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Travels With Dos Tortas

17 Sep

For the last two weeks, we have been in Texas, dodging Covid, bullets, visiting friends and family and attending to annual medical visits. Missing a blog post was a first in ten years! Friday Sept 16 celebrated twenty-eight years since Lisa and I collided in a gay bar in downtown Austin, Texas. Life is a hoot.

Fun with family exploring Natural Bridge Caverns.
We were very impressed with this Cavern that is down the street and we’ve never visited!
Sept 16 is Mexican Independence Day. Classic cars are truly a Mexican passion.
We haven’t been to a street fair in forever! Music, food, dancing and art!

We return to Bacalar on Tuesday. Our puppies will be glad.

DOS TORTAS

Thailand Part Four

4 Sep

Our trip to Thailand in 2005 was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. However, those memories will have to live in our mind because we cannot locate any of our photos. I have searched everywhere.

While staying in northern Thailand we went on a three-day guided hike through a national park that is home to indigenous tribes. Locals housed and fed us as we explored a waterfall, enormous cave, and giant bamboo forest. The Hmong tribal villages survive by allowing foreigners to traipse through their world, sleeping on bamboo cots and waking with the roosters.

We left the mountains and high altitude to explore the coast. You can’t go to Thailand without going to the beach. Since we only had ten days total vacation, we hopped a flight to the coast. Our amazing vacation continued with kayaking in an ancient cave, wandering into another monastery and visiting some of the area devastated by the tsunami. There were families sitting in doorways of concrete box houses slapped together to provide a modicum of shelter. Everyone did their best to welcome back tourists but there was still a long way back to recovery at that time.

I understand why expats from all over the world move to Thailand. The people are kind and generous. The food is to die for and there are monks and temples on every corner. It truly should be on every world traveler’s bucket list.

DOS TORTAS

We Haven’t Been Arrested Yet Part 3

28 Aug

I have always said that the test of any relationship is to travel together. Managing the twists and turns of adventure can be fun and stressful. We rarely do scripted travel.

Chiang Dao Nest boutique hotel and restaurant.

Our overnight bus deposited us in the sleepy village of Chiang Dao with no taxis in sight. I left Lisa with the luggage and wandered in search of something, but I didn’t know what. I found a clothing store getting ready for the day and explained as best I could to the proprietor what we needed. With an old school phone call, two scooters appeared as if by magic. The drivers grabbed our duffles, loaded us as passengers behind them and off we went careening down the road, hopefully, to our hotel.

Since the day was still quite young, we dropped off our luggage and set about on foot to explore the tropical environment. Unfortunately we forgot to bring a camera.

We passed this temple while walking.

Taking a right out of the hotel entrance, we began a lovely, early morning stroll down a country road in Thailand. The air was fresh and the birds loud. We were in heaven.

The road narrowed to a trail which turned into a rickety stair. There was a sign that we couldn’t read. Whenever we travel, Lisa always poses the question, “Are we allowed to do this?” My attitude is a shrug. What could go wrong? We haven’t been arrested yet.

We climbed, and climbed and climbed over 500 steps, eventually figuring out that we were entering a monastery. Bald men in orange robes were going about their morning routine. Laundry was hung about and incense floating through the air. No one paid us any mind as we continued to climb the stairs.

500 and some up and down.

Eventually we discovered the main attraction. With eyes wide and mouths agog we entered a huge cave filled with gold Buddhas and flickering candles. We certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore. I can close my eyes and still feel that rarified holy environment. I don’t think they let women be Buddhist monks, but I was ready to move in.

It took months before I realized that the Golden Buddha cave was where our friends got married! They didn’t leave a lot of breadcrumbs so I was completely surprised when the lightbulb went off. What a trip! And we weren’t done yet.

DOS TORTAS

Thailand Vacation Location Part 2

21 Aug

When I heard on the radio that the best way to help Thailand recover from the devastating 2004 tsunami was to take our vacation dollars there, I was all in. My friend Joe’s wedding had left breadcrumbs for us to follow. We made reservations at the same hotel in Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand.

Chiang Dao Nest

The flight from Austin went through Houston and on to Tokyo. We had a five hour layover in Tokyo and an additional nine hour flight to Bangkok. The flight is mostly a blur except for being squeezed into a cramped three seat row and a total travel time of almost twenty-four hours.

In Bangkok we hired a tuktuk driver to tour us around the city. It’s a hopping place and we could have spent a lot more time there, visiting temples, getting massages and eating amazing food. After Bangkok the plan was to take the train to northern Thailand. We had reservations at the same B&B that our friend had stayed at for his wedding. All good, except when we went to buy tickets, we discovered that the trains were on strike.

Tuktuks adventure on three wheels.

In case you wondered, we are not high dollar travelers. We fly in the cheap seats and as long as hotels are clean and safe, we’re good. We were bummed to find out that the trains were unavailable but when the travel agent recommended the overnight bus, we though, why not?

Reclining Buda Bangkok

The overnight bus could be a blog post in and of itself. Imagine a double decker hotel on wheels. Seats recline and stack and other than a bit of snoring, we slept like babies rolling down the highway. What an experience!

We arrived at Chiang Dao around 7:00am. Nothing was open and there were no taxis to be found. We also had no idea how far our hotel was. Little did we know that it was the beginning of one of the most amazing days of our lives. Stay tuned.

https://www.chiangdao.com/thailand.pdf

DOS TORTAS

Let’s Go To Thailand Part 1

14 Aug

The tsunami along the coast of Thailand and India shook the world on Boxing Day 2004. Like everyone else, we were riveted to the news and videos showing mammoth waves devouring everything in sight. For me the difference was my friends had just gotten married in Thailand and were likely in the wave’s path.

We went to this museum before the monuments were included.

Joe’s blog described plans for the engaged couple and both sets of parents to travel to northern Thailand for a Buddhist wedding ceremony. They had a fabulous bed and breakfast reserved and beautiful Thai wedding attire.

I checked his blog site multiple times a day after the tsunami, hoping for an update. As the number of dead and missing soared and time passed I became more and more frantic. What had happened to them? Would I ever know?

Then one day, a week or so later, a post appeared. Joe had been on his honeymoon and oblivious to the rest of the world. Apparently he’d been scammed by a travel agency and lost his hotel reservations and money! His post didn’t even mention one of the world’s largest natural disasters. He dodged a bullet.

I eventually lost track of Joe after his blog fizzled. I guess married life trumped the blog. One day I heard on the radio, “if you want to help Thailand, bring your tourist dollars back.” It sounded like as good a reason as any to go. Plans for Thailand began!

DOS TORTAS

Telling Travel Stories – Belize

30 Jul

In 2003, Lisa and I tootled on down to Belize. I had perused a book at Book People in Austin that touted Belize as the perfect retirement location. Why not? We planned our vacation to check it out.

It was quite an adventure getting to our selected hotel, the Black Rock Ecolodge. Belize City was a quick flight from Houston and surprisingly affordable. We hailed a “chicken bus” (third class, no AC) to San Ignacio on the Belize/Guatemala border. The lodge was another seven miles down a pitted, winding, dirt road. We found out later that the taxi driver had a rifle under his seat. The Belize border was not the safest place in those days.

The following morning at breakfast we met a couple of USers who were getting ready to venture back into San Ignacio to join a tour group across the Guatemala border to the pyramids of Tikal. We immediately dropped our non-existent plans, changed into our hiking boots and joined them. Best decision of the trip!

Tikal is an amazing Mayan site. The closing scene in the original Star Wars was filmed here.

The folks that we joined were from across the US and a very interesting bunch. Belize is a small country and we bumped into them more than once and enjoyed their company immensely.

A sunset/full moon sail around the island of Caye Caulker with our new friends.

One of the solo travelers in the group was Joe. He would soon be off to start his tour in the Peace Corps and Belize was his last hoorah. He was partaking of the Belizean rum as if they might run out. I found him to be entertaining and when he talked about his blog, I was eager to follow. I had always dreamed about joining the Peace Corps in my younger days. Following him was my first experience with a blog. After all, it was 2003. He was funny and I looked forward to each post.

Caye Caulker in 2003 and today.

Joe was assigned to Bangladesh and his blog was riveting. He described the poverty and something he abhorred, the violence against animals. However, it didn’t take him long to meet someone and was smitten. She was also assigned to Bangladesh. The blog took a lighter tone as they planned a wedding, in Thailand, in December 2004. If you don’t remember your history, look it up. Their wedding affected us in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Next week I will continue the story of how we followed in their footsteps and traveled to Thailand in 2005 and the surprises that unfolded.

DOS TORTAS

Some People Don’t Live To Seventy

24 Jul

How on earth did I live to seventy? I remind myself frequently that many people don’t get here. You can read everyday in the news where people fall off mountains, piss off the wrong crazy, or just wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Living to seventy is definitely a blessing and a gift I don’t take lightly.

Michael on my right. My hand is on the surgical scar where his scull was cut open and stapled together again.

My brother didn’t make it. He had a damn brain tumor.

I do my best to not leave life up to chance. I eat salads, go to the gym and not live in…you know, Croatia, Panama, Sri Lanka, or the US.

On Thursday a rapid home test came back inconclusive.

I know death will catch up with me eventually. This week I had a fever and was certain I had Covid. It’s hard not to be paranoid these days when absolutely everyone I know, including my four year old granddaughters has it. Breathe, relax.

My negative test results.

I’m doing my best to be peaceful and live in the moment, and praying for everyone, including you.

DOS TORTAS

I Hate Scary

17 Jul

My mother-in-law loves scary movies. If you walk past her house in the afternoon, it sounds like someone is being murdered. Well, they are, only on Netflix.

Alice’s little house.

First off, the volume is so loud, due to her hearing, or lack thereof. It’s a good thing we live out in the jungle. Mexicans really crank their music anyway so I think most of the country is already deaf. She fits right in.

Stop in and sit a spell.

We have headphones for Alice when she comes down the hill to watch movies with us. She can adjust her personal volume so our ears don’t bleed.

Alice on her way to vacation in California June 29. Puerto Morelos, Mx.

This week Alice almost died of Covid. She is in California with Lisa. She contracted the virus after a family 4th of July (American Independence Day) picnic. The doctor at Urgent Care declined to prescribe antivirals for this petite seventy-eight year old. Why? We have no idea.

Alice and me during lockdown.

Alice had severe diarrhea which shut down her kidneys. She became septic and critical. I’ve always said that medicine in the US is crappy at prevention but at its best in an emergency. She went from critical to discharged in two days. She is up and able to walk unassisted with a walker and feeling much better.

Lisa cheerleading her mom.

Alice is an amazing, resilient woman. All those trips to the gym paid off! I look forward to hearing screaming coming from her house again soon. Gratitude gratitude gratitude.

DOS TORTAS

Please, please WEAR A MASK

Taking Cold Showers

10 Jul

“Cold showers are any showers with a water temperature below 70°F (21.1C). They may have health benefits. Water therapy (also called hydrotherapy) has been used for centuries to take advantage of our body’s tendency to adapt to harsher conditions. As a result, our bodies become more resistant to stress.” (Google)

I’m not sure the water temperature coming out of our shower is below 70 degrees, but compared to the sweaty jungle temps of Bacalar, Mexico, it definitely feels cold.

Danskin sprint distance triathlon back in the day.

When I was training to run the Austin marathon, our coach suggested sitting in an ice bath. First sit in enough water to cover the legs, then have someone slowly add ice. Amazingly, the process helps tremendously with recuperating from muscle soreness and strain, and wasn’t as painful as it sounds.

Capital of Texas Triathlon May 2003

I recently watched this Netflix documentary called The Ice Dive. A fascinating world record that I have no wish to challenge.

https://youtu.be/0_QWamRowc0

Laguna Bacalar never really gets cold, in spite of what the locals think. Winter is actually my favorite time to swim, as the water feels too much like soup most of the year.

Preparing for the Bacalar open water competition.

Weird as I am, I’ve come to like my “cold” showers. Give it a try. I think the benefits will amaze you. Let me know how it goes.

DOS TORTAS

Just Another Week In Paradise

3 Jul

With my wife off to the US visiting family and taking care of business, I am home holding down the fort.

The side of the house and entrance to the outdoor shower.

I’ve been glued to the hearings on the January 6, 2021 attempted coup and attack on the US capital. This week was a doozy. You can’t make this stuff up!

The weather had been lovely and the dogs are behaving. What more could I ask for?!

A little trip around the house.

DOS TORTAS

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