Sarcastic About Sargassum

Recent reports in travel news have stated beaches along the south coast were experiencing a new phenomenon that could threaten the livelihood of the tourism industry there.  The culprit is none other than a seaweed called – Sargassum (read the article in highlighted link).  If it is one thing tourist expect when they go to a beach is to find it pristine, the waters clean and clear of debris.  They expect to enjoy a time of fun and frolic in the sea and on the sand without interference.  However, the sea algae much to the consternation of the beachgoer is getting in the way, is unsightly and smells foul when it decomposes.

Sargassum has only just reached our shores along the Atlantic, but this problem has been a nightmare throughout the Caribbean for a few years now.  Governments of popular tourist destinations have been grappling with the predicament for some time and their tourism industries have been affected.  The maintenance of beaches and disposal of the seaweed has caused distressed hoteliers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The brown and orange colored seaweed is thick and presents an obstruction to marine life like turtles and smaller fish that thrive and live on the coral reefs near the shore.  Even small fishing boats have difficulty cutting through the impasse, before their motors become entangled in the weeds.  On occasion, when flying into my paradise island home Barbados, from the air I have seen long, large swathes of the plant floating on top the ocean waves heading for the shore.  Because the island has been inundated with the algae, the government, at one time had to declare a national emergency.

For the tourist, this obstacle hampers the time they spend in the water.  I for one, don’t like stepping into the surf with seaweed ebb and flowing at my feet, furthermore, having to wade through to a depth where swimming would be more enjoyable.  The seaweed can also be a dangerous impediment not only to adults, but especially for small children who may become entangled while swimming.

Community Peeps, if you have travel plans to vacation in the south or to visit an island in the Caribbean, simply be aware of the disgusting seaweed.  Maybe if your favorite hotel/beach is faced with this dilemma then you can plan an alternative itinerary for your time there.  I don’t mean to be sarcastic about Sargassum when I tell you don’t get wrapped up in the beach this summer.  Be aware.  Your comments on any encounters are always welcomed.  Write them in the box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Everybody Loves A Parade

Parades allow people to publicly express themselves in large gatherings, marches, walks or formal processions.  Every Independence Day in the USA there are parades of military might, heritage floats and demonstrations of national pride.  Across this great nation, people gather from all walks of life to express their love of country.  The process is supported by citizens, immigrants and visitors alike.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, people will witness all the displays, listen to the speeches whether in agreement or not, applaud or demonstrate anti-behavior towards all that may go on.  The visiting tourist may not have a clue about all that they see once they encounter a procession but are often drawn to the sidelines to watch in amazement.  It has been my experience in different countries to follow processions, if only to be nosy and to see what was going on.  I could easily tell from all that I saw what type of parade it was, and whether I should get closer or watch from a safe distance.

Besides witnessing the pomp and pageantry of parades stateside on special holidays, if possible, I like to view parades while on vacation.  I was drawn to large crowds of people in Barbados, Ecuador, Greece, Hawaii, Peru and Philippines, respectively, some marching in protest and others celebrating a national holiday or cultural heritage.  On most occasions, it was not a part of my travel itinerary, but a pleasant diversion and an opportunity to mingle with local residents.  So, I never miss standing on the sidelines to capture the event even though I may not understand all that may take place or the reasons behind the cavalcades.  Some parades can present dangerous situations for outsiders.  Tensions may rise and if caught in the heart of demonstrating protesters, the tourist may find themselves outside of their element.  It is always good to stand away from large crowds just in case you may need a quick getaway.  Find or look for a quick route to escape if things turn ugly.

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In Athens, Greece and Lima, Peru respectively, marchers were protesting against government policy.  Police with riot gear were out in full force to keep the peace.  Placard bearing marchers and the masses were shouting slogans as they filed pass government buildings.  I moved along with the train of people for several blocks just to watch the developments as they unfolded.  In both cases, the protests were peacefully carried out although the gravity of the situation was not underestimated by the police but keenly observed.  It was obvious they were ready, and capable of handling any imminent danger.

In Quito, Ecuador and Oahu, Hawaii, the respective processions demonstrated their cultural heritage.  Ethnic groups, dressed in fancy colorful duds paraded down the streets dancing to drumbeats, clapping and stomping.  Floats carrying musical bands, costumed characters, and people waving to the crowds were fun to watch.  Both parades were more festive and celebratory.  It was easy to blend in, enjoy the fun, and to mingle with the sea of people that lined the streets as the participants moved slowly along.  The gaiety from the revelers was contagious, did not present a stressful environment but a relaxing atmosphere.  Still, as a visitor, I was careful, observant and had an exit strategy should a disruptive incident like a fight arise.

In Bridgetown, Barbados and Sagada, Philippines, correspondingly, their parade emphasis was on a national anniversary, much like Independence Day here.  In Barbados, the parade is formal and excitedly anticipated by citizens.  It is well planned, and the main drills are performed at a cricket oval or a horse racetrack (depending on the weather) where residents can go to view in comfort.  Different arms of the public and civil service march pass to the beat of the national police band in salute of the various dignitaries, after which a street parade follows.  Residents follow the procession for miles along the parade route.  Separately, the day I arrived in Sagada; the marchers were made up of some adults but mostly children.  They were dressed in uniform and marched to the music of the school band.  The expressions on everyone’s face was one of pride as they twirled batons and pompoms.  They were celebrating an anniversary and had walked to the town square where they were on display.  Their demonstration was formal and clearly a moment of local pride.  Attendees, most likely proud parents, lined the streets, cheered for the children as they went by.

Community Peeps, everybody loves a parade if only to watch others stand for their cause, celebrate heritage or represent their country’s national honor.  What has been your experience?  If you have encountered a good or bad incident while attending a parade, at home or abroad, please share it with me here.  Write it in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Shared Spaces

Accommodation types have exploded to house the swelling number of travelers in recent times.  From the major hotel chains of yesteryear to the economy inn, we have seen an influx of a variety of lodges that cater not only to the rich or middle class but to the budget traveler too.  One such boarder type is the hostel.  This housing brand caters mostly to a younger market, and those young at heart guests who prefer the ambiance and lifestyle. One that can be considered fun, easy, relaxed, and shared.  Don’t get the wrong idea, hostels are efficiently managed and have clear guidelines, but for the most part, the aura is inviting, warm and friendly.   For this post, I want to talk about shared spaces in hostels such as:  lounge areas, bathrooms, kitchen and sleeping quarters.  Of course, all that I will mention hereafter is based on my own experience, so as not to paint all hostels with a broad brush.

First the lounge areas are typically the hangout spots.  Guests gather there to socialize and talk of their adventures.  Friendships are made and travel tips are exchanged.  A simple decor usually gives the area an inviting and comfortable appeal.  Bean bag chairs and extra-large cushions, hammocks, lounge chairs, large mats, shelves of travel books either left by former patrons and other material lends to the aura there.  A big giveaway that you’re in the right place are young people huddled with backpacks or rolled up travel gear, power charging their technology.  Generally speaking, it is the meeting place for individuals, large groups and parties for meet and greets.  The front desk is set very near to this area if only to keep a vigilant eye on the activities there.

Next, the kitchen offers the independent wayfarer the opportunity to prepare a cooked meal whether breakfast or dinner (most guests are out and about at lunchtime).  On a first come first served basis, pots, dinnerware, stove and refrigerator are available for use.  Even leftover foodstuff, primarily basics like salt, cooking oil, sugar, etc., from past guests are at the disposal of any brave guests to use.  A code of honesty is understood by those kitchen operators.  I have never seen or heard of discrepancies regarding individual food stock.  Items are clearly labeled and rules for usage and disposal adhered to.  Kitchen clean up after use is mandatory.  Hostel management usually provides janitorial services throughout their establishment.  However, messy cooks are encouraged to leave a clean kitchen for other users.  Reminder “clean-up” signs are posted in this area and all other public places too.

Bathrooms present the most irritant for travelers.  Although cleansed daily, the showers and toilets are dependent on users to help the facility keep them clean.  In the past, if I shared a bathroom, I would rise very early in the morning before other guests to ensure I benefited from a clean shower stall.  I skive the thought of someone else’s bath-water pooling around my feet in a stall that may have poor or slow drainage.  Besides toilet tissue, hostels do not provide towels or other toiletries as most hotels do.

Sleeping quarters can be the toughest aspect of the whole hostel experience.  If a single room is not available, then sharing a space with four or more persons is the only option.  Some hostels offer dorm like settings, sleeping up to 20 persons in one large room.  Obviously, if you elect to sleep in such a space, it is expected you will not have much complaints for comfort, space or noise level.  For example, chatter, laughter, movement in and out, lights on and off, can disrupt the early sleeper.  Normally, each person is assigned a bed, given clean bedding and those on the bottom bunk have a curtain for privacy.  You may not rest your personal belongings on another’s bed and vice-versa.  It is not advisable to leave valuables in this particular space either (deposit at reception for safe keeping) since security cameras are not operating here.  Curfew times for lights out are maintained to give everyone at least a few hours rest each night.

Community Peeps, though hostels are fun places to meet other like-minded travelers, their success also depends on vacationers doing their part to maintaining a welcoming and inviting atmosphere.  I’ve gained travel friends and have had some of my best adventures staying in them on my limited budget.  Remember, you get what you pay for.  What has been your experience staying in one?  Please share in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Bangkok Surprises And Lessons

In retrospect, I consider my trip to Thailand over two decades ago still hilarious and memorable.   One day in particular, my friend and I experienced surprise after surprise while exploring Bangkok.   It was bright and sunny, great for an adventure, so we believed, and the day did not disappoint.  We filled our stomachs with a sumptuous breakfast and talked about what we were expecting to see and do.  Back then, my itinerary planning skills were practically non-existent and many of my activities were done on the fly, that is, impulsively.

The morning we left our hotel, we decided to take a tuk-tuk ride to the Emperor’s Palace.  Tuk-tuks are modified makeshift motorcycles attached to a covered cart that carries up to four persons seated on the inside.  They are used for easy transport in and around the city, often zipping in and out between cars and buses.  The fare depends on the distance, but often negotiable.  We settled on a fee before leaving the hotel and were eagerly expecting to be dropped off outside the palace doors.

To our amazement, not long into the journey the driver abruptly pulled to the side, stopped, and insisted on payment for petrol.  When we resisted, he refused to go any further and ordered us to disembark the tuk-tuk.   That was not the arrangement.  We were livid but remained calm.  We were in a bad situation.  Neither my friend nor I spoke Thai.  We had no clue where we were, how far from the palace we were, or how to get there.  Whipping out our city map and studying it for a while we eventually decided to walk the street in search of assistance.  Lesson learnedplan ahead, have clear directions and only use reputable drivers recommended by hotel.

We managed to connect with another tuk-tuk driver who knew exactly where we wanted to go and took us there without further ado.  We paid the driver and he went on his way.  At the palace gates my friend and I purchased our tickets and proceeded to enter when we were stopped.  Politely, I was told that my attire was not suitable and if I wanted to enter, I would have to cover myself.  When I asked “why?”  I was told these exact words, “should the Emperor come out onto the balcony, he should not see me wandering around the gardens indecently clad.” I was wearing a pair of shorts to the knee, spaghetti strap tee-shirt and Birkenstock sandals (the kind without a strap around the heel).  The staffer took me to a room where I could rent a blouse, sarong, and shoes for the time I would be spending at the palace.  I was assured the items given to me were laundered daily after each use.

Well, I put on the shirt, sarong, shoes and was allowed onto the palatial grounds.  The buildings, architecture, and gardens were absolutely beautiful.  My impromptu get-up was not a camera moment that I am proud of, but I was not the only soul who had to re-dress in order to enter the palace.  I was dressed to suit the weather but not to strut around the royal grounds.  Actually, the rental is a brisk business for unprepared, unsuspecting tourists.  By the time you realize you should have dressed more appropriately it’s too late to turn away.  So, the only option left is to rent the recycled garments.  Lesson learneddress suitably especially when visiting certain religious/civil/public places of interest. 

After the palace incident, we decided to hire a guide.  He took us on tour to view several temples and buddhas:  The Sleeping Buddha, Jade Buddha and a few others I do not recall their names now.  At first, we were enchanted, impressed by what we saw and heard.  At one of the temples, our guide instructed us that in order to show respect, we had to remove our shoes before entering.  We willingly obeyed and neatly placed our shoes along with the many others at the door.   My friend and I were still wearing our sandals.  However, our guide wore sturdy cowboy boots.  He was knowledgeable and had a solid command of the English language.  After completing the tour, we returned to where we had left our shoes and slipped them on but were aghast to find the cowboy boots missing.  We helped the guide search but to no avail.  They were gone.

After we left the compound, we came upon a sign partially hidden near the entrance stating, “Do not leave shoes unattended.”  The theft quickly brought our tour to an abrupt end.  We paid and gave our guide a generous tip to assist in getting a new pair of shoes.  As my friend and I walked away, we felt sorry that he had lost his American-styled cowboy boots on account of taking us on tour that day.  No one wanted our sandals 😊.  Lesson learnednever leave your possessions unattended in a strange place.

To end the day on a high note we chose to treat ourselves to a Thai meal.  As we walked to the restaurant, we met a young girl cooking and selling her treats on the street.  Against my friend’s advice, I purchased eight of the hot fried balls she deftly dropped into a paper bag.  I questioned her about it as we waited for them to cook.  In her halting English, she told me it was a flour batter.  Eating the first ball, I recognized the taste instantly.  The flour was not regular wheat flour but cassava flour (yucca).  It was slightly sweet and tasty.  I encouraged my friend to try it and she too fell in love with the fried dough. Lesson learneddon’t be afraid to try something new, you just might like it.

Community Peeps, first, we were thrown out of our tuk-tuk, then we had to wear different clothes, we lost shoes, and lastly, we tried street food which was not recommended.  Well, Bangkok sure surprised us and taught us valuable lessons too, don’t you think? Have you ever had such a day whilst on vacation?  Share your experience, whether at home or aboard with me here.  Write it in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Market Strategy

Most tourists like to meander through marketplaces, if not for the view, for the sale they expect to gain.  As an itinerary planner, I often include these venues as places of interest.  Those who like to peregrinate the length and breadth of a city will inevitably run into a souk, bazaar, flea-market, fair or arcade of some kind, and may choose to wander in just to pass the time.  Whether indoor or outdoor, marketplaces are treasure troves worth exploring.  Therefore, it is a good idea to have a market strategy before venturing inside.  Usually, markets are jam packed with cultural novelties, artifacts, art, crafts, sculptures, food and just about anything you can think of.  It’s where vendors and customers interact to each other’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  On location, one can expect to witness a dichotomy of wills on display in business transactions and haggling skills.  It’s a place where real treasure and junk coexist, but that’s a determination which rest solely in the eyes of the beholder.

Large marketplaces are diverse, and frequently sell food, clothing, artifacts, etc. all under one roof.  These kinds typically draw the larger crowds.  Smaller markets tend to specialize.  More like the antiques, fruit, vegetables, and flea-market types.  However, no matter the size or category, people are drawn like magnets to explore and maybe to procure a purchase or two.  I confess I am no different.  As a world traveler, I use the opportunity to browse large and small markets to better understand the culture I’m in.  Though not a foodie, I usually gravitate to the food, fruits and vegetables markets where I can taste-test and learn of different foods and their preparation (tip: a sure way to fill your belly for free).  To browse in any one of the locations I mention hereafter would be worth the time and effort, and in my opinion, should not be overlooked or dismissed as a nonentity.  About that strategy though, firmly answer the following questions: Do I seriously want to make a purchase?  Do I have space to carry it or have the means to ship it home?  Do I want to only enjoy all that I’ll see?  The answers to these pertinent questions will help to keep you from busting your budget, from regretting an impulsive buy, and from making a bad decision on the spur of the moment.

One memorable market I visited and worth mentioning is Japan’s Tsukiji Market.  It no longer occupies the location it did for the past 83 years, but has been relocated to  Toyosu, and is so called.   My experience perusing that iconic landmark which supplied a third of the world’s fish and seafood was jaw-dropping.  It was my first time visiting a fish market of that magnitude.  I watched fish sellers shout, bid, work, and even sing as they moved fish in and out.  My host bought a few fillet chunks of tuna, another ‘first’ seeing the actual fish, and the size of it.  Up until then I was only accustomed to the canned mush “Chicken of the SeaBumble Bee brand.  The tuna was served with miso soup and to this day, it was the best tuna I’ve ever tasted, finger licking good.

Two other markets that I enjoyed visiting were the Spice and Grand Bazaars, respectively, in Istanbul.  The minute you step into the mall, the scent of a variety of spices assault the nose.  Piles of cumin, curry, paprika, saffron, dried fruits, nuts, herbs, mushrooms, twigs, and leaves I could not identify were on display.  Barrels of figs, olives, grains and ready-made salad condiments were neatly arranged to encourage the salivating visitor to buy.  The Grand Bazaar also is as it states – Grand.  One can easily get lost in the myriad of stalls if not careful.  Vendors sell everything you can think of.  It is a hive of activity and a pick-pockets dream location for their nefarious acts.  However, these two locations are interesting and should be explored once in Turkey.

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Israel’s Mahane Yehuda and Carmel Markets, respectively, to my mind are a foodie’s delight.  Vendors are friendly and quick to invite you into their stall to take a look.  A cacophony of shouting and calling to patrons to buy is the daily norm.  One vendor in particular caught my attention, crying in a loud shrill voice, ‘Boreka’ (Bow -reee-kah).  From his stall he managed to catch the attention of others and drew a crowd.  He deftly manipulated the fast-food he was preparing and handed them out on order.  I could not resist trying the stuffed, fried-dough, after all they were selling like hot cakes.  I was not disappointed, it was delicious.  Jaffa Flea Market was also a haven for old, antique items that could be used to decorate the home.  Furniture dealers displayed nifty woodwork designs that were not from the standard assembly line.  It was interesting just to inspect the skilled workmanship of the furniture.

Yet another food market worth mentioning and one I visited two years ago was the fruit and vegetable market at Saquisili in Ecuador.  The produce was fresh and, in many cases, organic.  Local farmers sold their produce wholesale directly to merchants, retailers and individual buyers.  Vendors organized by neatly squatting under one large roof to display a wide variety of their goods.  This market event operates just once a week, is the highlight of its small community, and people of all walks of life travel there over great distances to fraternize, buy and sell their goods.

I could go on and on about the many markets I’ve had the privilege to peruse in places like: Cambodia, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Italy, India, Peru, Thailand to name a few, but beside food, I love to frequent markets that offer old as well as new stuff.  In Seoul, South Korea, I stopped by Namdeamun Market where designer name brands were the order of the day.  The knock-offs whether genuine or not were readily available on every table and stall.  I bought two identical style purses in different colors and a hat that I still wear to this day (colorful winter hat with two braids, my friends may remember it 😊).  I still own and periodically use these items.  Not a bad purchase and quality of items I’ve had for more than 20 years now, if I should say so.

Community Peeps, if you do not have a market strategy when you visit such a place you are bound to come out a little lighter in the wallet than you bargained for.  Therefore, it is imperative to walk in with a clear plan that is attainable.  What has been your experience venturing into these or similar turf?  Any haggling stories you’d like to repeat here?  If so, please write them in the comment box below.  As always, I’m eager to hear about it.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Train Tripping

Train travel is one of my favorite modes of transportation at home and abroad.  I love to hear the chug, chug, chug of the wheels on the track and the occasional whistle blow which reminds me of the old western movies (I bet the recollection just brought a smile to your face too 😊).  I especially love to travel by train from country to country or from one end of a country to its furthest end.  It is the opportunity to see the countryside, landscape and natural beauty.  It is also time to rest and recover from an exhaustive vacation, cover a great distance over land, and eliminate a hotel expense especially if traveling overnight.  A resource I have found particularly useful, informative and nearly always accurate is “”  What started out as a hobby for Mark Smith, the man in seat 61, has turned out to be a helpful tool for all those who visit his website.  He writes about train travel around the world.  His information which includes maps, links, etc., of the destinations, train stations, connections, schedules, ticket fees and services are spot on.  I was able to use his recommendations many times over.  Here are my train travels in South Africa, Italy and Japan respectively.

I traveled from Johannesburg to Cape Town using the overnight sleeper train, a journey that took more than 12 hours.  I rode economy class which turned out to be a mad scramble of pushing and shoving just to board the train.  Once I secured my seat next to a window and settled down for the long ride, looking around I realized I was the only foreigner in that car.  The chatter was loud, at times there was singing, kids playing, and vendors moving up and down the aisle selling their goods from depot to depot.  Food was another activity that brought the passengers together.  Groups or family members (I presume) were sharing and passing food around the car.  It was nothing like the train rides I am accustomed to in the USA, but I was loving the experience.  As night came, activities became quieter as everyone settled down and prepared to sleep as best they could in the straight back seats.  Folks spread blankets and pillows along the aisle and in between seats, wherever they could make themselves comfortable for the night.  I simply stretched my legs out on another vacant seat while propping up trying to remain vigilant of self and property.  Once a male vendor knocked my protruding feet off the seat while passing down the aisle saying something in his native tongue (at first, I thought it was accidental) until a couple women across the aisle gave him a scolding.  Then I realized they were coming to my defense.  Before this incident happened, I had become familiar to them by my frequent smiles and friendly gestures to the children.  I had even bought and shared a meal with the South African sitting next to me.  It was an unforgettable experience and I would do it again.

The next ride was from Durban to Jo’burg.  I reserved a single cabin in the sleeper car, and was given a clean sheet, pillow and blanket.  This trip was overnight and lasted more than 12 hours too.  The ride from Durban was different.  This time I enjoyed peace and quiet as we rode along occasionally stopping at scheduled stations to pick up and drop off passengers.  I decided to try out the meal car.  The food was adequate and satisfying.  Nothing spectacular happened to me on this ride though, worth mentioning, other than at one of the stops I looked out the car window and saw little boys on a wall panhandling.  When I didn’t throw money to them, they decided to moon me (pulled down their pants to show me they derrières).  All I could do was laugh, but wished I’d had a few coins to throw their way.

Another train journey I recall was from Venice to Rome.  That ride was comfortable, arriving just before midnight.  That meant many hours before our scheduled check-in to the hotel.  The option to stay at the train station for the few hours was upended when the cleaning crew came to do their job.  All persons were unceremoniously ushered from the waiting areas and doors closed until reopening times at first light in the morning.  With more than five hours to spare my niece and I wandered the streets, stopped in a café or two until they closed, listened to the vibes belting out from a local disco and finally sitting down on the steps of a hostel where the young people were constantly coming and going.  Poor planning was at fault for our having to wait out the time on the streets in the dark hours after midnight until check-in.

Still another journey by train was on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto.  No one takes the bullet train to sightsee or to oohh and ahhh about the landscape.  For me, it was all about the experience and traveling on a train that goes up to speeds of 200 mph.  Before the cat could lick his ear, it seemed like we had gotten to our destination even though this was a two-hour journey.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  My Japanese host smiled knowingly at my disappointment.  Just when I felt like riding a bit further, I was getting off.  The train was comfortable, neat and clean.  Passengers were quiet and formal.  Everything was orderly.

There have been other places I have taken the trains with interesting stories to tell such as Argentina, Chile, Kuala Lumpur, Spain, United Kingdom, Venezuela and many more.  It is a fascinating and comfortable form of transport, and safe too.

Community Peeps recounting these memories of my train tripping days are always a treat.  I may not get the chance to revisit some of these places or do some of the same things again, but I do have the best recollections of them.  What about you?  Any train stories you would like to share with me?  I’d be glad to hear of it.  Please share in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

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Everest Or For Ever Rest

Never thought I’d see the day where headlines announce overcrowding of the slopes on Mount Everest.  Not in droves, but recent news reports have highlighted an increase in the number of mountain climbers who have undertaken the task to complete the arduous climb.  Some do it or forever rest where they have fallen.  Sherpas who are professional guides help to carry equipment to the top.  They lead climbers, hikers, celebrities and groups up the dangerous mountain terrain to an altitude where only planes fly, and at the peril of their own lives.

I take my hat off to all those who have reached Everest’s zenith or are in the throes of planning the hike up some other treacherous mountain.  Truly, it is not for the faint of heart.  Everest is the tallest mountain on earth, the peak scaling 29,029 feet.  Before even reaching the summit, the climb up causes the body to gasp for air.  Oxygen is thinner at the 26,000 feet elevation and beyond, otherwise called the “death zone.”  Some effects the climber may experience there include exhaustion, delirium, incoherence, and moments of insanity, all due to the inability to breathe in enough oxygen.

Mount Everest has proven to be a perilous nature challenge, but lately, more and more people are taking up the dare.  Optimum fitness levels and pertinent climbing skills help to achieve the goal of reaching the pinnacle.  However, some persons have not been so fortunate.  According to an article in Business Insider, 11 people have died just this spring alone from trying to reach the crest.  Overall, it is recorded that the steep mountain has claimed the lives of 306 people to date.  As if the tough climb was not enough to drain the experienced climber, they bypass frozen dead bodies, now a part of the landscape, which must present a mental conflict as they trudge slowly upward.  Besides the real dangers the assent poses, hikers say the 20 minute limit spent on the peak is worth every bit of trouble before descending to base camp.

What is causing this sudden surge in interest with respects to Everest?  Have the situation become easier or more navigable than in prior years?  I don’t think so.  The dangers certainly are the same.  Plus, thin air, avalanches pose the most serious threat to climbers.  In 2018, an avalanche took the lives of 16 Sherpas.    So, what pushes the hiker to go all the way to the apex?  Could it be to enjoy the view (which I am told is out of this world), to claim bragging rights, to take photos, to be a part of an elite group of mountaineers?  Whatever the reason, losing life or limb is a hard price to pay for 20 minutes of goal satisfaction.

Everest may be the only place on earth that my itinerary plans would recommend, turning back, until better circumstances, better fitness, and better overall conditions could be met.  I believe in accepting limits and preserving life in order to try again another day.  The thought of forging ahead at the risk of your own life, just because you may have considerable expedition expense loss, wasted time and talent, or because you say to yourself, “I’ve come too far to turn back” may not be prudent thinking.  Another day, another attempt, another opportunity may present itself if you are determined to one day achieve the goal.

The closest I will ever come to Everest is when I visit Nepal, which I hope to do some day.  It would be amazing to rise to the heights, but I can still remember my experience when I climbed Table Mountain in South Africa.  That mountain would be considered a hill to the likes of the mighty Everest.  Even though, it does not hold many of the risks found on Everest, it proved to be a strain to me physically and mentally.  The venture took me twice the time to complete.  My legs felt like stumps, at times my heart felt like it would burst inside my chest, and the residue of salt squeezed out through my pores from sweat were caked on my face by the time I reached the top.  I looked a frightful sight but the view at the crown was fantastic and worth the effort.

Although climbing the South African peak did not pose a danger or threat to my life, they were many times on the trail I felt like giving up.  The battle to continue was as much a mental one as it was physical.  I achieved the personal goal, gained bragging rights, took awesome photos and relaxed before descending via the cable car.  My experience on Table Mountain pales in comparison to what the Sherpas and professional climbers do on Everest.  Yet, my attitude to such an undertaking is if at first you don’t succeed, try again.  Do not risk your life unnecessarily.  Live to try again.

Community Peeps, mountain climbers and hiking enthusiasts, what has been your experience on climbs?  What challenge or difficulties did you face?  Please share your experience in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

The Weather Variable

Summer is swiftly approaching and lots of people will take the opportunity to catch the sun’s rays on a destination trip they have been planning for months.  Beginning this Memorial Day weekend and continuing through to the Labor Day weekend, we will see travelers from the four corners of the USA using every means of transport to reach their vacation spot, nationally and internationally.  Whether making a solo or family and friends’ trip, there are some things one should consider before departure.  One such consideration should be the weather variable.  When making plans, a knowledgeable understanding of the destination’s precipitous weather conditions should be studied to guaranty successful itinerary activities and expectations.

At the height of summer, a few damaging, even deadly weather conditions may take place.  In the Caribbean and Americas there may be hurricanes; in Asia and Africa they are called monsoons.  In the USA, specifically the south and mid-west another natural affliction is tornadoes.  Heat waves and torrential rains also weigh into the injurious mix.  A knowledge of the day’s forecast before take-off to start your holiday is advisable.  Check the weather forecast and advisories daily, and a weekly review leading up to your departure date.

Off peak seasons are the cheapest travel times and they usually happen to be when the weather is not considered to be the very best.  In some of my adventures, I chose to travel during the rainy season.  Of course, I watched and noted the forecast and planned my daily activities to suit.  It has been my experience in places like: Costa Rica, Kuala Lumpur, Paraguay and Panama, I have witnessed torrential rains pour down from the sky like clockwork.  Obviously, residents who are familiar with the season, are always prepared when they leave home by carrying an umbrella, raincoat and boots, if needed.   In one of the aforementioned places, I have had my encounter with changing weather patterns too.  I remember traveling with a friend and it was our first day in Paraguay.  We decided (actually, it was my idea since I wanted to see the landscape), to travel to Asuncion by local bus from the airport.  Clearly, this meant a longer time driving to the city since the bus would pick up and drop off passengers along the way.  By the time we arrived in Asuncion, heavy dark clouds had gathered, and it started to rain.  We were riding in the bus, higher off the ground than most sedans.  I could see motor vehicles trying to maneuver away from the pooling water on the roads but thought nothing of it until it became evident, we were experiencing a flash flood.  The rising water started to lap at and climb the bus steps as we drove along.  Some passengers including myself became alarmed and began to scream about the invading water level.  The bus driver then began to look for steeper roads to pull away from the flooding areas.  The rains soon stopped but not before some cars were left stalled in the murky waters.  That flooding experience can be blamed on poor drainage, inadequate infrastructure, or maybe even global warming, but whatever the cause, it was a close call, one that I do not ever want to repeat.

Community Peeps, vacations are relaxing, fun getaways.  However, we must still consider and respect weather conditions wherever we go.  Be prepared by knowing what the day’s forecast is before setting foot outside your door.  Have you ever been caught in bad weather and felt unprepared?  What did you do?  Please share your experience in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner


Itinerary Planning Is For Everyone

Yesterday I learned of the passing of I. M. Pei, a world renowned architect.  His more notable works include the Louvre pyramid in Paris, and the John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts.   The sad news announcement brought back memories of my encounter of working with him, not directly, but indirectly.   21 years ago, I had the pleasure of organizing and working on a conference that featured him as the keynote speaker.  I can still recall the excitement among my colleagues at the asset management company where I worked in New York City.  Little did I know then that my itinerary planning skills were being honed to cater to the rich and famous, and which I would also use to render service to others many years later.

In the financial boutique, the finance planners were some of the brightest and best in their field.  The small group was wealthy, educated and tight-knit.  They were hand-picked by the company’s owner and were backed by a prominent Asian tire company.  In retrospect, the planning of the conference taught me the nuts and bolts of itinerary planning.  No stone was left upturned and no expense spared to ensure the conference was spectacular, auspicious and impressive.

The event was held in Paris and a few of the top brass flew to the event on board the supersonic jet – Concorde.   Booking those tickets were also an exciting to-do.  Obviously, this notable transportation had to be booked months in advance and cost thousands of dollars.  Before the conference, some colleagues flew to Indonesia for custom made dress fittings for the event.  The gift tokens, including the specially crafted wooden pens in bamboo cases, rice paper note-pads, name tags, and other fine touches helped to make the event extra special.  Many hours of paying attention to every detail, meeting with managers, consulting with business partners, briefing and debriefing the CEO on the organizational progress was stressful at times.

However, working with the office of I. M. Pei was professional and cordial.  No major or unrealistic demands were made on his behalf.  Even though I did not attend the event, from all accounts, the function went off without a hitch.  I take this opportunity to offer condolences to the Pei family.

Community Peeps, organizing and planning travel itineraries is for everyone, whether it is a large, small, executive or individual account,.   Still, this particular event was one I could hardly forget.  Remembering how my itinerary planning skills were developed over the years and by what means is humbling.  Paying attention to every detail then helped to perfect my craft, but now, serves to ensure plans meet my customer’s satisfaction today.  Do you have a special skill you use to benefit others even though at the time you only considered it a part of your 9 – 5 job?  Share your experience in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner


Attraction Or Distraction?

Changi International Airport in Singapore is not making it easy for other airports around the world to compete with them for the enviable number one position. Voted the leading airport for seven years running, it is by far the most prestigious and exciting airport to visit.  Last month they raised the bar again with the opening of a new wing called “Jewel.” This recent introduction of their latest attraction will more than likely help them cop the top spot for a few more years to come.  Is this latest stimulus an attraction or distraction?  Let us consider.

The making of Jewell cost the Singaporeans a whopping $1.3 billion.  Shaped like a donut, the lifestyle hub is located close to terminal one.  It took more than four years to build and holds amazing gardens, trails, a rain forest, mall, luxury stores, a multi-screen Imax theater, supermarket, hotel, restaurants and a rain vortex.  This tunnel-like waterfall feature is smack-dab in the middle of the dome.  All these offerings are available 24-7.  Sounds like a lot to cover on foot in a short time?  No worries.  You can catch the skytram that weaves its way throughout the new indoor wonder.

It has only been two years since I visited Singapore and experienced the attractions of Changi and already my visit is dated.  Back then I found the airport huge to cover, and makes a layover of eight hours look like child’s play if you want to enjoy its attractions.  It also makes me wonder as an itinerary planner, if this will be the new trend in upgrades as other airports vie to be the best in class and category.  Will airport planners encourage more futuristic designs and exhibitions with the intention to attract more and more tourist?  Should I recommend airport attractions as a consideration for visitors to do when traveling?  Should this new phenomenon be cast as an adventure of its own or only for those who have long layovers?  Should vacationers be encouraged to take time from their holiday to explore the airport if it has interesting attractions?  Would the possibility of exploring cause the not too careful traveler to inadvertently miss their departing flight?  These questions are just a few of the many questions I have.

The Singapore government designed the new facility not only for globe trotters, but for the residents too, and expects approximately 50 – 60 million people to visit the site this year.  There is a likelihood then that the volume of expected pedestrians may slow viewing or cause long lines to board the tram; however, vacationers may access kiosks available throughout the dome for easy and early check-in.  If you are anything like me, you would want to see it all, and may be tempted to walk every inch of the dome which sits on 1.46 million square feet, is 10 stories tall – five stories below ground and five above.  The spanking new allurement is not finished.  A recreational facility that includes a fascinating glass bottom bridge, canopy park, topiaries, slides, a maze and more will open in June.  All these fun and exciting activities, not to mention the jacuzzi and pool on the roof top are things the delayed visitor can do to pass the time.

Community Peeps, I have never thought to encourage or recommend spending a day at the airport.  It has always been the feeling that most travelers want to get in and out of the airport as fast as they can.  However, times are changing, and it seems like airports are swiftly becoming places of adventure and activity.  What is your take on this new development?  Do you like the prospect that you can enjoy much more than just merely sitting at the gate, browsing a store or eating at a fast food restaurant?  Share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comment box below.  If you have any plans to visit or pass through Singapore, will you opt for a longer layover?  This is all interesting to know and I would love to hear from you on the matter.  Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on whether you think it is an attraction or distraction.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comments in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner


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