A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok, Thailand

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9/24/14 at 1618 (Bangkok time)

After over 24 hours of travel, I'm in Bangkok, Thailand! The public transit is amazing and the directions were pretty spot-on. I did get a little lost trying to find the house though, as it's in a maze of streets behind a cluster of giant, shiny malls. It didn't help that it started to rain a bit. I took shelter in one of the mall entrances and tried to mime that I wanted an umbrella for purchase. I think I was expecting the streets to be like Hanoi, with vendors readily available selling small bright colored umbrellas to soaking tourists. Ended up . . . it's not. According to my AirBNB host Rob, it's exceeding difficult to find a good quality umbrella as most are small breakable things from China that perhaps last one day. The staff at the mall was so sweet; a lady motioned for a gentlemen to come over and he proceeded to pick-up a giant picnic umbrella with clunky metal base so that he may walk with me to my imaginary car. They didn't quite understand at the time that I wasn't headed to a car but actually to the maze of homes behind the mall. Once the man understand, he smiled and shrugged and walked alongside me with the giant 8-foot umbrella over me as far as he could go.

When I got to the correct street, I still couldn't find which house it was and was lucky that Rob was home, able to find me looking lost and wet with cell phone in hand. He's a super-nice guy although a tad OCD . . . right away, he explained his color-coded Post-it system where he keeps track of his AirBNB guests. After this, he proceeded to clean bits of the house that he told me he had cleaned the day prior but stated it needed to be cleaned again.

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No trip to a non-English speaking country would be complete without a little Engrish

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Yes. Yes, I do.

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How I live my life, baby . . . or don't live because I'm too fast. I'm not sure actually.

So far, first impression of Bangkok: I like it. A quiet hustle, friendly people, grime on the walkways, and a great public transit system. The streets are crowded with cars and there are densely curled electricity cables that remind me so much of Vietnam. I feel privileged to have already witnessed one public urination and it's only my first day . . . but that reminds me a little more of China, not Vietnam. Or New York. =P

I'm now out wandering a bit through the malls. There's so many floors! I chose a random little restaurant to have my first Thai meal, which is beef udon with guava juice. I'm kinda tired and looking forward to a warm meal.

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First meal in Thailand

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Who doesn't want a Durian Mon Thong?

Oh, one other bit of excitement . . . I think I met a future Philippine superstar. Rob rents multiple rooms and one of my roommates is JP from Oregon. He recently traveled throughout Asia and fell in love with Thailand. He returned to the states, sold all his belongings, and came back to figure out his fate. He has many offers, including English teacher, hostel owner, or Philippines singer/performer. He's got the blue eye-blond hair look, I think he could go far. I just have to remember him in case he goes for that absurd singer/performer offer that makes him laugh.

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Bangkok in the rain

9/25/14 at 1842 (Bangkok time)

Last night, I met another rooommate: Faine from Cambodia, but originally she's from Northern California. She works as a journalist in Cambodia and is quick to sing it's praises, encouraging me to take the train or a quick flight to see Cambodia. I'm already hearing from several people that I need to travel to Laos or Cambodia. I'm not sure if I'll make it on this trip but definitely in the future. Faine, JP, and I walked around Bangkok, shared Leo beers, got caught in the rain, and picked up some random snacks to chow down back at the house. We enjoyed spaghetti pockey, garlic seaweed strips, cheeseburger with American cheese sausage chips, scallop chips, and lime Mexican chips, washed it all down with some Cheers beer and honey collagen water.

Today I went with Follow Me bike tours as suggested by Romeo. With the heat and humidity, it was nice to get a little breeze by riding through on the bikes. There were several couples, including a German couple and a young Scottish couple on their honeymoon. One of my favorite stops was the Old Custom House. We also went to the famous flower market, rode along the Chao Phraya River, came across a Chinese festival, and learned how to fold a lotus flowers within a temple as an offering for the Buddha.

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My folded lotus flower, given as offering to Buddha

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Redlands, represent!

After the tour, I explored Lumpini Park where I saw two Gila monsters and a small handful of residents enjoying the shade and benches. Afterwards, I returned back to the room for a nap.

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Sweets from the Chinese festival

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Free soup from the Chinese festival

I am now headed out for dinner and the famous Soi Cowboy walk. We shall see how this goes. ;-)

9/26/14 at 1256 (Bangkok time)

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Just purchased and devoured my first Thai butter bun (a soft bun stuffed with butter, slathered in butter and coated in sugar) and I feel so American. Also have a side of Thai deep fried street vendor chicken and an iced coffee latte. This is officially the worst meal I've had yet. =P

I'm sitting at Hua Lamphong train station, having just purchased my overnight train ticket for Chiang Mai. I got second class, as was suggested by many for the social interaction. I took top bunk for the claustrophobic experience although bottom bunk was offered. I'll be heading off in a bit to see Wat Pho and Wat Arun, as well as Nang Loeng food market. This should be interesting. =)

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Variety of delicious unrecognizable crispy snacks from Nang Loeng

9/26/14 at 1716 (Bangkok time)

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I was excited to see fresh pomegranate juice, as it was very reminiscent of my favorite drink in Turkey. I was so sad when I realized it was diluted down!

The food experience proved more challenging than I anticipated. Without menus, visuals, or other patrons' plates to point at, I am finding the majority of Thai food establishments difficult to order from. I went ahead and booked a food tour from 8 PM till midnight, which includes transport via tuk tuk. I'm excited for the night view of Wat Arun, and excited to ride my first nighttime tuk tuk ride. It'll also be nice to have some food other than the Thai street food I've been mainly getting. Off to rest for a bit, pack for a bit, and plan for a bit before I meet up!

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Delicious Thai tacos, a sweet treat made of spun sugar and egg yolk

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Our food guide Mod took us into the "kitchen" area of a restaurant, which was an open back alley where we were able to see the food prep and firey cooking that brought us chicken and crispy noodles

9/27/14 at 0213 (Bangkok time)

Settled in after finishing the food tour, crawling underneath the large grimy gate that closes off the neighborhood from the mall traffic, and uploading some videos for the friends and family. I am sooo full! It was fantastic with lots of different types of food and at different locals-only type places. So grateful for the wonderful tour guide Mod too. Preparing for the weekend market tomorrow and then Wat Arun and the sleeper train to Chiang Mai. It's been fantastic. =)

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Nighttime tuk tuk ride with our food guide Mod

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Sweet sticky rice with mango

9/27/14 at 1513 (Bangkok time)

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Chatuchuk Market

Went to Chatuchuk Market and got lost. Ordered a noodle broth dish with beef prior to my endeavor, surprised to find it had little bits of unrecognizable prawn-type creatures mixed in with the beef. Once walking around, I picked up a fresh coconut ice cream dish and loaded up the unrecognizable toppings to enjoy as I walked around in the morning sun. My favorite was the artists within Chatuchuk . . . there was some of the most amazing artwork I have ever seen, sold tiny little sections made of aluminum for a fraction of what they were truly worth. I wish I had a convenient way to ship home some of the pieces I found . . . perhaps wish even more I had room in my home to display some of the sculptures and paintings.

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If only I had a way to transport Mark Ruffalo home with me . . .

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Fresh coconut ice cream to munch on while walking around

Somehow I found my way to the animal section of Chatuchuk where stall after stall was filled to the brim with owls, hedgehogs, puppies and kittens, turtles, horned beetles, chipmunks, various birds, numerous types of fish, frogs, snakes, and even small furry creatures I didn't recognize. Although most had fans on them, some had been placed in shirts and suits, had bows glued to them to increase their cuteness I guess. Many were shaking, frightened and obviously wild. I was uncomfortable, tried to escape the area but each turn led me to more creatures, more collars, more cages. None were obviously abused, none looked ill, but I felt nauseous and tried to duck out, return to sections of lamps or cheap imitation purses. The animal section took over numerous blocks, separated somewhat by type of animal and I wasn't able to find my way out. Somehow I became turned around, headed away from Chatuchuk towards an adjacent mall.

I tried to turn back towards the market, but found myself on a long stretch of road that was gated off from any connection other than a large dusty overpass where I was forced to traverse a gigantic nearby park. The park was lush and beautiful, even somewhat enjoyable to walk through, but it felt abandoned. With the stifling heat and the cloudless sky, I became thirsty and desperate to return to a train station or any other touch of urban living that might include a water bottle. I truly appreciated the 3 baht public restroom I came across, not only for a bathroom stop but also grateful to see another person within the park.

I had planned on exploring Wat Pho and Wat Arun but after that adventure, I'm back in my AirBNB room, fan on full blast and sweat freshly cleansed & wiped from my face, arms and legs. No one is checking in today and so (luckily) Rob is allowing me to relax in the room until my train at 1935. I think a nap is in order . . .

9/27/14 at 1659 (Bangkok time)

My "kinda hungry but not really" phase of the day led me to eat an entire box of strawberry flavor Pocky with a can of lukewarm Chang malt 'export' beer. Sometimes I disgust myself.

Now to get ready for my train ride to Chiang Mai . . .

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Posted by WanderingWorld 18:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged rain thailand cat bangkok engrish mango rtw durian chinese_festival foot_shot pomegranate_juice chang_beer chatuchuk Comments (0)

Things I Want to Remember: Ecuador (late entry)

I decided to publicly post my list of "things I want to remember" for each destination of my around the world trip and realized that I did not go back and post my list for my Ecuadorian memories. Please excuse the late entry. Below is the list of moments in Ecuador that I want to remember . . .


- arriving in Quito, my first destination of the RTW (Round the World) trip, thinking that if I can handle my first arrival then I can handle the subsequent arrivals, not recognizing faces, telling myself not to worry or feel out of place, knowing that the Arellano girls will arrive, then seeing Veronica, hugged and welcomed immediately, learning of their careers during the long dark ride through the mountains to their home in the north of Quito, stopping for fast food burgers and fries, munching on a late night dinner in their kitchen and getting to know the family, appreciating that these stunning Ecuadorian women were educated, kind, and drop dead gorgeous

- looking over the international magnets on the family fridge, recognizing & appreciating the freedom Diana and her family feel to fly to and explore any country

- Sheyla and her punk rock style mixed with classic rock appreciation, posters of Jim Morrison, playing Led Zepplin during the car ride on my last night in Quito

- wandering around Quito at night, devouring a large empenada with warm cheese and melting cinnamon sugar, feeling safe, marveling at how we only came across three homeless people in such a large city, respecting the bright lights and police presence in the iglesia area

- seeing the jungle ants walking by in straight lines, holding large shards of green leaves, Flavio saying "they (the ants) work hard. Every day, all day. And so I respect them", watching him carefully step over the ants each time we encounter them during the tour of the grounds

- David, with his shy smile, the type to quietly build a card tower during a loud gathering and stay in the kitchen afterwards to read a book by candlelight, the only one to help me down from a large rock when bringing heavy buckets of food to the animals, sitting on the tattered couch, looking through photos and him saying feo!, telling him "No! Muy guapo!", and thinking what a shame that self doubt is universal

- Flavio and Julio teaching me small bits of Spanish, including the phrase of buen trabajo, feeling proud on my last day at Sacha Yacu to be told by Flavio that he appreciated my work and that I was a hard worker

- Maria's lazy hair that always falls just right, the musical girl who taught me I was snapping at the wrong times during a song, I'm still struggling to snap "correctly"

- the stray kittens of Sacha Yacu, the wild pig Jaguanita who we found out actually had a different name, the mischievous monkeys jumping through the branches of nearby trees, hearing them jump on the tin roof of our dorm room late at night

- the food of Sacha Yacu: creative dining with ketchup and pasta, vinegar and flour, where a can of tuna or a fried egg is a treat, snacking on pineapple marmalade and toast

- waiting for the bus to Quito, Luca and Julie climbing the beams of the open air bus stop, seeing the tarantula in the curve of the roof, hearing the frogs in the tall grass, listening to music on my iPad from the "Ecuador" playlist, realizing that we were hanging out as a group for the last time

- falling asleep in the jungle, where rain on the tin roof or the orchestra of insects would help me off to sleep, struggling with the mosquito net each night and feeling it tickle my face as I laid down exhausted always thinking "I'll adjust it tomorrow"

- "We will be ignorant tonight" - Maria's stance on whether or not to notice the multitude of insects in our room

- late night entry to the large dorm with Maria, jumping and calling out as the flashlight shown on a large cockroach, then yelling "What is that?!" as the flashlight next shone on a 6 inch unrecognizable insect on the wall, people running over to see if we were OK, Flavio waking from sleep and later telling Julie he heard the screams and thought he was having a nightmare, me laughing in the room and Flavio a room away thinking I was crying. Luca shrugged, saying "It is impressive when you have not seen it before", then leaving, Julie returning to help Maria and I rid our room of the large flying pest

- discovering a large poisonous frog in the outdoor shower, jumping out in my quick dry towel, calling out to Julie to help me as I knew the boys would marvel at it but not help the girl in need, marveling at Julie's survivor-woman skills as she flicked the frog out to the grass with a stick and aloud contemplated whether or not she should kill the frog for the safety of others

- adventures in large rain boots: the first day having my rain boot pop and feeling mud & water seep in to stain my socks, thinking "why did I bring white socks??", slipping on the wood stump walkaways each day, the impressive fall while catching grasshoppers, when I landed straight on my back, staying still for a moment and wondering if I may have a permanent injury from what just happened

- cutting sugarcane with a machete in the jungle, realizing I'm cutting sugarcane with a machete in the jungle . . . I'm still not over it.

- realizing how commonplace machetes are for both children and adults as I watch people out the bus window walking with large machetes in hand, seeing small Anderson walk with a machete in hand

- fishing for the first time in over a decade, warm sun on my back, sitting on the grass at the edge of the water, finding worms in the earth to bait the fish, catching a few fish to feed the ocelots, feeling proud as my first fish was the largest caught that afternoon

- dumping the bucket of fresh fish into the ocelot's feeding bowl, petting its soft fur as it purred and ferociously played with my rainboot, it's large claws sticking into the rubber sides

- overcast day with light drizzle, seeing Luca walk one of the monkeys on a leash, helping it to become accustomed to being outside of the cage

- papaya, the top choice for almost any animal when it comes to fruit, luring monkeys away from the cage doors with papaya in hand

- Ring of Fire night, drinking the mix of rum, Coca-Cola, lime, and Merit's tea, Franzi asking "Are you drunk at all?", me saying no, and the German girl responding "Well, you're from America", Maria being my drinking buddy and realizing when I made her drink, I had to drink as well, Luca trying desperately to have everyone look at him when the rule was to not . . . and him succeeding most of the time.

- Julio es loco. Always.

- accosted by a multitude of friends yielding a penis vase, forced into a foot shot with Julie utilizing the dinner bench to stand above me, shouting with camera in hand, "Like you do! No, it has to be the right angle, we have to take it like how she takes it!" and seeing the horrific photographic evidence from the other cameras in the room

- watching Matt Damon and Tom Cruise action flicks in Spanish, candles lit, downloaded onto laptops charged during the precious times of electricity, open windows letting in the sounds of the jungle, somehow following the majority of the plot

- the moment of realization: this will not be a "hold your hand" kind of experience. Excitement and nerves, smiling as I think to myself, "Keep up, you'll lose him. It's not going to be him losing me . . . "

- first night in Sacha Yacu, a quick shower, attacked by a menagerie of insects, finding a plate of dinner covered and warm, waiting for me on the table, a chunk bit of salty goodness baked by someone within the kitchen, feeling welcomed

- Franzi's carrot cake, a rare sweet treat made with shreds of real carrot, sweetened with sprinkled sugar

- the last night at Sacha Yacu, the setting sun, my sun burnt face, smiling, listening to the others in the kitchen preparing dinner, misty eyed, feeling both happy and sad, carefully side stepping the kittens as I joined my friends for dinner

- walking the streets of Baños with Merit and Maria, seeing the guinea pigs turned on a spit and cooked whole on the street corner, Maria shrugging and saying, "We can just buy a quarter of one", feeling grateful that lunch was already planned, regretting it later and remembering a missed opportunity to bungee jump at a young age, thinking "I cannot pass on another 'unique' dining opportunity again . . . "

- Merit showing Maria and I Baños, knowing every turn, introducing us to her favorite hostel, getting a discount on the room, the kind smile of the woman from the lobby as she gave us the key, feeling the brick walls, laughing with the girls as we realized we would be able to take "real" showers and feeling pampered

Posted by WanderingWorld 21:43 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ants quito banos ecuador sacha_yacu things_i_want_to_remember empenada Comments (1)

Things I Want to Remember: Turkey


- my first cab driver at the airport, casual in his mannerisms, realizing that I may have been too bold when I sat in the front passengers' seat, him pointing and saying "Sarah, Europa, Asia", offering me a cigarette, so tempted to say yes for the experience of a slowly burning cigarette in my hand but instead opt for my hands riding the wind as he drove to the hostel

- hearing the call to prayer (Adhan) for the first time among the gardens of the Blue Mosque, as I examined the signs I realized I was not dressed appropriately, left to return another day, hearing the call continue as I retreated to the street in my shorts of inappropriate length

- the vibrant bits of food and beverages found on the streets: freshly cut wedges of watermelon served with plastic forks, tart pomegranate juice full and uncut (my favorite! 5TL in the thinnest and smallest plastic cup I have ever held, on the grounds past the back wall of the Blue Mosque), orange juice to be enjoyed with every meal, bagels and breads baked with sesame, roasted nuts and corn on the cob, kernels of hot corn with dollops of mayo and ketchup, unexplained colorful trays of sauces, mussels with thick bits of lemon, and frosty water bottles available everywhere from the busy street corner to along the fishermen on the bridge

- sitting cross-legged at the Ottoman restaurant across from the Indian family who shared their meal with me, taking off my shoes so I could properly enjoy the padding of the cushions, the waiter who was proud to have experience at the extremely famous American restaurant of El Torito before it closed, the gözleme filled with beef, onion, potato, and tomato

- night with Alistair on the street, buzzed and happy, shots of juice and unknown, appreciating being social after my days of solitude, laughing as he referred to the "tourist trap" of the dondurma men, watching the young Turkish man work the crowd by calling out and hitting the bell above the ice cream cart, later wondering if Alistair ever gave in to the trap in his travel across the country

- the moment I realized I had stopped playing music, choosing a Ugandan playlist, then an Ecuador one, instantly feeling lifted

- entering the Hagia Sophia doorway with marble steps worn smooth, reminiscing about my junior high history teacher, recalling her expressive mouth and how enthusiastically she proclaimed her love of flying buttresses, wondering if I would have been surprised at that age had someone told me one day I would visit the city I was learning about . . . I don't think I would have been surprised . . .

- the homeless children of Istanbul, some happy and running, some sleeping, some posed with a cup, all with dust and dirt on their toes and fingers and faces, Ahmet telling me they were from Syria, a new problem that is growing and nowhere for them to go

- the girl who approached our dinner table at the restaurant beneath the bridge, motioning for food, begging for food, I gave her pizza but still felt useless

- walking and joking with Noel and Kevin, feeling relaxed and normal again, the girls' face at the table next to us as our conversation became more detailed, referring to the guys as my "natural man deflectors"

- people watching at the Mevlana Museum, women with vibrant hijabs and flawless make-up smiling and laughing around the grounds, others crying and praying within the shrine, foreigners with hats and simple scarfs respectfully reading each plaque and posing with the old fountain multiple times 'till the lighting is just right', touching the walls of the rooms where the Mevlevi stayed, standing near Rumi's resting place and the emblematic sarcophagus, moment of silence with my eyes closed, feeling how special the place is for so many, bits of his clothes thin and tattered, trying to visualize the height of him, wishing I could take a picture of his clothes for Romeo to see

- the stray dog who followed me around Aladdin's Hill, so happy with an animated tail, we received disproving looks from the locals, couldn't help but smile as he boldly licked my toes and continued to follow me around the flower gardens

- exploring the Fairy Chimney homes of Göreme alone and in warm afternoon sun, touching the walls, crawling through small doorways, trying to make out which room was used for cooking and which for sleeping, calling my brother in an attempt to share the experience, leaving a voicemail and continuing on to the next home

- while lying on my bed in the cave hotel, realizing that it's literally another dream come true, feeling pampered and relaxed after a hot bath where I used the complimentary shower gel to create a short-lasting bubble bath, enjoying the roughness of the walls and the richness of the tapestries

- the geologist couple who was more excited about the volcanic activity in Banos, Ecuador than I was, the husband passing my camera around the table in Ihlara Valley to show others

- long stretches of pumpkin and potato fields with hills in the distance, a river with long reeds that looked like crocodiles in the flowing water, and our animated guide Kasim giving honest advice on the best place for a "Turkish bath"

- my favorite dervish, enthralled by his flawless spins and precise hand placement, entranced by the light music, wanting to be closer

- after the whirling dervishes, feeling grateful for cover and enjoying the sense of unity as we the crowd sipped our complimentary hot tea and watched the detailed animation on the building wall of Saruhan tell the story of Turkey and its people

- crouched and entering the drafty tunnel leading to the morgue of Derinkuyu (the buried city), tripping and reaching for the wall where there was none, feeling a touch of fear as I realize the blackness to my side is in fact another tunnel within the morgue leading to complete darkness

- Lara Beach of Antalya, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea farther out than I have been before, bright sun making me squint and the sand burning my feet, munching on pistachio ice cream as I walked around the beach that had no shade

- feet in the Marmara Sea at Erdek, loving how easy it is to walk right into the water, seeing few local tourists and appreciating that at that moment I may be the only international tourist in site

- Lunch in Erdek: blue tablecloths and white chairs, listening to soft waves and a French singer croon "Istanbul, Istanbul . . . ", wicker umbrellas with only stray dogs beneath them, an occasional squeaky bicycle going by, drinking my Tuborg malt beer from a chipped glass as I waited for my fish to be cooked, and giving in when the waiter suggests a Turkish coffee to follow the meal

- Inga, the solo traveler from Holland, telling me her tales of Christmases and birthday parties with strangers who become friends; later lying on my hotel bed with the balcony door open, hearing her continue conversations with her German friends, the faint smell of their cigarettes floating into the room, hearing the clink of their wine glasses on the patio table and the sound of live music in the distance

- Ahmet with his gangsta swagger and free ripe pomegranates, "It's nothing, darling", exchanging your bills and playing on-line poker, the type to bring you tea even if you decline it, proudly showing photos of his impressive weight loss, always up early and to bed late at Chambers of the Boheme, giving tips on what to see and how to see it, walking me to the best place for laundry and later the best place for baklava, escorting me to the bus stop when I went past midnight, feeling so secure with him there

- awaking at 4:45 AM in Erdek, a touch of insomnia, hearing the call to prayer from local mosques, seeing the moon and stars out the balcony window, remembering again that this is Erdek, this is Turkey, this is a sleepy little beach town and I'll be leaving soon

- Radiohead and Modest Mouse playing on Pandora, listening to Noel a room away struggling to check into their flights with budget airline Pegasus, cursing the site but trying over and over again ("Damn these guys!"), and I couldn't help but laugh a little

- last night in Istanbul and inadvertently ordering the anise drink I had hoped not to try, Kevin's German friend giving tips on Thailand while her Aussie boyfriend rolled a cigarette, the three Americans looking dead tired when the energetic boy from Luxembourg boldly announced he was joining our group if that's all right, and it was all right with the exception that we were all going to sleep soon

- last doner on the street before leaving, realizing that I was going to miss the familiarity of Taksim, Chambers of the Boheme, and Ahmet

Posted by WanderingWorld 07:25 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey rtw things_i_want_to_remember Comments (1)

Turkey

Istanbul, Konya, Göreme, Anyalya, and Erdek

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9/23/14 at 1440 (London time)

My time in Turkey has come to an end and I'm on my way to Bangkok. My relationship with the country of Turkey was like a passionate love affair, filled with quarreling and "tussles". I loved the open fields and dry, lazy cities we drove through, the older Turkish women with deep wrinkles and leather sandals that always look too small, the vibrant food of the street vendors, and the ancient elaborate architecture of Göreme's cave structures. However, I was not as open to this beauty as I should have been after experiencing the aggressive nature of Turkish men in Istanbul. In this city alone, I was grabbed, my way was blocked, I was cursed at, and any time I was not walking with a man by my side, I was continually receiving attention. The attention ranged from wanting me to purchase a souvenir, wanting to scam me for a "guide" or "tour" of something free, to wanting a quick smooch or a date. Most understood quickly that the attention was not wanted when I declined or ignored them, but many continued to follow and some even told me that they would not stop, appearing angry that I would ask such a thing. While I did not feel physically or sexually threatened in all the variety of scenarios, I did feel harassed to a degree I have not experienced before.

I would encourage anyone to visit Turkey and to enjoy the culture; however, I would strongly discourage any woman to do solo travel to Istanbul. When by myself, I had exponentially more issues in Istanbul than in Konya, Göreme, Erdek, or Antalya. So, as previously stated, I ended up loving the country and appreciating my time there . . . however, it took me a while to relax my guard and be open to Turkey the way I had been open in Ecuador and Portugal. I find that unfortunate.

I ended up making a few friends in Istanbul. Alistair from Scotland, and Noel & Kevin from Denver. I went out with these boys on different occasions and in different surroundings. Each time, although I was looked at by the salesmen and restaurant hosts, I was not touched and barely addressed . . . I also had a fantastic time wandering and enjoying the city with my new friends.

I also stayed in the Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul, which in hindsight was not the best choice. It is the high fashion party-neighborhood with a continued flood of pedestrians each hour of the day. As I left my hostel at 6 AM, there were still crowds in the street, stumbling and singing, dancing and smoking. Even though the area was not my ideal, I fell in love with my hostel in Taksim (Chambers of the Boheme) and the charismatic owner Ahmet, who I'm sure I loved more because he was a "Konya original" and warned me of Arabic men.

If I were to come to Turkey again, I would travel inland. In the core of Turkey, I found the culture I craved. I am grateful to also have encountered Turkish men whose actions helped me to relax my guard and move past a newly found bias I was beginning to develop. Below are tidbits from my journal and photos from some of my experiences.

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Cooking gözleme in Ihlara Valley

9/12/14 at 1532 (Istanbul time)

Uganda: My name is not mzungu
Ecuador: My name is not gringo
Turkey: My name is not sexy lady, beautiful lady, pretty lady, German lady, Irish lady, Spanish lady, Canadian lady, lady with the beautiful eyes, let me touch you to see if you're real lady, lady, or LADY!!

It's starting to really get on my nerves and it's only the first day.

I've settled in to my hostel in Taksim, called the Chambers of the Boheme. It's my first time doing a dormitory-style hostel and my first action last night was to accidentally wake-up my roommates as I got in past 2 AM. Cheers.

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Turkish stew cooked in a clay jar is then cracked open tableside


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Relaxing cross-legged at a traditional Ottoman restaurant

On a side note, no one thinks I'm American unless they hear my accent when I speak. Success?

9/13/14 at 1811 (Istanbul time)

I'm not sure at what point I became the fat white American chick eating chocolate baklava in a Turkish park, but I think I'm OK with it.

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Feeling a little exasperated in the Topkapi Gardens . . . . baklava will make it better.

I am exhausted and realized I'm at about the halfway point of my trip. I'm taking the advice of many solo travelers and taking a day "for myself". I'm wandering around with no particular agenda, sitting in a park however long it suits me.

Today, I visited the Grand Bazaar and although I enjoyed walking around the ancient architecture of the area, I was disappointed to see that the majority is row after row of mass produced souvenirs and wares. The Turkish lamps and pottery are truly beautiful, however, and add a touch of the light and vibrancy I had expected to see.

I ate my first döner kebab and drank my first bit of freshly squeezed orange juice. I walked around the outer area of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, appreciating the obelisks and the beauty of Topkapi Palace.

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Ancient Egyptian obelisk, known as the Obelisk of Theodosius. Brought by Romans to Istanbul

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The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque

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Hagia Sophia ceiling

I'm delighted to say I tried fresh Turkish delight and actually love it. It's so incredibly different than the processed and packaged Turkish delights carried at grocery stores in the states. I purchased a bit of the pomegranate-grape-pistachio that the salesman promised was his favorite and enjoyed it while walking around. I also found humor in the fact that "Turkish viagra" was various roasted nuts (go figure). I explored and figured out a bit of Istanbul's public transit, and am now relaxing the footsies because (as Elena would say) my dogs are barking, boo.

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Fresh pomegranate, grape, and pistachio Turkish delight

Random note, but a Kurdish man approached me in the Grand Bazaar, saying that my Ecuador bracelet looks like the Kurdish flag. He shared a bit about his negative experiences as a Kurd in Istanbul, saying that he would be pushed to the back of any line and was hassled by police. He said that Kurds were not welcome in some establishments. He said, "But it is better now." He then offered to give me a good price on some hand-painted cow-bone ring boxes.

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Fishing along the Golden Horn

9/14/14 at 1140 (Istanbul time)

Last night, I went out for dinner and exploration with my bunkmate Alistair from Scotland. We had an overpriced fish dinner with Efes beer at a restaurant facing the main street in Taksim. We had a good view of a dondurma salesman, looking good in his shiny vest as he worked his magic and rang the bells over his ice cream cart.

After dinner, we discovered a bar that specialized in delicious shots. When we walked in, we were handed a menu with column after column of creative mixes. I ordered a few at random and enjoyed my bits of mango and passionfruit and unknown alcohol. To my knowledge, I had no tequila. =P

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One of the many animated dondurma (ice cream) men of Istanbul

This morning I slept in and am about to head out now. First, I will book my hotels for Konya, Cappadocia, and Antalya. I've been feeling a little down since my last night in Portugal but realized today that I was not listening to music . . . the most music was in Ecuador. It's time to change that.

I move on to another day, to a whole new town with a whole new way . . .

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Döner kebab

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Fresh pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul

9/15/14 at 0015 (Istanbul time)

Reflection:
Directions to my hostel could have read as "Take the metro, then the funikuler to Taksim. Walk down the street with the Christmas lights of snowflakes, the street with the Burger King in front of the mosque. When you reach McDonald's, make a left."

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Blue Mosque

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One of Istanbul's famous wet hamburgers

Today, I got a museum card and went around to see the interior of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Harem Museum, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, and the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately, the crowds were a bit overwhelming at the various displays and there was construction at multiple locations. Tomorrow, possibly a Turkish bath and a tour of the Bosphorus for my last day in Istanbul? Then, getting ready for my flight to Konya.

9/16/14 at 0102 (Istanbul time)

On the bus heading to the airport for Konya. I had a fantastic last day in Istanbul. There were less crowds in the historic area and the pace less hectic, possibly because it was a Monday. I visited the Basilica Cistern based on a suggestion from my Colombian roommates, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Basilica Cistern

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Medusa heads within the cistern. Their origins are unknown and although theories exist for why they're positioned unconventionally, no one knows for certain.

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The famous tears column within the Basilica Cistern

Alistair left the hostel this morning and I found a new sleeping roommate when I returned to my room in the afternoon. My new roomie was Noel from Denver and once he was awake & clothed a little more modestly, we chit-chatted a bit, then decided to get some dinner with his friend Kevin. The three of us hit it off right off the bat, laughing and having a good time wandering Istanbul. We picked a restaurant from the string of establishments underneath the bridge on the Golden Horn. Our criteria seemed to be "where we're not hassled to look at a menu". Afterward dinner and distracting fireworks, we wandered and found a relaxed bar with blues and 'possibly' Radiohead playing. We drank Turkish beer, shared bits of ourselves, and it was during this time that I realized how much I was missing conversation between friends. I had gotten a touch of friendship with Alistair before he left, but felt a more genuine flow in the conversations with Noel and Kevin about old pizza and stories of the male nether region.

I'm off to see Konya, then Cappadocia, and I'm not sure after that. I will be returning to Istanbul before my flight to Bangkok and it is possible my new Denver friends may be there because Kevin is waiting for a visa from the Indian embassy. Is it so terrible to say I hope the Indian visa doesn't come through too quickly so I can enjoy a drink with my new friends when I return?

Next time, photos with these friends . . . Kevin's right, it's hard to remember to take photos with the people you meet along the way . . . I'm happy that I remembered a group photo with my Sacha Yacu family. For now, on to catch some sleep during this hour and a half bus ride.

9/16/14 at 0146 (Istanbul time)

Soooo . . . that 1.5, maybe 2 hour bus ride to the airport?? Yeah, it took 30 minutes. Now preparing to sleep for a few hours in front of the Burger King and Popeyes in the chilly terminal. *sigh*

9/16/14 at 1416 (Konya time)

Made it to the Mevlana Museum, the resting place on Rumi and home of the original whirling dervishes. Sitting at the cafe on the museum grounds, drinking some Dergâh Serbeti, aka Dervish Sherbert. It's an apple vinegar drink with honey, which is quite excellent. The only downside was when an Afghani man came and sat next to me with a Sprite drink and proceeded to show me family photos and ask for money. This was all in a foreign language but the pantomiming was clear enough. Good to know in Konya you are not hassled as much, however, it is still present.

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Mevlana Museum

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Whirling dervish sherbert drink made of apple vinegar and honey

My hotel is literally one street away, which I'm grateful for. After this, perhaps a little exploration of Konya?

9/16/14 at 2051 (Konya time)

Sitting at a restaurant in front of the Mevlana Museum, which is lit up beautifully at night, waiting on my dinner. This morning, I visited the museum, then explored Aladdin's Hill before wandering through the streets of Konya. It's a simple city without much in ways of attractions or quirky shops. I'm still happy to say I've been here and was intrigued to see the clothing of Rumi, to feel the walls that housed the original dervishes. Tomorrow, the bus to Cappadocia . . .

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Alaettin Tepesi, or Aladdin's Hill

9/17/14 at 0944 (Konya time)

In the bus, getting ready to head to the city of Göreme and the region of Cappadocia. Free WiFi and only 35TL for a 3.5 hour ride? Yes, please. =)

I'll be staying in my first cave hotel, which has me pretty crazy excited. Hoping to see some traditional Turkish dance tonight or whirling dervishes if possible, then tomorrow an all day tour. I can't wait . . . to explore the Cappadocia region has been a dream for many years.

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9/18/14 at 1721 (Göreme time)

I love Göreme! The fantastic staff at Grand Cave Suites welcomed me with a complimentary beer and a no-cost upgrade. Based on their suggestion, yesterday I visited the Open Air Museum and explored the nearby cave dwellings. It's shocking to me that you can walk throughout these structures and actually touch history. I am used to areas of historic interest being barricaded off with "no flash photography, please". It was thrilling to jump, crawl, and climb around them. The Open Air museum had a number of churches and discussed the historical roots of the Cappadocia region.

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Grand Cave Suites grounds in Cappadocia


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After my bits of exploration, I finally saw a performance of the whirling dervishes! I visited the Saruhan Cultural Center, where we were also supplied with a complimentary tea afterwards. We enjoyed the tea as an elaborate and beautiful display show came on the side of the brick wall of the center to illustrate Turkish history and culture.

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Whirling dervishes at the Saruhan Cultural Center

Today has been fantastic as well. I booked the Rose Tours Green Line tour for 120TL with the help Gurcan at Grand Cave Suites. A full-day tour, we saw the underground city of Derinkuyu where less than 10% has been excavated. We went 8 stories beneath the ground and learned about how the people lived and the city worked when they were there hiding from threatening forces. We also did a mild hike through Ihlara Valley, where we also stopped for lunch. We learned of onyx and saw demonstrations of polishing. I stayed away from the expensive stuff and was happy to find a small pumice stone carving of the Fairy Chimneys that will be coming home with me. I am now back in Göreme for a little clay-pot cooked dinner before preparing for my overnight bus to Antalya.

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The morgue area of Derinkuyu

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Example of the many al frescos seen on our tour

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Filmmakers' inspiration for Tattoine in Star Wars films. Some guidebooks mistakenly say it is the filming location.

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Cappadocia region

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Learning how the wine pourers were meant to work

9/19/14 at 0343 (Antalya time)

Quick break on the overnight bus with Kamilkoc to Antalya. I have never seen a mosque in a bus stop before. Everyone is snoring, hooping I'll fall back to sleep once we head off again. Should be there around 7:30 or so, then get picked up by my hotel. *yawn* Back to sleeeeep . . . .

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9/19/14 at 2112 (Antalya time)

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Lara Beach

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Sunset in Antalya

My day in Antalya was pretty good. I'm getting ready to start the packing process, then will head out for some live music and late night dinner before I leave this little beach town. Today, I took the KL08 bus to Lara Beach on the Eastern side of Antalya. You can take the same bus back to the Western side to check out Konyaalta Beach, which I had heard is not as good (but looked the same from a distance). There are a couple rocky ocean areas between the two where you can pay for access and sit among the waves. Be forewarned, there's no shade!

I swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, enjoying how calm the waves were and how far out I could go. I walked around and saw various ruins amongst the beautiful cobblestone street areas of Antalya. I had dinner in a restaurant overlooking the waters with boats passing by in the darkness and chit chatted for a while with a lady named Inga from Holland who started solo traveling ten years ago following a divorce. I find her lively and outgoing, and now she is here in Antalya for 13 days having a reunion of sorts with various couples and solo travelers she has met along the way. I told her about Solo Travel Society on facebook and we spoke for some time aboout the beneits of being along, marveling at how it ends up being more of a social experience than anything else.

Now to pack . . . again. =P

9/20/14 at 1128 (Istanbul time)

I've arrived safe and sound, now on the Havatas bus headed for Taksim neighborhood. Last time, it took 30 minutes to the airport. I'm assuming to Taksim it shall take much longer with all the drop off's we'll have to do. I heard from Noel and Kevin, who are visiting Bozcaada island in the Aegan Sea. They'll be back tomorrow afternoon to Istanbul and so will try to stay at the Chambers of the Boheme hostel as well so we can hang out on Sunday evening and Monday all day. We'll all be leaving Istanbul on Tuesday . . . I'm pretty sad, actually, wish I could join them throughout Turkey and experience the country a bit of a different way. Thinking about it now, that is an option . . . I could extend a flight. But I'm eager to see Thailand and get soaked by rain water and visit New Zealand.

9/21/14 at 1414 (Erdek time)

There was a change of plans and now I am relaxing in Erdek, awaiting the arrival of Noel from Bozcaada. Kevin is moving on to Istanbul so that he may pick-up his visa from the Indian embassy tomorrow at the right time. This is a sleepy little beach town, easily accessible by the IDO ferry from Yenakopi to Bandirma (two hour ride for 49TL), then hopping a minibus to Erdek for 5TL. My hotel was supposed to have a free shuttle from the otogar (bus station) but the phone number provided was no longer in service. After a quick 16TL cab ride, I was at my home for the night. After a little relaxation, I am now wandering the beach . . . and infinitely more happy than if I had stayed in Istanbul.

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Floating car, because why not?

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My second Turkish coffee of the trip.

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Mine: "Tuborg, the Turkish cyborg beer."
Kevin: "Tuborg, when one borg isn't enough."
(Kevin clearly wins)

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Wicker umbrellas decorate sand beaches in Erdek

9/22/14 at 1841 (Bandirma time)

Sitting on the ferry, ready to head to Yenokapi. Relaxing with a Kayisi Nektari drink. With Noel, going to meet up with Kevin and friends from Germany. Erdek was indeed a sleepy little town and we didn't do as much exploration as much of sitting and relaxing. Unfortunately no swimming in the water, although I did dip my feet within the first hour . . .

Looking forward to hanging out with friends, humored that it will be the third time returning to Chambers of the Boheme, excited to move on to Bangkok but at the same time going to miss new friends and connections that were made. Oddly going to miss Ahmet and his swagger-style.

9/23/14 at 0109 (Istanbul time)

Last night in Taksim complete, no more time at Chambers of the Boheme with the colorful owner Mr. Ahmet. Exhausted and about to go to sleep, had my last döner wrap with Kevin and Noel. Going to miss those crazy guys, wish we were able to hang out more. With the travel bug in place, hoping for more travel time in the future. Sleep time in a sweaty shirt . . .

9/23/14 at 1517 (London time)

11.5 hour fight to Bangkok on the exit row with leg space? Score!! =P

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Salt-baked sea bass

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Beer shots and freshly laundered clothes (that were put in a dryer!) make me happy

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Gourd lamp in Göreme

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Posted by WanderingWorld 05:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged cappadocia turkey istanbul rtw goreme konya foot_shot analya erdek cave_hotel Comments (0)

Things I Want to Remember: Açores Islands, Portugal

Pico


- the sound of the waves, a stray cat, and me sitting on the wall, eating a fancy dinner with a borrowed fork and a borrowed knife as it grew darker following the sunset, overlooking Faial from Pico's coast

- calling for instruction on how to turn on the headlights of my rented car, the struggle to understand how to refill gas, crying out with joy at the feeling of freedom as I drove aimlessly, listening to unfamiliar music on the radio as I drove the length and width of Pico through fog, rain, sunrises, and sunsets, stopping as I wanted

- the cow that licked my car door, so curious and yet so timid

- coming upon the Silveira sign on my way to Lajes do Pico, wondering where my great-grandmother's house was

- excitement and wonder as I found out that city I was staying in (Sao Roque) was also the city of my great-grandfather and great-great-grandparents, facetime with my mother & father, who happened to be having dinner with my brother Greg and his family at the time, telling them about the city I was in and the convent

- the humored confusion I felt at the grocery store as I tried to understand if I was purchasing dish soap or laundry soap

- speaking with the kind Alexandra from Espaco Talassa about my family, appreciating her efforts as she left her shop in search of those who might know the Rodrigues or Casquilho name, writing out a note and describing the home of a 100 year old local historian who may be able to recall Rodrigues or Casquilho within Pico

- exploring the art studio of the German artist who moved to Pico, appreciating her drawings, paintings, engravings, sculptures, hearing her love for her new home

- nose attack via car door in Piedades

- the bathrooms that appeared like a Portuguese Room of Requirement, through the thick trees dotted with picnic benches, past the crumbling stone wall, finding them impeccable and modern

- recognizing that I was allowing myself to become lost, embracing the freedom of being 'lost'

- the lava tube at Gruta das Torres, being allowed to examine the steps down to the mouth of the tunnel on my own the day the electricity was out, becoming scared and running back up the steps away from the dark tunnel, returning to learn of volcanoes on the island and understanding how much volcanoes contribute to Pico's identity, appreciating the ripples and smooth layers of lava within the tunnel, assisting the others when going to jump and climb the rock inside, recalling that Sacha Yacu helped to prepare me for this minimal excursion, seeing the bacterial colonies and the names written within the colonies, the moment of complete darkness and the sound of hollowness & dripping water

- Silveira and Sao Roque volcanic bits of earth in my hands

- my last morning in Pico, on the water front, alone, bundled, watching the sun's yellow rays cut through the clouds, stepping out onto the volcanic coast near to the foamy waves

- swimming alone in the saltwater pool, floating after a slow adjustment to the cold water, bits of ocean wildlife below me in the blue pool, joy looking at the pure vanilla sky above me, the kind man who maintains the pool allowing me my privacy and time before draining the water for cleaning

- last dinner in Pico, they were out of linguiça with yams, ordered shrimp and crawfish pasta instead, sudden downpour as I ate my warm dish on the lighted patio

- night of sleeping in the rental car, pulled near enough to hear the water but far enough way to not be blasted by wind, microfiber towel for a blanket, in the darkness, listening to the ocean, feeling more calm and connected with Pico than if I had paid for a hotel that night

- small black bracelet with bits of basalt handmade by the girl with the jewelry shop

Faial


- the older Polish couple next to me on the plane on the way to Horta, almost no English, eager to communicate with me, took out their tablet and began showing me family photos, proudly telling me their granddaughter would be a nurse and that their daughter had a herniated disc, watching the wife punch and push the chair in front of her as it reclined, laughing as she groaned at every up close picture of her while her husband was proud to show pictures of his beautiful wife

- feeling welcomed by Tomás, enjoying watching his son Julião who "cannot walk just straight, that is too boring" and who was either hungry or angry depending on the pronunciation

- a lunch of tuna lasagna with Fernando the philosopher & philosophy teacher and Tomás along the water, watching as ghost wind moved the chairs, exploring the paintings in the pier placed there to bring sailers good luck, later showing Julião the Yoda painting done recently by a crew

- walk to Porto Pim in late afternoon, Tomás pointing out his most recent architectural project, Fernando happened to be enjoying the water and called out to us from the sea, seeing a naked young girl of about 4 running in and out of the calm ocean water, Tomás pointing out birds unique to the island, my feet in the clear water, Julião becoming the second naked child in the ocean that day, "a small whale and a big whale" crawling out of the water, with salt kisses farewell in the Portuguese fashion ("It's like kissing the ocean!" . . . "Salt kisses!")

- movie night with 'Nebraska' and Tomás' friends, appreciating how they were conscious to switch to English when I walked near, observing the enthusiastic discussion following the movie and catching some meaning of their Portuguese words by expression alone, saying goodbye, receiving good solid cheek kisses, walking to the balcony, hearing the water and realizing I forgot the situation. "Oh, that's right. I'm on an island. I'll be leaving soon. This is temporary" and feeling both happy and sad in the same moment

Terceira


- picked up by Paulo after accidentally approaching a different Paulo and having minor confusion, appreciating how different each island is, noting the different landscape as he drove

- his beautiful home, with stone floors, creaky wood doors, loving animals who want cuddles and pets, colorful artwork, and bottle art that lets the light in

- coffee at the cafe in the garden, talking with Paulo about family, travel, & life, finding him open and honest, loving his quiet demeanor and blue eyes that seem so different when up close

- a quick ride to explore Monte Brasil that overlooks the city of Angra do Heroísmo, later having dinner at Quinta dos Açores, which included Queijada da Graciosa ice cream for dessert, wanting to try more of the Açorean flavors and realizing again that I must return

Posted by WanderingWorld 15:12 Archived in Portugal Tagged mountains animals volcano family rtw pico airbnb horta açores terceira things_i_want_to_remember faial sao_roque silveira Comments (6)

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