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.

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Saying Goodbye

I struggle with how to make this post.  Almost two months ago, my father-in-law crossed to the next life.  Although a somber time, it was also a chance to reunite with family and meet in person with those I only know from emails and facebook.

I found this picture of Chai Lian Hing at Daughter’s birthday in Frankfurt.

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Daughter 4th birthday at Heinrich-Hoffmann-Museum Schubertstrasse

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Stopover in Muscat

Booking a last minute trip to Malaysia involved a forty hour stopover in Muscat.  I was able to book a room somewhat close to the airport.  Only on arrival did I realize it was in the Bawshur dunes in the outskirts.  Muscat is not known to be a city for walking, but in early February the temperatures were just in the 20s with a nice breeze off the Gulf of Oman.  I could join Al Ghubrah Street after a short 20 minute walk from my room.  There were no sidewalks but I and some immigrant workers found the median an excellent path.  I followed this to the city and then on to the bay.

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Walking Lugano

We have visited Lugano many times since Daughter started University there.  It has always been rushed with just two or three days.  This time, we booked a week.  This gave me the chance to investigate some of the back roads and paths in the surrounding communes of Sorengo and Collina d’Oro.  With a nod to a followed blogger, here are Walking Finds, 1.

 

 

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San Marino: Quirky Republic

The Republic of San Marino is the world’s smallest republic. Neither is it a member of the European Union nor does it belong to the Eurozone.  Yet, it is entirely surrounded by the European Union (Italy) and uses the Euro as its currency (as Montenegro and Monaco do).  Since staying in Andorra and in Monaco years ago, I have wanted to visit this fun little bit of history.

I enjoyed hiking and walking all over the old city perched high on a mountain peak. I ventured down into some of the lower districts knowing there would be a precarious climb up  snowy, icy paths.  It was interesting in Winter.

Come Spring with all the plants blooming and more activities open, it is a destination to keep in mind. I’m in a tourist info mood.  I used public transport taking a direct train from Milan to Rimini.  This city lies on the Adriatic Coast, a few stops beyond Bologna.  With more time, there is a beach to explore and some interesting historical walls and buildings.  From Rimini, there is the Bonelli Bus every hour and fifteen minutes to San Marino.  On Sunday it was right on time.  I waited at the stop up the street from the Burger King across from the train station.  The last stop is the P1 Parking Lot with a public elevator to the main street of the old city of San Marino.

Here are some of my photos

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Winter Break in Summer

After our two weeks in Cyprus, we met up with Daughter in Milan.  Her fall semester completed, she had a month free.  Previous years, we spent together in Istanbul and in Morocco.  Instead of a chilly apartment in Europe, we opted for summer in Cape Town, South Africa.  Wife and I enjoyed our African adventures last February.  There were still places to explore in Cape Town.

For the previous breaks, Daughter has flown a direct flight to meet us.  Traveling together, changing planes in Dubai was a chance to stretch our legs during the break of the 15 hour flight time.

As it was University break, we did not need an adventure every day.  Daughter took an all day tour of Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope.  She got to hangout with penguins and took some stunning video of the waves breaking on Cape Point.  Together we climbed up Table Mountain, watched the Kaapse Klopse (January 2nd Carnival like parade),  and admired street art emanating from Woodstock to the Gardens.

Here is a sampling of pictures from our outings.

Here is some of the street art I found along the way.  There are too many artists to mention.

Finally, one last dip in the South Atlantic.  The water feels really cold at Camps Bay.

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Cyprus -There is hope

Cyprus is full of history and contradictions.  Here is the Wikipedia Entry and here is the New World Encyclopedia Entry.

I remember hearing the news reports of the Turkish invasion during the summer of 1974.  It was just another part of the world in turmoil.  Over the years, the divided island and divided city of Nicosia became just another bureaucratic nightmare.  In the last ten years, I have read accounts of the process to normalize the divisions.  There is hope as talks and discussions continue intensely.  With some trepidation, we planned two weeks there in December 2016.

On December 4, we flew from Istanbul Turkey to Ercan International which resides in the Northern Turkish side of Cyprus.  From the Airport a Taxi deposited us at the Turkish Border for the Agios Demetios checkpoint.  As we pulled our bags over to the Greek side, we were met in the middle by our host in her SUV.  After stopping to talk to the Greek authorities and show  passports, we were taking in the sights of the Greek side.  After a week, we pulled our bags down Ledras Street and walked through the checkpoints back to the Turkish side where we stayed four more days.

Even though it was a bit chilly some days, we enjoyed both the Greek and the Turkish sides of the island.  I feel that our sightseeing was historically interesting more than spectacularly photogenic.  Here are my mementos in no particular order in the spirit of reunification.

A note on nomenclature: I use Nicosia as the English name for the entire capital city of Cyprus.  Lefkosa refers to the Northern Turkish half of Nicosia, and Levkosa refers to the Southern Greek half of Nicosia.

 

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Kagoshima Autumn

When I was posted to Tokyo many years ago, I loved the city.  This fall, Kagoshima became my favorite Japanese city.  The three things I like most are:

  1. Its natural setting set among hills and a bay across from a volcanic island.
  2. Trams and public transport are easy to follow.  City is the end station for the Shinkansen (Bullet Train).
  3. Lying in south of Kyushu Island, the citizens enjoy the warm weather even in the fall.

To get to Kagoshima, we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Osaka with Air Asia.  After two days, we boarded the Shinkansen for Fukuoka.  Spending a week in Fukuoka gave us the chance to visit Nagasaki on a day trip.  Then we traveled by long distance bus to Kagoshima where we spent a week.  Afterward, we returned to Osaka for two more days before flying back to Kuala Lumpur.

Our November sojourn there was filled with many subtle kindnesses.  Strangers were patient and ensured we made connections.

In small restaurants Google translate augmented our very basic Japanese to experience some typical and some atypical dishes.

Taxi drivers provided very positive first impressions of the cities we visited.  With limited English, one in Osaka showed us that the taxi stop across the street would save us time and money by taking the taxi in the direction of our hotel.  In Kagoshima, another finalized the fare several blocks before the station so that there would be no extra charges while waiting to find a stopping place at the station.

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A few views of Kuala Lumpur

KL as everyone refers to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is the Federal Territory.  It spreads out including other suburbs without much distinguishing the official borders.  There are new developments as the famous Twin Towers area is almost completely built up and connected via highways and mass transit.  With all of that, it seems to be friendlier to walkers compared to the first time I arrived back in 1987.  Here are a few photos that capture some of the interesting aspects from my walks.

 

 

“What hurts more, a coconut or a durian falling on your head?”

“Your head, of course (ha ha ha).”

For those who are not familiar, durians contain a sweet custardy flesh around large seeds.  It has a distinctly pungent smell reminding some authors of sitting in an outhouse.  I wonder if Joseph Conrad ate durian.

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