Thursday, January 31, 2013

Under the weather...AGAIN!

While I am now feeling much better, this morning I was not brilliant.  While this episode didn't last quite as long it was accompanied by cramping so I decided not to go on the boat trip to Bamboo island.  I am so disappointed as I was so looking forward to it.  Luckily there is a boat trip to an island in my immediate future though.  Just a different island!!!  And not sure what day it will be!

Once I was feeling a bit more, ahem....settled...I decided to walk down to Seredipity Beach.  I bought a few bits and pieces along the way (small is the name of the game with my luggage...)   I was able to see the hotels I had been thinking of staying at and while they were nice (with the waves crashing below) I am glad I opted for Kep.   Having been down in the area last night it is very noisy. Lots of partying, fire crackers going off, loud music, etc.   While there I had a leg and foot massage for five dollars.  I am getting used to these cheap massages.  I do draw the line at manicures and pedicures though as not sure how often their equipment is cleaned!!!  This foot massage took place inches away from the ocean while sitting on a deck with a cold drink (pop) in my hand.  Ah, bliss!!!

Speaking of last was Lee's birthday last night so we went out - well all but two of us.  We went to a BBQ place on the beach.  I had BBQ barracuda, prawns and squid.  Delicious.  Everyone else was fine today so don't think it was the food that caused me the extra action.  It could be getting used to the malaria meds which I started almost a week ago.  Who knows....Anyway it was exquisite sitting on the beach having a few drinks and a good meal and squishing my feet into the sand.

Being as it is my last night we are off again for dinner tonight.  The rest head back to Phnom Penh tomorrow then off to their various homes the next day.  I am off to Kep - Tydah got me my bus ticket for 7 dollars.  They will pick me up tomorrow at 11 and we leave at 11:30 so I assume I get dropped at the bus station although it is a mini bus.  Sounds like they will drop me at Kep Lodge as well.  Cannot complain for that price. 

Off to the next adventure!!!  I am looking forward to five lazy days doing my own thing in my little bungalow. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beach time

We drove the three hours down to Sihanouk Ville this morning.  On the way we stopped at a local market which was very interesting.  Thyda said people were exclaiming to her how lovely and white our skin was - they don't see many tourists there!!!  I had some freshly squeezed sugar cane juice and it was lovely - yum. 

On arrival we went to the Star Fish cafe which is a cafe and shop that provides physically disabled people opportunities from their profits.  We had delicious sandwiches there made from rice bread.  We also bought some things in the shop.  I would rather spend a bit more money and know it is helping someone.  They have been open since 2001.  Intrepid (the tour company I am with) supports them in their endeavours. 

Arrived at our hotel the Golden Sands.  Immediately we all changed into swimsuits and Thyda walked us over to the closest beach - Ochheuteal Beach.  Very busy and touristy but the water was wonderful and it was fun to jump in the waves.  I had a 40 minute massage for $6 and was harassed constantly to get a manicure, pedicure, leg hair ripped out by thread (sign me up for that), etc.  After about an hour I headed back to the hotel via the shops - got myself a sundress and a new bag (purse type thing) and then into the pool which was great.  Now I am just getting ready to head out to the group for dinner at 7.

Tomorrow is a boat ride to an island and another beach day.   Friday the rest of the group heads to Phnom Penh and then home while I head to Kep for six nights of R & R.  I can`t wait!!  I am SO glad I did not decide to stay here - it was a toss up between the two.  Kep is much quieter. 

Our hotel is really nice - no roosters for two nights.  I expect I will be seranaded again in Kep but that├Ęs okay.  I plan to relax and chill - I may book a trip out to Rabbit Island one day but other than that I plan to just do my own thing.  Lots of writing on this blog and lots of pictures to share!!! 

I guess last night I did not miss much with the boat trip or the dinner out so that is good!!! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cricket's revenge?

Well I admit it - yesterday I ate a cricket.  It was crunchy and like a charcoal potato chip.  Would I have another one?  No.  However I do like to try new things.  I also tried eating a tarantula's leg but yuck - spit it out. 

Instead of Montezuma's revenge I will just call it revenge of the crickets.  Immodim to the rescue.  So After a morning of touring a salt field, a pepper plantation, visiting a temple (while the others explored a cave with bats...yep sign me up..had a bat roommate for one day - that was enough thank you), a seafood meal (provided) at the crab market in Kep and a few visits to the crapper I am resting this afternoon.  We have a sunset cruise along the river in 45 minutes but I won't be going.  It is good to relax though - even the 19 year olds in the group are getting tired.  I am sitting in bed with the a/c going full blast. 

Illness has been going around the group and while I am a bit busy at one end luckily I haven't been sick.  Tomorrow is a travel day - down to Sihanoukville - so want to feel okay for that.  The restaurant is excellent here although as I mentioned earlier terribly slow service.  Something bland for me tonight.

This morning I had a wonderful fruit salad - then the fun began....not out of control but just enough to be inconvenient. 

Ah well...this is what happens when you travel in these parts and I am just grateful it is not worse. 

Anyway there are worse places to be indisposed...check where I am staying out.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Checking in from the river lodge

Right now we are staying at the Natural Bungalows in Kampot.  Very nice.  Tonight we had drinks and dinner on a deck overlooking the river.  The food was delicious but the service was so slow it was pathetic.  I was the first one served and I had to wait until the last one finished eating...very painful.  I had fish and chips - made from local fish.  My first western dish since I got here but just wanted something different. 

Last night we were at the home stay - oh lordy lordy.  I will have some good stories to tell about that one.  The fellow who hosted us was lovely and so was his family but sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor in the same room with 12 other people (separated by curtains with two behind each curtain) with the loo down some steep stairs outside was not my idea of a fun time.  Add dogs barking with another dog howling backup for a long time and then a cat yowling.  I got the giggles and then someone farted and oh my I laughed out loud and had to hold my hand over my mouth to stifle my sorts of laughter.  All that laughing made me want to pee again and oh the night went on and on.  Of course I slept as I snored so Tedagh had to put up with me.  I can't believe I slept as it sure did't fee like it  but obviously I did. A very long night.  But it was interesting to stay with a local family and see how they live. (glad I am a spoiled North American)

So I am hitting the hay right after this.

Tomorrow is a full day.  Touring a salt plantation, pepper plant, touring some caves (will pass on that...500 plus steps to one and the other one is listed as treachorous in the Lonely Planet) and then a seafood lunch and time at the beach in Kep. And then a sunset boat trip.  The tour is winding down, I will leave Friday morning and make my way to Kep for six nights.  That is when you will get some long stories and hopefully lots of pictures.  Fingers crossed it is a strong wifi connection as I will have plenty of time. I usually don't get back to the room until 8:30 or 9 and first priority is to backup my photos. 

"Talk" to you tomorrow hopefully!!!! 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Templed out

Well I am templed out - but one more to go and that's tomorrow!!  The Angkor area temples are absolutely amazing.  Of course one thinks of the whole thing as Angkor Wat but that is just one temple.  However that is the first one we visited.  We went in the "back" entrance which was less crowded.  We sat down on some rocks as Teedagh gave us an overview.  All of a sudden I felt something against my back and here it was a monkey leaning against me and  trying to get the water bottle out of my backpack.  The others soon shooed him off.  However they can be viscious.  I just could not resist one sitting on a motorbike guzzling water (the motorcylist's water by the way that he had foolishly left there)  but he hissed and made a face at me (as monkeys do) so I didn't hang around. 

I could not do the high stairs so just went as far as the second floor which was fine by me. 


Isn't it amazing? 
The front of the building was much more crowded so we were glad we got to see it for the first time  from the quieter entrance.  This building is the national symbol of Cambodia and a source of national pride and it's easy to see why,.  It even has a moat!!!  Lots of detailed engravings throughout - amazing and another big moment in the lifetime.  From there we visited Ta Prohm which is the only temple that has been allowed to stay "wild".  That is roots of trees all over the place.  Very spooky!!!
After a stop for lunch (vegetable curry served in a coconut) we headed further out to Banteay Srei wich was small but wonderful.  It has some of the most intricate carvings on earth.  (according to Lonely Planet!)
Do not fear - I plan to post more pictures while in Kep.  I cannot believe I can actually post pictures as the select button has not shown up previously.  No clue why - computers!!!! 
As we went to leave the bus broke down so we had to wait another hour.  Liz, Roger and I headed for a restaurant for tea - the most hideous tea I've had in my life.  But oh well - it was a chair and it was out of the baking sun. 
Last night I had an Indian head massage...I will save the details of that for another day...let's just say it was an experience.  That said..I think it's time to head out for a foot and leg massage.  $5 for an hour, can't beat that.  Okay I am sure they are not professionals but it feels good. 
If the wifi is good next weekend watch out as I will be posting lots more.  I have five lazy days at Kep Lodge at the end of this tour and I plan to do NOTHING but read, write, drink (I've discovered another beer I like...Angkor...oh dear) and eat.  Oh yes and splash in the pool.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peeing on fish or a fish out of water

Well this morning we headed off by boat to Siem Reap.  Due to the low water on the Tonie Sap Lake (more like a river until near the end of the trip when it widened considerably) the trip would be an 8 hour one...

It was supposed to be boring but ended up as anything no certain order...let's see....

We had a rest stop (turned out to be the only one) along the way and the loo was just a hole over the lake and there were fish circling around underneath.  Yes it was just a hole in the definitely had someone watch your stuff while you went in or one false move and your camera/purse or whatever would be in the lake.  The fish either like the warm pee coming in or they are pervs and like to see ladies parts. 

We were just a few minutes out when all of a sudden there was something flying over me and jumping all over the floor - a little fish!  Guess he wanted to join the tour.  Roger reached down and scooped him up while I hooted and hollered.  Okay it wasn't my best moment I admit but I am not used to fish jumping all over the place by my bare feet. 

As if that wasn't enough...we were coming around a bend in the river/lake (sure seemed like a river to me at that point)..the driver had hooted his horn and all of a sudden a long boat approached from the other direction and could not make their turn and ploughed right into us!  Our tour leader Tidagh (not sure how to spell it) had been standing on the side of the boat talking to the boatman and she had to jump quickly out of the way.  We all yelled and expected to see her in the water.  She had a couple of scrapes and was quite shaken up but still smiled.  What a sport.  She is a great tour leader.  Anyway they carried on as if nothing had happened.  The other boat took out one of the poles on the side of the boat holding the canopy and wrecked the side a bit - I was very close to it - the closest of any of us besides poor Tidagh.  She was very lucky she moved so quickly or who knows what could have happened.  She wouldn't have been sitting smiling with her daughter at the dinner tonight...luckily the boat was an old steel thing that has been around for ages so no harm done I guess. 

When we weren't having mishaps we watched the life on the waved, people fished, lots going on for sure.  I also caught up with my journal, read and listened to music.  We all kicked in three dollars and our tour guide had bought us a killer lunch.  Baguettes with Laughing cow cheese (yes they even have it here), jam, clementines, little bananas, pineapple, watermelon - it was great.

Anyway we made it in one piece.  Tonight we went to a buffet dinner and dance show.  The dancing was quite elegant - really so similar to Thai dancing.  The food was pretty good but a huge buffet and no organization so people kept bumping into me.  After quiet Battambang we are back in tourist land - big time. 

Off to the Angkor complex tomorrow to see some serious temples....should be good. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sensible or too cautious?

Am I sensible or too cautious?  That is the question I am asking myself right now.  The reason?  I found out when we arrived at the stairs for the temple and caves it was over 500 steps.  Not nice steps - nasty steep steps with not a whole lot to hang onto if anything.  I made it up the first flight (at the back of the herd)  and said nope this is not for me.  I did not want to hold anyone back was the main reason and the other - just too darn exhausting and scary for me.  I am not in the best of shape right now - carrying too much weight and I also suffer from episodic vertigo which means if I turn my head the wrong way or too quickly I can easily fall.  Not to mention I just don't enjoy climbing...Not a good combination to be sure.   Then I ask myself did I miss out on much?  Some mischevious monkeys - been there, done that, a temple - been there, done that and a cave full of skulls...definitely didn't need that.  Those that did it (two of us said no way and another one turned back) thought it was worth the trek.  I am sure it was interesting but would it have been worth the pain and stress for me - oh yeah did I mention I have arthritic knees.  (oh dear now I feel REALLY old and worn out)  I would have held up everybody and been very stressed over that. (been there, done that) 

Would losing weight help?  Of course it would - I wouldn't have been so out of breath but it wouldn't fix my head injury that caused the vertigo nor the fear of climbing.  At the age of 60 do I really want to try and "conquer" a fear of climbing?  I don't think so.  Plus there is the vertigo which is physical and will be probably hanging around for the rest of my life. 

Then I ask myself why the heck am I on these adventure tours if I can't keep up?  And then I tell myself I do enjoy what I do and try to not let it bother me that I can't climb like others do. By opting out no one was inconvenienced and to me that is more important than trying to prove a point and holding everyone up.

So in the end I did the right thing for me. I learned more about Cambodia from our guide which was very interesting and while I wish I could have wandered around the area a bit sometimes you do things in consideration of others. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Riding the rails

The countryside tour yesterday was fun.  We went in tuk tuks (basically motorbikes pulling a small carriage) and visited a few locally owned businesses.   First stop was a family business that makes the rice paper for spring rolls, next was a place that makes face paste (ewwww...stinky!) and then a place that makes bamboo sticks with sticky rice in.  Yum yum.  I bought two - had one for brekky this morning and one will be my lunch tomorrow.   The bamboo train ride was fun - we will be among the last of the tourists to ride it as they will be rebuilding their rail network with the help of the Australian government.  It had the sh*t bombed out of it thanks to the Khmer Rouge.  The bamboo train was flat beds made guessed it...bamboo.  We were going quite fast at one point. Fun!!  We turned around on a bridge and watched the sunset.  Luckily we had enough people on our car that we didn't have to get off - the rule is when two cars meet the one with the least people on it has to get off and it's distmantled. 

Anyway back to our hotel on the tuk tuk and then back on after a quick wash up to go for dinner.  We went to a local place and the total cost for my fried rice with veggies (I had ordered fried noodles but they got it wrong but that's okay - it was good) and a coke was three dollars.  Can't beat that.  A tiring day for sure.

My shower this morning was interesting once I worked out there was a shower head for cold and a shower head for hot.  Also no designated shower area - just the whole bathroom!  So things got a bit wet however the floor is perfectly dry now.  I've had these type of showers before and this one is the fastest for draining I've ever had.  Hey if I wanted normal I would have stayed at home or gone to an all inclusive.  This morning breakfast on the roof - I had eaten my sticky rice but knew we will be walking this morning so had musli with yogurt and fresh fruit.  Very tasty!!!  And some really strong coffee which was good.

It was nice and cool this morning which was nice as it will no doubt be getting hotter as the day goes on.

This morning is a visit to a traditional old Cambodian home as well as a visit to the killing caves whatever they are.   Then hopefully a cooking class this afternoon  what we cook will be dinner so hope I do a decent job!!!

A quickie from Battambang

Just arrived here in Battambang and have spent my spare hour washing out undies and nursing my blister.  Yes I got a blister - I walked over to the Royal Palace yesterday in just my birkies as my feet were so hot from being in shoes in the morning.  It is across the street from the hotel but the entrance is quite far.  And then there is the walking around...what a magnificent place.  Wow wow wow.   Alas I won't be able to post the pictures until I get home probably. 

The bus ride up here was LONG and I was in the suicide seat - fun and games.   We were on a public bus and the driver was really good but he honked and honked and honked.  At every motorbike even though they could see him he honked - twice.  I almost had a headache by the end.  I will never sit at the front again.  (I only did it to let couples sit together)  I couldn't even read as I got nauseous from all the twisting and turning around potholes.  Yikes.

Now we are off for a countryside tour in tuk tuks and then on a bamboo train.  Busy busy.  Must be off or I will be late to the party.  Drinks on the roof after then dinner. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hello from Cambodia!

I thought I had better check in and let everyone know I am alive.  This will be a short post as I am not tethered to a plug in (and I hope to heck I have the right plug adapter with me - the three prong one is hanging off the wall so didn't want to try it!) plus the wifi is not very strong.

Tiger Airways was awesome and got me here on time.  I am too tired to post anything meaningful - I have not had a full night's sleep since I arrived in this part of the world.  Last night it was a damn dog barking all night.  They were overbooked in the hotel we were supposed to be in so a lucky few of us got dumped into this dump....not too happy but oh well.  Only one night.  But a pain as well for having to repack everything. 

The group seems good.  We went out for a good dinner last night - I had the national dish which was amok.  Fish cooked in spices and coconut sauce which was very tasty.  My travel agent Bernice had recommended it so I mentioned that and a few tried it and enjoyed it.  It was happy hour so I had a half price Mango Kamakaze.  (yum!)  Meal with drink and a bottle of water came to less than $9 and this place was touristy - the food here is cheap. 

Yesterday after I got in I walked across the street (literally!) to the National musuem which was very interesting.  I enjoyed the gardens and building more though.  I hope to visit the Silver Pagoda in the Royal Palace which is across the road this afternoon - I had thought the whole thing was closed as they are working on it for the King's funeral in early |Feb. (he died in November but has been lying in state)  

This morning will be the killing fields and the genocide museum which will be horrific and upsetting but it is all part of understanding Cambodia.  Speaking of which I sat beside an interesting gentleman on the plane yesterday and I will tell you about him in a different post.  It is one thing to read about it (and I have read many books on the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror) but to meet someone who was affected...

I also walked by the river yesterday - crossing the road was "interesting".  A cop helped me across one way and then I walked with another couple of tourists back across.  (I ran like hell when I saw they were trying to cross as safety in numbers)  Motor bikes everywhere!!!  I would like to take a sunset cruise on the river but not sure anyone else is interested and not keen on doing it myself. 

More later!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cambodia here I come

I am at the gate ready to go. Changi airport is amazing. Gardens, a swimming pool, a movie theatre, tons of shops and the list goes on. I am trying out a new airline Tiger Airways so we shall see.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rain rain go away

The forecast for today is rain, rain and heavy rain.  Now I don't mind rain but heavy rain is kind of an inconvenience.  Oh well it is what makes Singapore so green and lush.....

Last night I wandered around the food court beside the hotel and nothing appealed so I came back to the hostel restaurant and  Now it wasn't any ordinary kind of was pepper crab pizza with onions and mozza.  Very good.  First time I've had crab pizza.  And then I had to have a Singapore Sling in Singapore.  An expensive little sucker but it was good.  I opted to sit outside as it had cooled off a tad so it was very pleasant.  The waitress put my first pizza down on the table and it slid off the wooden pizza tray so they had to do another one.  That was fine - I was in no hurry.  I enjoyed the meal thoroughly but it's back to food court/hawker food today.   I was hoping to go to China town tonight but guess it depends on the weather.  Rain was forecast for yesterday and so it did but not until the mid afternoon.  However it's raining now so it could be an all day thing.  Oh well no sense worrying about the weather.  It will still be warm...and obviously VERY humid. 

Feels great to be back in Singapore

Well after months of dreaming and scheming here I am!!!  All very exciting.  My flights over were good - but long...I watched a few movies, read and tried to sleep without too much success.  I finally fell asleep looking out at Singapore as we were landing!!!  My flights leaving Regina and Vancouver were 45 minutes late each.  Leaving Hong Kong bang on time..Singapore airlines I do love you even if your entertainment system is a bit dated.....  the food was good however it was good on Air Canada.  The difference...the service.  Singapore airlines employees seem to care...maybe they don't but they sure make you feel like they do. 

Luggage arrived (whew!) and off I went in a taxi that only cost me $23 SD.  I expected it to be much more being as it was past midnight and there is a 50% surcharge from midnight to 6 a.m.  On the expressway into the city centre I noticed a few signs saying "Be considerate, signal early".  Singapore is not a typical Asian city by any means - but I will talk on that more in another post.  More good news....the V Hotel Lavender upgraded my room for free which means my room is quite large (for Singapore standards) and I have a view.  I was thrilled. 

I slept pretty well only waking at 4 a.m. to use the loo and I headed off about 9:30 this morning.  First stop was the food court around the corner.  I was on the prowl for some kaya toast which is a typical Singaporian breakfast.  This is just toast with sweet jam made from coconut milk and egg.  It came with two soft boiled eggs and a coffee.  I had forgotten the word for coffee with milk so ended up with black coffee with sugar...oh well.  I drank it anyway. 

 Then off on the metro to Little India MRT.  The metro is very clean and efficient.  They even say "mind the gap"!!!  I got off the metro and walked over to the Sri Veeramakaliamman  Temple.  I removed my shoes as is the tradition/requirement and walked around - walking clockwise as you do in all Hindu temples.  I seemed to be the only tourist - so I had to ask someone if I could take photos and they said use.  I used my small camera so as not to be intrusive.  It was very interesting.  I don't know much about the Hindu religion so I won't comment but there were many faithful and it means a lot to them.  I then walked on to the next temple - Sri Srinvasa Perumal Temple which was much quieter but was not quite as ornate.   I then went back the way I had come and wandered off onto side streets.  I should add here it was hot and humid.  Well it was 26C when I arrived last night!!  Thanks goodness for air conditioning in my hotel room!!!  I found the restaurant Bismallah Biryani which the Lonely Planet recommended.  It was a very simple place but the food was good - I ordered a vegetable biryani with a coke on ice.  Sometimes you just need a coke to quench a thirst!  From there I did a bit more exploration of the side streets and found the Wanderlust hotel which is where I will be staying when I am back in Singapore next month.  It is in the heart of Little India which will be exciting.  From there I finally managed to find my way over to the Kampong Glam area which is the Malay area of Singapore.  Lots of construction going on as a new metro station is being built so it was not the route I had planned on walking - thank goodness I had a good map!!! They were calling for prayer at the Sultan Mosque - beautiful!!!  From there I walked over to the Malay Heritage Centre - I needed a bathroom (hey I had lasted four and a half hours and wasn't even desparate but I was sweating it all out!!!!) and some air conditioning.  The musuem served it's purpose and I had some much needed sitting down time watching bits of old Malay movies.  I was going to walk back to the hotel but decided to walk over to the back of the mosque and take some photos.  I stopped and had a mango and peach sorbet that hit the spot.  Just as I finished up the heavens opened up so I decided maybe I should find the nearest metro which was Bugis.  A young fellow showed me where it was.  I am finding people here very friendly and helpful.  A smile goes a long way with anybody I think, 
Back here on the metro and then off to the pool for a short swim or should I say splashing around and floating.  I wouldn't call what I do swimming  but it's enough for me.  It cooled me off and luckily I went when I did as the pool was soon invaded by some young children with much shrieking.  I sat and read my ereader for a while then headed up here where I have been since.  I had to make a cup of tea as I was so chilly - that soak worked wonders.  It will be my only chance to use it as tomorrow is a busy day then it's off to Cambodia on Sunday.  (and I don't want to pack a wet bathing suit!)

No shopping - that will have to wait until next month. 

I was thinking of heading over to Chinatown when the heavens opened up again.  Just as well as I am still tired and I think I will grab supper from the food court around the corner.  Food courts here have good food unlike at home.  Many of these were formerly street food but Singapore forced most of them them to clean up their act and move indoors. 

Quiet evening in the room tonight and an early night to bed - only one I plan to have in Singapore however I am still pretty tired.  I had to come back as I was starting to feel a bit spaced out - not good when you are traveling!!!

I will try to put some photos on here later. 

A very exciting day tomorrow - I can't wait!!!  I am going to have a hairy time is all I will say!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just a little time with you Hong Kong

A quick post from Hong Kong airport. The flight was long but okay. Man they fed us. Waiting for my Singapore flight. Shiny awesome airport. The plane was a huge 777. Typing on my iPhone do not a long post. Four more flight hours and I will be there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One more sleep!

In less than twelve hours I will be boarding a flight to Vancouver to begin my newest adventure.   The butterflies are fluttering that is for sure.  I am trying to think of the 20 hour flying time (not including stopovers and time change)  as all part of the adventure but deep down I am really dreading it.  I guess that's how I know I am getting older as twenty years ago I didn't feel this way.  Or I don't think I did...hmmm...I should dig out my travel journal from my last trip to SE Asia in 1990 and see how I really felt.  I already checked out Air Canada's entertainment choices....the less said about it the better.  Luckily I've got lots of books loaded on my ereader!   I am expecting the worst - the idiot in front of me with their seatback so far back they are laying in my lap, kids screaming nonstop and delays.  Hey if you expect the worst and it doesn't happen it makes a pleasant surprise.  I do hope my luggage makes it.  Oh dear, I AM getting old.

I can't wait to revisit Singapore - a firm favourite of mine.  I can't believe it's been 22 years!  Of course Cambodia is the highlight - I have read so much about it and I know I will have mixed emotions of sadness at their violent history and the pain their citizens went through and the excitement of discovering a new country,trying out new food (yes Dena, that means pictures)  and meeting the friendly (so I've been told) people. 

This blog will probably not have much action in the next couple of days but hopefully I will have lots to share this weekend.  Stayed tuned!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Destination of the week - Jamaica!!!

Yes this weekend my destination is Jamaica mon!!! Jamaica seems to be the destination of choice amongst my friends this winter so it has brought back fond memories of my week there in early 1984.  I fell in love with the place and swore I'd be back in 7 years. (why 7 years?  don't ask me!)  Did I ever go back?  No.  Why?  I don't know.  Too many other places to visit. Now I hear of crime in Jamaica and most people stay in all inclusives.  I went with two friends and we stayed in a modest hotel across the road from a beach in Montego Bay.  It was the Carlyle Beach hotel guessed it..Carlyle Beach.   What a week it was...a week of firsts to be sure...first attempt at the limbo, first time drinking rum punch, first time getting DRUNK on rum punch (but not the last!), first time climbing a waterfall, first time snorkeling (which was a disaster and started with them literally throwing me off the boat as I was absolutely terrified to jump in on my own) first time listening to live reggae...whenever I hear Jimmy Cliff's "Reggae Night" it takes me back.....  Michael Jackson was wildly popular then and his music played nonstop with the children dancing to his music - something I will never forget.  We took a public bus to see Rose Hall  (home of Annie Palmer the white witch who they say roams the hall to this day).  We took a tourist train and visited a rum factory and we bought home made dresses along the way.  We befriended a gecko that lived in our room and called him Jimmy after my friends' brother. (I think we were all a little scared of Jimmy though) We took crazy pictures with our bras on our heads. (the rum did it - honest!)  Drinking the wonderful Blue Mountain coffee at breakfast. (guaranteed to get constipated if you drink that stuff - it was always a race to see who got to the bathroom in our room first after we had a cup of that!)  Stopping to pet little goats - lots of goats in Jamaica - after all they eat goat curry. (I didn't though!) And then there was the beach...the beautiful beach.....I have a feeling Jamaica has changed since our time there..and not for the better...  so I will remember it as it was during that glorious week in 1984.  Enjoy my walk down memory lane...or should I say my shaking my hips to the music dance down memory lane...the pictures have faded a bit with time but still precious to me.

View from Rose Hall

Rose Hall

What a view!  Back of Rose Hall

Carlyle Beach

Dunns River Falls - my knees were good back then but I still didn't enjoy that climb!

Sunset on the beach

So beautiful!

Friday, January 11, 2013

What will 2013 bring?

A new year is always a fresh start but I am not the type to make resolutions.  I can never keep them so why bother?

Looking out at the aftermath of a blizzard here on the prairies my thoughts turn to where this year's travels will take me.  (and why the hell can't I leave today???!!!!) 

I do have my  trip to Singapore and Cambodia next week which will no doubt be the biggie. To say I am excited about it is an understatement.  I never ever take travel for granted.  I absolutely love it and I know I am very very lucky to be able to do it.  However it is more than luck...but that is for another post.  (which I think will be titled "Must be Nice!" - I don't know how many times that has been said to me...)

I have decided this year  to focus on overseas travel and my exploration of North America will take a back seat.  Not totally gone but not the big focus it was in 2012. 

I am planning a trip to the UK in September.  It has been a while since I've been to the UK in 'decent' weather so this is the year.  Instead of just zoning in on London I will be exploring more of Scotland (I haven't been there since 1994!) and hopefully hiking the Great Glen Way (Fort William to Inverness) with a group,  visiting family in Yorkshire (it's been too long!) and doing more day trips out of London in southern England.  I am HOPING to stop off in Iceland on the way home and then spend time with family in Toronto. Iceland is at the top of my "go to" list this year.

I am planning to turn a family wedding in southern Alberta in August into a short solo road trip in that province and hopefully Montana.  Everyone always says how brave I am but I have never really done too many solo road trips so it's time!! I plan to do some walks along the way and lots of photography! 

The Macca man may cause me a side trip or two but hopefully I can combine it with an interesting place, a visit with some good Paul friends and perhaps a new state capital?  We shall see!!! 

There could be a half marathon or two later on in the year...time will tell...but nothing booked.  I do need to get into shape for that 79 mile walk in September though! 

That is the beauty of it all - the unknown.  It is fun to plan but it is even more fun to see where life takes you.

I have faced the fact I will never have a huge bank account but instead I will have lots of wonderful travel memories and a life I would not trade with anyone else.  And that's all that matters. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sixty new travel experiences the year I turned 60 - part 3!

41)  Visited the Montreal history museum - very interesting to learn more about the history of Montreal. The museum really impressed me a lot.  There is a larger museum covering Montreal as well so if I ever find myself back in Montreal a return visit is definitely in order.

42) Had a bagel at the famous Fairmount Bagel Shop in Montreal - no indoor seating so managed to find a bench outside to sit and enjoy it.   Very good - second only to New York bagels!!!

Fairmont Bagels - well you knew there had to be a dog in there somewhere didn't you?

43)   I did the 10km capital city walk in Quebec City -I could now say I have walked in all the capitals of every province/territory in Canada.  No one can ever accuse me of not seeing my own country!!!

Inside the walls of the Old City of Quebec

Quebec City Provincial capital - no Canadian flag....grrrrr..........
 44)  While walking back from a feast (burp) at Aux Anciens Canadiens (oldest restaurant in Quebec City and a real tourist trap - but the food was good  - can't use it on this list as I was there in 05!) who do I see walking ahead of me but a familiar figure - my niece!!!  She and her boyfriend Andrew (who both reside in Toronto) were on their way to Newfoundland and Labrador and had stopped for a quick look at Quebec City!  I hadn't seen her in nearly two years.  What a shock but a very pleasant and wonderful surprise!!!  What are the chances?  

 45)  Saw Neil Diamond in concert in Saskatoon - I had to travel to get there!!!  What an awesome concert!!!

 60TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION ALERT:  Four good friends threw me a VERY surprise birthday party at the end of June.  I thought we were celebrating Norma's birthday until a 60th birthday napkin got put in front of me.  :)   We went from one friend's house to the other for sausage rolls, soup and scones, shepherds pie and trifle - and alots of drinks.  What a fantastic evening that I will remember for the rest of my life...or until the dementia kicks in!   I am so lucky to have such wonderful friends.  Okay technically  not travel but a celebration of turning 60.One of the highlights of my year.

Me and my buds..

Notice a theme for the table here?

46)  Did the CVF 25th anniversary walk in Edmonton, Alberta with the walking group there. I had never walked in that part of Edmonton before.

47)   Celebrated Canada Day in Edmonton with my sister - was up there to help her celebrate her retirement as well as a farewell to Edmonton - she now lives in Toronto!!

60TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION ALERT -  Had another birthday party thanks to my great friend Kathy.  Here are me and all my buds.  What a fun time it was!!! Another HUGE highlight of my life at home but it won't go on as a travel number.  (hey bear with me here...I am running out of numbers...)

48)  Visited the beautiful Cypress Hills and stayed with my friend Dena in their beautiful cabin.  Fantastic weekend - what a beautiful part of the world and it's here in Saskatchewan!!!   I had been to the Alberta side but never to the Saskatchewan side so a definite first!!!  Thanks Dena and Randy!


49)  Dogsat in Chicago!!!!  I hung out with my buddy Casper (canine companion of my friend Terry) for a week and we had a fab old time.  Explored Chicago at my leisure - visiting beautiful Oak Park and Wicker Park area for the first time as well as revisiting tourist sites, gorging myself on Garretts Popcorn and going to see Million Dollar Quartet.  As well as walkies and snuggles with Casper of course!  I really want to do more of this long distance dogsitting.  I have talked about doing it for ages but finally did it!!!  Anybody need a reliable dog sitter? 

 50)  Attended my first doggie Hallowe'en parade!!!

51)  I have had a sheltered life...went to my first Hallowe'en Haunted house with Terry's neighbour in Chicago and got the shit scared out of me - fun times!!!  You walk through the basement of this huge old church - the stuff of nightmares.  Trust me...

52)  Visited Kentucky for the first time!!!!  Frankfort Kentucky to be specific...had quite a few firsts here - first crawfish pie, first bourbon pie, first Kentucky brown....(can you tell I am starting to try to fit it all into 60?)   

 53)  Missed my first bus/train/any kind of transport EVER in Kentucky!!!  Traumatic for an anal "I must be on time" person!!!  I guess this is a lesson to just go with the flow. 

 54)  First time to Indianapolis. (but not the last)  I really liked the city and it helped that I stayed with a very friendly couple at my airbnb accommodation.  This was my third airbnb accommodation of the year and I absolutely love it.  An affordable way of traveling while meeting the locals.  The frustration?  Only having one day there...see number 53!!!  I did the 11 km capital city walk which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

55)  First trip on the Megabus.  Nice change from Greyhound - cheaper and the buses seem cleaner with (it seems to me) a different crowd of people on them.  I will use Megabus whenever possible rather than Greyhound on future travels.  Plus the double decker thing is fun!!!  

56)   First visit to Columbus, Ohio.  Once again I stayed at airbnb accommodation and the place was convenient and clean.   I did the capital city walk there and attended the Columbus International festival which was fun.  I loved the Short North area with it's funky shops, restaurants and murals.  Hmmm...they have a well known marathon there too.....

57)  Took an Amtrak train for the first time...Chicago to Springfield....then Springfield to Jefferson City and Jefferson City to St Louis.  It won't be the last time!!! 

Leaving Springfield
yes Abe it's pretty cold!
58)  First trip to Springfield, Ohio and I fell in love with Awesome Abe!!! Of course I knew all about Abraham Lincoln but I felt I got to know the personal side of him, his family life so much better.  I definitely would like to read a well written biography on him. While the city itself did nothing for me I enjoyed visiting Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, grave, museum, etc.  Would I go back?  Probably not but I am sure glad I went!!!      

Rubbing Abe's nose for luck

59) Visited hilly Jefferson City for the first time...I did the capital walk there as well and enjoyed the city.  Would I go back?  Doubt it but I enjoyed it. 

Lewis and Clark statue in front of the state capital building

State capital building

Governer's Mansion

60)  St Louis!!  For the second time but I did see Paul McCartney there, celebrated my friend Pat's birthday and did some first time tourist sights including taking a Mississippi river boat for the first time and posing with the Chuck Berry statue on Delmar Blvd.  What a great weekend!!! 

Oh Vancouver....Vancouver...what can I were great but I ran out of room....I ended my year with a long weekend in Vancouver - the purpose?  Well to see Sir Paul do his first concert in Vancouver since 1964 of course!!!  Bonus?  Getting to do five beautiful walks with some Vancouver walking friends and see a long time friend. (since 1967!) 

 I also visited family in Lethbridge in early July - seeing my Uncle Tony for the last time...but I am so glad I got to see him.  Time with family is always special. 

What a year it's been.  I certainly didn't turn 60 quietly.   I am a very lucky lady to have wonderful friends and family,  good health, a safe warm place to live,  a part-time job I love and the means and independence to do all the traveling I do. 

What will this year bring?  Well as of this writing in ten sleeps I will be off to Singapore and Cambodia for four weeks.  A family wedding in Alberta in August...a trip to the UK in the early autumn....we shall see what else happens!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sixty new travel experiences the year I turned 60 Part 2

22)  Visited Newport Beach!!! Shared the beautiful sunset with a dog and cat who seemed to enjoy it too. (or maybe it was the surfer dude they were appreciating) 

23)  Stayed at the wonderful Art Hotel (nice cheap winter rates) in Laguna Beach - Laguna Beach, I really really love you!!! 

 24)  Had a wonderful dinner at the Crab Cooker in Newport Beach.  Skewers of shrimp and scallops.  I could dig my fork into this picture and eat it all over again. 

25)  Visited the Bolca Chica Wetlands north of Huntington Beach (kind of boring actually...and I was a bit paranoid of seeing a snake..)

 26)  Took the #1 OCTA bus up and down the Pacific Coast Highway - and I would do it again!!!  Not too many people use public transit in Southern California.  I did, lived to tell the tale and enjoyed it!!! 

27)  I went to Southern California and I didn't go to Disneyland or any other theme park - been there, done that twice and no ambition to go again...

28)  Paul McCartney was within 100 miles of me getting his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and I didn't go to see him - that's a first!!!

29)   Texas...for the first time!!! (unless you count taking about five steps from one bus to the other in Dallas in 2010 - I don't) 

 0)   Enjoying waiting for my luggage in Austin airport (the MOST awesome airport in the US) because I was looking at about cool!!!! 

31)  Attended my first wine/beer and full course meal optional movie at the Alamo Drafthouse which was just around the corner from my airbnb home.  I HAD to order a glass of wine just because I could...but knew I would be eating out later so had just popcorn.  Wine and popcorn - strange combo I know....I saw "Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy" - hard to follow and won't go down as a favourite but I confess I went to see it because of Colin (yum yum) Firth!!!

32)   Visited the Bob Bullock Texas History museum  - wow wow wow.  Had a blast at the Spirit of Texas film theatre - the illusion of snakes striking at you  from under your seat and scaring the shit out of you anyone?  

33)   Paid homage at the Whole Foods flagship store in Austin - oh my my my (insert Texas accent)  can I just move in?  

34)   Visited the Austin state capital, walked along Lady Bird Lake to Barton Springs Pool.  People swim in the pool year round. 

35)   Marveled at the quirkiness of Austin - a enclave of liberalism in a red neck state.  A return trip is in my future someday!!! Perhaps the Austin half marathon?  Any excuse to go back!!! 

36)  Walked the Ottawa half marathon - it's been on my bucket list for a long time.  What an awesome race!!! 

37)  Visited Montpelier, the state capital of Vermont.  The 23rd state capital I have walked in the U.S.  

38)  Stayed in Burlington, Vermont - now this little city I liked.  Quaint downtown with great shops and restaurants, situated on a beautiful lake and a huge Ben and Jerry's store.  What's not to like?

39)  Had a maple creemee - soft ice cream infused with Maple Syrup.  A Vermont specialty...OMG - I might have to go back to Vermont just to have another one....

40)  First trip to Vermont!!!!  (I knew I took these license plate pictures for a reason...) 

A bit of bliss in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

While I enjoyed my tour of Sri Lanka I also found it exhausting.  It was nothing against the tour - it hit all the spots I wanted to see an...