2012 – travel, Travel, TRAVEL……

2012 UPDATE – Visiting the Continents

Much to my dismay, I didn’t have a single adventure on FastAlley during 2012.

However, I did get to travel extensively around the globe

I was told that my mother was very frail and I bolted out to South Africa to visit.  I stayed for 2 months and fussed and fed my mother until she was much stronger.  Then in order to stay longer, I applied for a job in Johannesburg to supplement my income but instead the company asked me if I wanted a position in Malaysia.  My mother said she was game to travel so I accepted the contract.

Kuala Lumpur – From the Sean Connery movie “Entrapment”

I was only in Kuala Lumpur for 3 weeks when they deferred the project to 2013, and paid me a termination clause for 3 months.  Luckily my mother hadn’t packed yet!

I was fascinated that every Malaysian city has a different street light design, and as you move from area to area, so the street light shapes change.

 

 

 

I have always wanted to visit Asia – it has been on my list of Things To Do since I was 18 years old.  So I decided that since I had come all the way, I should stay for a few weeks.  I traveled around the Far East through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia/Bali, and Australia.  Then back home.

I settled down to a short Project Management contract to deploy an electronic software distribution (ESD) project in conjunction with Microsoft who is promoting the concept of buying downloadable product.  Actually all software vendors are actively moving away from CD sales.  Downloadable product is easy on Warehousing (none!) and Distribution (none! just wifi).  Eliminating Storage and Shipping removes a major cost to any business.  The project was very complex from an IT standpoint and involved 14 different software teams from ERP, to Distribution, Digital Lockers, and Invoicing.  Pretty much we touched almost every system in the company!

Bryan fishing from his favorite rocks in Montezuma

Then I got a call from my son’s wife in Costa Rica who said that it was assumed my son had washed off the rocks where he was fishing, and was presumed dead.  Panicked I flew to CR on the next available flight but after 2 days of traveling to reach the remote area where he was staying, he had already (very sheepishly) walked thru the front door.  Apparently he had walked far down the beach and got stranded on a sandspit during an unusual 11ft high tide.   He stayed stuck until the low tide was sufficiently low for him to get home.   Montezuma is a pretty spot but very remote with only one sand road to the little village.  Getting there is either by the one badly pitted sand road, or via a very wet boat ride that leaves you soaked and bedraggled.  I tried the bumpy road in, and the high speed boat out, so I can attest to both.

Back home again – where my adrenaline levels returned to normal.  There is nothing more terrifying than getting a call that your son is presumed dead, and then in a remote region.

My 85-year old mother.

 

 

My mother is now too frail to travel far, so working in exotic locales is out of the question.

So back to another IT contract in Johannesburg.

 

Meanwhile FastAlley is gathering dust in California.  And I miss my sons, also in California.

 

2012 was an emotional roller coaster ride.

 

UPDATE 2013:   Sadly my mother passed away, but I feel privileged to have spent such quality time with her before she passed.  I have returned to California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus in 2012, for one reason or another, I seemed to visit NEARLY EVERY CONTINENT on the globe!!  North America, Middle(South) America, Australia, Asia, and Africa.   

SOME PHOTOS 

Malaysia is 3 main religions – Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist – with a few Christians.  And each part of the country is unique.

Kuala Lumpur - Shopping centers are simply huge!!  Bigger than anything in California.  6 storeys high and two blocks wide - with an underground food court of equal size selling food from every corner of the globe.

Kuala Lumpur – Shopping centers are simply huge!! Bigger than anything in California. 6 storeys high and two blocks wide – with an underground food court of equal size selling food from every corner of the globe.

Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the major metropolis of the country with blocks of very westernized living (5-star hotels, super malls, etc), in between very poor areas where you wonder how the dwelling stays upright.

However, the city is very safe from a crime standpoint.  I would step out of my very modern hotel into the streets of KL and be swallowed by the teeming masses.

KL is very expensive, certainly the hotels are more expensive that the States, like for like.

This shopping mall is incredibly huge and houses every conceivable brand!  If you want it, you can find it in this mall.  I am on the 2nd floor here taking the pic with another 4 floors above me, stretching out in every direction.  A person can get very lost here!  And we did!

Similarly in the food court, if you want to eat it, they have it!

After weeks in Malaysia I settled on American ribs.

The most awesome building in KL is the Petronas Twin Towers (pictured at top above) which was used in the Sean Connery movie ENTRAPMENT with Catherine Zeta-Jones.  The walkway is on the 42nd floor and they only allow a few visitors in each day, so you have to start queueing around 5:00am if you want to go up.

Malaysia – city of IPOH

Malaysia IPOH - 40ft Buddha in a cave.  See its size relative to the table in front.

Malaysia IPOH – 40ft Buddha in a cave. See its size relative to the table in front.

 

This city is approx 200 km north of KL.  It came into existence in the early 1800’s when Tin was discovered, but when the tin ran out so did the city.  Today there are some colonial buildings still standing but in general it is a dirty city with no much going for it…..  other than the temples in a Caves!

They have 3 main cave temples with Buddha’s of simply massive size, and a myriad of Hindu temples in smaller caves with elaborately decorated Hindu gods.

This Buddha is about 4 storeys tall and the pictures painted on the walls of the cave are as huge.

Quite stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

Malaysia – city of Melaka (Malacca)

More decorated buildings along the river

More decorated buildings along the river

 

Malacca is about 150km south of KL and has existed since the 1500’s when the Portuguese ran it.  Since then it has been run by a variety of countries (besides Malaysia) and this is reflected in the fabulous variety of its architecture.

Most of the city is declared a World Heritage Site.

The river ride was spectacular – 30 minutes of a slow run alongside miles of original or restored architecture.  The locals love to paint scenes on the walls of their buildings, shops, and dwellings – it makes for a very colorful place to live.

Every bridge over the river is unique!  It has its own architectural shape, an original color scheme, elaborate turrets and minarets, and other attractive decorations and additions.  Each bridge is simply lovely.

I could spend weeks here, exploring.

 

Thailand – city of Chiang Mai

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

 

After hearing horror stories of Bangkok and how tourists are mugged and ripped off, I decided to skip it altogether and head directly for Chiang Mai – the religious center.

Chiang Mai is peppered with gorgeous temples on every corner, it seems.  Some temples are spectacular with every inch so decorated with designs, paint, and semi precious stones that it is hard to take it all in.

This temple complex on the hill outside the city is huge – and it looks like they used all the gold in Johannesburg decorating it!

Every building around it is covered in semi precious stones, decorative mouldings, Buddhas in the lotus position, with the smell of burning incense, and crowds of believers walking around the square in prayer.

I took dozens of pictures – but none of my pics capture the sheer beauty of this complex.

Temples are everywhere in Chaing Mai – all covered with bright blue, green, yellow, and red paints, with a dragon on every cornice, and dragons crawling down stairsways, and of course, Buddhas.  Businesses and homes have their own private small temples on their properties, usually draped with flowers, or decorative sheer fabrics, with an offering of fruit for the gods.  I am sure there are no homeless people starving there – can they just eat Buddha’s meal?

Silver temple

Silver temple

 

It seems that EVERY temple in Thailand is covered in Gold, Gold, and more Gold.  Quite spectacular.

So it was a surprise to arrive at this silver or white temple!  All white.  No color whatsoever.  The strips of tiny mirror pieces make it glow in the sunlight.  Sublime.

This is the only white temple in Thailand and is relatively recently built – just a few decades ago.  It was privately funded and since its opening has been visited by millions of  people.

After all the gold and color – this stark, sparkling temple is incredibly appealing.

 

I loved Thailand.

The people are tiny and super friendly.  I went on an elephant ride up a mountainside, an ox cart ride down the mountain side, a bamboo raft ride down a river, and a suicide ride by a tourist bus driver who was more intent on getting us back than driving carefully.

I visited a Thai woodcarving shop.  Over about 6 months, the craftsmen create 12ft long wood carvings that are incredibly detailed – a village, with people, temple, trees, flowers, a river, elephants, dogs, children, chickens, fishermen, etc etc  Unbelievable details all beautifully carved.  And only $2000 delivered to America.

I was sorely tempted!!

Cambodia – city of Siem Reap

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom

 

No surprise why anyone goes to this off-the-beaten-track city.  This is where Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are.  Angkor Wat is the temple complex for the Royal complex, Angkor Thom.  I thought the taxi driver was saying “Uncle Tom” in a parody of Americanism, but it was his accent and my hearing!

I have reams and reams of photos – but a photo just does not convey the enormity of this royal palace in the royal complex!!

This is just one of Angkor Thom’s dozens of 12ft high faces carved into solid stone.  There are 52 spires with a face carved on each of the 4 sides of each spire.  An enormous task.

Only the royal family, priests, and nobles lived in this 4 x 4 mile complex.  There are palaces for king and family, mother, mother-in-law, sundry relatives, nobles, and smaller palaces for priests.  There are also extensive libraries – now collapsed.    Outside the walls of the complex lived 2 million not-so-royals who did all the work – craftsmen, fishermen, gardeners, stone cutters, etc.

(Temple) Angkor Wat

(Temple) Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat – the temple complex for the royal household – is best viewed in the afternoon so that the sun falls on the temple and highlights those familiar turrets.

The temple is built on a 1 x 1 mile square of land with a moat around its entire circumference.  That is some digging!!  Cambodians of 1000 years ago were very industrious building vast reservoirs to trap the summer rains.  A nearby reservoir dug 1000 years ago is 8 miles long!

The temple consists of 3 parts – the Mainland is considered Hell, which in that heat it is.  Then you cross a long looooooong walkway to the next inner piece which is “Earth” where the mortals live.  Then you cross a shorter walkway to Heaven – where the royals live.

The staircase to Heaven for the not-so-royals is closed off here to tourists because it is so steep.  The staircase that the King takes is a much easier ascension.  Obviously one doesn’t want the royals falling down the stairs.

Also the stone carvings on the walls depict the peasants walking – in that incredbile heat – to Heaven, while the royals are carried on comfy settees.

I also went to the “Angelina Jolie” temple, as the guide called it.  Remember the movie “Lara Croft Tomb Raider”?  The temple is Fantastic with the giant roots draped all over the building.  The roots undermined the integrity of the structure and caused all of the buildings to collapse.  Unesco was recreating the building from the rubble and chopping out the roots – until the movie made the temple famous.  So now they are restoring it but trying to work with the immense roots.

I also visited a Pink Temple where the stone is both pink and yellow.  All the temple complexes are simply stunning!!!!

Bali – city of Denpasar

My hotel is in this city, but there is so much to see on the island that I spent little time there.

Tanah Lot - temple on a rock

Tanah Lot – temple on a rock

Again, lots of spectacular temples and temple complexes.  The Bali temples (due to the heat and humidity) are open air, not closed in like Thailand.  They are basically a thatch roof on 4 posts – but beautifully executed.

This temple on a rock is shown at high tide.  At low tide the rocks between the land and the temple are exposed and one can walk across.

Imagine the effort it took to carve the steps on the left curving to the top, into the solid rock.

This temple is the west-most temple on Bali.

I loved the sight seeing of Bali – and the rice fields – but the beaches are disgusting.  The area is overdeveloped with not enough thought put into the sewerage produced by large hotels, so the effluent is on the beach and in the sea.  After one walk on the beach, I never walked it again for the next 7 days I was there!!

 

Australia – city of Perth

Australia PERTH - view of downtown from across the river

Australia PERTH – view of downtown from across the river

 

 

Perth is a small city with extensive suburbs, on the west coast of Australia.

 

The downtown area is very cute with one section that looks like Ye Olde Historic England.

 

I interviewed for a job in Perth at a very lucrative salary, but being stuck in such a small place, and so many MILES from anywhere else, I changed my mind.

 

Perth is just too isolated for me.  What is the point of earning big bucks if I cant spend it traveling?!

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica – village of Montezuma

Teeny tine village.

IMG_1610

 

The main street and not-busy thoroughfare of Montezuma.

Town consists of this one road.

 

The best thing about this horrible trip was there were only about 15 people on the entire plane on the flight back.  Talk about a rapid de-boarding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Africa – city of Johannesburg

I was born in Cape Town but lived most of my life in Johannesburg.  I left South Africa for America in 1992 – and swore I would never go back.  However, news that my mother was frail/dying had me hustling back there!

Picture 7Johannesburg is the BIGGEST city in the world – built away from water.

Most other big cities are either on a major river, or along the coast.  Not Johannesburg, it is thousands of kilometers inland and 6000ft up on a plateau.

 

But Gold was discovered there – and is still there in massive quantities.

Johannesburg is also the BIGGEST Man-made Forest in the world.  South Africans LOVE trees, so everyone that buys a house immediately plants at least 6 trees – some for spreading arms for shade, some for fruit, some just because they are beautiful to look at (willows, jacarandas).  And if they have the garden space, they plant more and more trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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