Phenomenal Phnom Penh


Here I am back in Bangkok for my fifth time. In hind sight, I completely got this trip backwards. I spent a total of ten days in Bangkok while only spending four days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It turns out that I truly loved that city and blame myself for cheating my time there. So, while I will keep this post in chronological order I will focus on Phnom Penh.

Bangkok. The Big Mango.

Of course Bangkok never disappoints but since I had seen basically every tourist site the city has to off (many of them twice) I found it difficult to fill my time. I’m thankful that I had a chance to meet up with my good friends, Brian and Greg, for a day. Also, I actually ran into some people that I met here eight years ago! Back then we would meet a couple of times a week for the latest (extravagant, but cheap) lunch buffet. I called us the “Lunch Bunch” back then. We relived old times and certainly had another great lunch together.

Riding through the canals of Bangkok with Brian and Greg. I’ve had better klong rides but it was still fun
Seeing red. My visit coincided with the Chinese Lunar New Year. I took this shot in China Town no less.
China Town-Bangkok

It’s so hot and steamy here in Bangkok that I was happy when the time came for me to move on the Phnom Penh. While the weather there was still hot, it was not nearly as humid so it was more comfortable for walking around. My first stop was the Foreign Correspondents Club which was near my hotel. This is where all the reporters stayed during the 1970s when Pol Pot was conducting his genocide in Cambodia and the Viet Nam war was just winding down (interestingly enough it is called “The American War” here). Not much has changed in the old building and it really was nostalgic remembering that time as I was in high school then and remember the news reports of those days.

Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Phnom Penh

But the next morning, the fun really begins. Before I left California I found a guy on Trip Advisor that takes you all around Phnom Penh in a tuk tuk. To get a sense of what that is like you can click here for my You Tube page.

Our first stop was a museum called S-21. It was a sad place where thousands of people were tortured and interrogated during the Pol Pot regime. Anyone who wore glasses, had soft hands, or were educated were taken here where confessions were extorted from them such as the were working for the CIA or KGB

S-21 torture chamber

From S-21 we moved on to an even more gruesome place called The Killing Fields. Here tens of thousands of men, women, and children were victims of a horrendous genocide during the Pol Pot regime.

But things got better after stopping at those two heart-wrenching places.

The Russian Market, Phnom Penh
Street life-Phnom Penh

I was beat after day one with Visal, but since he only charged $30/day, I had booked him for two full days. The next morning found us visiting several of the temples and royal palaces spread around the city.


The Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Royal Palace
Royal Palace
The National Museum-Phnom Penh
National Museum
Central Market-Phnom Penh

One of the highlights was travelling outside the city (by tuk tuk of course) to visit an island in the Mekong River where a family still practices making silk by hand. From cultivating the larvae, spinning the thread, and weaving the silk on a loom. It was very interesting. But to me, one of the most interesting aspects was the ferry crossing the Mekong, one of my favorite rivers.

Ferry crossing
Ferry crossing
The ramp down to the ferry

If you would like to see more about the silk making process, you can watch my short video

That brings us back to Bangkok, and I fly home tomorrow–a rather grueling trek. So, for now, I’ll say tuk tuk–I mean ta ta–My life is a trip!

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Two Days in Athens


 

Yiannis dropped us off at the Heraklion airport ahead of schedule. It was time to leave Crete behind and head for Athens for a couple of days on the way home.  Upon arrival I immediately noticed how much more modern the infrastructure was than the last time I was there.  It seems a lot of this came about from them hosting the Olympics several years ago.

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Reflection on modern Athens.

Since my time was short I decided that I would skip visiting sites like The Acropolis and the Ancient Agora.  After all, I had seen them back in the 80s when they were a lot newer.  🙂  This time I wanted to focus on various neighborhoods of Athens and to try to get a pulse of the people.

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Graffiti is rampant in Greece especially in Athens.

I walked for hours.  Sometimes aimlessly.  The ancient aspect of Athens was never far away and sometimes just turning a corner would take your breath away.

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Greeks always a quick with an excuse to get dressed up and celebrating.

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And they are very good at making you feel frumpy.

So, until next time, most likely in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as I join friends to celebrate my 60th orbit around the sun.  In the meantime, I’m trying to get my hair to look like the guy’s above.  My life is a trip.

A Cretan Road Trip


I’m still jetlagged from my recent trip to Greece.  It’s unusual that I would not post here while away, but this time I made a grave strategic error.  I had a new Android device, and I simply could not figure out how to transfer my pictures from my camera to the tablet.  Lesson learned, I will now always travel with a Windows device.

This trip, with Joan, took us from one end of northern Crete to the other with several treks inland to the south. We started our trip in Heraklion which is the largest city on Crete. It was here that we met our guide/driver, Yiannis, who would be with us for the next 8 or 9 days.

 

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Yiannis.  Always quick to laugh, and more importantly, finding the best parking places ever!

Heraklion is just a jumping off point as there really isn’t that much to do there.  I will say that it was much improved since Ray and I went there in the mid 80s. A lot of the bustling street have been pedestrianized and a visit to Knossos is always in order.

From there we quickly headed east along the northern coast and eventually to Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka, and the little island of Spinalonga.  Along the way we stopped in several rural villages of the Lassithi Plateau.

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Agios Nikolaos

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Agios Nikolaos

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Near Elounda

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At the former leper colony of Spinalonga

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Lassithi Plateau

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Lassithi Plateau

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Somewhere between Heraklion and Plaka

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Another village on the eastern end of Crete

We then made a bee-line west, past Heraklion, where we stopped in Yiannis’ village of Agia Pelagia for a seaside lunch. After that lovely respite we moved on to Crete’s second city of Rythemno.

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Along the fortification of Rythemno

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Rythemno Street Scene

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I saw some great graffiti all over Greece 

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Rural village, Crete

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Rural village, Crete

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Rural village, Crete

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Along the way…

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Rythemno street scene

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Rythemno

Once again heading west, we aimed for Crete’s third city, Chania (pronounced Hania).  We made several stops along the way of course.  Some of the most memorable to me was stopping at little Minoan ruins, thousands of years old, and being able to scamper across them completely alone. It was simply amazing.

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Paddle boating on Crete’s largest fresh water lake.

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Chania

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Cretan village

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Cretan village

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Exploring a desolate Minoan ruin and finding the subject matter of the stelae!

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More abandoned ruins.

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Cretan monastary

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Cretan monastary

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Minoan ruins

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Rural village

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Monastery.  Great light.

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A rural scene.

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Oldest olive tree on  Crete.  3,200 years old!

From Chania we then made an early-morning dash back to Heraklion to catch our flight back to Athens. (Separate post).  Bur before I leave Create I must mention one last and very important thing.  The food!

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Delta Dawn


“What’s that flower you have on?”  In the Okavango Delta, it’s the water lily of course.  We arrived at the Kasane Airport with anticipation.  We were taking a small (read:  tiny) plane to the Okavango Delta, about one hour and 15 minutes flight time.  There were five of us on the plane plus the pilot. Pamela, one of the passengers, had to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. I was nervous, but excited too.

 

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Nero preparing for takeoff from Kasane airport

 

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The Chobe River in flood.

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Everything looks fine from where I sit.

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Landing at Xugana Island.  Yes, that’s dirt.

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We had a bit of ground congestion at the beginning.

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This is the extent of the airport equipment at Xugana Island.

The flight was uneventful and relatively smooth for such a small plane.  Upon arrival we were graciously met by staff of the Camp who would take us the rest of the way by boat through the marshes and bayous of the Okavango Delta.  I found it absolutely thrilling.

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Locked, loaded, and ready to roll.

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My bed at Xugana Island Lodge.

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The equivalent of the hotel lobby at an Okavango Delta safari camp.

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The transportation hub.

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My room.

As we pulled up to the lodge in the boat  we were greeted with great fanfare.  Lots of singing, clapping, stomping, and trilling of voices. The rest of our time was spent exploring our little niche of the expansive inland delta.  The first activity was a mokoro ride.  A mokoro is a narrow, canoe-like boat designed to move through the narrow and shallow channels of the Delta.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard such silence.

 

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Mokoro ride.

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Mokoro selfie.

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A gorgeous Okavango sunset.

 

 

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Our first dinner at Xugana Lodge

 

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The view from my room.

 

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Our guide, Flame, preparing for our walking safari. 

 

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Elephant encounter on the walking safari.

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Just a baboon on a termite hill.  Walking safari.

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A swallow that was trying to build a nest on my porch.

 

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A close encounter of the Nile Crocodile kind.

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Smile pretty for me.

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At sunrise, on our final day, I left Ray’s ashes here.  I did not even need to leave my porch.

Alas, our African Odyssey must come to an end.  My travel buddy, Amanda Easton, was amazing in spite of bugs that flew and are not fried or grilled.  While the natural beauty of the flora and fauna will linger in my mind, it is the genuine warmth and friendliness of the African people that we encountered that will be most memorable.  My thanks the team at Anastasia’s Africa for their diligence and thoughtfulness for planning such a wonder excursion.  Until next time because you know…”My life is a trip.”

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Leaving Okavango. It’s sad.

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I Ain’t Lion


I thought my previous post was to be my last from Chobe Game Reserve, but we had a pretty productive game drive last evening and I wanted to share it. It’s always thrilling to find big cats in the bush.

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We came across a pride of lions just lazily napping by the river!

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Lebo, our game driver at Chobe.  She has an eagle eye, and is always on the lookout.

We also had a very close encounter with a bull elephant but my memory card was full on my camera. A very ditzy move on my part. This morning we’re flying in a small plane to the Okavango Delta.  I’ll report back when we reach Johannesburg.

 

The Road to Botswana


So we left Zimbabwe in the dust bound for the Botswana border and then the Chobe National Forest beyond. I was looking forward to the drive as I wanted to see more of how local people went about their daily lives, but I was to be disappointed. I don’t think I saw a single structure or person for the entire two hours after we left the little town of Victoria Falls…nothing but bushland.
The border crossing was really interesting. First we pulled into a large and dusty parking lot filled with semi trucks and a little shack. This was the departure immigration station for Zimbabwe. We then had to pull the bus up a few feet to drive through a sanitizing solution for the tires. We then entered another little building to have our passports examined and stamped. After exiting the vehicle again we had to walk through a sanitizing solution to cleanse our shoes. I was now just a few steps and a rickety gate away from Botswana where we boarded a second vehicle, a safari jeep this time, for our final journey to Chobe Game Lodge on the banks of the Chobe River.

Chobe National Park in Botswana is 4,500 square miles and sits near the borders of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Namibia and is home to Africa’s largest elephant population.  Our time here is centered around game both from the water and on land.

Safari drivers and trackers here in Africa highly sought out jobs and are held almost exclusively by men.  But not here at Chobe…They are all women!  This is something they are very proud of. Here, in the order seen, are some of the animals we’ve encountered so far.  None of the big guys yet, but we’re still looking!

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Female Kudu

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African Fish Eagle

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Crocodile.

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The Chobe River.

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Chobe River at sunset

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Elephant skull

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Chobe River at sunrise

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Another Fish Eagle

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Buffalo skull

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Baboons and Impala

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Vervet monkey

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I could watch the Baboons all day.  They are crazy.

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Ah yes, Right there. Right there!

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This may look like a statue, but it’s really an African Buffalo up close and personal.

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Hornbills.

We still have a couple more game drives before we move on to the Okavango Delta tomorrow.  If we come across anything interesting, I’ll try to update this post.  Our lodge in the Delta is going to be so remote that there this no internet connection.  I will try to update you from Johannesburg in a few days.

 

Life on the Zambezi


Life on the Zambezi can take many forms.  From getting soaking wet walking along the mighty Victoria Falls, to cruising along in a Range Rover scouting for game to eating a scrumptious dinner at the lodge, it’s all good.

 

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My Crocodile Randee look

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Another spot where I left Ray’s ashes

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Sundowners in the bush

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An elephant tusk stuck in a Baobab tree.  Yeah, I’d like to know the story too.

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From my balcony

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The walkway to my balcony

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A highlight has been Victoria Falls.  Well, that’s actually the primary reason we came to Zimbabwe.  I have now seen the “Big Three,”  Niagara, Iguacu, and Victoria.  While seeing it up close and personal is truly awesome, it is so wet that it is not conducive to photos.  But going up in a helicopter…well, that’s a different story.

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