KLUnique

After six weeks in Central Asia, we moved on to Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is known by all.  Handling family matters has brought us to Malaysia several times in the past twelve months.  This time, Daughter accompanied us, which provided a change of focus to our activities.

Malaysia in general, and Kuala Lumpur in particular are easy to navigate.  There are lots of interesting experiences and sights for tourists and travelers.  Feeling like I had exhausted the list of the places I was interested in, I looked for some unique views and experiences.  Even in this, it is hard to get away from the temples, food, and street scenes.

On this trip, I signed up on the new share bicycle service, obike.  This was the first service I have used where bicycles can be left at any public location.  All other services I have experimented with in Asia, Europe, and Mexico, located the bicycles in fixed stands.  The ride that made me proud took me on a 5 km route through the central area that could not be duplicated by car or by walking.

In previous posts, I have featured photos of the KL skyline, famous for Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower.  Some different perspectives provide a contrast to the usual tourist brochure.

I visited some of my favorite temples and found some new ones too.

Even after so many meals in Malaysia, there were some new adventures.

 

 

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Missing Almaty

We left Central Asia for Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago.  In my World History classes in the ’60s, mention was made of the Soviet city of Alma Ata.  Only on arrival in Kazakhstan, did it dawn on me that Alma Ata is now Almaty.  This occurred back in the 1990’s on gaining independence from Russia.  Another little piece of trivia is that the Almaty area was the first domestication of apples.  Current research suggests that the wild local apple (Malus sieversii) is ancestor of the common domestic apples found in Minnesota, Washington State, and everywhere else in the world.  Almaty’s name may originate in the Kazakh word meaning “full of apples.”  Alma Ata means “father of apples.”

When we were packing up in Almaty, I felt a little sad to be leaving Central Asia.  I’m missing:

1. Walking the boulevards of Almaty.  It is a city with lots of green, channels rushing with mountain run off, and some interesting monuments along with street art.

2. The Tian Shan mountains standing at a distance.

3, The Almaty Metro.

4. The fresh apricots, walnuts, and melons direct from farms to the street stalls.  Restaurant menus offering horse steak.

The only real downside was that Almaty has undertaken massive street repairs.  Sometimes the sidewalk just disappears.  Here is the main shopping thoroughfare.

2017-07-23 19.58.28

 

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Off the Silk Road, Beyond the Socialist Republic.

In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan I am reading The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds by Eric Enno Tamm after finishing Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron. Both provide modern impressions and historical references about the trade routes between China and the West.  Although Bishkek was on one of the routes used through the Tian Shan mountains, it appears that other passes were more popular.  Neither Tamm nor Thubron passed this way.  Their observations on the region provided an understanding to our daily interactions.

Kyrgyzstan feels the most communist of all the ex-communist countries we have visited.  The independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 came reluctantly rather than through any focused struggle. Bishkek still has monuments with the hammer and sickle along with memorials to Russian soldiers.  Mosaics on buildings give way to street art.  There is no McDonalds.  KFC (replacing Kyrgyzstan Fried Chicken, now BFC for Bishkek) recently opened with long lines. Although Russian is understood more than English, we met friendly people who were helpful.

 

 

The natural beauty in the mountains is still spectacular.  We took a day trip with a driver to Lake Issyk-Kul (meaning warm lake).

 

Some interesting notes:

  1. Bishkek was called Frunze from 1926 to 1991 after the Bolshevik leader who was born here.  The abbreviation for Manas International Airport is FRU.
  2. Stalin and his advisors divided up the Central Asia Republics so that there were no single ethnic group in any one country.
  3. Driving is on the right side as in most European countries, but many Japanese cars are imported directly with the steering on the right side too.  Drivers tend to hug the middle line.
  4. Even though Issyk-Kul is fed by snow run off, it is saline.  Issyk-Kul is second to Lake Titicaca as largest mountain lake, second to the Caspian Sea as largest saline lake.  It is tenth largest in the world by volume.
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Artifacts 2: Rain Jacket

I thought about sharing some of the lessons learned from our travels. One direction on this path involves what we carry. This is a theme I have touched on before.  It is interesting to me to experience how the artifacts both physical and electronic define the modern self and its relationship to its environment. No tips and tricks here except to keep experimenting and be observant.

Our rain jackets are essential for any trip. Beyond keeping dry and warm, they offer freedom to explore even during bad weather.  This has led us to many interesting discoveries and appreciations of the neighborhoods we visit.

My simple jacket folds itself neatly into a zippered pouch which I store in an outside compartment of my bag for easy access (see below). Sometimes, it stays stowed for a month. Here I remember Malta, Kuala Lumpur and Cape Town.  At the other extreme, I wore it every day in Vancouver.

 

 

 

My photos provide more of a documentary experience than an artistic one. Over the past seventeen years, this raincoat became a central theme of my travels and showed up in way too many photos.

RainCoat1

 

 

Posted in blogging, memory, Travel, Bosnia, Republic of Georgia, Armenia, China, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom, living, artifact | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Yarrow Tea

A little diversion from my usual posting.  Rest assured, I am not starting a food blog. I am thinking about tips for the trip type postings.

This started with an expedition to our local MegaImage grocery store looking for tea. There I found a line of teas produced in Romania so I randomly chose one called Coada-Soricelului.  On returning home, Master Google informed me that it was Yarrow Tea well known for analgesic qualities.  Perfect, as I have been nursing soreness in the knees since Mexico.

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When Daughter came out, I told her about my discovery of Yarrow Tea.  She responded, “Oh you mean, Achillea millefolium, used by Achilles warriors to staunch wounds?”

“Umm, yes,” trying to hide my ignorance and sneaking a look farther down the Google page.  For her, the story begins in the summer of 2008 in the back seat of our Honda Accord as we drove around the Eastern US.  She bought an herb dictionary about three inches thick from a bookstore at the University of Purdue, in West Lafayette, Indiana.  Alphabetically Achillea was one of the first entries. I can only guess how many times she read through that book entry by entry.

Looking back at all our photos from that trip, I see none from Purdue nor with her book. The best I found was the banner photo on the border of Maine.  For now, we are doing well as we finish up in Bucharest drinking Yarrow tea, St. Johns Wort tea (Sunatoare – hyperici herba) and Peppermint tea (Ceai de Menta – Menthae Herba).

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Beginning

Over three years ago, Daughter and I visited Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland.  It was the middle of a harsh Minnesota winter, but we felt it important to see the campus of her top choice.

Since then our lives have been filled with adventure for us all both in traveling and in maturing.  A week ago on Sunday, 21 May, Megan graduated.  It is a commencement for all of us.  She begins the task of finding a career, we begin roaming for a new base.  In the past, we focused on Lugano and how Daughter could meet up with us on her school holidays.  Now in Bucharest, we wonder where she will end up, how her stuff will catch up with her, and where the road leads for us.

Wife and I are very proud of Daughter.  There were struggles and disappointments, but like the commencement speaker advised, she fell forward.  We worried how her final project would complete.  She really “knocked our socks off.”

Here are memories we take with us from our last week in Lugano.

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Guadalajara vs. Barrio de Santa Maria

We spent over a month in Mexico.  After a couple of weeks in the Yucatan peninsula we flew over to Guadalajara for almost four weeks.  Our first week was in the Centro Historico, or the old city with many historical buildings and churches.  After that, we moved down to Tlaquepaque.  Not exactly Tlaquepaque, but a little neighborhood called Santa Maria about a fifteen minute walk south.  Tlaquepaque (officially known as San Pedro de Tlaquepaque) is famous for pottery, crafts, and art galleries along with pubs, restaurants, and live mariachi. In contrast, Santa Maria is a thriving little village with lots of community spirit along with energetic neighborhood festivals.

I have many wonderful photos that capture different aspects of this contrast. Instead of a pictorial essay for a freshman writing course, I only include a few that made this experience special.  A few facts for a presentation follow.

 

 

  • Guadalajara Centro Historico is undergoing a lot of renovation.  Some by government, some by businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Tlaquepaque is the home to many ceramic workshops and galleries.
  • The artist, Sergio Bustamente, formed his workshop in Tlaquepaque in 1975.
  • Cat spotting in his gallery at Independencia 238
  • In Barrio de Santa Maria, el Dia de la Santa Cruz (May 3) is celebrated much more than Cinco de Mayo (May 5).
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RTW01 1980-81

In 1980, my company, NCR Comten, sent me to NCR Japan for software support of the first installations of our Networking Communications Processor.  Recently, a reply to my comment in Cook the Beans blog reminded me of that trip and my visit to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia on the island of Borneo in 1981.  This was one episode of that first trip aRound The World (RTW). This brings me back to the original idea of this blog to reflect on journeys and paths that brought me here.

I saved the diaries of my travels during those times for many years.  With our moving on, I wrote up some summaries and highlights and saved on Google Drive.  Much of the information written was technical notes and contacts.  Certain parts of that fourteen month trip are very vivid; other parts are just a mesh of several trips through the same areas.  My notes suggest I left Minnesota around 1 October 1980 and returned to my parents home for Thanksgiving in late November 1981.  Unfortunately, only a few blurry pictures and some scraps of mementos remain from that trip.  The many transitions of life and work resulted in a box or two purloined in various archives and the dumpsters of life, later to be left for collection at the side of the road.

Collecting and Collating digital searches, memories, and artifacts for this post reminded me of several amazing coincidences and connections that played out over the years.

First, a link to the itinerary contains a few notes gleaned from my diaries.  It’s a placeholder for my memory as details begin to fade.  The experience was so new and fresh, I never expected the frustrations trying to remember details today.

Itinerary RTW 1980-81

Itinerary1980-81

Here is the list of cities I visited in approximate order.

St. Paul, MN; Tokyo, Japan; Nikko, Japan; Yokohama, Japan; Kyoto, Japan; Kamikura, Japan; Busan, Korea; Seoul, Korea; Taipei, Taiwan; Hongkong; Macao; Manila, Philippines; Batangas, Philippines; Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei; Singapore; Melaka, Malaysia; Georgetown and Penang, Malaysia; Bangkok, Thailand; Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar); Rome, Italy; London, UK; Paris, France; Milan, Italy; Belfort, France; Bitche, France; Basel, Switzerland; Mont Saint-Michel, France; Cherbourg, France; Windom, MN

Three artifacts:

Three meetings:

The hardware tech assigned to NCR Japan was Sanford “Charlie” Brown.  After Japan, we worked together in South America, New Zealand, and SE Asia. Our paths still cross.  He taught me how to wirewrap.

In a Singapore hostel shared breakfast table with sisters Bea and Ev from France.  Years later they would pick me up from Luxembourg airport after spending ten days crossing the Soviet Union.

Anura Guruge at ICI UK.  He sent me to consult in Paris and Milan on a remote printer problem.  Some years later, I would find and read his first book, SNA Theory and Practice, in the NCR Japan technical library.  Some years after that, I would work with Lisa Lindgren an associate of Guruge’s consultancy.

Three things learned

Don’t be surprised.  Different cultures, different languages, different circumstances all have their ways of dealing with the situation of the moment.  Some of these will be completely different to what you might find usual.  Observe and Appreciate.

Grammar and Language: “Order word not necessary is.” Along with: “Verbs not necessary.”

In those days, I could live in Melaka, Malaysia for U$S 3 / day.  Knowing that, I only worked for fun from then on. I always knew that I did not have to put up with a bad job after that.

Here is the full map thanks to Google:

RTW_1980-81.JPG

In the years that followed, I circumnavigated (both westward and eastward) the earth many times providing onsite computer networking support.  There were some trips to South America and to Africa.  The type of technical career I did no longer exists.  In the past years, we have deviated from the original route more and more as we have free time to venture to different countries.  Here is my TripAdvisor Map:

TripAdvisorMap

Posted in blogging, Brunei, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Korea, language, Macao, Malaysia, memory, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, technology, Thailand, Travel, United Kingdom, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maya Ruins in Mexico

Back in July 2016, I visited Flores, Guatemala and Belmopan, Belize.  This afforded me the chance to visit and climb among the ruins at several Mayan cities.  Coming to Cancun in the Yucatan peninsula, we took advantage of visiting three different locations of Mayan cities.  El Rey was just a local bus ride along the Hotel Zone and beaches of Cancun.  We joined a tour to see the pyramids and central city at Cichen Itza.  Finally, we moved from Cancun to Tulum to visit a final location along the coast.

In contrast to the ruins I scaled in Guatemala, Chichen Itza for some years has banned any climbing.  The cities at El Rey and Tulum were commercial and trading hubs that were still active when the Spanish arrived.  Although not so magnificent, the ruins here were very accessible.  Chichen Itza was an administrative and religious center until about the year 1250. Current research suggests Maya still populated the area in the 1500’s but it is not certain whether they inhabited the ruins that exist today.

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Stops Along the Way

After reuniting with Wife’s family in Tapah, Malaysia, we began what has turned out to be an epic journey in less than four weeks.  I hope a timeline helps me make some sense out of this.

Feb 14-16 Petaling Jaya, a suburban district to Kuala Lumpur.  Wife and I met up with her brother, David, and her sister, Vicki, visiting from Sydney.

Feb 17-21 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.  A short side trip before our return flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Feb 23-Mar 1 Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy. Met up with Daughter and classmate on their way to and from Sofia and Plovdiv, Bulgaria. This must be our favorite airport as we most often post from the airport’s Art exhibits.  We stayed in the city of Ferno which borders on the actual MXP runways allowing us an afternoon walk of plane spotting.

Mar 2-6 San Diego.  We flew into LAX, Los Angeles for a drive down the coast to visit Brother George and wife Gloria.  A chance to celebrate her birthday and his final chemo sessions.

Mar 7 Los Angeles. Travel Inventory Day. Last sunny day.

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Leaving the cloudless skies

Mar 8-11 Seattle. Home (sort of).

Mar 12 Vancouver, Canada. Lucky we planned to relax and recuperate as it was the wettest, cloudiest March on record.  Our apartment was in Metrotown section of Burnaby city, just east of Vancouver.

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The day without rain

Here’s the whole map courtesy of Google in case you are curious.  For simplicity, not all flights are shown.

FebMar2017

 

 

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