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    Fab 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.

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    My Fab Fifties Life Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Location: Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Oscar nominations this week!  A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films.  But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation.  Enough to last a life time.  So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    And the winner is…

    World Travel Awards 2017 2018

    Hoi An Vietnam

    DESTINATIONS

    Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam

    By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food.  We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.

    Most Surprising – Namibia

    We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed.  A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.

     

    Best Value Destination – Bulgaria

    We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Bulgaria

    meet any Americans.  Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!

    Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand

    Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Abel Tasman New Zealand

    outdoor enthusiast dream  and is stunningly beautiful.

    Most Crowded City – Hanoi

    The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos.  Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.

    Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia

    Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Diocletian’s Palace, Split

    harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.

    Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco

    Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city

     

     

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Fez Morocco

    Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco

    Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez.  We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco

    We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Latifah unveiling the Tajine

    in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us.  The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.

    Best Airbnb Overall – Koh Samui Thailand

    We had a lot of discussion over this one.  We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s.  And even this one had a few quirks.  But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it.  It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    We loved our private pool in Koh Samui

     

    Most Authentic Airbnb – Siem Reap Cambodia

    Staying in an authentic Khmer home in Siem Reap was a treat in itself, but then adding the wonderful breakfasts and services our host provided us made this place one of our all time favs.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Cambodian Khmer House

     

     

    Most Unusual AirbnbMotueka New Zealand

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Funky Truck

    We spent two nights in a funky old truck/camper with an outhouse and it was a hoot.

    Most Rustic AirbnbHikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    We nicknamed this place Castaway Cottage and it was like living on Gilligan’s Island – complete with lots of critters including rats, snakes, mongoose, monitor lizards, gecko and BUGS!

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    View from our Sozopol Airbnb

    Best Value Airbnb – Sozopol Bulgaria

    We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view.  We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.

    Best HotelLuang Prabang Laos

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Luang Prabang Laos

    We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in.  From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.

    FOOD

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Because noodles always put a smile on your face.

    Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand

    This is the best food in the world.  Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.

    Best Restaurant Meal – Ceverjaria Ramiro Lisbon Portugal, Honorable Mention to Ladja Podlanica in Piran Slovenia

    I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Lisbon Portugal

    Salvador who lives in Lisbon.  It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite.  Someday I will go back.  In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran

    con vongole.  We loved it so very much we went twice.

    Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago

    When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.

    Best Cooking Class –  Chiang Mai Thailand with Honorable Mention to Cape Town South Africa

    I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    My favorite Chiang Mai Noodles

    and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it.  My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.

    Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia

    Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA.  Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.

    Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles

    Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Hmong Village Laos

    Seychelles Islands.

    CULTURE, NATURE AND EXPERIENCES

    Best Authentic Cultural Experience – It’s a tie between Hmong Village Laos and Himba Village Namibia

    Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Himba Women and Children

    differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.

    Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles

    No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times.  This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    La Digue Seychelles

     

    Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal

    It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos.  Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.

    Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

    An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tongariro Crossing

    Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa

    We thought down would be easier.  It wasn’t.  There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it.  My body gave it all I had, and it was

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Table Mountain Hike

    more than a week before I didn’t hurt.

    Best Outdoor Experience – Able Tasman New Zealand

    Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country.  We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.

    Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Angor Wat Cambodia

    It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing.  The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.

    Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia

    Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tunisia

    yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia.  Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.

    Best Tour – Namibia

    Our ten-day tour with our amazing guide “Seven” introduced us to this unknown country so full of natural wonders and spectacular animals.  I love Namibia..

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Etosha National Park Namibia

     

    Worst Tour – Three day bus tour of the Mekong Delta Vietnam

    This tour was cheap but it wasn’t worth it still.  Terrible traffic, over pitched and very touristy.  Sorry we went.

    Most Unique experience – Camino de Santiago Spain

    Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the Camino

    Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka

    Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist.  It was just so pleasant.  Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik

    Carmina Burana performed outdoors in Dubrovnik

    town center.  Spectacular!

    Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.

    Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia

    I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.

    Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours 

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Our Free Walking tour guide in Sofia Bulgaria

    In nearly every major city  you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours.  These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic.  You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times.  A great value.

    Friendliest People – Sri Lanka

    Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Monk in Sri Lanka

    have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami.  Still they smile.  Love them.

    Worst Drivers – Vietnam

    There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Scooters in vietnam

    mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.

    Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand

    Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui.  The one saving grace is it could have been much worse.  But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.

    Experience I liked More Than I thought I would – Camel Ride, Erg Cheba, Sahara Morocco

    The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the camel trek in Morocco

    world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.

    Least English Spoken – Spain

    Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent.  Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate.  It was fun!

    WEATHER

    Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar

    We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Seychelle Islands, Praslin

    under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub.  We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Doha Qatar

    trip at 113 F.

    Coldest – New Zealand

    We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s.  Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    New Zealand

    warm.

    Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand

    After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.

    More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.

    Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain

    I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Napier New Zealand

    some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.

    Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)

    Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    Favorite Airline – Emirates

    They know how to treat their passengers, even those of us in Coach

    Least Favorite Airline – Air Maroc

    The only airline (after 37 flights) to lose our luggage.  Eventually it was found.  Plus the smell of something (not cigarettes) burning during approach.  Ack.

    Best Airport – Hamad International Qatar

    A very user-friendly and beautifully designed airport.

    Teeniest Airplane – Air Seychelles 

    Eight seats.  ‘Nuff Said.

    Most Expensive Visa – India

    We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications.  Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!

    Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa

    We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.

    Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia

    In both cases we got in the wrong line.  The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss.  Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell.  And so we waited.

    Lucky Girl. Fabulous Life Award.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018.  But you do know, the real winner is me.  Me and my husband.  The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Fab 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.

     

    Fab Asia Travel

    For All the Tea in Sri Lanka – Where Did Your Cup of Tea Begin?

    Fab Asia Travel – The Island Of Sri Lanka

    Location: Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka. The name means “Glittering Island” or “Shining Island”. It’s a perfect description for this beautiful spot in the blue Indian Ocean just off the coast of India,  home to the famous Sri Lankan tea known as Ceylon.

    Contoured Tea fields in Newara Eliya

    I love it here. The beaches are clean. The water is warm. The food is interesting and the history – well it’s quite remarkable.

    Like many Asian and African nations we have visited, Sri Lanka is no stranger to bloodshed, violent colonization and civil war;

    • The Portuguese arrived in the early 1600’s
    • The Dutch colonized and enslaved natives in the late 1600’s
    • The British ousted the Dutch, killed the royal family and everyone associated with them, and enslaved more people while launching the tea industry in the late 1800’s.  During this period the island was known as Ceylon.
    • Independence from Britain came in 1947 and the country changed its name to the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka.
    • A civil war raged between the majority Buddhist Sinhalese and the Indian Hindu Tamil minority between 1983 and 2009 during which time the Tamils tried to create an independent state in the North and East of the island.

      Tea grows on a low bush

    All of this for power and control. It’s a recurring theme everywhere we travel, resulting in many lives lost.

    Today though, Sri Lanka seems stable. The tea industry is booming and results in 2% of the gross domestic product (tourism is also booming).

    Ceylon Tea (also known as black tea and English Breakfast Tea) is growing in popularity worldwide. Green Tea, now popular for its health benefits, is also growing in popularity.  Both come from the same plant – the Ceylon Tea plant from the Camellia Sininses family.  The differences between Black and Green Tea, as well as the more expensive White or Silver Tea is the parts of the plant used and how it is processed.

    Tea leaf – only the new supple leaves are used

    We took a private tour of the Glenloch Tea Plantation and Factory in the mountainous Nuwara Eliya area of Sri Lanka on our six-day tour with Sri Lanka Brothers Tours. Our time at Glenloch was really fascinating.  I learned so much;

    • Before the British planted tea they tried coffee but the crop was wiped out by the coffee leaf disease, also known as coffee blight.  The first tea-plant arrived in Ceylon in 1842 but it wasn’t until 1867 that Englishman James Taylor began the first tea plantation.
    • Sri Lanka’s climate and soil are perfect for tea growing.  Three kinds of regions now grow tea – low, mid and upper.  Each region produces a different product from the same plant due to the different growing conditions and soil.
    • Nearly all of Sri Lanka’s tea becomes an export. Local people are left with “tea dust”, literally the left overs from the floor and machinery sold locally.
    • The Sri Lanka Tea Board founded in 1976 runs a tight ship with inspections and tastings

      “Withering” is done in this drying troughs

      of all tea to preserve the highest quality product and the reputation of the industry.

    • Tea leaf picking in Sri Lanka is ALL done by hand (unlike most other countries) and done by women.  Many women spend their entire lives in the tea plantations.  Their daughters and granddaughters follow in their footsteps.  It’s a back-breaking and arduous process.  Only the new growth and the first two leaves get harvested.  Each plant requires picking every seven days.
    • Making the picking even more difficult is the steep slope the plants grow on, often in terraced plantations that follow the natural contour of the mountains.

    Me with our guide learning the difficult job of picking

    Glenloch is one of the few factories that has a special permit to allow tours.  The Sri Lankan Tea Board is fastidious about cleanliness and health standards, so only a few factories are open to visitors.

    Glenloch has been in operation since the 1800’s and is now the fourth largest tea factory in the

    Conveyor built with black tea

    world.  One of the founders of Glenloch was Sir Thomas Lipton.  During our tour some of the original machinery was on display. Much of it was man or horse powered back in the day.  Today’s process uses automated technology but still employs many people. In fact over a million  Sri Lankans are directly or indirectly employed with the tea industry.

    Walking into the factory you are surrounded by the sweet and earthy smell of tea.  It is a lovely aroma and permeates the factory.  Our lovely Sari robbed guide took us through the factory and explained the steps to turn leaves to tea;

    • The women pickers bring their days harvest to the muster shed for weighing. They are expected to pick 15 -20kg a day.
    • Immediately the leaves are spread on large troughs in a process known as withering where circulated air from below dries the leaves.  This takes about 24 hours.
    • The leaves are then sent to the roller.  This machine, now automated but formerly horsepowered, mashes the leaves into a black pulp. This process releases the enzymes in the tea.
    • Here the green tea follows a separate process of steaming instead of rolling.  This process halts the oxidation and keeps the green color.

      Ready for auction

    • The black tea is then sent to a fermentation area where the temperature and humidity level dictates how long the fermenting process takes, anywhere from 20 minutes to five hours.
    • Next the tea proceeds to a dryer to stop further fermentation before going through a grading process for size.  Larger tea particles are more highly prized.
    • The tea is then put on a conveyor belt and packed in to large paper sacks  (in olden times it was a very heavy wooden tea chests) and shipped to the auction house and brokering companies for shipment around the world.

    Four kinds of tea

    Following our tour we had a tea tasting where we enjoyed the darkest black tea, a medium black tea, green tea and the special white or silver tea.  This last tea is very expensive, made essentially by using only the buds of the plant, dried in the sun but not steamed or rolled or fermented.  This tea has a unique and light and nutty flavor.

    For me however, my favorite was the black tea, but during this tasting I found I also enjoyed the green tea.  I’m not usually a fan of green tea, but maybe I need to drink more Sri Lankan Green Tea – it was really smooth and delicious.

    Women working in the tea plantation

    So how about the next time you make yourself a cup of tea (black, green or white), take a moment to think about where it came from.  The remarkable journey from high in the mountains of Sri Lanka to your tea-cup.  And give a little prayer up for the women who picks the leaves, day in and day out, to make your lovely cup possible.

    Sri Lanka – Shining Island.  Fabulous.

    Want to learn more about tea around the world?  Read our blog about tea in China here.

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    We are back – New and Improved

    Starting 2018 with Upgrades for the Blog

    Location: My Fab Fifties Life

    Over the past month we have been working hard on some upgrades to My Fab Fifties Life and now with the new year we are back fresh and new!

    Most of the changes, you as a reader will not be aware of, as the changes are technical and behind the scenes. But there is one important change you will notice.  My Fab Fifties Life now has all new categories/topics, creating a more user friendly blog.

    We have removed several categories that were no longer  relevant as My Fab Fifties Life has evolved.  But most importantly we have created new topics for all the travel blogs based on world regions.  A much simpler and easier to use system.

    If you are new to My Fab Fifties Life you can look at the topics and click on regions of interest such as Fab Africa Travel or Fab North America Travel. If you are a long time follower and now you are planning a trip, say to Croatia, you can click on Fab Europe Travel, put Croatia in the search bar and pull up everything we have written on that topic.

    And if you have been away from the blog for a spell (shame on you!) you can click on Fab Asia Travel and catch up on where we are right now!

    You’ll notice in addition to the travel categories there is still Fabulous Reading Wednesday (because I love to read) and Fab Food (because I love food!).  Also the My Fab Fifties Life junk drawer category (everyone needs a junk drawer) Everything Else Fabulous.

    To find our categories go to the TOPICS drop down box at the top of this page.  Or if you are on  a PC or laptop the topics are also listed on the right column.

    Easy and quick and more reader friendly.

    We’ve also made some upgrades to the photo library to help present the photos better in each blog.

    If you follow on Facebook you’ll notice some new videos related to the blogs and a new cover shot each time we visit a new country. If you are following our Instagram account you will see even more beautiful photos and videos daily.

    We want to keep you engaged and enjoying the work we do with My Fab Fifties Life.

    So we have a few favors to ask of you- our valued followers. First and most important are you receiving the blog in your email inbox?  Because if you are relying on Facebook only, then you are only seeing about a quarter of our blog posts. I encourage you (beg, plead) to sign up right now to get My Fab Fifties Life via email. It’s easy to do – if you are reading this on a mobile device there is a email sign up at the bottom of this post. If you are reading this on a PC or laptop there is an email sign up in the upper right hand corner.  I would be very grateful for your support via email.

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    Next month My Fab Fifties life celebrates its 5th Birthday! My baby is growing up!  Thanks to all of you for your help and support. It takes a village and you are my village!  Fabulous!

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Flying Without Fear

    How to manage and learn to fly without fear

    Location: Sri Lanka

    NOTE – Hi Everyone!  Still working on our blog upgrades but today we are flying without fear to Sri Lanka and this will be my 36th and 37th flight in the past 13 months!  Which reminded me of this blog (below) I wrote nearly four years ago, after the mystifying disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370.  So I thought it would be a good reminder to any of you who suffer from the fear of flying.  We will be back soon with new, fresh and fun blogs for 2018!  Thank you for following!

    It may come as a surprise to many of you, given how much I travel, but I have a fear of flying. In fact there was a period in my life when I couldn’t get on a plane.  I have worked really hard, not to overcome this fear, but to learn to manage it.  But this past week as I have waited with the rest of the world for news about Malaysia Flight 370 I have definitely had a set-back in my continual goal of learning to fly without fear.

    There was a specific moment, a specific flight, when my flying fear was born.  I had never had fear like this before; I had aspired to be a flight attendant; I had parachuted  from a tiny airplane; I had traveled by air tens of thousands of miles.  But in January 1993 on a flight from Puerto Rico to Washington DC my fear was born.

    About half way through that flight we lost an engine.  I knew immediately something was wrong.  I could hear something had changed and I could see on the flight attendants faces things were amiss. Eventually the pilot announced the engine had failed and we were going to continue on into D.C. on one engine.  What?  One engine?  What if that ones goes? I was totally no longer flying without fear!

    Okay so everyone remained calm (except me – nearly hyperventilating.)  We had to travel at a lower speed due to having only one engine.  Finally we were on approach.  No additional announcements came from the cockpit.  My fear was under control and I was ready to land. BUT the fear of flying was born after we landed.  Although the crew did not prepare the passengers in any way, when we landed we were met and chased down by multiple emergency vehicles and as soon as we came to a stop (well away from the terminal building) with sirens blaring, the firetrucks doused the plane with white foaming fire-retardant.  Unprepared for this unexpected foam bath, most of the passengers, including myself, were frightened near to death.

    How simple it would have been to have schooled the passengers in what to expect upon landing. With a little preparation, I may not have developed my fear.

    When we finally stepped into the terminal we learned from our waiting friends that all the people waiting for this flight to arrive had been moved from the gate (this was pre-9/11 when you could still wait at the gate) to a holding area away from the windows but also kept in the dark as to why.

    In 1993 I had two small children ages 2 and 6.  In the days and weeks following this incident I began to have fears about traveling, fears about something happening to my children, and fears about me and my husband dieing and leaving our kids behind.  It developed slowly but eventually consumed me.

    It was two years before I got an another airplane.  During that time I planned family vacations that revolved around car travel.  We went on a cruise that left from Vancouver BC, where we could easily drive.  I pretended this didn’t have anything to do with my fear, but it did.  My husband knew it did too.  I needed help to learn how to fly again – how to fly without fear.

    And a fact I haven’t yet mentioned has to do with my husband.  My husband works for Boeing.  He is a mechanical engineer for the largest airplane manufacturer in the world.  But his wife couldn’t get on an airplane.

    My husband, as in most things, tried to use logic with me.  He spewed statistics on air safety, compared highway deaths to airplane deaths, explained away all the safety features on modern jets.  All that just pissed me off.

    Because my fear is not logical.  And all the logic in the world cannot, will not help.  My fear is emotional; without logic.  And I knew back then, and I know now, the only person who can come up with a solution for my fear, is me.

    I started the process with a simple book “Flying Without Fear” by Duane Brown, PhD.  I still have this book, it is sitting next to me as I write this blog.  I haven’t pulled this book out of my library in a very long time.  But my renewed fear this past week had me go in search of it.  The very best thing about this book; the thing that helped me the most both 20 years ago and now, is a section that takes you step by step through the flight process.  The book explains what to expect from smells, sounds and feel from the minute you step into the terminal to when you arrive at your destination baggage claim.

    • Why do you smell diesel?  I used to fear that smell.
    • What do the ringing bells mean?  I always feared the bells.
    • Why does the plane slow down after about three minutes in the air?  I’m always sure we are crashing right then.
    • What is the clunking noise under the plane?  I’m sure the plane is breaking up.

    These are just some of the things the book “Flying Without Fear” helped me with.  The book also helped me learn to breath deeply and do relaxation exercise during take off ( the time I fear the most). The book helped me emotionally, with some logic thrown in, to manage my fear of flying.  It didn’t take the fear away, it just helped me live with it.

    My children are now grown and I don’t have the same fear of leaving them motherless that I used to.  In fact, I am, in my fabulous fifties, much less afraid of dieing.  I know I will die, and I know it could happen tomorrow.  I no longer let fear keep me from traveling, even if I still feel a pang of it each take-off.

    But the strange and mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 still gives me pause.  I can’t help but think of each and every one of those innocent souls; did they fear?  Did they suffer?  I hope not for all of them.  I hope they had peace in their hearts and no regrets.

    Just like me.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    The Happiest of Holidays to You

    Thanks for a great 2017

    Location: South Africa

    What a remarkable year it’s been. My blog is a labor of love and I want to thank those of you who follow it so religiously. It means so much to me.

    As I wish you a Happy Holiday from me and my family, I also want to let you know the blog will be quiet for the next couple of weeks (except for Reading Wednesday). As we approach the 5th anniversary of My Fab Fifties Life it’s time for me to do a little housekeeping with the blog. I plan to do that in the days ahead leading up to New Years.

    Please don’t forget about us while I do this work.  I’ll be back soon.  You can keep up with our adventures in the meantime through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The links to all of these are on the top of this page.

    In the meantime – be mindful and present this holiday season wherever you are and whoever you are with. Be thankful and joyful for your one fabulous life. I am.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Love Laureen

    PS Our travel schedule for the first half of 2018 is; Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Singapore, Guam, Australia, Bali&Lombok, Cross Pacific Cruise and USA.