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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

On the boat ride, after visiting the Pagoda, we also stopped at the Siam Niramit Theater. 

This cultural extravaganza presents an idealized vision of ancient Siam using hi-tech special effects, lavish costumes, and a cast of hundreds with live animals, including elephants. 

It is a world-class stage show depicting Thailand’s historical and spiritual heritage.

The stage production lasted about 90 minutes and, in my opinion, was well worth seeing.

No photography in the theater was allowed.  The photos which I have are all outside the theater.

The Siam Niramit Theater included a Chinese buffet dinner, which I did not think was very good.   It offered the usual selection of Chinese dishes.
Photos belong to Phil Bianco. 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

 West of Whangarei.... 

There are some very nice and challenging bike rides in this region.

 The very fast downhill on the way back into town - Route #14 - is good fun..... 

 usually with the wind from the north-west adding to the speed.

 Note the mirror on the pole....

Photos belong to Jaro Franta. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

During the boat ride, we stopped at Wat Arun Pagoda, named for Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn.  With its prominent prang (towers), the temple shows a strong Khmer influence.

The colorful broken ceramics that cover the prang are an ingenious form of 19th century recycling.  In those days, Chinese trading ships carried broken porcelain as ballast, which when offloaded, was used to decorate the prang.

The central prang has three symbolic levels. The base stands for Traiphum, all realms of existence in the Buddhist universe; the middle section represents the Tavatimsa, where all desires are gratified; and the top denotes Devaphum, six heavens within seven reals of happiness. The steep and narrow stairs up the central prang represents the difficulties humans face when trying to attain a higher level of enlightenment. They lead up to a narrow terrace that offers a sweeping view.

Tucked away in small coves on the second level of the central prang are kinnari, mythical creatures that are half-bird, half-woman.

Representing the four great seas, these smaller prang are also decorated with colorful ceramics. Each prang, supported by demons and monkeys, has a niche with a statute of Phra Pai, God of Wind, on a white horse. Between each of the four corner prang is an elaborately decorated mondop (altar).  Each holds a Buddha statute at key stages of their life—birth (north), meditation (east), preaching first sermon (south), and entering Nirvana (west).

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

 Raumanga stream park.....

This beautiful little park is in the suburbs of Whangarei, about 15 minutes walk from my new home.

The suburb is named Raumanga, and is located south-west of Whangarei city center. 

It also has a nice paved path that I frequently use to go to the city or back..... 

thereby avoiding the heavy traffic on highway #1, the main highway in northern New Zealand.

 Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

Mt Parihaka - Whangarei belvedere  

This is the equivalent of Mt. Royal in Montreal.  From various perspectives in the surroundings, the mountain looks about the same height as Mt. Royal but is not as wide, so the belvedere at the top is a much smaller place.

The new drawbridge can be seen at left, and if you look carefully, the new footbridge is just off-center, also to the left.

Biking to the top seems tougher than "The Hood" on Mt. Royal - perhaps because the start is at sea level, whereas in Montreal, one starts climbing at maybe 60m.

 Stairs from the parking lot to the monument and lookout....


"No bikes" refers to the trails that go on from here.....

 Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

Nissan Travella

My apartment is in Raumanga, on the south-west side of Whangarei.  It is the whole top floor plus a storage room on the lower floor.  It has three bedrooms, but of course, I only use one of them.  There are four smaller apartments on the ground floor below mine.

It is unfurnished, except for an old table and a couple of chairs.  I bought my sleeping bag and inflatable mattress.

I only had the car from the 23rd to 27th.  It was supposed to be returned by 10am on the 28th, but that didn't seem practical to me, so I returned it a day early at around noon.  The car was $17/day, but  with the insurance, it came to almost double that ("Better safe than sorry").   Driving was okay, especially away from the heavy traffic in Auckland.

The bus ride back from Aukland was quite nice - the bus takes little detours off the main highway into nearby towns. It was about two and a half hours, as I recall.

The apartment is NZ$275/wk, which comes to about Can$243/wk.  Looking at local newspaper ads and articles about real estate prices, I believe that I am getting a reasonable deal - at or slightly below average prices in the region for this sized apartment (the other one offered was too small - just a "bedsit").

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Jaro and his bike are now in New Zealand.....

In late October, Jaro flew to New Zealand, and is staying on the North Island, in the town of Whangarei.  Here is his blog:
Why I picked Whangarei was the warm weather, and lots of little roads all around.  That is one of the problems with a place like San Diego (Solana Beach) - with a straight coastline, you only get roads on one side, because the other side is the ocean. With Whangarei being at the end of a long narrow bay, there are roads almost 360 degrees around.

 I was also looking at the South Island because of the famous mountains, but after following their weather on-line for some time, I decided it was too cold there to spend the whole six months. Their max temps in summer were barely in the teens (C), and night time lows close to freezing (for the city of Dunedin).  Also, not as many small roads around, like Whangarei.

With a bit of luck (no injuries, etc.) I should be here until mid-April.  When I was leaving Montreal, the Air Canada people at the check-in did not want to let me go because I didn't have a return flight ticket.  I had to argue with them about having a 6-month visa, and that it made little sense to buy a return ticket that far in advance.  They only let me go when I showed them a copy of my apartment lease in Whangarei.

Bike arrived in great shape, but it cost a bundle -- the two fees added come to $200 (one-way).

Nights are fairly chilly here actually - had to buy a little heater (the house has no fixed heaters, other than a radiant light in the bathroom ceiling).   Nice modern library in downtown Whangarei, complete with internet.

Photos belong to Jaro Franta.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Memories of Mandalay cruise....

We followed this cruiser last year on "Disappointing Cruise to South America".   Now we are going to follow him on a cruise and land trip to Bangkok/Myanmar.  He lives in Florida, and went on the cruise between September 17 - October 7th/2014. 

In his own words, "Overall, I was pleased with the cruise".   Here is his blog:

When I made a tentative reservation for this cruise, Viking gave me three days to finalize it.  After thinking about the price, I intended to let the reservation go; it was more than I wanted to pay.  Shortly before the reservation lapsed, about 11:30 at night, Viking called me and I explained that the price was too high.  Viking put me on hold for what seemed like five minutes and when they returned, gave me a price of  25% less than the original amount.  The trip seemed special to me, and much more inviting at the lower cost. 

Here are the costs - remember, American money:
Air:  $1795   Land:  $3000  Cruise:  $4275
Pre-extension 2 nights:  $449   Post-extension 2 nights:  $449
Myanmar Visa:  $91    Travel insurance:  $665  
Foreign immunizations:  $192                                 Total  $ 10916 

 Yes, I had a single cabin and room during the entire trip. 

Viking used United Airlines (UA) and their partner airlines for the flights. On September 17th,  I departed from Jacksonville, Florida, early in the morning to Houston, and then  to Tokyo’s Narita Airport.  This aircraft was a modern Boeing 777, and there were only about 60 passengers on board.  

Then I waited for a little over 5 hours.  I boarded an All Nippon Airways (ANA)  bound for Bangkok;  just about 7 hours.  The aircraft was another modern Boeing 777, and the flight was totally packed.   ANA conducts a much better flight than UA - better service and better food with complementary wine.   We arrived at about 11 pm, and didn’t get to the Shangri-La Hotel until after midnight


Total flight time was more than 22 hours plus another 5 hours waiting at Narita; the total miles were 10,347.

Now let's follow the cruise.....  

Photos belong to Phil Bianco.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

To the Make It, Bake It, Roast It and Post It Group....

Love this group - and I say, good to all of you, and it is nice to pick up our local flavor.  Anyway, for supper tonight, I decided to have some hotdogs.  I made this pan in about two minutes, because I already had the vegetables baked.

So empty your produce tray and bake everything - I bake everything using this loaf pan -  I looked for the name of the loaf pan, but it is not written down - however, this is quite a heavy pan, look for the thumb print at the top and put it on a baking sheet in the oven.

The onions and vegetables I bake with turmeric, salt, lots of pepper and then a little olive oil over top. The tomatoes, peel the skins, then little sugar, some garlic that I have done up, oregano, turmeric, salt, lots of pepper, and olive oil on top.  Oven - 225 for about 2 - 3 hours and leave them in oven until nicely cooled down.  Pack in mason jar, and on Saturday night, when you don't feel like cooking.....

At the same time, you can bake many other things in the oven - everything just takes a little longer. Today, I put in bacon, and will afterwards store them cooked on a  paper towel in a container in the fridge.  My friend is coming over on Monday, and I will make BLT's.

Of course, at Christmas, you would sprinkle a little brown sugar on them.

So here it is about two hours later - added Dijon mustard, stuck the vegetables in between the dogs, a little cheese, and then relish.  I was going to have a piece of bread, but instead, I am going to have Pringle Original chips.

Photos belong to Dorothy Lloyd.