Riding one-hump camels is not the most comfortable ridfe; long-term, and the temperature would be one digit by afternoon, we would stop in the shade for several hours, then resume in the evening to reach our camp. We slept under the stars, and were grateful it cooled down after sunset. Our camel whisperer; Sam, did not speak much English, but no matter. He cooked our meals in camp, and kept us water. Our needs were met. Because we were a small party, we were taken to a remote desert village. We were the only white people, most of these villages had ever seen. The blue eyes, and blonde hair really wowed the kids. I will never forget shaking hands with a gentleman who must have been late forties. He had tests in his eyes when he shook my hands. He had hoped to meet an American before he died. (our guide translated for me with a few words) Yes, quite an adventure, made more exciting when our capris ran away on our last day! Somehow, Sam found three more, and with a delay, we were still able to meet our driver at the agreed pickup point.
Kerala~Backwaters of Alleppey
In the state of Kerala, in Northern India, we learned about the option to take a Houseboat trip out of Alleppey, in the backwaters along the Arabian coastline within a canal system. Wow, what fun! We had a large houseboat for just the two of us. We did nothing but take photos and enjoy the scenery as it went by. We were served afternoon tea, and three meals a day of delicious food! We spent two nights and never saw the same scenery, till the last few hours, when we returned to the same dock. Fortunately we did get A/C In our sleeping cabin, because it was very hot, and of course bugs at night. We were not bothered after sunset, becausewe had our closed cabin. The whole experience could not have been better!
Agra ~Home of The Taj Mahal
There was no question, if we were going to Rajasthan, in Northern India, we would include “The Golden Triangle” in our itinerary, so we could see the Taj Mahal. Not only is the Taj Mahal beautiful to see, the story behind its creation is a love story as well. The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor: Shah Jahān (reigned 1628–58) to immortalize his wife Mumtaz Mahal; “Chosen One of the Palace.” She died in childbirth in 1631, after having been the emperor’s inseparable companion since their marriage in 1612.
Japan 🇯🇵 Okinawa will always be a special place in my heart of hearts. In part, this trip was special, because my daughter and her family were stationed there, it had been awhile since we saw the family, it was at Christmas, AND we got to meet our third grandchild, who was six months old, at the time of the visit. We call him our “Oki” baby. The Okinawan people are the kindest and most gentle of people, I have ever been around. The island itself hosts a plethora of Historical events, and the waters of the South China Seas are just beautiful!
We would eventually make our way to mainland Japan, but we did not feel the same way about that visit, as we did, Okinawa. We saw some great sites, including the Snow Monkeys, but did not fall in love with the mainland, like we had in Okinawa.
Indonesia🇮🇩 held a few surprises for me. I had always heard of Bali, but I had no idea how much I would be taken in, by this beautiful Island! We spent time in Ubud, and we were delighted at every turn! The people were so friendly, too. The vibe and ambioance of our entire visit was true Zen.
We would take a small plane to Komodo Island, from Bali and back. Best decision ever! We adventured all over the National Park of Komodo, by boating, and found it quite worthwhile. We went diving, where the current is known to be quite strong, and we hiked to see for ourselves, the rare and endangered Komodo Dragon!
Thailand 🇹🇭 is definitely very special to me (us). Bangkok is where Daryl and I met, quite randomly, while traveling with friends. We would fall madly in love and become attached at the hip to this day! We met and married, six months later. We are soulmates and are so much alike, its like we are the same person. We travel full time, and continue to seek out adventures. We love Thailand, and we would return a couple more times. To further explore this fun country. We love everything about Thailand. The friendly people, the food, the markets, the water, the boating, the islands, the diving, the ancient history, and the Thai Massages! Yes, the Thai Massages are the best!
Nepal🇳🇵and the Nepalese people are the best. My husband had been, and wanted to go back to make sure I got to see Nepal, too. We like to say that “if you’ve been to Kathmandu, you can handle a visit, anywhere!” Wow, there is no place on earth like Kathmandu. Its noisy, dusty, and dirty. Its crowded, and there are so many cows on the road! We just love Kathmandu for the energy it has! The people watching is endless, and so are sites to see. It was our first exposure to Ghats, mourning, and grief. It was so hard to watch, yet captivating at the same time. Ancient history goes very far back in this region of the world. We would leave Kathmandu to travel to Pokhara in a cliff-hugging bus…a very rough and long ride for sure, but at the end of this challenging trip, the journey is only beginning! We would take on the Annapurna Circuit and do a tree that would last for many days. This trek was in Godscountry all the way! WOW the Rhododendrons were in bloom, which made the scenic backdrops of the snow covered Himalayan mountains even more spectacular! We ate the best food, ever, as we made our way from one “Tea House” to another; along the trail. We had good weather, we had terrible weather. We were elated, and exhausted all at the same time. If you like to trek, do not miss out on this one!
We would make our way to Chitwan National Forest for an Amazing wildlife Safari. We had hoped to see wild Tigers, but we did not. We did, however, see much wild wild game, and did not leave the beauty of this place disappointed!
Mongolia 🇲🇳 stands out as a favorite to us. We both wanted to go, to see what it had to offer, and while our focus was visiting and staying with the Reindeer Tribe, the journey to FIND the elusive Reindeer People was THE adventure we had not counted on. The diverse beauty of Mongolia landscape came as a surprise. We would drive, off-road and live in Gers for three days and three nights. The vastness of these lands and her beauty astounded me. For days on end, we saw very few people, but we saw large herds of horses, goats, sheep, and yak. When we went as far as any off-road trail would take us, we switched to horseback to make it the rest of the way to the Reindeer Tribe. By this point we were on, or very near the Russian border. So near, in fact, we had to acquire a special visa, just in case the Reindeer Tribe left Mongolia and entered Russian. The Reindeer people are not limited to their wandering, but as Americans, we do not get the same freedom. It was cold, and a bit miserable for sure, since we slept on the frozen ground of a Teepee for a couple of nights with just a sleeping bag and a wood stove that did not want to stay hot. BUT, overall, amazing at the same time! The Reindeer are these peoples family. They do not raise them for meat, but instead they milk them and live off the land in this way. I got the ride a Reindeer, too. Riding back out on our horses, when it was time to leave, it was snowing and very cold. The Reindeer felt very happy and were running (actually jumping and bouncing) right next to us, as well made or way from camp. This vision is still cast in stone in my mind. I felt such joy watching them. So beautiful! Sadly, because of the weather, my camera was not handy at that moment.
Tibet 🇨🇳 was very unique, and the timing of our visit was actually very good, because the annual pilgrimage was going on. This meant we saw a lot of elders in the finest clothes making their way (from sometimes) far distances to worship in the temples. This trip was also a tour, because one is not allowed to free-roam in this country. One must book a private or group tour, or not be able to go. What we saw in our ten days on tour was absoluty incredible. Staying overnight at Mount Everest Base Camp was amazing, and spending time in a county which hold record after record of “the highest’ roadway, temple, mountain, lakes, etc was certainly inspiring!
After we were done on tour, and needing to leave from Llasa, Tibet, we chose to ride the “highest railroad in the world.” to Beijing. This was an interesting two day and nights due to the the uniqueness of the fact this Tse side is but on permafrost.It was a bit expensive to do, because we booked a whole cabin. We had no desire to share a small cabin with strangers. It would prove to be a good choice, when locals started smoking on the train, big time, by day two; when there was no smoking allowed. So, it wasn’t the dream trip we had imagined, but we are still glad we did it.
Malaysia 🇲🇾 has two very different parts of the country to visit. We first traveled to the Peninsula and visited Kuala Lumpur, Melacca, and Penang Island. While we are very glad we went, we really felt like Penang Island held our interest the most, though the other stops were nice. NOW, fast-forward a few years and we head for Borneo! Wow, simply Wow! I will show a few photos to tempt you a bit, but this was such an involved visit, that included many safaris, you must check out all the stops in my photo website: https://picsbypen.smugmug.com/Places/AsiaLife-SouthEast/MalaysiaLife/Borneo
Cambodia 🇰🇭 is definitely worth a mention. We spent a great deal of time in country, and really got around to some amazing sites. Though quite popular, it’s worth the time and energy to visit Siem Reap and explore the ruins, especially if you love this type of touring. The ancient history is so interesting; give yourself a couple days at least, as it’s a large complex. Cambodia is so much more than Siem Reap. There are some amazing islands with great beaches with affordability. We enjoyed scuba diving 🤿 and being lazy in hammocks. Below are are a few photos of some our stops, but we did so much more. If you desire to see more, here is a link to my photo website: https://picsbypen.smugmug.com/Places/AsiaLife-SouthEast/Cambodia
Vietnam 🇻🇳 is one of those countries we will return to one day. We’ve been two times to see everything we wanted to see, but it’s just a great place to hang out. People are very welcoming and friendly. The food is the best, and the affordability is off the charts! We just the ancient sites and the ultra modern, as well. The food was very good, too. We spent a month traveling from the top of Vietnam, to the bottom. We did another MeKong River cruise, We rode trains and taxis to get around. The most amazing trip, within this trip we did, was to venture to the high norther region; above Hanoi, to go on a fun-packed 2-day motorcycle trip; out of Ha Giang! We were blown away by the beauty!See the whole trip, including the Hmong people, who we got to see all along the way. Click here: https://picsbypen.smugmug.com/Places/AsiaLife-SouthEast/VietnamLife/Ha-Giang-Motorcycle-Road-TripNorthernclose-to-China-Border
THE FIVE “STANS”
Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan were the “Stans” we visited. As a whole, we took on an incredible journey of visiting five countries in three weeks! What were we thinking? We give ourselves a good laugh, whenever we bring up this trip. The pace we had to keep up to go through five Central Asia countries, that are not westernised was really tough. We were both so exhausted, but we are also proud of ourselves for enduring the hardships of this adventure, because what we got to see was truly unique and amazing. Though each country of the “Five Stars” border each other, the cultures and people were completely different from one another. The border crossings were challenging, but doable, and getting visas took some time. It was extremely hot weather, too We are very glad we did this trip. It was one of those rare occasions, that we paid for a tour, due to the Visas, distance, and language barrier.
If interested, here is the full gallery of photos on my website:
Laos 🇱🇦 took me by complete surprise! We planned a two night boat rip on the Mekong River, from Chiang, Khong, Thailand and ending in Luang Prabang, Laos. This trip would have been terrific on its own merits, but we were lucky enough to share the boat (made for twenty people at least) with a small handful of other travelers; Netherlands, Holland, Switzerland, and Spain. What a delightful group of travelers, and we enjoyed our togetherness the whole way through. We remain friends, to this very day with two of the couples. Sights along the river trip were really beautiful and quite interesting. We saw ancient cave temples, and stopped to visit indigenous tribes in their villages. We saw locals washing clothes, bathing and fishing. We often saw domestic elephants along the waters edge, as well. Some were resting, others were working.
There are no sleeping quarters on the boat, so all boats put in at a little dirt-road village of Pak Beng, Loas, that provided a few hotels rooms. For as remote as this location was, the rooms were quite nice, clean and comfortable. We would spend a few nights in Luang Prabang, to check out some beautiful waterfalls, and walk around the town. I think I have seen some of the most beautiful men and woman on this earth. Im not sure why, but these Loas people are beautiful. They are very nice, and probably the most quiet of people I have every been around.
China 🇨🇳 makes the list of favorites, primarily for its ancient history. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until the last five years, that I had any interest in traveling the the Orient countries. I do not know why, but it just was. Im glad I got out of my own way, because I enjoyed what we got to see so much while in this country. We spent a good month, so we really got around. The Great Wall of China, The Terra Cotta Soldiers, Beijing, Shanghai, The Bund, and many more places. One of my favorite part of visiting China was enjoying the Yangze River on a cruise. WOW. Beautiful and enjoyable! Im a lover of history, and it does not get much older than China. Being in Suzhou, I still remember trying to wrap my brain around the fact this ancient place has over 2500 years of ancient history!
Peru 🇵🇪 I have enjoyed a couple trips to South America, but the stand out for me, here, was Peru; without challenge. Seeing Machu Picchu up close and personal was fantastic. Its not an easy trip to make it all the way to this mysterious ancient place, but this was one of those cases, where the trip was all about the journey, as well as the destination. Also a highlight, while in Peru, was visiting the Reed People, who live on hand-made island made of reeds. I thoroughly enjoyed a fabulous “home stay” with a Peruvian family. It was long boat ride across Lake Titicaca to arrive at the shores of this remote island, but I still think back to that time and place. the elevation was quite high, and the walk, very steep, but with all that elevation, sleep came easily, and each morning I felt refreshed. I do not deal with altitude sickness, when I venture into the high countries, so this made the trip a delight! The food prepared was simple, but the most flavourful I have ever eaten. Of course everything was organic and homegrown. All too soon, it was time to leave this island home I had come to love. Such beautiful hosts, in a beautiful land!
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