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

Flights:

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.

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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.

 


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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.

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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.

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Sandakan

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

Tawau

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:

 

Waterfront

 

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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.

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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.

Borobudur.

 

Prambanan.

 

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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Who’s Counting

This could also be titled, Whose Counting.   At the bottom of this post is my Trip Advisor map which calculates over 100 different countries visited.  Not counted in this list are:

Clicking on the links provides the Wikipedia explanation.

On the other hand, when I started traveling, a number of countries on the list did not exist.  The Baltic countries and the Balkans only became individual countries again in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

This post marks a reflection not only on how we travel but also why I blog.  All places have some touristic value.  Each country competes to win more of the tourist trade.  What is interesting to me is how the day-to-day life works in the places we visit.  The open air market is always a fun visit as a tourist, but negotiating daily food purchases in an unknown language offers subtle insights.

I have experimented with travel tips and tricks posts.  The tone of those seemed too didactic and not much fun.  What I am discovering is that I want this blog to encourage you to have adventures, to try new foods, to find unique experiences.  International travel is an easy way, but not the only way.  Raising a child or visiting grandkids is also an adventure.

If you want to get my take on some of the places I visit, you can see my reviews on Tripadvisor.

There are many amazing memories but only a few photographs.  Sometimes I had no camera. Other times, photos were misplaced in moving. Mostly, they document we were there, but do not capture the emotion.

 

 

Here is the Map

TripAdvisorMap2

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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.

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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

 

 

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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.

img_8947

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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