Thursday, February 26, 2015

Burma is wonderful so far

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From Deej 25 February 2015 Yangoon, Myanmar

Burma is wonderful so far. Yesterday afternoon we toured the Schwedagon Pagodas, absolutely stunning and so very many to see. It was very enlightening in many ways, bright with gilded stupas everywhere, our tour guide elucidated the Burmese Buddhism practices and beliefs, and we saw many lovely people. Every Buddhist becomes a nun or a monk in their lifetime in Burma, sometimes as early as 4 yrs. old. And it may be just for a week or a month. They are very dedicated to their Buddhism. About 60% of the population is Buddhist, then the rest are Christian, Hindu, etc.

Our tour guide goes by Bunny for foreign tourists such as ourselves. She was very entertaining teaching us things like the number one in Burmese is "tit" and the no. 8 in Is pronounced "shit," she said we would never forget those 2 nos. It is an hour ride by bus (with poor suspension) on a very, very, bumpy road with way too much traffic. The Burmese government has made motor cycles illegal so there are not too many of them around but there are many cars, trucks, and buses on poor roads. Never saw an accident. 

We then went to a lovely dinner sitting outside with Chinese lanterns all aglow above us at a very good restaurant, Phil ,whose birthday was yesterday, was serenaded by two bus loads of Semester at Sea  students, staff, and faculty and had a tiny fruit plate and cake with a candle provided by Bunny and the restaurant staff. Before that for our meal we had eggplant salad, rice, lentil soup, chicken curry, pork curry, and morning glory (a water cress type veg) with mushrooms, and bananas fried with honey. All nicely spiced and not too hot for wimpy Americans. Plus some Myanmar beer, nice and light.

Today (We. 25 Feb. 2015) we had a different tour guide, Kyall, pronounced Joel, and went out to local  markets, first the ordinary people's small market, a bit raw like in meats, fish etc. It was interesting. They sell all the accoutrements for monks and nuns in that market as well as have places for everyone to donate to the monks, umbrellas, shoes, etc. I tried to buy a string of jasmine and the guy gave it to me "as a present" when I balked at buying a big bunch of jasmine strings which are used for offerings to Buddha stupas. It is scenting our cabin nicely.

Next we went to the tourist and middle-class people market, the Scott market, surely named after some Brit. It was way more enjoyable than Vietnam and China where there is much selling in your face, tugging at your arms, and hard core bargaining. It was quite genteel in comparison. The sellers were all very nice and not pushy, and had low prices. Some would bargain and some would not. They have lots of beautiful fabrics, batiks from Indonesia. And there were tailors with old fashioned sewing machines sitting up in the stalls sewing away for people. I had a longhi made for me in 15 min. for $5. Lots of other tourist and non-tourist things for sale. I wish I had waited to spend money just in Burma. And we found a supermarket for restocking our room’s fridge with beer and cokes as well as an ATM machine that would take our card and spit out money. Always exciting in foreign lands. We got 50,000 kyat (=$50). Then we stopped at a tea shop on the way home to the ship and had sweet tea and sweet buns.

After we got back as there were only 37 people on the ship we went to the pool deck 7 and had French fries for our late lunch and then changed into our swimming suits and got in the pool with only one college student in it. It was quite refreshing. Ahhhh. Usually there are so many college kids on that pool deck it is best to stay away from it.

Tomorrow we fly to Mandalay.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Vietnam - great time

Some photos from the first days in Ho Chi Minh city (mid Feb 2015)

From Deej (9:00 am Tuesday 17 Feb. 2015)

We have had a great time here in Vietnam - museums, botanic garden/zoo, temples and pagodas. 

The  AO show at the Opera house was brilliant, great use of baskets, bamboo, and bodies. 

The food is delicious here. We took a cooking class and  learned how to make several dishes and they were very tasty.

Yesterday (Monday, 16 Feb. 2015) was our Mekong Delta speedboat tour - giant fruit bats, swallows nests for eating, crocodiles and beautiful scenery along the rivers. 

It is almost Tet here, spring time festival, cool in the 90s.

We are waiting on ship (Tuesday morning at 8:45 am 17 Feb. 2015) in the river for the tide to turn so we can leave. We are 2.5 hours late so far.

Just when you get used to a place, it is time to leave.

Soon we will be in Singapore for only two days.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Japan Travel Log

Japan Travel Log (Blog)

From Deej. Feb 1, 2015. (but sent from Ho Chi Minh city, 9:47 pm Sunday 16 Feb 2015)

We just spent two days in Japan, Yokohama and Hakone, and I really like it. Yokohama is a lovely port city, we went up in the Landmark Tower for a full view of the city, went to a cafe and had some tea and even managed to order and pay for it. The Japanese do not speak much English but are very accommodating and eager to please. Very nice polite people, enjoyed the very fresh sushi and other fishy foods, seaweeds algae etc. all of which has been very good.

Stayed at an onsen Ryokan called Tenseien, very interesting, nude Japanese bathing is okay after all, enjoyed it. They had a very lovely garden with a large waterfall and koi ponds. The whole Hakone area is a huge tourist region with many hot spring hotels as the Japanese have since ancient times been into steamy soaking in the mineral baths for the health.

Saw Mt Fuji, rode a cable car to ride a “pirate” ship, noodle curry and a fish soup lunch by the lake, then bussed through the mountains to Hakone and went to a fabulous outdoor art sculpture gallery, modern sculpture both Japanese and some Henry Moore, Calder, many others, look it up. It also included a Picasso museum.

Gorgeous scenery everywhere, nice temps in mid 50s, clear beautiful weather, very clean and the Japanese have a beautiful aesthetic, everything is just so and very pleasing to the eye. I have yet to see a cat anywhere out and about, but some of the ship people went to a cat cafe and enjoyed it. 

I am sore all over from hiking up to see the sulfur springs and view of Mt. Fuji which was very impressive.

It was interesting to see all of the plants growing wild in the mountains that we all grow in our yards as purchased shrubs, grasses, etc. Bamboo, azaleas, pieris japonica, rhododendrons, etc and saw a gigantic Japanese dogwood tree. They do a lot of gorgeous things with rocks everywhere, city and countryside. There are camellias blooming now, daffodils, hellebores, we saw rice fields being planted.

Now on to Kobe port – Kyoto and Nara temples and sights, and a half-day trip up into the hills for a naked (gender separated) soak in another hot springs, this one at Arima. What a wonderful tradition.

Who are these people? Routines #1

From Philip (Ho Chi Minh city, 9:45 pm Sunday 16th Feb, 2015)
Who are these people? What’s in a name?
I recall our good librarian friend and fellow Semester at Sea Librarian, Warner, saying he set a goal before one of his voyages – I will meet, learn, and get to know a new person each day for the next 100 days.

Ahh, if it were that simple, or is it?

What are the top 50 people you know right now or have gotten to know in your life in the last 2 months?

How would you list them? How do you remember their names? Who are the new people you have met in the last 2 months?

In the following lists and names – do NOT be miffed if I do not mention you in person.  But let me know if you want me to know you – tell me your name.

Well, there are our student library assistants with fellow librarian Jonathan - Jennifer, Raisa, Graham, Andrew, Dan, Rachel, Schyler, Brittna, Maya, Joanna, etc.

The "Rulers" – Mark and Bob, Layne, Annaia. IT and AV persons – Raresh, Jig, etc.

The helpers, waiters – Darwin; cabin steward - Sotero

The faculty – John, Lili, Michelle, Ernst, Jim and Jim, and Ernst, Jens, Daphne, etc 

And others – Talon, Brian, Erin, Emma, whom I’ve recently met.

And even others – John K (brainteasers),

Then there are Facebook friends Nadeem, Bill K, David S, Helen A, Betty C, Ginny, Ben, Woody, Beth, Todd, Ted, Cathy, Iris, Vance, etc.

Who are also some of my relatives – Betty, Tim, Julie, Art, Jeanne, Arlene, 

Or who are classmates – Liz, Jackson, Gil, Maudie,

Or others who are non-Facebook – Edith, Jonathan,

And so it goes, one of the many voyage routines – what fun, getting to know you, getting to know new people, some for life, some for just this voyage, some for a few weeks  ...