Tag Archives: Explore

Hello Singapore

WOW – was the first word and impression that came to mind as we travelled from the airport to our hotel. Immaculately clean, beautiful roadways surrounded by luscious greenery. A city like I’ve never seen before. As we neared the downtown corridor phenomenal architecture appeared through the trees. WOW.

We were told by friends that either lived in Singapore or travelled there that everything was new – all of it’s history removed and the laws are strict. I expected a homogenous city and was super surprised to find quite the opposite.

Singapore was a 3rd world country – a seaport – wild, dirty, poor. In 1965 the country gained it’s independence from British rule and became a 1st world country in a single generation. Now the most expensive in the world.

Population 4,000,000 – 2,000,000 Singaporeans and 2,000,000 expats. The religious makeup of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian co-exist perfectly and have no influence on the government.

Home to one of the world’s busiest ports – it’s also a major transportation hub and tourist destination.

Most of the city was leveled and built from scratch however areas such as Little India,  Chinatown and Little Arab still remain intact.

The diversity of nationalities have created the best food court. For some reason wines from America were not available and the countries represented were sold at a premium.

We’re going back.  Generally we use Hong Kong as our hub but will use Singapore next time – after we save some jingo.

 

 

 

 

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Brunei – an independent and Muslim enclave (two separate pieces actually) on the Island of Borneo surrounded by Malaysia and Indonesia.  Governed religiously by a 600 year bloodline of Sultans, it has since its 1984 independence from Great Britain been governed politically by the same man as King.  The current King/Sultan ( Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam), 71, has served as Sultan for 50 years this week.

The population of 440,000 is 78% Sunni, 15% Buddhist and 6% Christian. Guest workers from neighboring countries provide most of the low skilled work force. Taxis are scare since most everyone own cars.

Kampong Ayer – Water Village (referred to as Venice of the East) are wooden homes built on stilts housing approx. 10% of the population. A bustling community with taxi boats buzzing about.

Oil and gas provide for perhaps the highest standard of living in the developed world, but the application of Sharia law (e.g. death for blasphemy and blatant sexual discrimination) moderate the praise for this clean, healthy little country.

Click on photo to enlarge.

 

 

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Snap shots from Cebu

10,000 Roses Cafe located in Day-as, Cordova, Lapu-Lapu City. A real gathering place day and night.

Close up Roses

Lantaw Floating Restaurant in the Background

A man and his outrigger. Mactan

Mangrove tree in the breakwater in front of the Costa Bella Hotel.

Fun in the sun. Kon Tiki Marina, Mactan, Cebu

Lantaw Floating Restaurant in Cordova next to the 10,000 Roses Cafe

San Pedro Fort in Cebu City, Phiippines

Balloon time in Cebu City

Lighting candles at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebú

The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebú

Magellan’s Cross – per wikipedia: Magellan’s Cross is a Christian cross planted by Portuguese and Spanish explorers as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan upon arriving in Cebu in the Philippines on (depending on source) 15 March 1521.[1][2] This cross is housed in a chapel next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on Magallanes Street just in front of the city center of Cebu City. A sign below the cross describes the original cross as encased inside the wooden cross that is found in the center of the chapel. This is to protect the original cross from people who chipped away parts of the cross for souvenir purposes in the belief that the cross possesses miraculous powers.[3] Some people, however, believe that the original cross has been destroyed or disappeared after Magellan’s death and the cross is a replica that was planted there by the Spaniards after they successfully Christianized the Philippines.

Jellies

Faded Glory

Diving in Cebu

23 years ago Bill traveled to Cebu in the Philippines to dive. It was remote, pristine and quiet – as advertised in the back of an airlines magazine. The warm, clear water and humongous fan coral left a lasting impression. Something that had to be shared.

Today, it’s a diving Mecca. With hundreds of daily divers mostly from Korea and Japan.

The muddied potholed entrance to the Kon Tiki Marina reminded us that it’s the first week of the monsoon season and like dive towns around the world the trash, rusty rebar ridden buildings and worn out scuba gear told us we were in the right place.

Bill met Simon via the internet. A Brit who opened a dive shop here 17 years ago. One of too many to count.

We hired a dual outrigger boat to Olango Island to dive Barring and Talima.

The cloudy day didn’t affect the clear 85 degree water. Spoiled, I had my own dive master who offered an interactive dive where I was able to cautiously touch the sea life and to see what impressed Bill 23 years ago.

Magandang umaga po Philippines

Good morning from Manila. Typical South East Asian weather – humid and rainy. All resulting in lucious greenery.

San Francisco to Seoul, Korea. Sleep, for some strange reason, escaped the both of us.

Needless to say we crashed on our next flight to Manila. Bill said I was drooling.

5 hours of sleep in the hotel were blissful.

Equal to the luxurious breakfast.

Off to the airport again. Heading to the island of Cebu.

Zigzagging and being present

Bill and I are yogis – enjoying the practice 4 times a week keeps us committed, flexible and forever trying to be present.

Shavasana is when we are to be most present.  Per Wikipedia it is intended to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. In Shavasana, practitioners’ breath deepens, and the stress of the day is released. The yogi forgets all other thoughts and surrenders any psychological effort. While in Shavasana, yogis slip into blissful neutrality and reflect on the practice.

Yeah right – we also make plans and lists….

However, travel – from experiencing all the beauty in between using a bathroom with urine overflowing the brim to seeing a dead man laying on the street – gives me the most opportunities to be “present”.

Everything is new. Engaged in our surroundings there is no room for lists and planning and there are no expectations.

I always thought golf, scuba diving and being with the kids made me present. However, upon reflection golf is just a plain masochistic way of being present – scuba diving has me constantly looking for sharks and being with the kids (best of all) still has me being the mom.

World exploration is good for the soul.  It has helped me become more accepting and tolerant. I am constantly learning. Reflection and deeper thinking has lead to more understanding.

When present I don’t have time to fear.  It affords me the opportunity to get out of my head.

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Miami Beach to Haiti via Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic

It’s wedding season and nuptials on Isla Mujeres off the coast of mainland Mexico prompted us to explore a couple of nearby Caribbean countries.

The most convenient jumping off point was Miami Beach – a quick acclimation and reboot for our brains because Spanish is the primary language.

*click on a photo to see a larger view

Isla Mujeres was a stunning backdrop for a picturesque wedding.  Margaritas, scuba diving and basking in the Mexican surf and sun were the perfect recipe for a perfect wedding.

We sold our Mexican home in 2016 after 12 years of ownership and it felt so good to be back in the country.

Beach life leads to city life so we headed to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico – 2nd oldest city in the New World.

Beautiful blue cobblestone streets line this hilly town rich in Spanish colonial architecture and fantastic restaurants.

We explored the 500 year old Fort San Felipe del Moro (UNESCO World Heritage site) and Fort San Cristóbal.  

A highlight was our stay at the 400 year old El Convento Hotel.

Off to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where the Zona Colonial is another UNESCO World Heritage site and rightfully named so.

A quick side note – UNESCO World Heritage Sites are spectacular! Use the link provided to read about them and be sure to add them to your list of “must sees” in your lifetime.

Santo Domingo was the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World and the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress (Wikipedia).

The buildings in the old town are breathtaking.  Strolling the streets you will feel as if you have traveled back in time. Clean, with flowers spilling out of planters boxes and trees reaching for the sky.

Unfortunately, just outside historic Santo Domingo garbage lines the shoreline and poverty simmers at the surface.

A 9 hour commercial bus ride took us to Haiti where poverty has boiled over and covered the country.

The bus was not crowded and seats were comfortable.  However, the toilet did not flush and overflowed from fullness onto the floor. I pulled up my pant legs so the bottoms didn’t get soaked and struggled to hold my breath from the stench. A brief moment of nausea followed by  lots of hand sanitizer told me the adventure had begun.

A couple hours into the ride the bus pulled over to a hut and hot meals were delivered to everyone on the bus.  Luckily we had packed a lunch.

The paperwork at the border was simple and seamless. We counted 8 separate security gates between the borders.  It was dry and dusty – trash everywhere.  It looked like the Middle East.

After passing through the gates there were two random stops. Armed buff men dressed in high fashion jeans, skin tight t-shirts and large gold jewelry looked in the cargo holds. A shake down or just typical? The driver and other passengers weren’t phased so apparently neither were we.

The bus ride ended in Petionville just a 15 minute ride from our final destination of Port-au-Prince. We had assumed we’d catch a cab.

HA! No cabs – what would make us think that there would be cabs???  Thank goodness the man who checked the luggage tags upon arrival (wore no uniform – we assumed he had some authority since he was checking the baggage and talked to the driver) asked us if we needed a ride. Sure!  We followed him to his car and waited as he cleared all the trash from his seats by tossing it on the ground.

The Marriott.  The only nice hotel in the area (one of three buildings taller than a couple stories in the whole city). It was gated and protected by 4 armed guards – our own little prison since we had been told to not leave the property unless we wanted to be be mugged or worse.

Extreme poverty makes ordinary people do extreme things to survive.

We hired a driver to show us the highlights. Thoughtful, caring and protective. He too, tossed his garage out the window.  Hence, a city full of garbage.

The Iron Market – gated with armed guards – a place where tourists can shop quasi safely next to the true market where 100’s of stands selling everything from pots and pans to socks displayed their wares. Shoppers we’re not but it was one of three things to do in Port-au-Prince.  We were told to follow the man in charge, closely – do not deviate, go slow and don’t do anything that may excite people.

Next was the museum – again gated and armed. A garden oasis in the middle of a concrete city.

Lastly, to the top of the mountain in Petionville where the rich people lived behind tall walls with concertina wire to a restaurant full of white people for the best view in the city.

The hillsides are blanketed in homes built on top of one another.  Floored by the homes – something which we had not seen before – I asked the driver to stop so I could get out and take photos. With a resoundingly “NO” (since we were in his care) I was given permission to photograph with the window down as the car slowed a bit.

The roads are chaos – narrow, no street signs with people and cars everywhere.  Constant motion outside the car where, often, the car is motionless and unable to move due to the congestion.

On the way to the airport we asked the driver to take us to see the Cathedral that had all but collapsed in the earthquake. It was to be another drive by.  This time with my window up.

We stopped to make a left turn and I looked down and literally right outside my window was a dead man lying on his back in a pool of blood. His motorcycle had been picked up but he and a pile of clothes laid untouched.  No cover and nothing cordoned off.  Hundreds of people sat idly on the nearby steps and a cop was quasi directing traffic but other than that life just went on as if this was an everyday occurrence.

After sitting in the same spot for a few minutes it was determined we had to go right to eventually go left.  10 minutes later we doubled back by the accident and nothing had changed.  No cover, no cordoning, no ambulance – nothing.

I don’t know if the misery of the Haitian people has always been present. But they are not recovering from the 2010 earthquake that killed 230,000 people and rendered 3 million homeless.  It seems to be lawless and un-governed where sickness, hunger and hopelessness dominate.

It was a haunting and heart breathing short 3 day trip in Port-au-Prince. In 90+ countries we have not experienced a place from the inside of a car.  What to do?  How can a country so poor evolve?

 

 

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