Grandmother’s Lavash

Our first days in Baku we wandered around the old city.  I tried my hand at balancing teacups.  Looking for new adventures, we wandered around the outskirts of Baku taking a local bus out to the Fire Temple.  Originally, a temple around a natural flame worshiped by Zoroastrians.  Later, it was taken over by Sikh immigrants.

On the way back, we stopped at a small shop near the metro station.  I got a Lavash and a small tea (Lipton in a plastic cup).  Lavash is a type of flat bread common all over the lands of the old Ottoman Empire.  This one reminded me of my grandmother May. It had a slightly crunchy texture and yeasty butter taste that took me back to my childhood.

Afterward, I thought about how did my Grandmother learn to make Lavash.  Was it something she invented, or something from the Norwegians in Windom, Minnesota like Lefse.  Maybe some of the Russian immigrants from Mountain Lake made it.  I still remember the Borsch suppers at the Mennonite Church.  An even better story is that she learned about it from Azerbaijani or Armenian immigrants during the times she lived in  California.







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Reincarnated in Şişli

After our time in Mongolia, we continued west for another go round in Istanbul.  This must make seven times we have visited, but the first time to spend time in summer.

Walking the streets and snapping photos of cats put me in a metaphysical mood.  I happened to run across this story about the Dalai Lama:

Skeptic Carl Sagan asked the Dalai Lama what he would do if a fundamental tenet of his religion (reincarnation) were definitively disproved by science. The Dalai Lama answered, “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation… but it’s going to be mighty hard to disprove reincarnation.”

from The Boundaries of Knowledge in Buddhism, Christianity, and Science”, by Paul David Numrich, p. 13, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, ISBN 9783525569870

This idea appeals to me. Some beliefs might be able to be disproved by science, but it will take a long time.  According to advanced geometry, any given angle cannot be trisected (divided into three equal angles) with a straight edge and compass. However, given sufficient time and effort (possibly centuries), a straight edge and compass can trisect any angle to any precision required (±.1 or ±.005 etc), just never exact (± 0.0).

I digress. What I really want to know is this: if reincarnation exists, will I come back as human or animal or some other entity. If so, how do I live an imperfect life just bad enough to come back as a cat in Istanbul, preferably in the Fulya or Cihangir neighborhood.

While I ponder, here are my recent photos of cats all over Istanbul:





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Finding our Nomadic Roots

“We’re Mongolian. We adapt anywhere.” Our friend in Ulaanbaatar explained how she and her family had no problems moving to Washington, DC and then back to Mongolia. After four years wandering the road, there are no roots to find but it was fun to imagine riding with the Mongol horde a thousand years ago.

We hung out in the capital city for four weeks, exploring four different areas (Central, East Side Soviet Style, South New City, West – a step away from the gers (yurts).  Some things to know:

  1. Genghis Khan (or Chinggis Khaan) is the big name here: avenues, parks, airports, beer.
  2. Almost all museums charge extra if you want to take photos.  Good for them: less distractions and fewer selfie sticks.
  3. We found only one traditional Mongolian restaurant that was vegetarian.
  4. In contrast to wide open spaces, new housing developments are all walled, gated and no shortcuts.  The older parts still maintain the openness with footpaths, bridges and interconnected parks.
  5. Ulaanbaator is the coldest national capital of the world with average annual temperature of -1.3 C. Even colder than International Falls, Minnesota at 2 C.  That’s why we visited in summer.
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RGN-PEK-ULN (Travel notes)

We flew from Yangon in Myanmar to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia with a 36 hour stopover in Beijing as both flights were in the middle of the night.  Three times in the past three years, we have flown over this part of Asia at night.

Some say long night journeys can save on hotel.  Not in my case, see our itinerary below.   I booked two nights in Beijing at the Aulympic Airport Hotel so we could check in at 8 am instead of 2 pm.  I’m getting too old to spend 14 hours trying to rest in an airport.  Things we learned (each one was an adventure):

  1. Chinese is useful to talk to front desk.  Google translate is the next best thing. Download simplified Chinese to allow offline use.
  2. Hotel email is usually not divulged from hotel or booking websites.  We used fax to alert hotel on our unusual schedule.
  3. Google translate worked pretty good at converting English to Chinese characters for the fax.  Tip: Use simple Subject-Verb-Object sentences with common words.  Limit adjectives and prepositional phrases.
  4. After a little discussion and explanation the staff was very kind and allowed a three hour late checkout for our flight on to Ulaanbaatar.
  5. The Chinese Visa free stay for up to 144 hours in Beijing takes about two hours in line, two sets of fingerprints taken, and a good helping of confusion.

Below you can see the map of our journey and the horizon as we neared Beijing. I did not even find a single cat to photograph in China.




Depart: Wed, 13 June 23:50
RGN Rangoon, Yangon International Airport

Flight: CA906   Operated By: Air China     Flight Time: 4h30m

Arrive: Thu, 14 July 05:50
PEK Beijing, Capital International Airport

Depart: Fri, 15 June 21:10
PEK Beijing Capital International

Flight: OM 224 Miat Mongolian Airlines    Flight Time: 1h30m

Arrive: Fri, 14 July 23:40
ULN Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International

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From Burma to Myanmar and back

In 1981, I flew from Bangkok to Rangoon on Biman Bangladeshi Airlines.  In May, we flew Air Asia from Bangkok to Mandalay.

The first time, only one week visas were issued.  I just stayed in Rangoon as it took a lot of hard travel to make Mandalay and back in a week. This time we spent three weeks working our way south by bus. After Mandalay, we explored the temple city of Bagan and then to Yangon (current name of Rangoon).  It is hard to know whether Myanmar or Burma is the more politically correct.

There are way, way too many photos for me to post.  I started this post with about thirty but finally reduced to some significant experiences.


Kipling’s poem, Mandalay, is neither about Mandalay nor the road, but even today I think it captures an old soldier’s nostalgia for youth and adventure.  We stayed just across from the fortress.  The Kuthodaw Pagoda complex on the East side has a shrine for each tablet of the Tripitaka Buddhist Scriptures.  We walked over to the Irrawaddy river, the principal river of Myanmar.


Some two thousand temples standing of the original twenty thousand.  After several earthquakes, access to the upper levels has been prohibited.  We still found many inspiring panoramas and interesting artefacts.


We spent an entire afternoon at the Shwe Dagon Temple complex, avoiding thunderstorms and watching both tourists and locals.  Compared to 35 years ago, it is much better organized, cleaner, and worthwhile spending extra time to see the exhibits. Another day, we spent four hours riding around the city on the local circular commuter train, seeing both countryside and the hectic pace of city markets.  Finally, we wandered along the lake at Inya park coming to the house where Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for many years.


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Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

These are very different cities in Northern Thailand.  Some of the contrasts can be seen here.

Chiang Mai

We stayed just inside the old city, separated by a moat and renovated ruins of the walls.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

This famous temple resides in the foothills overlooking Chiang Mai about a 40 minute drive in share taxi.  Normally, I avoid photos of visitors to temples.  Rather than try to get pristine photographs of the main chedi in Doi Suthep, I entertained myself trying to get photos of selfies and group photos. I especially like the monk.

Chiang Rai

Not so densely packed with famous temples, but its smaller size made it easy to navigate.

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Bangkok: Start to Finish

We flew from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Bangkok in April.  After a few day stopover, we headed up to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.  Now, we are back in Bangkok, planning and packing for more adventures. We only explored a little bit of Bangkok’s offerings.  The weather was hot, and we needed to co-ordinate a lot of flights, buses, hotels, guesthouses, and visas.  We visited some of the main temples (Wat Arun and Wat Pho reclining Buddha) and many less known ones in our neighborhoods.

Our first place was Huai Khwang, famous for its market and more famous for its night market restaurants.  It was only three minutes to the MRT subway station.  Our second place was near Wutthakat Skytrain station on the Thon Buri side of Chao Phraya River.

I have so many photos from temples trying to find an unique perspective.  These photos on the other hand try to capture some of the contrasting emotions I feel during travel.

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Finally, Angkor Wat

In 2009, Wife, Daughter and I visited Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  This April, almost nine years later, Wife and I made a return trip to Cambodia to visit the city of Siem Reap and the adjoining Archeological complex of Angkor Wat.

We had been thinking about this since a conversation with two travelers in Yogyakarta.  They recommended visiting the Prambanan temples and then those of Angkor Wat to compare.

In Siem Reap, I loved the small little restaurants in the tourist area that had tasty vegetarian options.  In an effort to keep my purines low (wish it were just pralines that had to be controlled), I have eliminated most meat from my diet. When we moved north to a more commercial area, we enjoyed the fresh market produce of fruit and vegetables found in two huge open markets.

I put my narrative in the comments of these photos.  Each captures an interesting experience.

In the Angkor Wat complex it was difficult to analyze all the different styles and imagery.  We made four different trips to the archaeological site finding different perspectives and experiences each time.  Although it is interesting to stand among the temples exemplified by iconic photos, I found the temples in ruins surrounded by blocks fascinated me more.

Travel Information:

Hotel in Siem Reap: Rose Royal Boutique Hotel

Favorite Restaurants: Madame Moch and My Little Cafe


Direct flight on Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur (KLIA2) to Siem Reap

Direct flight on Air Asia from Siem Reap to Bangkok (Don Mueang DMK Budget Terminal).

Getting Around:

Walking and Tuk Tuks (officially called Remorques).  They can be called using the GrabCar App. Another time, I might rent a bicycle as there are bike lanes around the temples.

2018-04-18 10.06.34

Su, our driver for two tours


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Perth, Western Australia, trying to catch up.

1st day of Chinese New Year feb 10, 2013 Pebblebrook Bloomington MN

2013 Chinese New Year Greetings from Minnesota

After Doha, Qatar and Busto Arsizio, Italy, we were back in Kuala Lumpur a couple of weeks before Chinese New Year.

Wherever Wife and I find ourselves at the time of the Lunar New Year, we try to celebrate locally and connect together over the Internet. The last time Wife, Daughter, and I celebrated together in the same physical location was 2013, in snowy Bloomington, Minnesota.


As Daughter was still in Perth, we booked three weeks from Feb 9 to March 2 on the West Side of Perth just across from Kings Park, near the Sticky Beaks cafe. It was just wonderful.  Daughter and friend from the Hostel hung out in our place and helped lug groceries back, occasionally cooking for us.  Wife and I set out on walking adventures up and down the Swan River using the free CAT buses. There is so much to see and do. We ventured down to Crawley, wandered through the University of Western Australia on orientation weekend, crisscrossed Kings Park discovering different venues, toured the state parliament, participated in driverless vehicle demo near St. James Mitchell Park in South Perth, exercised up and down Jacob’s Ladder, and followed the parks and green areas all the way up to East Perth.


2018-02-18 13.58.11

Friday, Feb 16 is the official first day of Chinese New Year.  The following Sunday in the North Bridge district of Perth, there was a huge Lunar New Year Festival with Lion Dances, Street Stalls and Performances, and mobs of people.  We joined in.

Travel Details:

We flew AirAsia Kuala Lumpur to Perth.  Their schedule has changed from our trip in September.  Instead of leaving in the morning and arriving in Perth in the afternoon, we flew at midnight, arriving around 7 am.

Our AirBnB was located near the corner of Outram and Ord. The ground floor apartment turned out to be quiet and surprisingly private.  This picture captures some of the magic.

2018-02-16 18.58.42

Now in May, we have visited a few more magical places ready for more misplaced maps.

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Kuala Lumpur Ennui

Over the last year, we have stopped over in Kuala Lumpur several times for family events and personal pursuits.  Recently, we have tried to find some less common venues involving city walks.  It is steaming (and when it rains, streaming) in KL and never ending construction forces us into the streets as we approach our quest.

Prime Minister Memorials and the Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery.

We took the free Red GOKL bus from KL Sentral and exiting at Menara DBKL (City Hall Tower).  A walk up Jalan Raja Laut (street) to LRT station Bandaraya arrives at a foot bridge to KTM station Bank Negara. Either of these stations are also good starting points for the walk north up Jalan Dato Onn and circling west to the Memorials for the first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, and third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn.  These huge buildings are stuffed with mementos about the accomplishments but shy away from controversy.

Across the road is Bank Negara (National Bank) which has an extensive art gallery and museum with no entry fee.  Bags are not allowed but the information desk has tokens for the lockers.

The works are technically well done but tend to show an idealized village.  Here are few inspirations that bend the rules.

KLCC-Bukit Bintang Walk

A 3-4 km walk I took several times starts at the Avenue K Shopping Mall at the KLCC LRT stop.  This goes underground from Avenue K via (tunnel 1) Suria KLCC Mall to the Convention Center (tunnel 2), then via elevated Walkways (skyway 3) to the Pavilion Shopping Mall.  From there, a tunnel (4) connects under Jalan Bukit Bintang to the Fahrenheit88 Shopping Mall. Exiting on ground floor by Shoopen and walking along Jalan Bukit Bintang about 30 meters arrives at the down escalator (5) into the Lot10 Hutong basement restaurants.  From here, escalators up to second floor of the Lot10 shopping mall access the skywalk (6)  from H&M  or Isetan leading under the monorail over to the Sungei Wang Plaza.  Except for 30 meters, this entire route is protected from sun and rain.

Here’s a map from Google that I annotated with numbered pathways.  Brown lines are underground, Green lines are Skyways.

KLCC-SungeiWang Path

River of Life

Masjid Jamek (the Jamek Mosque) marks the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers where Kuala Lumpur (meaning Muddy confluence) gets its name. These rivers run through the heart of Kuala Lumpur.  A new program plans to beautify the area by cleaning up the rivers and erecting walkways along the banks.  It is quite impressive around the Jamek Mosque in the evening.

Cats and Bikes

To complete this post, Kuala Lumpur has many cats and many oBikes, a station free bicycle sharing system.  Here are a few photos of each. I have an oBike account and use them frequently when public transportation does not have a direct route.



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A Little bit of Doha

On our way to Busto Arsizio in January, we stopped off for a couple of days in Qatar.  January is a good time to visit the Gulf States.  Many of the national airlines offer good discounts or stopover deals and the weather is in the mid 20s° C (70s° F).  A year ago, Wife picked up a great deal (truly last minute – bought in Switzerland at 1 PM, on the flight by 9 PM) on Oman Airlines round trip flight from Milan to Kuala Lumpur.  This January, we really enjoyed the service on Qatar airlines and the included stopover in Doha.

We stayed on the edge of the old quarter.  At the airport, we were sold 24 hour day tickets instead of the individual bus ticket.  This got us out and about walking around the Pearl development in the north and exploring some of the commercial areas.  The first day we hiked over to the Museum of Islamic Art by the Port.  It was free and there were a great variety of exhibits.

Here is just a taste.

Some things we didn’t get a photo of:

  1. Pets were not allowed in the restaurant we went for lunch.  A teenage boy tethered his falcon on the perch at the entrance.
  2. The honorary camel corps went by during their morning training.
  3. At night, the souk comes alive with locals and visitors enjoying the cooler air and street watching.

The images of Emir Tamim_bin_Hamad_Al_Thani are displayed everywhere.  It is an interesting time politically, both in the region and internationally for Qatar.

After slowing down bit in Kuala Lumpur, I hope to get a couple more posts out about Chinese New Year in Perth Australia and walking trails in Kuala Lumpur.


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Crossing Sabah (Where was I?)

The years start to catch up. My hearing is a bit off, so I need to beg pardon, especially if there is background noise.  Then, with stories and traveler tales, I have to stop in the middle and ask, “Where was I?”  That has happened with my blog too.

Where was I? Oh yeah, in Sabah from mid December to mid January.  First, we flew up from Kuching, Sarawak to Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah.  Then, we took buses from KK to Sandakan, and then on to Tawau.  I guess I better post a bunch of photos so I can remember some of the highlights.

Kota Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia, at 4095 meters (13,435 feet).  We passed it on our bus ride from KK to Sandakan.

2017-12-26 09.30.19


More views of the sea, this time the Sulu Sea.


After more views of the Sea, we went hiking in an incredible forest reserve called Bukit Gemok.

So where was I? Oh yeah, some more stories to tell about Doha, Qatar.  I will save those for later.

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Arrivederci, Europa (See you later)

I’m jumping ahead to today as we wait to go to Malpensa airport after two days in Busto Arsizio, just north of Milan. Another day, I will catch up on Borneo and Qatar. My tablet app does not let me organize the photos well, hence captions at the heading.

Even a village has coffee shops and pastries dreamt in heaven.

Over the last four years, our travels have centered around Lugano and Milano. Many times we flew info Malpensa (MXP) and zipped up to Sorengo and Paradiso to visit Daughter at Uni. Now, she is in Perth, Western Australia, and we complete one more trip to tie up a few loose ends. Our stay in Busto Arsizio brims with memories and nostalgia.

Busto Arsizio was the textile center for Milan during the industrial revolution. The museum has many original machines of the 1880’s and 1890’s.

A typical village square with lanes leading to all sorts of interesting shops.

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Catting around Kuching

From Laos, we had a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Then, we headed out for a five week exploration of East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.  Even though the states of Sarawak and Sabah are part of Malaysia, on arrival by air from Kuala Lumpur, we were directed through immigration and our passports stamped.

Our first stop was Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.  In bahasa malay (Malay language), Kuching means Cat, so cats are a big theme for the city.  Some historians suggest Kuching comes from Mata Kuching, (cat eye), the name of a longan or lychee like fruit that was found wild along the Sarawak river.

The main areas for our exploration were the Orangutan center, Orchid Garden, and Waterfront.

Orangutan Center

Orchid Garden

The banner shows the new foot bridge over the Sarawak river that recently opened. This allowed us to hike over to the Orchid Garden in the Government building area.  Prior to this, a taxi or water taxi would have been required.  There are just hundreds of beautiful orchids and other flowers spread over a huge area.  Here are a few examples that I think show the limitations of my iPhone camera instead of the expansive displays:




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Thank you notes

I was the worst in writing thank you notes after Christmas.  I still am pretty bad at remembering those who have done me favors.  Today, walking through a bookstore in Sandakan, Sabah (island of Borneo), Malaysia I came across a travel go set.  It reminds me of two gifts I received long ago.


Peter, Thanks for the Boomerang

My oldest brother, Peter, gave me a boomerang. I can’t remember the year but I suppose he was at the University of Minnesota.  I could not wait until a mild day in Spring, I had to try it out right away.  The wind was strong, I wasn’t sure how to hold it.  After a few overhand attempts, I tried a horizontal throw.  Zoom, off it went high up and around it came back from the sky.  That was exciting.  I tried again. Zoom. Up it went, into the wind carried high and slammed back down into the icy snow.  Crack.  I know my brother felt bad that his gift only lasted a few times.  That Spring I read more and ordered another boomerang using the address on the package.  With that, I mastered the overhand throw.  By the time I broke it, I was looking for a larger, more sturdy one.  Over the years, I owned five or six more.  Two were bought from an Aborigine in Australia.  At one point, my boomerangs were returning to my feet every time.  Sometimes I could grab them out of the air. I kept one on my basement desk next to the Lionel train set my mother saved.  Daughter and I practiced some days when we could not fly kites.

edina basement@23dec2003

George, Thanks for the Go Set

The Christmas my brother came back from serving in Viet Nam by way of Japan, he brought me a game of go. In the small town of Windom, there were no books on such an obscure subject.  I only had the small manual that came with the game.  I acquired Go and Go-Moku: The Oriental Board Games by Edward Lasker maybe from a bookstore in Minneapolis.  I have looked through all my saved photos and cannot find one that shows the books I collected on Go. (Half Price books bought the ones from Ishi Press as they are not common in the U.S.) Of saved photos, only one shows a thin tome lying horizontal.  But I did find a photo of the business card for the Takadanobaba Go Club.


The banner shows the three of us.  They let me ride in front of the toboggan (so I wouldn’t fall off).  George behind me steering.  Peter handling braking in the back.

There have been many thoughtful gifts, and I thank you all for your kindness.  I hope to send you a thank you note, but it seems I’m still catching up on fifty years of laziness.


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Luang Prabang, the sweet and the bitter.

We spent a nice week in the middle of November in Laos just hanging out in the UNESCO heritage city of Luang Prabang.  It was easy to walk around and look at the temples, the traditional streets, and cross the Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers.  Although tourism plays a key role in the life of the city, it does not feel like a theme park.  It’s not a perfect world, but at least there is a bustle of activity with tourists hiking up and down the streets buying souvenirs from the various vendors, eating Hamburgers, Pizza, French and Italian Cuisine, riding around in tuk-tuks. Here are some of the photos that attempt to capture the peaceful scenes I found.

Mekong River and Nam Khan River


Buddhist Temples and Museums

Some street views and the Khouangsi Waterfall


On the other side, I read Flying Through Midnight by John T Haliday. I have delayed posting this entry trying to find some way to describe my feelings.  This nonfiction book reminded me of several I read in the 1990s about the U.S. debacle in South East Asia.  To try to put this in an Asian perspective I visited the UXO museum. I feel there is no way to make sense of it, only the ongoing futility.

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Borobudur and Prambanan

From Bali on our way to Luang Prabang, Laos, we stopped for ten days in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  Depending on the age of the literature and the spell checker, this city is also known as Jogjakarta (possibly from the Dutch phonetics). Besides hanging out in one of Indonesia’s tidiest cities, we took the opportunity to see the worlds largest Buddhist temple at Borobudur. With a combination ticket, we were able to see one of the largest Hindu temples in SE Asia at Prambanan.

Our visit was one of contrasts in weather and in timing.  The first day we had partly sunny skies at Borobudur.  On the second day, it alternated between light and heavy rain. We spent two nights in Borobudur while Prambanan was visited in a single afternoon.

In an attempt to capture the experience of these impressive temple complexes, this post tries to contrast views from a distance and up close. In Borobudur we saw from a far, then approached.  In Prambanan, we visited the temples and then on leaving saw them from a far.





Some other views of the region around Yogyakarta


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Misunderstanding Bali

After an unusually cold spring in Perth, we moved up to tropical Bali.  We stayed for over two weeks, first in Ubud the Art and Meditation center, then in Semniyak the surf and shopping center.  Reading the book, Indonesia ETC. by Elizabeth Pisani, during this time has heightened the contradictions. As the banner photo shows,  the Mount Agung volcano became more active. Our stay played out within the predictions that there would be an eruption soon.

No great revelations occurring here. Whatever conclusions I might draw, in the end, I probably miss the point.  Instead, I will post some sunrises and sunsets, and some vistas in between. The detailed photos of architecture or lush foliage or Balinese dance don’t exhibit the dynamics of the moment.


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Spearwood AUdventure, mate

Right now, I am in Bali sitting at the edge of a rice paddy looking over coconut, banana, and papaya trees.  This makes it difficult to think about moving on to our next destination, even finding it hard to believe it is Monday.  The vivid memories of our stay in Australia blur in recollection. We spent a week in Perth and then moved down south to the suburb of Spearwood for a month.  Spearwood is best experienced with a car, but we managed quite well with buses.  This allowed us to explore other neighborhoods of Fremantle, Rockingham, and pop into Perth and Northbridge on the train to have lunch with Daughter.  One weekend, we rented a car and drove up north to explore Stromatolites and Thrombolites of Lake Thetis near Cervantes, the Pinnacles of Nambung National Park, the white sand dunes of Lancelin, and the Australia flora and fauna at Yanchep National Park.

My dilemma as always is how to choose the pictures that best capture our adventure

We were lucky enough to see Koalas, Kangaroos, and Emus all in native habitat.

Everywhere there seemed to be interesting street art along with a wonderful Art Center in Fremantle.


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Check out the temple near city of Amarbayasgalant, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar is modern with the character of a Western city. It is a world apart from the rest of the country. Having said that there is not a great deal to see or do. But no one comes to Mongolia to see the cities! We spent a day exploring the city on foot. The Narantuul […]

via 17/10/17 Ulaanbaatar and North Mongolia — Why would you want to drive to Kazakhstan?

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