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Lost in Summer Palaces And Temples of Heaven

  The parks in Beijing are simply stunning!     They make parks in Canada look embarrassingly simple.   Beijing’s parks are full of themed areas with separate pathways leading to separate areas within the larger park. Each one is set in a magnificent and serene setting and unique theme.   With ponds and streams, hills and valleys, glades and gardens, rare trees, unusual flowers, the landscapes were choreographed to reflect each specific theme.   Even the scent of each theme area seemed to match the theme.  With impressive displays of wisteria, bamboo, peonies, orchids, cherry blossoms and apple blossoms, ancient cypress trees, pine … More…

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Shrimp Heads, Goose Feet and Szechuan Chicken

  The food in Beijing, China was absolutely nothing like any Chinese food I have eaten in North America or anywhere in the world, for that matter.   Because they were business dinners, we had fairly formal dinners in the better restaurants. All of the dinners were served on large round tables with a huge turn-table or Lazy Susan in the centre.   At least twenty dishes would appear on the table, and no matter if the end of the business dinner was obvious, no dish, according to custom, could become empty and would be replaced as soon as it was … More…

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The Art of the Chinese Sale

  The Art of the Chinese Sale, also known as The Calculator Game, is actually a lot of fun! I never considered myself much of a bargainer or a haggler – it felt way too pushy – so what happened was a bit surprising.   Everyday in Beijing, I went somewhere on my own, but the Xiu Shui Silk Market was my favourite place to shop, and there were hundreds of tiny stalls lined up along alleyways with clothes and other goods hanging 8 feet high on the walls, lining the floors, and piled high on tables. Five levels filled to the … More…

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China Was A Lot Different Than I Thought It Would Be

  I didn’t even want to go to China! Too many people for me, I thought, but then I was invited to join a friend who had been there many times on business, so that was it.   Two weeks later, I found myself in China.   First of all, Beijing was not crowded. I fully expected wall to wall people, being unable to walk easily down the sidewalk, crushed within a crowd of people, panic attacks setting in, as well as pagoda after pagoda, temple after temple, but it was none of that.   In fact, it was a big … More…

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Crazy Adventure in Morden, Manitoba

  It all started quite innocently. We planned a trip to visit T’s adult children in Manitoba: one in Winnipeg, another in Morden. T would travel from Ontario and I would travel from Saskatchewan.   About three months ago, we spoke a little about getting married, about how much fun it would be to have a special ceremony on some exotic island, about whether it was easier to just live common-law, the merits of formal comittment for our children and families vs a silly piece of paper.  We have been together, so to speak, for over eight years, mostly travelling … More…

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Dumbest Travel Gadgets

TRAVEL PILLOW – Total Travel Pillow Gone are the days of flying when you could expect to find a pillow and blanket on your seat. Now it’s more of a DIY experience. Functioning as a travel pillow and blanket in one, the Total Travel Pillow claims to keep you warm and reduce next compression.  $29.99 A More Practical Solution – buy a suede blow-up neck pillow and wear a cosy hooded sweater that you will also use in your travels. The pillow folds to a tiny flat pack so takes up less precious room in your carry on, and the sweater will serve many purposes, … More…

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Latest Gadgets For Travel

  SOLAR LAPTOP The world’s first truly solar-powered laptop. It never needs to be plugged in! It “plugs” into the sun. When the sun isn’t there at night you can run it all night long with its powerful battery. With a rugged design & durability, you can take SOL with you to the most remote places on earth. It has free software, too. You don’t need to purchase any more software to get started. There are thousands of free apps available online with UBUNTU. In a world where 1 in 4 people have little or no access to stable electricity, the device … More…

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How Do You Have Fun In Spite Of Altitude Sickness?

  We both felt the nausea and dizziness of altitude sickness in the giant Andes Mountains, yet somehow enjoyed the incredible experiences we had in Ecuador. In fact, I had forgotten how sick we were until T reminded me long after the trip was over. Amazing that I only remembered the good stuff. Altitude sickness starts at about 8000 ft and we were often up over 10,000 ft. The highest point in the Andes is over 22000 ft. As air density drops, there is less available oxygen and hydrogen, so it feels like having the flu or a bad hangover … More…

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Ingapirca Ruins and Purple Fog

Don’t you just love the rhythm of that name – Inga pirca?   I’m not much of a history buff (T is), but the idea that a society existed in the 1600’s and that the buildings are still somewhat in tact amazes both of us.   Ingapirca Ruins, Ecuador…       On the right is the Inca Road that goes for miles and miles through the Andes Mountains.   At very high altitudes of 10,000 feet above sea level in a basin between mountains,  the views from Ingapirca Ruins left us standing with our mouths wide open.   The … More…

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Behave Yourself

  Courtesy, courtesy, courtesy. Respect, respect, respect.   How do you feel when a foreigner criticizes anything in your country? Or if a foreigner is demanding in any way?   Think about it.   “When in Rome…”  You’re in a different country, curb your ethnocentrism and try to fit in. Stop comparing everything to how it is at “home”. No one cares how it is in your home country. Consider that a different way to do things might actually work better in this country.  Accept a different culture as it is – new, unique, interesting.   Avoid being a typical … More…

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Humphrey Bogart, Panama Hats And 50¢ Roses

 We were in Cuenca, a pretty little city, high in the Andes Mountains of central Ecuador, enjoying the town square. It had a European feel with cobblestone streets, Spanish colonial architecture and lots of brick.  Take note of the hats… Sipping some hot chocolate… Wandering over to another square… And then, here was a flower market. I was hoping we had found something I had read about – a dozen roses for $6! Contrary to a romantic nature, some of us do not like red roses, even if they do photograph well. T did find a lovely pale pink bouquet … More…

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Wildest Train Ride Ever!

  The train to the SKY… SKY… SKY…   Dennis, at www.guanguiltagua.com, who organized our car and driver for Ecuador, tried to tell us that we should come back to Quito through the mountains. I tried to tell him that I don’t really like mountains, nor windy roads that make me motion sick. Plus, we had read that the Andes are so high that people get altitude sickness. The altitude is extremely high, in the 10,000 ft range. Just what I need – altitude sickness and motion sickness.   No thanks I said. Once, twice, maybe half a dozen times, I politely said “No!”   … More…

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Car and Driver In Ecuador, Cheaper Than Car Rental

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14946963/?claim=p7xrnf7smrm”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>   Usually we rent a car and explore a country on our own. There is such a joyous freedom in being able to stop when you want and where you want, or take that little side road, or stop at that quaint little village.   This time though, after a few days in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, a week with an Ecuadorian family in Otavalo, and a week on the Amazon Riverboat, we decided to try renting a car and driver for our last two weeks in Ecuador. Mauricio at www.guanguiltagua.com came highly recommended on Trip Adviser, … More…

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Staying With A Family In Ecuador

We love to host people from other countries in our home in Canada, and that’s how we met Fernando and Toa from Ecuador. Nothing tells you as much about a country as a home stay with a local family.   Sites like www.hospitalityclub.org, and www.couchsurfing.org and www.globalfreeloaders.com offer free stays of up to 3-4 days for travellers from other countries. You don’t have to provide food, just a bed for a few nights, and maybe some discussion about your part of the world. It’s really your choice how much help you can or want to assist. It’s a wonderful way to … More…

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Piranhaus, Pink Dolphins and Wild Parrots

  The Amazon Riverboat was a fantastic week, and it was definitely the highlight of our trip to Ecuador.          We went on excursions in the long canoe everyday, but we did not go swimming in the piranha lagoon! Everyone was invited to jump off the canoe and swim in the black piranha-infested water. Ricardo and Luis jumped in. Raoul, the (cute) guide, said the piranhas only bite if they are hungry, and they have lots of food. Later he told us there are sting rays and anacondas, but that they are only in the muddy bottom about six feet … More…

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Amazon Riverboat

  There were only six guests on the Amazon Riverboat so it was almost like a private cruise, and it was the highlight of our Ecuador trip. We can highly recommend the Manatee Explorer.   As we flew high above the clouds from Quito to Coca over the Amazon Jungle , we were astonished to see the mighty Andes Mountains poking their rocky heads up well over the tops of the clouds!     At the airport, we were met by a driver who took us to the dock. We had a nice break there watching the river and the boats and … More…

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Searching For Crocodiles By Flashlight In The Amazon

  Well, I have done some crazy things in the past, but this one about tops them all.   On a pitch-black night, in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, in Ecuador, we canoed on a swamp searching for crocodiles by flashlight, with a 12-year-old native Quechua Indian navigating.   We found one 7 foot female croc and one 8 foot croc, and 3 baby crocodiles.   A few of us had flashlights, so beams of light flitted across the black water, occasionally catching some weeds or a tree or some tall reeds. We were very quiet. It was taking a … More…

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An Entire Exotic Island to Yourself

  We had rented a cabin and were about to spend a week on an uninhabited island, Uoleva, in the Haap’ai Group of Tonga, an island all to ourselves with absolutely breathtaking white powder beaches (perfect for skinny dipping) and crystal clear turquoise water! There were no roads, no cars, no shops on the island.       As we flew over the islands of Tonga, the clear, blue atolls were amazing! We flew over island after island, atoll after atoll, with miles of white sand and the most brilliant sparkling emerald water surrounding each one. It was pure, natural and almost heavenly.       … More…

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“Aw Sha, It Could Always Be Worse!”

  Lost luggage is a fact of life for most travellers. It has rarely happened to me but it did once, at the worst possible time.   We had just arrived in Ireland, and I was given assurance that they would find my bags any day, and that they would be delivered to me. We moved on to stay in a perfectly enchanting castle (this is one of very few package deals I like – flight, car, and castle stay package for Ireland).         I was making do with the few clothes I had with me, and on the … More…

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