Great Trip to Sagada, But


I do not have a death wish.

Sagada is best known for its hanging coffins.  It is located in the mountain region of the Luzon Province in the Philippines.  The town is a popular tourist destination for spelunkers, hikers, nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts and inquisitive persons like me.  The community is not very large, but they are welcoming and friendly.

I arrived in the Philippines excited about executing my DIY itinerary to Sagada.  It took 12 hours by overnight coach to arrive at my stop.  As we pulled out of the station, curtains were drawn, and I along with other passengers settled down and prepared to sleep as best I could in my seat.

TIP #1:  If your time is limited and you want to maximize on sightseeing, opt to travel overnight.  Though it may be uncomfortable, you will save one night’s hotel expense and cover the distance to your destination while you sleep.

Through the night we rumbled along.  I awoke to the first signs of daylight and drew back my curtains for a better look.  We had stopped in a small village where the first stirrings of life were evident by the vegetable hawkers and a few sleepy dogs.  Vehicles drive on the right side of the road and as we made our way along I saw many signs that said: Sharp Turn, Check Your Brakes, Slow Down, Steep Incline, Winding Road, etc.  I was captivated by the views I could see in the distance, rice terraces, mountainside, local villages, raging rivers and rapids.

I arrived in Sagada and alighted from the bus to walk a few meters to the town square.  In less than an hour after arrival I arranged with a couple (Sopiya & Matt) to go on our first adventure of the area.  We chose to hike Echo Valley, visit the hanging coffins, trek through the subterranean river and finish at the cascading waterfall.  The ground was wet, muddy, slippery and at times we were knee deep in water.  Our guide clambered deftly over rocks wearing only rubber slippers, but the three of us moved much slower to maneuver over the rocks, slipping and sliding all the way.   The tour took us two and a half hours, double the time to complete.

It is rainy season in the Philippines, and not to waste time, I moved quickly to arrange the tours I wanted to accomplish.  I joined a different group the next day to go spelunking with Danica & Greg, Nico & Kim.  We arranged to visit the Lumiang and Sumaging caves, respectively.  Along the way our guide identified points of interest.  We got to know each other a bit as we went along: where we came from, our professions, and our travel ambitions.  Our first stop, the Lumiang Cave has a few hanging coffins.  This tradition is no longer practiced.  Also, this cave is connected to the Sumaging Cave.  To walk the course would take approximately four and a half hours, but experienced spelunkers do it in less time.   After a photo session there we headed over to the entrance of the Sumaging Cave.  This is where things got real interesting.

We descended the tiny steps into the cave.  Our guide armed with a lantern and feet clad in slippers (slippers are the preferred footwear) advised us to change our sneakers for slippers too.

Tip #2:  When spelunking travel lite.  You will need to use both hands to help hold, pull, grab or steady you along the way.

We were all excited as we followed the leader, but that excitement turned to disgust when we had to hold onto rocks covered in slippery bat poop.  I know bats live in caves and that I would encounter such things, but who thinks of those things when expecting to see wonders they have never seen before?  Trying my best not to touch anything I eventually gave up because the rocks were slippery and refusing to hold on would mean a hard fall (that would come later, :)).  We slowly made our way down, down, down into the cave.  We were shown formations of stalactites and stalagmites that resembled one thing or another such as:  pig sty, elephant trunk & ear, turtle, chocolate cake, king’s curtain, and parts of the human anatomy.

At one time I pondered, “What on earth am I doing in the belly of the earth?”  Trying not to panic or to allow foreboding thoughts to take hold, I focused on scaling slippery rocks, wading through pools of water, and at times sitting down in the cold cascading water flow to better transfer from one level to the next.  At the site where all groups turn around to climb back to the top, a few implements are used for the ascent:  a thick knotted rope and a tire-ladder.  Every step needs to be sure and steady otherwise you will land firmly where yours truly landed with a heavy thud – on your backside.  No injuries were sustained except to my pride.  The two men in the group rushed to assist me (thanks Greg and Nico), to make sure I was alright as we continued our journey to the top.  The climb out of the cave seemed to go faster than when we first went down.  No one commented on the bat poop as we exited, relieved to see the daylight at the mouth of the tunnel, and to wash our hands and feet.  To cap off the experience we ate a hearty, delicious lunch at a local vegan restaurant.

Tip #3:  Wear light clothing and water shoes.  Be prepared to get wet.

Tip #4:  A flashlight would be handy.

Tip #5:  Use sports camera strapped to head or chest for your photos.

Tip #6:  Spelunking is more fun when done in a group.

Tip #7:  Follow the guide closely and obey instructions.  They have done it numerous times and are more experienced.

Tip #8:  Pack wipes for easy clean-up.

Tip #9:  If you must carry items use a water-proof bag.

Two and a half days of exploring and experiencing life in Sagada gave me memories more than I anticipated.  The cool fresh mountain air, the slow laid-back life, the beauty of the valley polka-dotted with rice terraces, rivers, waterfalls and lake presented an idyllic lifestyle that is addictive and one I could easily adjust to.  I truly didn’t want to leave but Manila beckoned.

At the beginning I told you I do not have a death wish.  I was not being facetious.  Such a morbid concept seemed to loom large, consciously or unconscious, at every turn.  First, in the hanging coffins, then a real possibility in the slippery descent and ascent into the cave, and lastly the drive from Sagada.  I recall Greg saying the road to Sagada was considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world.  He was not lying.  I was not fully aware of this fact until my departure.

As the bus drove away from the town, my thoughts were of taking the last photos of spectacular views of the area.  This time we are driving on the other side of the road where I could clearly see the dangers ahead.  Deep ravines, precipices and gorges lay below.  At every turn it seemed to me the bus was about to drive off the edge of the road.  I looked around and most passengers appeared to be doing alright (their window curtains were drawn, probably for good reasons I’m sure).  Two girls, one behind and the other sitting across from me were sick.  I wanted to take photos but could not look and at times felt like vomiting myself.  I prayed, “Lord, this is not how I want to die.”  Seriously, you may laugh, but that ride was terrifying.  It made me wish to be back among the regular traffic jumble I’d observed so far.  To me it would’ve been better than navigating a road where at certain points there were no guardrails or barriers, the barriers that were in place where either not high enough, a thin metal sheet or the height of it not even a foot tall.  Also, in some parts the road was eroding and unpaved.  There is a lot of roadwork going on causing the road to become even narrower.

To tell you of my dread is an understatement.  The driver hardly blew his horn going around the hairpin bends which were plenty.  I sat on the edge of my seat and held onto the seat in front of me for 12 straight hours.  I could not sleep on the way back to Manila.  Even when we got closer to the city, the driving was scary.  When I told the conductor, how scared I was, he laughed and said they are used to it.

The trip to Sagada was great, but I am glad it is over and checked-off my to-do list.  I made new friends, got to see and do cool stuff like: exploring the area, spelunking caves, walking through the subterranean river, meeting and chatting with locals, and eating the local cuisine.  I especially enjoyed drinking their mountain tea.  However, I do not think I will be driving there again.

Tip #10:  My experience may not be yours.  You can’t know what it is like until you have tried it.  Go see it for yourself.

Community Peeps, this has been a long post, and still the half has not been told.  I have more than 1000+ photos to organize and arrange of my Southeast Asia tour for future postings so stay tuned.  Next will be one last post about Manila.  You don’t want to miss that one.

As always, remember to select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, share with your friends and family on your social media sites and your comments are always welcomed.  Write them in the box below.  Until next time, I eagerly look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

 

 

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Bali, A Dream Come True


The welcome at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport was not what I envisioned.  I had arranged for a transfer to my villa and the swarm of men that greeted me shouting taxi, taxi, was unexpected.  ‘Swarm’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture, too many persons approached me at the same time to persuade me to use their service.  I was determined to find my transfer which in the end turned out to be a no-show.

In my frustration, I left the arrivals hall and decided to take a Grab service – operates like Uber.  I did not know at the time that they were not allowed to operate on the airport premises.  Fortunately for me as I was walking out and inquiring of two young women how to make the Grab connection, just outside the gates a Grab vehicle drove up and dropped off a passenger.  I hailed him and ran to secure the ride.  The Grab was a motorcyclist (they wear green helmets to be easily recognized).  I gave him my address details, he handed me a helmet, I hopped onto the back of his scooter and away we went.

Through the dark streets of Bali we bobbed and weaved among traffic.  It was a long ride on the motorcycle (I haven’t ridden on a motorbike in more years than I can recall), sometimes riding inches away from other vehicles, to close for comfort in my opinion.  The ride was  scary, but there I was holding on for dear life to a total stranger.  It was more than I had bargained for, but desperate situations calls for desperate measures.  The ride took more than 45 minutes to reach the villa.

As we journeyed into the night, I realized the favored form of transportation is the scooter.  At every intersection, they were bundled in large packs ahead of the automobiles.  Many instances I saw four or five persons on a scooter, defying safety regulations on all levels:  no helmets except for the adults, infants carried in the laps or standing precariously perched between adults.  This is their normal, though I think not legal.  Since their transport system is not organized, motorbikes and motorized tricycles are the easiest means to get around.  To make matters worse, there seems to be no road laws that I could understand.  The only law seems to be, and I’m being facetious – you see a space, you decide you can fit into it, then you go.  Somehow it works.  I cannot begin to imagine the road rage frustration or accidents that happens on a daily basis.  The number must be very high.  Driving in Bali is stressful and maybe the number one reason why foreigners are encouraged to hire local private drivers.

Bali is by far the most affordable of all the destinations I have been to so far, but don’t be fooled.  If you are not careful you will spend more than you budgeted.  Prices offered to tourists are often inflated two or three times higher and haggling is the only option to bring it within reason.  Also, tour operator packages are not all they claim to be, for example, I decided to go on a recommended tour to four locations: coffee plantation,  museum, local souvenir market, and to see a cultural performance.  The first disappointment was the coffee plantation.  It did not have fields of coffee trees or the processing plant that I was expecting to see.  The next was the museum.  Though not a connoisseur of Balinese history, arts, culture and artifacts, it was not an interesting prospect.  The saving grace for this tour were the souvenir market and the Kecak cultural performance.

In every location I have met wonderful people who were eager to show me their country and extend their hospitality.  The Balinese were no different.  I spent the day with a special Balinese family (Deisy, Robbie, Brev, Berry, Clarance and Clarience)   who took me to Ubud – a popular tourist destination an hour’s drive from Denpasar.  In Ubud, we visited the sacred Monkey Forest, a sanctuary to over 700+ Balinese longtail monkey species.  The experience of a monkey sitting on my shoulder and then on my head was nerve racking but I endured it.  Onlookers kept asking me if the monkey had a particular smell but surprisingly I did not catch a whiff of any offensive odors.  Several times the mischievous animals tried to snatch my water bottle or cap.  These creatures are smart and entertaining.  Following, we went to the rice terraces of Tegallalang another popular tourist attraction.  After taking many photos of the terraces we headed to Tegenungan Falls.  We descended to the base of the waterfall where many vacationers enjoyed dipping in the cold pounding surf.

Here are my observations of Bali: besides the beautiful beaches (on par with my beautiful Barbados), the rugged countryside is even more beautiful.  Balinese people like rice too.  I ate mostly nasi goreng (fried rice) and lots of fruits which were abundant, but to my understanding are an expensive luxury for the average local.  Again, salads are not a priority at mealtime even though more vegetables are readily available there.  The most I’ve gotten in way of salad with dinner are a couple slices of cucumber and tomatoes.  When making purchases, never accept the first price offered by street vendors, always be prepared to haggle or walk away.  You will be called back to renegotiate a more agreeable price.  Bahasa is the language spoken and the Balinese Rupiah is the currency.  Their are lots of temples and shrines.  Outside of every house, there is a small shrine where daily offerings (food, flowers, herbs, money, etc.) are made to their various god’s for blessings of wealth, success, happiness, safety, etc.  Decorative penjors (bamboo structures) of different sizes overhanged the streets in celebration of their religious custom.

The time spent on this Indonesian island was a dream come true.  In spite of the airport transfer fiasco (a communications breakdown on their end.  Apologies offered and discount given) and baring other elements, the experience was relaxing and enjoyable.  Especially, my villa which was like an oasis in the heart of a busy city, the privately enclosed gardens and comfortable room which I had all to myself was simply wonderful.  The strength of the USD makes it affordable to stay at four and five star hotels here.  Finally, I’ve made new friends who I hope to remain in contact with for a very long time.

Community Peeps, I will sign off here about my stay in Bali.  I hope you are enjoying reading the accounts of my adventures in Southeast Asia.  I am looking forward to heading home in a couple days.  As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”  My next post which may come in two parts will be about my stay in the Philippines: Sagada and Manila respectively, and will be published from the comforts of my home.

Do me a favor and write your comments in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates (also on Twitter), click like to show your love and support, and last but not least, you may share on your social media sites.  Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned.

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Itinerary Planner

 

 

Eye Candy


Singapore is a fine city.  I mean it.  There is a fine for just about everything, or at least that’s the way it seems.  This is not to be taken lightly.  Singapore means business in administering fines to those who willfully break their laws.  The first law that drove fear into my heart was written in clear signage on the bridge crossing over from Kuala Lumpur.  It said, “Punishment for drug traffickers is death”.  That would be a permanently fatal fine.  Thank God, the few pills in my bag didn’t qualify.  Also, on my last day there, while on the metro going to Changi International Airport, the man sitting next to me was drinking a bottle of Coca-cola.  He thought nothing of it.  Just as we were about to get off at the last stop a woman approached him, and pointed out the no eating and drinking sign just above our heads.  She was an undercover cop.  He quickly apologized and got away with a stern warning before we all disembarked the train.  I’m sure he is still thanking God all now that she didn’t issue him a ticket.  My best guess as to her reasons why not maybe it’s because she saw his suitcases and didn’t want him to miss his flight.

From the first day I got to Singapore it was hectic for me.  What this small country lacks in size, it makes up for in things to do, places to go and things to experience.   Walking is the best method to enjoy the eye candy that’s everywhere.  I don’t know if this is the norm since my time there included the weekend until the middle of the next week, or if there were having a practice run for the impending Presidential visit.  In any case, it was exhausting keeping up with all the happenings.  Just to give you an idea:  I went dragon-boat racing, strolled Clarke’s Quay – the hub of entertainment for tourist and enjoyed the entire river promenade scene, went to Merlion Park, Haji Lane with it’s Afro-centric vibes and interesting street art, visited Little India, Arab Street, traversed China Town, spent a day on Sentosa Island, watched a cricket match, and so much more.

Though many attractions in every direction abound and bombard the five senses, the one I wanted to see and experience the most was Gardens by the Bay.  I spent more than half a day trying to cover it, and words fail at this point to tell you the beauty of it all.  The nightly show when the towers light up is amazing (the show was done to the music – Rhapsody).   It was spectacular.  Singaporeans  know all about impressions and how to attract vacationers with the WOW effect.  They execute the free light shows like how Las Vegas does it with water in front of the Bellagio hotel.  For now you’ll have to use your imagination of my words until after I return to organize a post of photos.

Singapore is very hip and modern.  Here are my observations:  Like it’s Asian neighbors this country loves rice, however, eating choices are more prolific because of its heavy Chinese influence.  The place is as clean as a whistle and people do wait at the lights before crossing.  I confess, I went to fellowship and I couldn’t cross the street (no crossing at the point where I was standing) The woman who was helping me to find the church, grabbed my hand and said, “We are jaywalking for Jesus.”  I laughed and ran across the street with her interrupting the flow of traffic.  If caught it would’ve been two of us facing a hefty fine (misery loves company).  The people are helpful especially the younger generation.  The older folks who cannot speak English often ignore or turn away from you if approached.  English and mandarin are the spoken languages.  The USD is stronger than the SGD, but everything is expensive there.  Shopping malls are many, crowded and busy.  This is a favorite destination for Australians, Japanese, and Indians seeing it is not as far away in flight time as it is to the USA.

I have to cut this short my Community Peeps, I could go on and on of all that I experienced there.  As of writing, I’m on my penultimate lap in the Philippines in the mountain region of Sagada, before heading back to Manila.  I’ll give you the highlights of Bali in the next post before I leave this Southeast region.

As customary, I want to remind you that you can select follow to receive timely postings, click like to show your love and support, share on your social media sites and keep the comments coming.  Write in the box below.  If you have a question or comment on any of the countries I’ve covered so far, let me know and I’ll be happy to address it.  It has been real folks.  It is a real joy sharing.  Thanks for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

 

 

 

 

High Rises and Affordable Shopping


Kuala Lumpur, to me, is the land of high rise buildings and affordable shopping.  The architecture is modern and pleasantly pleasing to the eyes, but one can easily get a strain from craning their necks looking up at all the tall buildings.  Plus, they are so very close in proximity to each other.  In contrast to the modern structures, there are some buildings that are very old, like their Central Market, dating back to 1888 when it was first opened.

Travel by metro, bus, taxi, or motorbike is very easy.  The metro is clean and comfortable.  KL Sentral is the main hub for commuter trains and buses traveling to varios parts of the county, including connecting to the country of Singapore to the south, where I am currently.  There transport system offers a free bus service only in the city area called GOKL (purple, blue, green and red lines).

Streets like Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor, Petauling Street are major attractions and must-sees for the curious tourist.  Most persons are interested in seeing the Petronas Towers.  It is amazing and the view from the deck is worth the 87 ringgits you pay to get there.   It is not a disappointment.  Also the Menara Tower, a free standing structure ranking the seventh tallest in the world is worth visiting.  At this time of the year its sky deck is subject to closings because of the inclement weather, which comes like clockwork in the afternoons.  Heavy downpours lasting for more than a hour to an hour and a half limits visibility and causes some activities to close.  The observation deck is still an option though.  Word to the wise, if going to either tourist attraction, go in the morning.  You will stand a better chance of seeing a 360 degree birds eye view of the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur.

Ringgits is the currency in KL and I’ve come to believe it is every sellers job to relieve me of it.  The USD goes a long way here too.  Haggling is a norm, even in some stores.  Places like Petaling Street in the Chinatown district, Jalan Alor, and other areas, everything you can think of is sold.  It is tempting and I can tell you I’ve spent some money on bad purchases already.  I bought a selfie rod and I’m ready to throw that thing in the garbage.  It still works but the handle is already broken.  All that glitters is not gold.  Another purchase that I should’ve known better not to do, this time not a fault of the seller, but my own curiosity, I decided to get a pedicure using the Garry Rufa fish.  I paid my ringgits and was allowed to soak my feet for 15 minutes in the tub with the dead-skin eating fish.  I could not handle the tickling nibbles and did not keep my feet in for one whole minute.  No matter how I tried, I could not get comfortable to the slippery fish nibbling around and under my feet.  I chalk that up to experience and something I will not do again 😀.

Overall, my experience in KL as it is affectionately called, was pleasant.  The people are friendly and helpful, willing to give directions to clueless tourists.  Some, usually the older store owners will engage you in conversation once they realize you are a foreigner and coming from the western world.  These are my observations:  Food is not served steamy hot.  Rice is a staple here too and served with every meal.  Fast foods, street foods and fruit or juice bars are abundant, salad bars less apparent.  Milo is a popular breakfast and anytime drink, it is even served at KFC and McDonalds.  Every where in terms of distance is far if you ask a local for directions, but could turn out to be a short walk if you love to walk like I do.

Community Peeps, readers, friends and family this Southeast Asia tour has been truly wonderful so far.  The cultural experience alone and interaction with natives have been priceless.  As mentioned earlier, I am currently in Singapore and will leave mid-week for Bali.

Remember to write your comments in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, and you may share or reblog my post on your social media site.  It’s been real the whole time and simply a pleasure sharing this trip with you.  I will upload my photos in a separate posting on my return home.  Thanks for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

 

 

Two Weddings, A Funeral And More


It is funny how the unexpected happens to you even while enjoying a bespoke vacation. In all my planning and preparation, I did not expect that I would be in attendance at two weddings and a funeral. All this took place on the beautiful island of Cebu, Philippines.

Let me back up a bit to give you a total picture of my travels thus far. My Southeast Asia trip began in Manila. From there I flew to the overcrowded tourist destination of Palawan. The city’s main transport – tuk tuks crowd the streets. I missed the opportunity to go on tour of the subterranean river because of a flight delay. Guess I’ll have to return again someday 🙂. Instead I toured the city of Puerto Princesa, went zip lining, site seeing via my very own tuk-tuk driver to places like Baker’s Hill, crocodile farm, butterfly farm, etc.

Moved on to Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. I like it here. Less crowded, people are friendly, sites are spectacular and lots to see and do. I visited the Kawasan Falls to the south, passing through the town of Moalboal where divers go to experience the sardine run and Tabogon to the north passing by the Temple of Leia. Both were long rides, but along the way the sites and views were breathtaking.

I rode the bus to Kawasan Falls. While riding along I heard a commotion on the bus. I turned to see what was going on. The bus stopped. The conductor of the bus held a limp little boy and proceeded to drop the boy on the side of the road. I thought the lad was sick but when the bus started up again and the conductor got back on barking out in a dialect I did not understand what obviously were some stern words to the lad, that I realized the child was a stowaway. I could tell from his looks that he was a street kid. I turned to my seat neighbor and asked if he was and she confirmed it. Sad 😞 situation.

Now about the two weddings and funeral. I peregrinated the city of Cebu and while cooling off, resting my weary legs, and observing the beauty of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Cebu, back to back weddings occurred. I sat quietly as the uninvited visitor to observe the proceedings. The flowers and decorations were pretty. The music was sweet and the bridal parties were dressed to the nines even though the temperature was in the high 90s. My presence was not a disturbance because other visitors and locals were there too. The cathedral is actually a historical site.

The funeral, on the other hand, was that of a fellow believer of my faith. Though I did not know the deceased, I was invited to attend by one of the officiating ministers who I met at church the previous day. Morbid thought, I know, but I wanted to experience a Filipino funeral. The grieving family members welcomed my attendance. First there was a feast at the home, which I was told is customary to host for days or even weeks. While at the home, the mood was very respectful, encouraging and comforting to the family. After eating we proceeded to the church for the last rites, ceremonies and interment.

Overall, my time in the Philippines has been very interesting, and exciting. These are my observations: Rice is a staple and eaten at every meal. I’ve eaten rice seven different ways already and counting (bud-bud, rice cake, puso, champorado, to name a few), durian, halo-halo, mangosteen, and other fruits I can’t remember the names. My favorite is still the mango which I eat every day. The traffic is horrendous in Manila and Cebu. Driving there is not for the faint hearted. The weather temperature is hot, hot, hot, but the rainy season is about to start. Every day there is something to see, enjoy, and taste. It is affordable and the USD goes a long way here. My weary body can’t wait to get to rest at night, I fall out the minute my head touches the pillow.

Community Peeps, readers, friends and family, it was wonderful in the Philippines. As of date, I’m already in Kuala Lumpur. Please forgive any errors in spelling, expressions and verbiage. I’m writing on the fly and access to Wi-Fi is not always available. I’ll have to save the photos for another time also.

Remember to comment in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates and postings, click like to show your support and love, and you may share this post on your social media. Here’s to keeping you in the loop. It’s been real.

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Itinerary Planner

Growing Too Old For This? Naaah!


In less than 24 hours my journey to four countries in the Southeast Asia region will begin.  Last minute to-do’s have put me into a tailspin and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The reasons being:  it is either a case of putting off what I could have done yesterday for today, or I am growing too old to be still considering myself a backpacker and all that it entails.  I think I’ll go with the former because my wanderlust is unabated and my curiosity unquench.  However, I believe my energy and tolerance levels for backpacking/trekking to distant lands with flight or travel time more than 16 hours are waning to some degree.  This may be my last long-haul trip, at least for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, the world is still my oyster.  I’m excited to see what lies beyond the bend, and the only way to do that is to travel.

Bespoke itineraries do not always go as planned.  Even a well prepared, extensive itinerary can fall prey to the unexpected.  It is just a part of life with all its curve balls.  Things happen that even the best planner may not foresee.   Flexibility must be a key component to the plan when it begins to go south and the unexpected happens.  Change at a moment’s notice is never ideal considering the circumstances.

What kind of circumstances could hijack vacation plans, one might ask.  Well, to begin: flight cancellation, delays in traffic, inclement weather, and sickness/death for starters.  Of course, there are many other reasons one can add to this list.  Whenever these circumstances arise they may preempt or curtail your travel plans entirely.  Obviously, you have no say in the matter, and its completely out of your control.  Any of these anomalies if presented can cause your vacation to take a turn for the worse, no pun intended, and disrupt your well thought out holiday plans.  Knowing Murphy’s law only too well, I take the utmost care and caution in handling all the arrangements, but I have to admit I have experienced a few of these regrettable incidences myself.

My impending travels to the Philippines, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali are ambitious an eagerly anticipated.  However, I am prepared to change plans on a dime’s notice.   The research on cost, best tours, most interesting historical sites and culture of each country has consumed most of my time from the day I decided to visit them.  It will be an eventful trip as I navigate solo each country barring any unexpected circumstance that may prevent me from doing so.

Community Peeps, do you have any unique tips you’d like to share on any of the countries I am visiting?  I would be happy to include and let you know what I think of the experience or savor.  I hope to check in and give you timely updates on where in the world I am.  Moreover, if travel plans change abruptly I’d want to keep you in the loop.

Remember to write your advice in the comment box below, select follow to receive timely postings, click like to show your love and support (I like it when you do), and share my post on your social media site (I’m okay with that).   There you have it folks, its been wonderful keeping it real and sharing with you.  Thanks for reading.

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Itinerary Planner

**Photo credits attached to photos.  

A Traveling Mother’s Dilemna


What can I say about mother’s that has not been said already?  Mother’s Day is the day we express loving sentiments to mothers for their unconditional love, tireless devotion and loving care of their offspring.  I, with the rest of my siblings, and like millions of other families celebrated the joy of being blessed with a super Mom who is special, beautiful, wonderful, and just downright amazing. This date is single-handedly the most important day on the calendar even though it is not a public holiday.  It should be.  Mothers would say that every day is Mother’s Day and I agree with that too.  After all, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

My blog concentrates mostly on vacations, itinerary planning, lifestyle, and travel, but I want to recount an article I read recently of a young mother traveling with two small children.  Her account caused me to reflect and ask myself serious questions about a traveling mother’s dilemna.  The well-presented article rebuked me in several ways, mostly for my lack of empathy and patience.  Read a full account of the incident here.

After reading the harried mother’s account, I saw myself not as the protagonist who deserves to be celebrated for his courage, but as the irritated traveler who invariably finds herself seated next to, in front of, or behind a screaming infant who would not be pacified in the ensuing meltdown.  What has my attitude been towards frantic mothers in situations like these?  Do I keep my distance? Do I reach out and offer to help?  Or, do I wish they were seated nearer to first class than where I usually sit in economy?  These questions may sound selfish and empathetic, but they are honest, true and are for my own introspection.

The trepidation mothers experience when flying with young children in such a confined space is a real concern that is often overlooked by fellow passengers.  We put on our noise cancelling head phones, plug our ears or pretend to fall asleep the minute we are seated.  We try to shut out everyone around us.  My awareness to the distresses of overtaxed mothers has been heightened, and even though there may be little to nothing that I can do, a knowing smile and an offer to help an anxious and overwhelmed mother could be a welcomed relief for her or may be a polite rejection for me.  To do nothing is not an option.  Not to reinvent the wheel, a couple of links below provide helpful tips to traveling moms with young ones.

15 Tips for Stress-free Traveling with Little Children

Traveling with Kids – Tips and Tricks

Finally, I want to wish all mothers in my blog community, email and readership a blessed Mother’s Day.  May the experience of wonderful blessings be shared and received every day for the rest of your lives.  You deserve the best.

Community Peeps, it is always a pleasure sharing my thoughts and keeping it real with you.  What has been your experience on the subject?  Tell me what worked for you and your family which can help someone else.  Comment in the box below.  Select follow to receive immediate postings and become a part of my community.  Click like to show your love and support. Go ahead and share my blog on your own social media site.  Thank you for reading, I appreciate it.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Fleeting and Enduring Friendships


Making friends when you travel is not a hard thing to do, at least not for me.  It can begin with a smile, a casual comment or shared humor.  Neither party may intend to become lifelong friends, but, as the saying goes, one thing may lead to another and before you know it a beautiful friendship starts.  Names are exchanged, and contact information given.

Not all friendships are created equal though.  Some bonds are lasting, while others only endure for the duration of the excursion/group tour.  On short itineraries, the acquaintances begin by sharing in minor pleasantries – sitting together at meal times, buddying-up on a hike trail, taking each other’s photos, etc.  It is an unspoken understanding that at the end of the day, you will part company and go your separate ways, never to see or hear from each other again, but for the interim, you become friends and look out for each other.

It isn’t by preconceived design or because of an ulterior intent that this camaraderie is formed.  After all, you did not know the other existed before the inevitable meeting.  It would seem as if unseen hands guided you along so that your paths would cross.  Then, when your worlds collide, a friendship blossoms into something special, for the moment, or for the long haul.  Whether the relationship is fleeting or enduring depends on the chemistry and interaction of the individuals.  If you hit it off like a house on fire, you may probably remain in contact and communicate impromptu from time to time.

I have experienced both types of friendships in my travels over the years.  Neither kind is founded on protracted months of nurturing, or on a filial background.  Yet, it takes each participant a certain level of commitment and interest to follow-up.  Unrealistic expectations are not a part of the formation of the alliance.  Frequent contact is not a do-or-die priority to either person.  Rather, whenever contact is made, it is a refreshing opportunity to catch-up and ruminate familiar bonds that drew you together in the first place.  I must interject, that it is hard to maintain a long distant friendship.  Vacationers who return from whence they came, back to normalcy and business as usual, soon realize that life gets in the way.  Time passes, memories begin to fade and so too does regular contact with the new friend, who up until a few weeks or months ago were a very real part of your world while enjoying a stupendous holiday.

In 2005, in New Delhi, I met a tall, lanky man who became a friend to me.  He was a student studying in India and our common bond was our faith.  I met him after rambling around the city of New Delhi (a story I would have to tell another time), before finally finding my house of worship.  He loves to sing and was an active youth leader at the time I met him. He befriended me when I needed a friend in a strange land.  Hi Samuel!

Again, in 2009, while traveling on a long-distant bus from Cape Town to Durban, I observed a tall, svelte young woman who sat across the aisle from me.  From my peripheral vision I could see her every movement and I am sure it was the same for her. We did not approach or make any attempt to speak to each other during the ride.  Throughout a few rest stops, and including a mechanical brake-down, we remained at a distant, but began to laugh at the puerile jokes by the bus attendant and other passengers as we rode along.  When our bus finally arrived at the terminal in Durban, this same woman came to my rescue.  The transfer to my hotel did not show up.  She took me in her sister’s car to the hotel and in Afrikaans sternly scolded the desk attendants for the no-show.  We have been good friends ever since.  Hi Neliswa!

Four years ago, in Israel, I was at the ticket/entrance booth, about to walk the “Jesus Trail” in Capernaum when I heard a voice behind me saying, “Your accent sounds familiar.”  No, it was not the voice of God.  I turned to see a short blond woman smiling at me.  I smiled back.  We headed into the historical site together.  We walked and talked exchanging names and pleasantries.  By the time we finished peregrinating the historical site, we agreed to finish the rest of the trail together.  She was driving a rental car and I was on foot.  I was very glad for the invitation to ride with her and that was the beginning of a great friendship.  We spent the rest of our vacation hanging out and sightseeing places together.  Hi Danelle!

Last year, on my most recent trip to Peru, I met a senior lady.  My sister and I were onlookers at a rally in light of the anticipated visit of the Pope in early 2018.  The Plaza Mayor in Lima was filled with people, singing, chanting and dancing.  I stood a distance from the stage and this older lady was standing next to me.  We began to talk.  I in my halting Spanish and she in her halting English.  It was a combination that worked for both of us because we managed to exchange information and become fast friends.  She told me she was a grandmother, and introduced me to her daughter and grand-daughter who later joined us.  After sharing with each other for a while the family encouraged my sister and I to leave the plaza for our safety.  They feared there would be violence and that it would be too dangerous for us as foreigners to be there in the midst.  Suffice to say, we heeded their warnings.  Hi Katya!

In 15 days I will be journeying to Southeast Asia.  God willing, my trip will begin in the Philippines with intended escapes to Bali, Kaula Lumpur, and Singapore.  I wonder who I will meet as I move from place to place.  I expect I will form new friendships – fleeting and enduring.  It will be interesting.

Community peeps what is your experience in making friends as you travel?  Do tell.  I would be glad to hear your thoughts on this.  Share in the comment box below, click follow to join my blog community or like to show your love.  You may also share my blog with your community.  That’s all for now and thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Earth Month is Everyday


“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” – Psalms 24:1

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No one can claim to have been present when the earth was created.  However, the Genesis account in the Bible tells us everything was made perfect.  The Good Book also tells us that man was made a steward of it.  Over the centuries, we have not always been kind to the earth, environment and its resources.  However, in this 21st century, talks of the environment and global warming has taken center stage.  An acute awareness of the kinds of impact our daily choices make on the environment are now hot topics on every country’s political agenda.  Much ado about nothing?  I doubt it.  While the debate rages on, and new environmental policies and practices adopted to stem further deterioration, individuals can no longer turn a blind eye.  We must take responsible action to arrest the wear and tear on the enviroment from further decline wherever and however much we can everyday.

Considering the recently celebrated ‘Earth Day’ and since this month is Earth month, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a few environmental tips one could practice or even adopt while on vacation.  It may be easy to practice save-the-planet actions at home, but when you travel you may be hard pressed to follow-through, so I asked family and friends for recommendations of how they would help to reduce, recycle or eliminate their carbon footprint when they travel.  This is what they had to say:

  1. “Rent an electric car to go on road trips.  They are battery operated and does not emit fumes into the atmosphere.” – Cyrilene
  2. “Eat only locally grown foods.” – Marcia
  3. “Reserve accommodation that is environmentally green and uses products to support the environment.” – Gail
  4. “Rent a Segways or ride a bike versus driving gasoline/diesel  powered vehicles.” – Shurland
  5. “Volunteer at local organic farm or wildlife sanctuary.” – Suzanne
  6. “Clean-up a beach area of non-biodegradable refuse that washed-ashore.” – Antoine
  7. “Use all-natural products for daily hygiene, for example: lemon as underarm deodorant, aloe-vera as shampoo for body and hair, a bamboo toothbrush and bicarbonate of soda to brush teeth.” – Wayne
  8. “Conserve water at shower times.” – Laudz
  9. “Bring my own shopping bag with me to the grocer.” – Desmond
  10. “When dining out, avoid using styrofoam and plastic utensils.” – Dalton

Community peeps, these simple tips if practiced can help to give us a more wholesome environment to live in for Earth month begins every day.   If you have other practices not mentioned here, please share your environment-friendly tips in the comment box below.  Remember, click follow to receive timely postings and like to show your love.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Bimshire for Spring


I like spring.  It is not my favorite season, summer is.  Nonetheless, I like springtime if only for the simple reason that after being cooped up indoors for most of winter I can now spring into action and enjoy more of the outdoors.  I can shed the heavy dull colors of winter for something lighter, brighter and cheerier.  The last vestiges of winter linger in the chilly air and the occasional snow flurry, but old man winter must eventually give in to higher temperatures as the mercury rises and as the sun’s rays get stronger every day.

Spring_Frosythia2
Spring – Forsythia (Traveltinerary)

I need sunshine.  It is a part of my DNA.  I love temperatures in the high 70s and 80s.  Whenever I see the blooming forsythia plant it tells me that spring is here and warmer weather too.  The yellow petals seem to appear overnight.  Whenever I feel down and out, the perennial’s rich vibrant color helps to cheer me up the same way the sun’s rays does in its mellow yellow radiance.  The first sightings of the bush against the sparsely foliage landscape, bright and bold, is like the sun shining through patches of cloudy skies.  Aah, I know.  A pampered vacation in the tropics is what I really need to scatter remnant winter blues.  This spiel about sunshine and individual care, segues succinctly to a destination where customer care is second nature.

Recently, Barbados, my homeland, was awarded the distinction of being the number one destination for tourist gratification.  A survey of 70,000 travelers rated the tiny island paradise best in customer service in the world.  Headlines like “Barbados Tops Charts with “Rihanna Effect,” Plans Bigger 2018”“Barbados Named World’s Top Travel Spot for Customer Satisfaction”, and “The Most Satisfying destination in the World” speaks of what draws these tourists to the shores of ‘Bimshire’ repeatedly.  While celebrity attractions and exquisite establishments may have bearings in contributing to such a prestigious honor, I believe it is more than just branding and smart marketing strategies.  It is its people.

“Friend to all, satellite of none.” – Sir Errol Walton Barrow

Over the years, many slogans and advertisements have gone into wooing visitors to Barbados.  However, in my opinion, if I had to speak for every Barbadian, it would be to say, “Bajans embody tourism as part of their culture.”  Years ago, one of the many successful slogans – “Tourism is our business” served a dual purpose: 1. attracting vacationers; 2. teaching nationals the art of keen customer service skills.  That slogan resonated with every Bajan across all walks of life back then.  To me, it is one of the most impactful slogans to have served the country’s tourist industry.

Growing up as a kid on the rock, I recall we were taught to be proud ambassadors, and how to handle foreigners to our island.  Exceptional service was made the number one priority which now pays sweet returns.  We knew we had no major economic wealth or competitive edge in the natural resources department.  All we have are our people.

“We loyal sons and daughters all

Do hereby make it known

These fields and hills beyond recall

Are now our very own

We write our names on history’s page

With expectations great

Strict guardians of our heritage

Firm craftsmen of our fate”

– Irvine Burgie (Chorus to Barbados National Anthem)

Today, I am excited at seeing forsythias which tells me warmer days are ahead.  I get even more excited recommending destinations where, besides the sand, sea and sun, apropos customer service gives holidaymakers the pleasure they seek and an enjoyable breather from a long harsh winter.  Is Barbados on your bucket list?  If not, it would be worth your while to add it now.  If international travel is not possible currently, contemplate road-tripping to where heats are already above 60 degrees.  If that is still not a possibility, don’t despair, you will not have too long to wait for higher temps and to enjoy all that is in your own backyard.  Wherever you choose to travel, be sure to enjoy springtime before it becomes a thing of the past.

Blog community, do your travel plans include a warm destination?  I can help you plan a bespoke itinerary for the tropics.  Select follow, click like and comment in the box below.  It means so much to me to read your thoughts and suggestions.  You may also follow me on Twitter @traveltinerary, LinkedIn, Google+, or share my post on any of your social media platforms.  It’s been real the whole time 😊.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

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