It has been a long time since I have been here.
Here is here. Here is working on the computer and blogging – planning, reading, writing, investigating and then just pecking away. I have neither recorded nor shared since clearing U.S. Customs and Immigration in January of 2015 – when I reentered the US after 101 days of out-of-country travel.
Upon that entry to U.S.Customs and Immigration, I was immediately targeted for further scrutiny. I was throughly vetted, inspected, questioned and searched. I spent over two hours in Customs having every item I had with me inspected. They even wanted to see the pics that I had on my iPad!!
It was because I had been to Turkey.
Just a month ago Kizilay Square, in downtown Ankara was in the news. Kizilay is the heart of Ankara – a place I spent hours sitting, eating at sidewalk cafes, walking. Arriving in downtown Ankara at the evening rush hour on day 1 of my 101 Walkabout, I exited the bus from the airport in Kizilay Square. I had flown from Portland to Dulles to Munich to Ankara – about 30 hours – to get to Kizilay Square.
As I exited the bus, there were people everywhere, mostly business people – all of us in the heart of a modern city of 4 million. And I was lost and the only person lugging both a backpack and a day sack. I knew my hostel was near, only 3 blocks away – and after numerous attempts at directions, I was escorted to the doorstep of my hostel by a friendly young Turk that spoke no English. By the time I left Ankara, I was comfortable navigating Kizilay.
Recording experiences, blogging the sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, experiences is enlightening. I am leaving an online trail I can retrace upon my return home – on my iPad in the comfort of my lounge chair, listening to music while streaming travel pics on the TV. It is like rereading a chapter of a favorite book.
“Oh, I remember that” or “I did not write about what happened BEFORE of AFTER that moment”.
15 months after I was in Kizilay Square it was car bombed and dozens were killed.
I also recently received a notification from the U.S. State Department regarding travel in northern Lao. There were several shootings on a road I traveled during my two visits to northern Lao. Guess I may not make a third trip to Vang Vieng.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapour, just outside Kathmandu were I spent a month in a $11.00 a night guest house and walking the brick paved backstreets, was seriously damaged in the giant earthquake that devastated Nepal just 4 months after I departed. Homes where I ate and drank tea were destroyed.
Upon reflection, a song pops into my head. “God is great, beer is good, people are crazy”.
Rest assured, bad things can happen anywhere. People are killed going to Mc Donalds, in church, in grade schools or attending a university. People die in their bathtubs.
Some may ask why I am going Walkabout again. The answer comes from a previous blog posting:
Original post 1/9/15
Back home. Arrived late PM 1/8/2015.
My inet is still not set up after travel and a new ISP. But TV cable works.
Have a few good travel story drafts of the last few days for the blog…. Over the next few days I will peck them out on the iPad as post as updates using my phone as a hotspot.
A good walkabout…lots of ground covered via:
Nice, new, modern 1st class busses
Big tuk tuks
Little tuk tuks
By bus along the Black Sea
Sane traffic on roads in Turkey
Trekking in the Himalayas
Slow boats on the Mekong
On a rented motorcycle around Northern Thailand
Free for all traffic in Nepal
Making border crossings on foot
Nearly empty planes
Big international airports
Old, beat up really small taxis
On a motorcycle through the back roads of Bhaktapour at night
Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world
And many, many more experiences…….
I flew around the world.
I stayed on the top of the hill in old Ankara, just 50 meters from the oldest mosque in Ankara. I attended prayers in that mosque. Then traveled overland over the Himalayas from Kathmandu to Lhasa, with a stop at the Tibetan Everest Base Camp at 17,200 feet elevation. I made many great friends in Nepal and have many fond memories of people I met everywhere.
Maybe except some Chinese Tourists, both to which I developed an aversion and an overly critical eye and a nearly confrontational – hmmmmmm……..attitude. You would have had to been there to fully understand. I still can act like a Tighthead Prop on the front row of a rugby scum if I need to…..especially if someone 50% of my body mass starts cutting in line in front of me and rudely pushing me. But if a 61 year old gweilo rugby player acts out in a Chinese Police State, like Lhasa, he will be arrested. So I kept my elbows in.
I rode in a police car in Sinop and spent time in a Turkish prison (visiting).
The trip to Lhasa was a dream come true. I loved shopping in Thamel. Bhaktapour started to feel like home. Traffic in Kathmandu was an unbridled free for all, and absolute chaos. I made the border crossings from Nepal to Tibet and from Thailand to Lao on foot. I landed and took off safely at the Lukla airport, touted as the most dangerous airport in the world. (One end of the runway is a 1000 foot cliff and the other end is a 75 foot tall vertical wall of rock and it is a short runway.) I returned for the two day slow boat ride down the Mekong and again visited Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, home of the Happy Pizza. Luang Prabang was even more enjoyable than the first time.
I went through roadside searches and was monitored closely by the Chinese in Tibet. I ate yak butter, yak cheese, drank yak tea and had several yak hamburgers. And doubtless it was yak pizza, as yak was the only red meat. I walked the streets of Lhasa alone, among both the morning and evening waves of Tibetans circling their holy sites while constantly being watched by the Chinese with CCTV cameras. I attended a Full Moon Party on Koh Phagan.
I took pictures of Chinese police, a strictly prohibited act. Tibet in certain ways was a surprise. Solar power was everywhere….most road signs and lights, street lights, cell towers were solar powered…….and Tibet had surprisingly good roads with relatively sane drivers.
I made it 1/2 of the way to the Nepali Everest Base Camp, hiking about 40 miles on difficult rocky trails gaining and losing thousands of feet elevation.
I stood at the Tibetan Everest Base Camp, at 17,000 feet elevation.
I made the following flight connections:
Portland to Washington DC
DC to Munich
Munich to Ankara
Ankara to Sinop
Ankara to Istanbul
Istanbul to Kathmandu
Lhasa to Kathmandu
Kathmandu to Lukla
Lukla to Kathmandu
Kathmandu to Bangkok
Bangkok to Surat Thani
Surat Thani to Bangkok
Bangkok to Chiang Rai
Ventiene to Bangkok
Bangkok to Hong Kong
Hong Kong to Vancouver BC
Vancouver to PDX
I now have the answer to why I am going Walkabout in a week.