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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Thirty days hath highs of 34°

The lows were  25°.  If you still use the British (now abandoned) System, the daily high was 93° and a little more, and a low of 77°. A month in Malaysia with a long weekend in Jakarta with no variation in temperatures. We stayed in the heart of Kuala Lumpur near Masjid India (Indian Mosque), not the real Little India of Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, but pretty close.  I could bear the heat so enjoyed walking all over the city. I used to work here. In those days, I was driven by many interesting locations. This is the first time to really explore on foot.  Except for the oppressive heat, Kuala Lumpur has become a very walkable city.

I have lots of photos of the Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Tower. I like this one from the Thean Hou Temple:

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Here are three more:

Lots of good eating:

In Jakarta, we walked all over Old Town and China Town contrasting the traditional with the modern.  My photos fail to capture this essence.  For me having seen the whole humbly-jumbly cacophony, the photos remind me of what is not shown, not captured.

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Porto Pictorial

I spent the last two weeks of August in Porto, Portugal.  Daughter stopped by for a week on her way from Paris to Lugano.  Wife hoped to catch up but was attending to family in Malaysia.

Daughter and I enjoyed our time seeing the typical sights and looking for “odd and unique” adventures.  Porto is big enough to be easily accessible by trams and buses, but compact enough to offer great variety: Old city, shopping centers, beaches, interesting day trips, Harry Potter references.

My hope that these snaps illustrate this variety.  The display uses WordPress slide show feature with random on.  I’m an old “tripeiro,” tripe eater, as the local call themselves.

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Glimpses of Central America

Here’s a map (thanks to Google) that shows our two month journey pretty accurately through Central America.  The Blue line follows the buses overland traveling up from Panama to Belize, the orange line is the flight back from Belize to Panama at the end.

Route

There is no way I can condense all the feelings, all the surprises, all the vistas in this adventure. I rode in colectivo buses, called chicken buses, truck beds, motorcycles, tuctucs, taxis, and eight different long distance buses (but never Tica Bus).  Colectivos are almost like taking the school bus in Windom, MN, except friendlier and more interesting luggage. I lived in a tree house (see the banner). Hurricane Earl passed overhead in Belize. There were beaches and volcanoes, churches and Maya ruins, Central Markets and festivals. I ate pelibuey, rabbit, ceviche,  tripe, ants, and drank lots of local coffee. Technically, these photos were taken with an iPhone 5 and a few with an iPad 3.


The mapping applications get better and better. I took a 6 km hike from Juayua to Nahuizalco through back paths between coffee plantations. I tried to follow electric lines but relied on a couple of Map applications.  Besides Google maps, I use Ulmon CityMaps2Go and Maps.Me


Here are some places I stayed. They might not be for everyone, but provided me with many nice perspectives.  The link connects to the page in Trip Advisor:

Tegucigalpa, Honduras: La Ronda Hostel

San Salvador, El Salvador: EC Tours and  Ali’s Guest House

Juayua, El Salvador: Casa Mazeta

Santa Ana, El Salvador: Hostal Casa Verde

Las Flores, Guatemala: La Casa el Lacandon

San Benito, Guatemala: Buenas Cosas (Off the tripadvisor path)

Belmopan, Belize: Hacienda Tropical

(note: Wife and I started this trip together.  In Managua, she had to take a slight detour through Malaysia to assist her family. Much of this trip was already booked, so I continued on, providing her a vicarious experience.  We are meeting up on the next leg of the journey.)

 

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Moving On

This has been the latest theme of my travels as  I continue from South to North (and also East to West along the isthmus) in Central America.  Later, I will provide more descriptions and photos of where and how.  In this post I want to touch a little bit on my philosophy.

In the city of San Salvador, El Salvador I found this monument to Pablo Neruda.

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He wrote one of my favorite books in Spanish, Confieso que he vivido (translation: I confess that I have lived, the title in English is Memoirs). His spirit of adventure as he lived in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India have been an inspiration

I am not adventurous though some might wonder considering this headline from May 17th:

In El Salvador, the Murder Capital of the World

  • First, nowhere is totally safe.
  • Second, mostly we have encountered the nicest and friendliest people in our travels
  • Third, advancing age makes up for my lack of common sense.  The need for a public toilet and a place to nap keeps me out of a lot of trouble.
  • Fourth, I learn slowly from mistakes, but I do not dwell on unpleasantness.

Remember, headlines sell advertising.  They generally do not reflect what is really happening at the level of local communities and travelers. Here is a headline from May 20 about my hometown, Tukwila, WA.

Tukwila named America’s most dangerous city

I mark my place. In San Salvador,  I was at Kilometer 0 where all distances are measured in El Salvador.  Later, I moved up to Kilometer 84 near the village of Juayúa.

 

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My hope and wish is that wherever you are and whatever you do, in the end you can also confess, “I have lived.”

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Panama: Three Things

We spent almost a week in Panama, flying from Barcelona via Frankfurt on Lufthansa.

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Over the Alps

We did three really touristy things that every traveler should see.  Rather than do it all in a day on a tour bus, we went by ourselves on local transport.  The links in this list open to tripadvisor.com pages where you might find my reviews for more details.

  1. Old City called Casco Viejo, views from the rooftop of our apartment.
  2. Panama Canal, specifically the Miraflores locks.
  3. Panama Canal Railway.

The way we went about planning this, getting directions from locals, and actually boarding the local buses gave us many insights to life in Panama.

Here are three things I have always known about Panama:

  • The way the Central American Isthmus bends in Panama, the Pacific Ocean is in the East and the Caribbean Sea/Atlantic Ocean is in the West.
  • S. I. Hayakawa summarized a century of American Policy in Central America with this quote, “We should keep [the Panama Canal]. After all, we stole it fair and square.”

  • “A man, a plan, a canal – Panama” is a Palindrome (reads the same left or right).

I had some problem getting my reviews accepted by Trip Advisor.  I described how to access these activities using local transport at local prices instead of a more expensive (albeit more personalized) tour operator.  It’s understandable since Trip Advisor receives advertising revenue from the operators.

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What happened to Barcelona?

A number of viewers of my blog comment how much they like Barcelona.  We traveled from Malta to Panama, but there is no direct flight.  In our plans we found that the best airfare involved a stopover in Barcelona with two full days to explore.  Clearly not enough time, but tried to make the most of it.  We were slowed due to train strikes and other complications.  All in all it was a very interesting two days.  Here are some of the impressions I have.

Day 1

 

Day 2

Here is a link to the Yerevan, Armenia page for another work by the sculptor of cats.

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