Happy New Year, Peace and Joy, Bugs And All


Happy New Year!  Peace and joy to one and all.

2020 is spanking new and beautiful.  I love new things and I eagerly look forward to all that will unfold this year.  It has been a month already that I have been in my tropical paradise, and though I have had a wonderful holiday season, there has been and continues to be moments where I have been uncomfortable.  It’s all because of the pesky bugs, mostly mosquitoes and sand flies.  Other’s laugh at my dilemma and say it’s because I’ve been away from these shores far too long, and the bugs love new blood.”  So how have I been handling the situation?  Let me tell you how.

20200103_102839First, the usual forms of relief from repellent sprays and rubs that were recommended were quickly rejected only because from past experiences, I realized after profuse use of them I would begin to feel lethargic and weary.  I concluded that the anatomical sprays were affecting me physically.  Therefore, I have opted not to use the sprays or lather my skin with strong odorous oils.

My woeful complaints have reached the ears of friends and family who have volunteered their remedies with conviction that if followed to the letter, I would receive quick relief.  In my desperation, I am tempted to throw all reason out and without question try the suggestions just to have a moments peace from these dreaded bugs.  To help the situation I have cleared away thick bush and brush, trimmed tree branches that may have been a haven for the insects and removed pooled collections of rainwater from around the home.

 

Some encouraged me to place citronella scented cotton balls around the corners of the home (that would be a whole lot of cotton balls in my estimation 😂).  Citronella has a strong yet pleasant odor.  It is a scent used in candles to drive away the bugs at summer outdoor outings, day or night.  Another solution would be to burn a coil that releases a slow haze of smoke into the air.

Others recommended rubbing familiar lotions or natural oils as a first line of defense and protection on my skin.  The lists includes Listerine and even Petroleum Jelly.  I don’t know if either works.  The thought of a mouth rinse and a sticky substance is neither appealing nor I imagine comfortable.

20200103_102857Yet another recommendation, and this my mother swears by, is hanging a few branches of Soursop or Neem trees leaves over the bed and around the room for a peaceful night’s rest from the buzzing mosquitoes.  This may sound ludicrous, but these old-wives tales usually have some measure of truth to them.

What have I been doing then?  I simply grin and bear it.  Hours before retiring to bed I spray the room with an insecticide for all flying and crawling creatures.  While sitting on the porch or in wide open spaces, I use the battery powered wand which zaps any that may dare to fly pass.  For any bites and stings I receive, I use the astringent Witch Hazel to soothe my skin.  It is fast acting and provides relief within a short time.

For those traveling to the tropics in 2020, you will undoubtedly encounter a similar circumstance and may want a quick remedy.  You can always opt to bring the repellents sprays, or natural oils that bests suit you.  Packing a mosquito net is not a bad idea either.  Simply remember, the downside to an awesome vacation could be the bugs but you can offset that if you are prepared and willing to combat the situation with remedies that work.

Community Peeps, besides the bugs, in my opinion it is still worth the trip to visit my tropical paradise.  After all, it is just another snippet of life in this beautiful island of sun, sea and sand.  I want to wish all of you an awesome 2020.  May your blessings always exceed your expectations.   Thank you for being a part of mine.  Do you have a remedy that works that you would like to share?  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.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

 

Pictures of Paradise


Recently I  promised to share some photos of hangout spots I frequent when in paradise – Barbados.  A promise is a debt, and I do not like debt in any form.  Therefore, I am obliged to bring photos and video footage of the scenery that I enjoy from time to time whenever I visit the island nation.

Most of the locations showcased are serene places I like to go to relax, to meditate, to enjoy the breath taking views of hill and dale, and savor the peace and quiet of the surroundings.  In my season of sadness the familiar scenes helped to soothe my aching heart, and to bring a measure of peace and solace that can only be found in the great outdoors, nature itself.  I have seen these views many times, but this time, they proved to be the comfort and therapy I needed to face the ordeal at hand.

Let me preface your viewing of the collages below by saying I am not the world’s best photographer or videographer, so please forgive the lack of quality and creativity in what I captured.  I hope you find them refreshing, catch the essence, and enjoy them too.

First photos are of a place called Martins Bay.  It is a sleepy fishing village whose coastline is battered by the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  The fish market on a narrow inlet of sand is a hive of activity when local fishermen bring in or clean their catch of the day.  It is also a popular mingling spot for tourist and locals who want a taste of fresh catch, dance to local vibes, and devour the Bajan gastronomic cuisine.  The downhill stroll to the bay is easy, but after eating a sumptuous meal of red snapper, dolphin (mahi-mahi) or some other exotic fish, the walk uphill may prove to be arduous, a good exercise for those who want to stay fit and in shape.

Next are pics of the historic St. John’s Parish Church which boasts the only sundial on the island (can you tell what time I was there?), also sarcophagi of European royals.  The Anglican church, a must-see, is well documented as a place of interest for tourist and considered to be a national heritage site.

Watch the video of the view from the church’s yard of the valley below, and the coastline all the way arcing to the north of the island.

Next are a few photos of the boardwalk in the city of Bridgetown, the Careenage, Independence Square and the gazebo at the Base Street Esplanade – a spectacular window to the sea to witness the evening sunset.

Last but certainly not least, Bim has its share of livestock and wild animals such as the green monkey and mongoose.  None are considered ferocious apart from the stray dog.  However, we do have a much beloved lion that is an iconic attraction for locals, as well as, visitors to the island.  ‘The Lion at Gun Hill’ is nestled in the middle of the island, and looks out over the valley below.  A trip to see the lion and the view are worth the time and effort.  It is a great photo opportunity, a treat both the young and old would enjoy.  You can rest assured in paradise this lion will not eat you or cause bodily harm 😂.

There you have it folks, just a taste of paradise.  I miss being there but already looking forward to the next visit in the coming months.  Want to join me?  Choose an itinerary on the Itinerary Page.  Submit with the appropriate payment and I will send you a customize itinerary that fits your taste.

Community Peeps, as always it is my total pleasure sharing my travel experiences and interests.  You have been supportive by sticking with me, reading and commenting from time to time.  I appreciate all of you.

It is customary for me to invite all who are not yet followers of my blog to: click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support, share this post on your social media site, and write your comments in the box below.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Taste of the Tropics


A planned vacation to any country in the Caribbean may bring on an instant feeling of enthusiasm and excitement.  If  the destination is anything like the island of Barbados with its aquamarine colored waters, powdery sands, gentle breezes, and a whole lot of other interests, then it makes it even more intriguing to visit.  The surf, sea, sand, and warm weather are part and parcel of the 166 square mile landscape, and sweet local fruits and produce are an added bonus for the traveler foodie type who likes to indulge in tasting exotic foods.  Combinations such as these in the perfect location help to paint the picture of an idyllic life that can only be found in paradise.  A week ago, I flew to my homeland Barbados.  It was bitter sweet.  Bitter because it was for a sad occasion, and sweet because I got to see family and friends I have not seen in a while.  Moreover, it was an opportunity to pick and consume favorite fruits and produce that I have not eaten fresh from the tree for many years.

As the pilot informed passengers and stewardesses to prepare for landing, it was truly delightful to hear him over the intercom refer to the tiny island-nation as paradise.  I do too.   Clapping,  and shouts of ‘woo-hoos’ erupted around the cabin as the plane touched down on the tarmac at the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport.  I breathe a sigh of relief, whispered a prayer of thanks to God for travel mercies, and begin to anticipate the next few days ahead.  The expedition through immigration and customs was quick and seamless.

The drive through familiar neighborhoods to my family home was short and uneventful.  As my brother and I drove along, I scanned the trees to see what fruits are in season.  Summer is considered peak season for tourism and an air-ticket to come to these shores is usually beyond my budget limit, therefore, I have not visited in the summer for more than 20+ years.  To compound my travel options, the national carnival called Crop Over is hosted around then making getting here a near impossible task if you do not book the flight months in advance.  However, there are times or situations when the trip has to be made and the financial restraint has to be put aside.

Before I reached our residence, it occurred to me that I had adjusted to living without the abundant fruits available at this time, but have dearly missed all these years.  Well, to my delight, the following trees that surround our residence are currently in full bloom and bearing fruit, the colloquial names are in parenthesis: mango, avocado (pear), golden apple, soursop, carambola (five-finger), papaya (paw-paw), pomegranate and banana, as well as one of my favorite produce – breadfruit.

Here are some of them in our backyard:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tourist and visiting nationals who may want to take a taste of the island flavors with them back to their homeland can purchase some of these same fruits that are preserved, dried, pickled, bottled or packaged by the variety of cottage industries found on the island.  None of the fruits mentioned taken in any of these forms, as far as I know, are considered banned products.  However, taken in their natural state may encounter agricultural quarantine or prohibition.

Community Peeps, for now I am eating my fill of all the fresh fruits and produce available (I may return to North America a little heavier than when I left 😊).    Do you have favorite fruits and produce that you like to eat when you travel to the tropics or even enjoy when you go back to your home?   What has been your experience trying new fruits?  Please share with me.  Next post will be pictures of some of my favorite hang-out spots on the island.

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.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

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.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

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.

More times,

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.

More times,

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.

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

 

Trinidad and Tobago Firsts In Retrospect


Trinidad and Tobago is undoubtedly, in my opinion, the party mecca of the Caribbean.  Dubbed the land of the humming bird, boasting the greatest show on earth – Carnival, and giving the world calypso or soca music are a few of its cultural peculiarities, but I’m not going to talk about that.

I first visited this twin-island nation (whose soccer team recently beat the USA team at the 2017 World Cup, 2-1) with a gal pal on a get-away trip.  We were eager to escape our routine lives in exchange for a little adventure and to explore a nearby island.  So, we packed our bags and left on a 17 day vacation to T&T to chill with close family friends.

Traveling with a friend can be fun.  We shared laughs and encountered many firsts together.  Back then neither of us could call ourselves experienced travelers.  We didn’t have an itinerary, specific travel plans or even carried all the travel essentials that we insist on carrying today.  We only knew we wanted to see places we had often heard spoken of like:  Arima, Maracas, Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and Tunapuna to name a few.  Reminiscing with my friend about this trip brought back memories I had completely forgotten, nothing sinister, but better left unsaid.  It was also interesting to note what impacted her the most.

We spent our first 10 days in Trinidad visiting the bustling city – Port of Spain.  We rode the “Priority” (our first experience of riding a bus going faster than 30 mph as in our homeland).  We visited the world famous cricket grounds of Queens Park Oval (it brought back memories of a popular poem written by Paul Keens-Douglas “Tanti at De Oval“).  We ate callaloo, all kinds of flavorful roti and a variant version called “buss-up-shot”.

The next seven days we spent in idyllic Tobago.  There the pace was much slower.  Tobago is the retiree’s haven, the rich and famous escape destination, the ‘do-not-disturb’ person’s kind of place to go and relax.  Driving in the countryside at night along the winding, narrow, hills and valleys with no street lighting other than the stars and moon was rather perturbing.  Scarborough, the city, was not much to talk about at that time, however, this little island possess some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the world.

Among our many firsts in T&T here are three experiences you may find hilarious as I still do today.

After spending the day sightseeing and walking around in Port-of-Spain, we tried to hail a taxicab to take us home and were shocked to see others jumping into the cab ahead of us.  We couldn’t understand why total strangers wanted to share our ride.  It took a few taxicabs leaving us behind before it became clear that this was a transportation sharing method to keep the fares low.  To back-up our belief, written on a wall in big, bold letters not to far from the taxi depot were these words, “Taxi men keep your fares low or blood will flow.”  Those words were indelibly written on my mind for fear of impending violence, also it was my first introduction to graffiti.  I know by now you’re probably wondering where was I living all this time.  LOL.  A sheltered life no doubt.  A family friend eventually rescued us and we were able to ride home in the cab that we wanted.

Another first occurred in Tobago while we were staying at our host. The island had  experienced a few earthquake tremors and, I don’t know if the two were related, but the houses in the neighborhood, including ours, had no water.  The problem existed for about two days, but it felt like a lifetime to me.  The locals were going down to the river to bathe, but would soon return saying, “De river come down.”  I didn’t understand this statement.  Aren’t rivers suppose to flow downwards?  Well, again I learned that due to the heavy rainfall high up in the mountains, the riverbanks would usually swell and overflow, bringing with it mud, debris, rock, etc., making the river inaccessible for bathing, washing or catching clean water, hence, de river come down.

My final recollection was new to both my friend and I.  It was our first sighting of the gecko, a white version of GIECO’s green lizard.  For the entire night we stayed up watching the ceiling to see where those lizards would go.  We huddled in the middle of the bed and didn’t get a wink of sleep, for fear that those lizards would come near to us.  When we told our host the next morning we had lizards in the room and described what happened, they laughed so hard we could only join in and laugh too as they explained about geckos.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t give the geckos any further thought for the remainder of our stay.

In retrospect, Trinidad and Tobago lived up to our expectations and more.  We were young, impressionable and enjoyed every minute of our stay in that Republic.  I’m sure much has changed since our visit but the adage is still true, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”  If you take a trip there today you will certainly find roti, callaloo, buss-up-shot, carnival, calypso, soca, hummingbirds, cricket at the oval, and many other interests that help to make up this vibrant destination.  I enjoyed looking back on this vacation and recounting it to you, so don’t hold back on your comments.  Who will be the first?

Must-haves


I like to read all the must-haves, travel essentials, top tips, do’s and don’ts related to making travel life easier.  I believe that everyone out there when planning a vacation would love to have all these travel tips in one convenient place, right at their fingertips.

When I travel to the tropics, among the many items I carry in my suitcase are 10 of my favorite must-haves.  Considering that the weight limit for carryon luggage is approximately 20 pounds, what I choose to carry is very important.  The selections must meet my three standard packing requirements: be lightweight, be compact and be trendy.

So here goes.  I must have:

    1. Sneakers that are durable, lightweight, and made from materials which keep my feet cool and fit comfortably.  They are perfect for walking distances, gives adequate support for rough terrain, are stylishly designed and colorful too.
    2. A Hat with a wide brim which provides the right amount of shade on a sunny day.  This trendy head gear protects my face and the exposed portion of skin on the back of my neck.
    3. Clothing such as silks and linens are perfect to wear to keep cool day or night.  A Beach and Linen Dress are an integral part of my wardrobe that does not require much manipulation.
    4. Believe it or not, in the tropics the  Umbrella has a dual purpose.  It provides shade from the sun’s rays and protects from the driving rain.  This necessary item fits in small spaces and is a daily staple in my handbag.  Whether the day’s forecast predicts rain or sunshine, I will certainly be prepared for either occasion.
    5. A Water Bottle for my daily exercise routine. I may also use it to carry a cold beverage such as freshly squeezed lemon in chilled water or a drink of hot cocoa as I view the sunrise or watch the sunset on the horizon.
    6. Besides making me look cool at the beach, Sunglasses help to protect my eyes  from the sun’s glare as I relax on the sand while watching the tide’s ebb and flow near the water’s edge.
    7. A decent Shawl to wrap around my shoulders to keep me warm in the cool evening breezes. Also, I may use it to accessorize my dress for a more semi-formal look at dinner time.
    8. Lightweight carry-all Tote Bags are handy items to take to the beach, supermarket and almost everywhere I go.  I can fold and tuck them neatly into a clutch purse when not in use.
    9. You wouldn’t be in the tropics if you didn’t encounter mosquitoes and sandflies or as the locals call them no-see-ums.  I use Bug Guard towelettes to wipe the exposed areas of my skin for protection against these pesky insects.  The repellent properties saves me from much unnecessary itch and pain, not to mention ugly skin discolorations.
    10. A Portable Power Bank that will keep all my electronic devices fully charged.  It helps to keep me connected when I am unable to access ordinary charging outlets.

The mentioned 10 items are not the only items in my suitcase, but without them I would be miserable.  Obviously, other items like my binoculars, camera, cosmetics, laptop, etc.,  are very important to me too.  By following my three packing requirements whenever I travel, I have always managed to carry what’s needed and never had to use any of my spending money on items I would have otherwise left at home.