Fabulous BANGKOK ! Would you please pass a temple!

IMG_1829 Meet our secret weapon in Thailand. Jane, our tour guide was simply fantastic. She is a professional tour guide who just happens to be a friend of one of my high school mates. She put together a “Best tour ever” for us!

There are a lot of temples in Thailand, you could wear out the shutter on the best of cameras if you even tried to snap them all.P1060003 Just inside the palace area alone it seems there are hundreds.P1050987 You can almost get sensory overload. Many are gilded and jeweled worth millions.DSCN2146 P1050981

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There is a lot more to Bangkok than just temples. We visited the flower market which has to be one of the largest in the world; open 24 hours a day, every day of the year! It is part of the culture of the Thai  people to buy fresh flowers each day for their homes and for their small temples they keep at their house.P1060053

A ride on the canals in a long tail boat is always a top Bangkok attraction.P1060009

P1060038These boats are powered typically by V8 engines from cars and trucks and seem to fly around the rivers and canals that lace Bangkok.P1060037 It is a beautiful city, very clean with old and new.P1050993

We finished the day with a fantastic dinner and show that covered the history of Siam and Thailand.

Bangkok was indeed a highlight of this adventure!

VIETNAM; A land of 91 million people and 47 million motorcycles

DSCN2059 If Vietnam is anything, it is busy; very busy!

Traffic is a constant blaring of horns and flashing of headlamps. Crossing the street is an adventure that has nothing to do with crosswalks and traffic lights.DSCN2127 To cross, you simply move slowly onto the street and allow the cars and motorcycles to just swarm around you much like a school of fish passing you on a reef. Most important that you move slowly so the drivers can judge where you will be when they get there. If you wait for a light you will still be there!

The market is everywhere!DSCN2018 Sidewalks are for markets and parking of motorcycles.DSCN2028

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DSCN2031 The infrastructure is simply scary. If you understand anything at all about electricity, Vietnam will scare the hell out of you!DSCN2024Wiring just seems to flow at total random in all directions.

DSCN2012 Air pollution is an issue and you see many folks wearing masks.

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There is also great beauty in Vietnam.P1050797

P1050796 These silk hand embroideries were stunning but I fear the artists who did these reaped little of the benefit.P1050795

We visited the presidential palace which is a beautiful reminder of the French colonial period;DSCN2075 saw the simple home near the palace where Ho Chi Minh lived;DSCN2081 and noted that even in his backyard, Coca Cola rules!DSCN2086 From the Vietnamese people we have met prior to going to Vietnam, we did not expect to feel any animosity towards Americans relative to the war years. We did not find any.

 

HONG KONG; One of those far away places with strange sounding names that added so much color to our childhood imaginations.

DSCN1967 Hong Kong was to be the start of a very Asian and apprehensive adventure. We left the never- never land of Maui, Hawaii and flew to this exciting and enchanting piece of China; perhaps the oldest civilization on earth. We have traveled to many places but this raised our blood pressure a notch or two just thinking about it. Foods that do not match our digestive habits;

languages in characters we cannot comprehend;

several months of being on the wrong side of the highways, streets and sidewalks;

multiple times zones, some in half hour increments gave us far more challenge than a trip to the “Dark Continent”!

This was a bit scary. But we had a good plan! Main part of that good plan was to have Joe along with us. Our friend Joe is just one of those people who can save you in Barcelona, dig you out of quicksand, navigate a 95′ boat over a sandbar 12″ deep, and on top of all that…is just fun to be with!

Second part of the good plan; we are doing this on a Holland America ship that will feed us every day, snug us in a warm bed, and hopefully come look for us if we are not back at “All Aboard”! Cruise ships and vacation rentals provide almost all of our accommodations on this adventure. We try to avoid hotels as they tend to be very confining.DSCN1961 Hong Kong was chilly and cloudy for much of our visit. We arrived just in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations, the city was decorated extensively.DSCN2355DSCN2354 The celebration lasts officially for a week but extends to three weeks for some devotees.

DSCN1964 Since its return to China the city operates as a special administrative district of the central government. DSCN1957

We took a fascinating tour of the Hong Kong fish market. This is not the typical fish market where dead fish are laid out on ice; these fish, thousands of them; are all alive in tanks.P1050552

P1050548 The market was at least a quarter mile long through a narrow walkway on the docks with tanks with every imaginable type of seafood awaiting selection. You know your fish is fresh when you buy it live!DSCN1975

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BIRDS OF MAUI

In an earlier post about our African safari last June we talked about our very pleasant surprise in discovering the birds of Tanzania and the Serengeti.

The wild birds in Maui also gave us pause.DSCN1917 Not to be outdone by the wild roosters that inhabit Key West, Florida; Maui also has its “indigenous” wild chickens that are all over the island. Feral cats also abound but the cats stay clear of the roosters as they seem to consider a confrontation a losing situation.

They roam the streets with impunity…DSCN1906

DSCN1913 seem for the most part to be quite healthy…DSCN1904 and seem to virtually own the parks.

They are protected, have no natural enemies, and therefore prosper.

While the roosters are usually more flamboyant…DSCN1903 There are plenty of hens

as well.DSCN2324

Ok; I just could not resist that!

EXPLORING MAUI, The Valley Island of Hawaii!

DSCN2333 (1)We do not like to think of ourselves as tourists.

The real adventure in being “Home Free” is that we get to live in many different places for time enough to explore and get to understand different cultures. Culture need not be exotic to be very different and diverse.  A month spent in Chicago, Northern California and Maui revealed great difference in culture.

An ideal visit of thirty days allows us to explore and take time to enjoy without the frenetic pace of typical tourism.

We enjoyed our exploration of Maui!IMG_1688 From iconic Front Street in Lahaina where I posed for the Forrest Gump shot to the top of Haleakala crater.IMG_1706

To the depths of the rain forest on the northeast side;DSCN2258Maui is a beautiful island!

IMG_1693This is a photo of the waiting room for one of our favorite restaurants. If you are told it will be a half hour wait for a table here, it just ain’t no big thing!IMG_1696 A little pricey, but Mama’s Fish House just east of Paia,  has arguably the best seafood on the island. A better view is hard to imagine!IMG_1726We took the rigorous drive from Kahului on the north side of the island with lots of hairpin turns over the northwest tip of the island which is lightly traveled. You can average about 11 miles an hour with a maximum speed of maybe 40 on the only straight section. The scenery is stunning!IMG_1730

We could see whales breaching in the ocean between us and the island of Molokai maybe 20 miles to the north.IMG_1727

We explored the crater of Haleakala,DSCN1803 by car, bicycle and

hiking.IMG_1710

Those who own a home often lock up their house for a few days and take overnight trips from that home. We did the same, leaving our condo in Kihei to take the magical “Road to Hana”.DSCN2244 While less than 40 miles from the Maui Airport to Hana, the more than 50 one lane bridges and 200+ turns makes it a very tough day trip so we decided to spend 3 nights in Hana.

DSCN2311 (1) We  found a lovely VRBO rental on the hillside high above Hana with wonderful views of the Pacific to the east and the rain forest all around us.DSCN2338 (1)a4 As typical, we cooked our morning and evening meals in the VRBO and found interesting places for lunch.

There is not really much in Hana! It is the truest example of the journey being the destination. Its isolation prompted Charles Lindbergh to move to Kipahulu just south of Hana to live his last days suffering from Lymphatic Cancer. The “Lone Eagle” chose a very obscure spot to be again alone.a1

Another reason it takes so long to drive to Hana is the scenery just begs to you; Stop, Stop, Stop!a3 Dozens of waterfalls

and pools for swimming.DSCN2289

Small town churches saying: “Come see me”!DSCN2260

Dramatic beaches with waves towering over the surfers just make you stop and look.DSCN2229

There are even canals to funnel the abundant water from the eastside to the west.DSCN2266

And as usual, time to get lost!DSCN1939