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Asia Travel

    Asia Travel

    Farewell to the Maldives

    Our Full Time Travel Life Continues

    Three weeks went by really fast – surprisingly fast for as quiet as it is here.  We really practically had nothing to do, in our little piece of Maldive paradise…but we found ourselves relishing the peace – just our cup of tea in a life of full time retired travel.

    Morning coffee

    Three weeks in one place was great.  Even better, three weeks on an island that is only a mile and a half circumference, with no cars, restaurants or nightlife.  Hardly any shops.  What we did find on the island of Huraa was a quiet, religious and extremely friendly community, a great place to work-out everyday, a comfortable resort with good food and relaxing atmosphere, and a beach.

    Perfect.

    <imgalt="snorkling">

    Snorkling in the azure sea

    Our day consisted of getting up before nearly all the other guests, doing yoga and cardio on the beach for an hour and then walking or running two or three times around the island (twice = 3 miles, thrice = 4.5).  Next we had breakfast, then usually went to the beach sometimes til lunch others times skipping lunch and staying all day. This workout routine is a high priority for us in our life of full time retired travel.

    <imgalt=r"omanticbeachdinner">

    Romantic Beach Dinner

    A couple of times we went on snorkel excursions to smaller islands in the atoll.  Afternoons we played scrabble, read (a total of four books in three weeks), and spent hours and hours doing technical work to the blog. I spent one entire day in the hammock working on the blog. It is up-to-date and in good shape!

    Since there is no alcohol on this Muslim island we often splurged on an ice cream bar in the afternoon instead.   A little treat on a hot tropical island.

    Most days included a walk to the point to watch the sunset followed by dinner at 7:00 each night in the outdoor restaurant. The rest of the evening spent relaxing and reading.  What a life huh?

    We have loved our time here.  We feel healthy and rejuvenated and ready for what’s next.

    <imgalt="maldivesunset">

    Sunset on Huraa

    So what is next? Two days in Singapore, followed by a week visiting my niece and her husband in Guam.  Then a month in Australia, before meeting our friends John and Carole for three weeks in Bali.

    The days ahead will fly by, and April 22nd will be here before we know it.  That’s the day we sail from Sydney on a 23 day cruise back to the USA for a ten week visit.  We arrive Seattle May 14th and depart again August 7th as we plan to continue this life of full time retired travel.

    <imgalt="beach yoga">

    Morning yoga on the beach

    So thanks for continuing to follow.  Our time in the Maldives has given me the opportunity to do some more major work to the blog and I am really excited about moving forward with new opportunities to share our adventure through the blog –  I hope you are too.

    Please share our message with your friends!  Please sign up to receive the blog via email (much more reliable than through the crazy Facebook algorithm). The adventure continues! Singapore here we come!

    Note – do you follow us on Facebook?  Facebook now puts us in the new “Explore” timeline, so if you have updated your ap that is where you’ll find us.  We are also very active on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  Find us and follow us there!

     

     

     

    Asia Travel  --  Everything Else Fabulous

    Traveling with Low Expectations Brings Happier Rewards

    Location: Maldive Islands

    Maybe it’s different if you are on a two-week vacation.  You likely want every minute of your two weeks perfect.  I suspect this is why I see frustrated tourists on occasion.  Visitors with high expectations dashed.

    I’m more and more aware that a life of full-time travel will eventually bring you to a place where you approach each new destination with low expectations, and where you are usually rewarded with happier results.

    Life is easier if you don’t put the pressure of high expectations on every moment.  I used to live a life of high expectations.  No more. Now we know traveling with low expectations brings happier rewards.

    I was thinking about this today, during my morning yoga practice on the beach in the beautiful Maldives.  I was thinking about this because there is a couple here at the resort we are at, who clearly came here with high expectations.  Too high.  They are leaving and going somewhere else.

    Unfortunately I expect they won’t find what they are looking for at the next place either.

    The resort we are at is simple.  Nothing fancy.  But it is inexpensive, comfortable, relaxed and the service is great.  We did our research before coming here – and our expectations matched exactly the reality (such as, in this Muslim country, no alcohol and only one beach where western swimwear is allowed). Too bad the couple I referred to didn’t do their research – or perhaps they just live a high expectation, high maintenance life, waiting for others to make them happy.

    Traveling with low expectations is a blessing really.  We do a lot of research before we go somewhere, both on the destination and on the lodgings we choose.  We approach each new place with a giddy sense of wonder and fear…but never with high expectations.  This has given us the most joy in our travels, little disappointment and frequent euphoria.

    Accepting each country and each destination’s quirks and faults, bonuses and perks makes for great memories and experiences.  Not dragging any preconceived notions, American needs or desires or high expectations into the adventure is how we have fun.  Learning along the way that the grand adventure is what we make it – how we take it – low expectations and happy rewards.

    A fabulous life indeed.

    Asia Travel

    Learning About Ancient Chinese Tea in Beijing

    Location: China

    What a fascinating experience we enjoyed learning about ancient Chinese tea in Beijing.

    Sorry Mr. Lipton, but I’m not sure I can ever use a tea bag again.

    Sorry Mr. Starbucks but your idea of Chai just won’t cut it for me anymore.

    <img alt = "ancient tea ceremony">

    Tea as a welcome and a greeting

    Oh and apologies also to the Queen – milk and sugar is out.

    I’ve been converted to the wonders of Chinese tea.

    Those of you who know me personally know I am a coffee-holic.  Boy do I love my morning java.  But, most of you probably don’t know I also enjoy tea, particularly in the evening as a relaxing way to unwind.

    The thing I found most enchanting about the ancient Chinese tea culture was the calming nature of the experience of it.

    <img alt = "tea as art form">

    Preparing and serving is an art form

    Unlike the coffee-culture we live in (fast-paced, drive-through and impersonal),  Chinese Tea Culture is about taking the time to hand brew each cup, serve it in beautiful containers and present it in a humble and ceremonial way.  Tea is not just about drinking something hot and delicious.  It’s a greeting, a gesture, a gathering, and an art – and ancient tradition.

    Both recent scientific and ancient medical cultures agree tea also has a wide range of health benefits for our bodies.  Our server at the Fujian Anxi Xihua Tea Company schooled us on the many ailments Chinese people turn to tea to cure including; low sex-drive, digestion problems, slow metabolism and lack of energy.  Tea is a zero calorie, immunity boosting, antioxidant  said to increase bone strength, improve energy level and help in weight loss.

    <img alt = "delicious chinese tea">

    Delicious

    Wow.  Sign me up.

    Learning about ancient Chinese tea in Beijing we visited a Chinese Tea Ceremony where we were given the opportunity to see, smell, taste

    <img alt = "chinese flowering tea">

    Flowering Tea

    and appreciate many different teas including; Oolong, Jasmine, Red Tea, Black Tea, Blooming Flower Tea, Ginseng and Fruit Tea.

    Beyond my fascination with the tea itself I was intrigued by the variety of implements used in the preparation and service of the tea: pots, cups, lids, spoons, scoops, sieves, strainers and even a tiny crockery naked boy, who pees when the water is hot enough. Yes I brought one home.

    Speaking of hot water, I also learned some teas are served with water that is not quit boiling…so much detail in this way of tea. So much to learn.

    I did not and could not possibly learn it all in the hour we enjoyed our visit at the Tea House.  But it was enough time to intrigue me to study up, and expand my tea drinking wisdom and enjoy the art of Chinese Tea, back at home. Slowly and with purpose.

     

     

    Asia Travel

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    Hoorah Huraa

    Location: Maldive Islands

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    Yes the water really is that color

    We’ve been breaking our own rule of slow travel lately with some whirlwind activity through India and Bangladesh. So we were looking to recenter and refocus on our goals. And we found the perfect place. Affordable peace-and-quiet on the Maldives. Hoorah Huraa!

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    Sunset from Huraa

    We didn’t specifically choose the island of Huraa. Rather we chose the affordable Airbnb (Beach Heaven)here. As nice as it would be to stay in one of those mega expensive over the water thatched roof bungalows you see in the Maldives marketing material – that is not in our budget.  Nor really is it in our keep it simple and affordable style.

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    Looking across the channel to the very expensive Club Med from our sweet little spot

    We chose to spend three week’s at the “keep it simple” Beach Heaven Hotel where for $90 a day (total not per person) we are enjoying a small but comfortable room, three meals a day, coffee, tea and water all day and other non alcoholic drinks available for a tiny price.  We also have great WiFi (a surprise), a patio table to play scrabble as well as hammocks and lounge chairs to read in and a beach five minutes walk away.

    There is a tiny-little community here on Huraa but no cars.  That makes walking the crushed coral narrow streets each morning another bonus.

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    Google map image of the island of Huraa

    We thought the island we stayed on in the Seychelles was small- well you could put about 200 Huraa’s on the Seychelles island of Praslin.

    There are a couple of tiny stores, a couple of other tiny resorts, and a school.  Many of the locals work at the three resorts on the neighboring islands where over the water huts run about $1500 a night, all visible from our $90 room at Beach Heaven.

    Affordable Peace and Quiet on the Maldives

    Colorful house on the crushed coral streets of Huraa

    The Maldives are a devout Muslim nation and Huraa has a small mosque. And of course no alcohol, tobacco, or pork.  We are using these three alcohol free weeks to really focus on our health. Although I’ve been suffering since Bangladesh with a cold, we are enjoying early morning beach yoga daily, cardio every other day and power walking most days. You must circle the island twice to walk three miles.  The highest point on the island is about five feet.  So power walking is easy.

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    The atoll of Maldives showing all the islands with resorts

    The Maldives are an atoll.  I believe this is my first visit to an atoll. An atoll forms when an ancient
    volcano sinks into the sea from the weight of the coral building and growing on the fringe.  This leaves a ring of small coral islands with a lagoon center.  Coral is  everywhere  here – the sand on the beach is fine coral, the roads are crushed coral and coral is used as stone for building houses.

    Affordable Peace & Quiet on the Maldives

    No cars on Huraa but a few scooters and golf carts and whatever you would call this cute thing.

    We have eaten fish everyday so far and the tuna is especially fresh and delicious.

    We still have more than two weeks here, and we plan to take some snorkeling excursions as soon as my cold goes away.  But meanwhile we are just enjoying this unique place, a great find with affordable peace and quiet on the Maldives.

    Hoorah Huraa.

    Asia Travel

    The Story of the Taj Mahal

    The Greatest Love Story

    Location: Taj Mahal

    Once upon a time there was the greatest love story.  It happened a long time ago in a far-off beautiful land of precious gemstones, tigers, elephants and a Mughal King named Shah Jahan.

    Now if you are Shah Jahan you are the ruler of a great land in what we now call India.  If you are Shah Jahan you are the fifth King in a line of great rulers of the Mughal dynasty, with a spectacular palace fort in what is now called Agra.

    As ruler of this empire, you have the world on a platter, food and comforts at your disposal, as well as courtesans and as many wives as you might want.  You believe you have everything you need, until one day, as you are walking through the Meena Bazaar you spy a beautiful girl selling silks and glass beads.

    You are only 14 years old but you are smitten and you want this girl for your wife.  She is called Arjumand Banu and is a Persian Muslim Princess.  And she will be your wife, five years later when you come of age.

    You will name her Mamtaz Majal, which means “Jewel of the Palace” and you are madly in love.  She is your favorite wife and you lavish her with anything she can possibly desire.  You love her not only for her exquisite beauty but her intelligence, management skill and humor.  You love her often, and she bears you 14 children.

    But your world will come crashing down when Mamtaz Majal dies after giving birth to your 14th child.  On her death-bed you promise her you will never remarry and you will build a monument in her memory.

    You will mourn your beloved for two years and then undertake the most ambitious and remarkable construction project of its kind to date and you will spend the next 22 years building the grand Taj Mahal “Crown of the Palace”. The white marble mausoleum, still so stunning nearly 400 years later continues to bear witness to your great love as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

    In the mausoleum your one true love Mamtaz Mahal will lie, and you will join her many years later.  But only after spending the last few years of your life imprisoned in your own palace by your own son.  After spending more than 32 million rupees (one billion dollars) to build the Taj Mahal your son imprisons you when you begin construction on a similar mausoleum for your own tomb, just across the river where you can spend eternity next to your beloved wife.

    But your dream of another mausoleum will never come to fruition.  You will die, broken-hearted and be laid to rest next to your one true love inside the Taj Mahal.

    The greatest love story.  The story of the Taj Mahal.

     

    Asia Travel

    Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

    Remembering the 2004 Tsunami

    Location: Sri Lanka

    Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

    Remembering the 2004Indian Ocean Tsunami

    Top someone’s former home. Bottom high water mark at the bar

    Last year on the 13th anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami we were in Phuket Thailand. It was difficult to find any sign of the disaster
    remaining in Thailand, where about 5000 people perished.

    Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

    Top afterthe Tsunami. Bottom today.

    But it’s still very much apparent here in Sri Lanka.  Here 50,000 people died on December 26, 2004 including 2000 who died here in the town where we are living when the train they were riding was swept away.

    Right here where our little Castaway Cottage now sits, a families home was destroyed. The concrete slab only remains, a memorial of sorts.  The family, our Airbnb hosts, survived and moved forward, in the resilient way the Sri Lanka people seem to.

    Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

    Top after the tsunami and bottom today

    Our tour guide we had on our five day tour was in Colombo on that day.  Luckily the waves did not affect Colombo on the West Coast of Sri Lanka.  Many more lives would have been lost in the largest city in the country.

    We visited a temple and the Monk told us how on that day the temple washed away.  Still today signs of rebuilding part of the school there.  Resilient.

    Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

    Left memorial to the train victims. Right a close up of artists rendition of disaster.

    There are subtle reminders often; a memorial to fifty lives lost in Yala National Park;  a high water mark at a beach bar in Hikkaduwa; empty buildings and hotels still not rebuilt; trees growing where families once thrived.

    Remembering the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

    For perspective, that’s me standing on the bridge.

    The most public memorials in this area are for the train victims.  Two memorials are built- one by the resilient Sri Lankan people with an artists version of the devastation on the train that day.  The other, a gift from the Japanese – a giant Buddha statue next to the train tracks where so many lost their lives.  This beautiful statue marks where the second wave hit.  The most devastating wave to strike – and to kill.

    Remembering the 2004 I Dian Ocean tsunami

    Countries affected by the tsunami.

    Day to day life goes on around these memorials, despite the fact everyone here was touched by this event in some way and will never be the same.  But these resilient people easily get my vote for the friendliest of any people we have met on our travels.  Kind, polite, happy, resilient.  Lucky.

    Fabulous Sri. Lanka

    Note – we leave Sri Lanka in a couple of days and will be heading next to India for a brief five day stop. More from India when we can.  Thanks for following.

     

    Asia Travel

    When I Am 58 I Will Wear an Orange Kaftan

    Fashion Over Fifty with Fab Comfort

    Location: Sri Lanka

    So it’s my birthday.  Fifty-Eight.  Fabulous Fifty- Eight.  Spending this one in fabulous Sri Lanka, where Fab style has a different meaning.

    Fashion over fifty with fab comfort

    My new Kaftan

    And so I decided it was time.  I may look like a walking circus tent – or maybe not.  But I have found in my travels and in My Fab Fifties Life,

    Batik going on the fabric

    comfort trumps fashion every time.  Especially when it’s 200% humidity.

    I now own a Kaftan.  And not just any Kaftan – I had one made to my specification.  The fabric created, hand painted and then dyed. I wanted orange.  Bright colors look best with my Fabulous Grey Goddess hair.

    Coming out of the dye vat

    I wanted long to the ground and to cover my shoulders.  You see in so many countries we travel to, women must cover; legs, shoulders, midriff.  This will be an easy thing to throw on for visiting mosques and temples, historic sites or walking around town or to a restaurant. Or just going to the beach to watch the sunset. It fits this life – this Fab Fifties Life.

    Fashion over fifty with fab comfort

    Hello 58!

    I love that I met the women who were responsible for making the batik and dyeing the fabric.  I love that I met the man who sewed it.  He was so darn sweet I wanted to buy everything in his shop. In fact, I bought another dress too.  Not a kaftan, but also with sleeves and covering my knees.

    And best of all, guess what?  These made to my specifications, hand batiked and dyed dresses cost me $20 each.  Fabulous.

    Happy Birthday to me.  It’s gonna be another amazing year.