In 1876, a group of settlers en route from Boston to California, stopped to celebrate the July 4th centennial holiday by erecting a large wooden pole to fly the stars and stripes. That flag staff gave the town its name. The characters who filled the streets in those early days gave the town its continuing charm. Route 66 cuts through the heart of this mountain town, bringing pub after pub of craft brew and wooden seating. The busy railroad provides a pleasant background noise to this sleepy city. Continue reading “Flagstaff ~ Wild West Brewtown and Amazing Mexican Breakfast”
No matter your religion or beliefs, Jesus suffered that day. The Catholic Church will never let us forget it. When you walk into their relics of religion, the pain of his final day is prominent. Some people even wear the cross as a reminder of mortality and human sin. Continue reading “Italian Churches ~ The Power of Image”
An ancient church rests on the lonely hill, looking out upon the blue waters of the Adriatic. Crumbling stucco houses among the slippery streets of worn away stones. Flowerpots falling over shuttered balconies and laundry hanging to dry in the afternoon sun. It’s the classic romance of a Mediterranean coastline. We arrived via ferry from Trieste, Italy and immediately found lovely apartment accommodation with some convenient bargaining in Italian. The beaches are more pavement and rock than soft sand, but the crystal water makes up for any lack of horizontal comfort. We made a family lunch with various meats and delicious Croatian beer.
After visiting the Kinkaku-ji golden temple, which was surprisingly underwhelming, we took to the streets to explore and found an awesome Zen garden. Kyoto, like the rest of Japan is immaculately clean making for a pleasant stroll. The Zen garden was full of functional beauty. It was a peaceful place with an enchanting pine aroma and the sound of running water surrounds.
The walk continues…
I found these amazing temples and a cute street with a cute family where a cute girl was walking a cute dog. Walking remains my favorite way to explore a new city.
These were some of the stones we walked on, and a bad English sign making me wonder if they just mean “Don’t pee on the seat.”
On the islands of the West coast of Thailand, sunsets are a quiet reminder that time is actually still passing despite the slow pace of your day. There were some really spectacular views over the ocean, as if the sun was bleeding into the water. We got lucky with really good weather, cloudy and sunny with morning or midnight showers. It’s never easy to leave paradise.
Not all the sand was so coarse. Phuket’s beaches were so fine they made a squeak when you walked.
This is one of our favorite sunset pictures together.
Our only beachside hotel was here in Phuket. We swam in the rain and ran home wet in bathing suits receiving stares from the locals in jackets and boots.
And of course, this lovely little cat who followed us all the way up our extremely steep stairs to hang out with us.
This is a magical island. It’s got the cute, friendly cats ready to love on your leg. It’s got plenty of shopping, eating and drinking available. It’s got Scuba and snorkeling in the crystal blue ocean you expect of paradise. The Banana Bar has a rooftop bar with several big screen projectors and a dynamite sound system. Watching Kill Bill with excellent sound made me appreciate Tarantino’s movie soundtrack all over again. Although it’s full of shirtless, tattooed post-grad or gap year douchebros drinking to excess and discussing debauchery in loud voices, you can easily ignore them to fully enjoy this fantasy island. Cosmic (near the party area) is a restaurant with homemade ravioli that made me smile. What a place!
Quiet, lapping waves on our semi-private beach with the little kitty who followed us home and slept every night in our room.
View from 3rd floor of Phi Phi Good View Hotel.
The fire dudes before the daily fire show. They showed us all their fire scars.
Sunset soccer at low tide.
The “main” street is full of snack stalls, bars, and traditional tattoo parlors like this one.
After exploring the enormous and contemplative temple of the 43m Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho:
An old man asked us if we wanted to take a river cruise. I had done some research on them, and most visited the floating markets and old houses of the “Venice of the East.” It wasn’t a top priority, but sounded fun, and had a reasonable price of 1,000 baht (30US$) for an hour tour. We had an entire longtail boat all to ourselves. First, we passed the famous temple of Wat Arun:
Then, we moved into the mysterious flooded alleys in the heart of the city.
All the houses were built on these seemingly shoddy stilts. Laundry is usually visible outside the clapboard walls.
This was a huge surprise. Water monitors, an aquatic scavenger, have taken up residence in the populated waterways. There have been reports of them walking into residents’ houses.
Locals on the dock, partying, was a common sight during the trip.
Time for the daily hookah.
We were far too late in the day for the floating markets, so this is as close as I got. A lady in a boat selling grilled chicken. Overall, it was a pleasant diversion from the penetrating heat of the sidewalks. And more overall, I wasn’t a big fan of Bangkok. The public transit (ie: subway/elevated train) drastically underserves the city. Khao San Rd. was more pleasant than I thought, but it was just a place to get a crappy kebab, cold beer and shop while being hassled by everyone to buy their stuff. The tuktuks are a constant rip-off and taxis that don’t use meters rarely know where you want to go. Even trying to go to one of the famous Ping Pong shows becomes an issue if you are concerned with prix fixe quotes before entering (1000 baht per person?). The combined price of the famous Emerald Buddha and National Palace cost 500 baht (15US$) to enter. I might pay that kind of price to see a museum with something to learn or admire, but 15 dollars to see another Buddha and gawk at the pictures of the beloved King’s dogs. No thanks. Then, when I remarked to the guard that it was expensive, he told me, “We can charge 1,000 baht and people still come. It not expensive, good price.” That rubbed me the wrong way, and I was finished with Bangkok temples. Chinatown seemed cool at night, with cooked ducks and cheap gold for sale while strange faces peek out from among the windows and doors. It was a big city with too much personality for a week. It’s actually the kind of place where it’s NOT nice to visit, but living there would probably be easier as you learned the rules and became accustomed to the insanity. The day we left, one of the many military coups of the past half century was occurring. Curfew, albeit lax, came into effect. Armed men seemed to be on every corner. The TV’s stopped showing programming on most channels and were replaced by a blue screen of military insignia’s. I’ve been to big cities that treated me better, so I feel like Bangkok is summed up by the classic, trite line of: “I’ve had better.”
The city is big. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get, but starting from my hostel near Sukhumvit, heading slightly aimlessly south and west. It was around noon on a Friday. People were out and about, cars paced the streets, dogs and cats patrolled their corners, cockroaches hid in the shadows awaiting their time to shine–nighttime. Stuck on a main thoroughfare with poisonous traffic fumes all around, I made my way into the alleys.
I found some friendly uniformed men who wanted to talk to me despite their lack of English.
Sorry, it’s the wrong side of the road. Nobody wants to shift gears with their left hand. There’s a reason we drive on the “right” side.
He wanted to talk, but moved away when I went to pet him. Cute.
These guys were drinking whiskey. I opted for soda water and greatly disappointed them. But they had fun posing.
She was so scared and happy to see me. She wavered between this face and a heartwarming smile.
They were waiting for something or someone, and the old man laughed heartily when he saw his picture.
Strawberries on clothes? Only when you’re little and cute.
This was some terrible Thai drama being filmed. The boy and girl saw me and smirked. The director (multi-colored hat) called some phrases, then the Thai word for “ACTION” and the camera rolled down the track. There were no words spoken. The girl just looked deeply into the boy’s eyes and then ran away with arms flailing and feigned tears. They broke set and the actors walked away without a word to each other.
Trash encroaching upon the reflection.
The day ended with me being accosted by ladyboys on Sukhumvit soi 4–a notorious spot for hawking flesh. Bangkok.
The jasmine heavy in the humid night air, an almost soundless alley covered with potted plants, a group of troubadours singing Beatles’ songs in a bar. It’s a nice place. A moat surrounds the old town. Temples scattered throughout the streets. The first stop in Thailand offered my first rubber bodied Thai massage in years and too much Mexican food. Western food dominates the walking paths where I walked.
They are the largest cat in the world. They are indisputably gorgeous. They are also killing machines capable of taking down elephants. They are now being stroked like an indolent kitty in a sunbeam. What a dream come true.
However, I was worried about how these majestic felines would be contained. I’ve heard the stories of drugging or over-punishment upon them, so research was necessary. Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai has a great system, and the animals seem happy. Some cages are still too small, and judging by their bellies, possibly over-fed for safety. But, unlike the Bangkok tiger sanctuary where the cats are kept on chains, these tigers are free to walk around (as long as it’s not in the direction of a visitor). I paid about 45US$ for the full package of tigers–smallest, small, medium and large. The smallest tigers were only 3 months old!
Such a baby face, full of curiosity. We moved on to the small (5-6 months) and medium next.
This tiger loved me! He showed me his belly and then started stretching his long legs and giant padded paws all over me just like domestic cats. So amazing to interact with these endangered creatures.
This was the big girl. Our trainer said she was aggressive.
My love for cats evinced.
Thank you tigers for making me happy. I hope you are too.