Tom’s short haircut in Phuket…Winding down for tomorrow’s departure…Final Phuket expenses tomorrow…



Shorter than he’d normally prefer, Tom’s latest buzz cut will hold him through the 33 night cruise beginning on October 31st.

Tom needed a haircut before we left Phuket.  There’s a little salon at the end of the road where it meets the major highway.  We’d driven passed it many times and he thought that might be a good spot for his much needed haircut.

The plan was to have a buzz cut that would be perfect by the time we were ready to board the 33 night cruise upcoming on October 31st.  Little did we know he’d get the best buzz cut he’s had since the onset of our travels.

When we drove up to the tiny salon we asked if someone was available.  A young woman, named Seven, was ready to get to work on his hair.  We asked for the price of the haircut in advance. Her associate Maw, spoke very little English but she understood when we asked about “how many bahts.”

The exterior of the nearby tiny spa and salon.

Maw explained the cost of a men’s haircut is THB $150, US $4.34.  In Singapore, where he had his last haircut, the cost was considerably higher at US $32.74, THB $1,134 (after a 20% discount for new customers) and the quality of the cut was only a fraction of the quality as compared to yesterday’s meticulous cut. 

The attention to detail was flawless as Seven spent no less than 40 minutes cutting his hair using both scissors and an electric hair trimmer.  She was gracious when he included a 35% tip.  (Tipping isn’t common in Thailand and any amount tendered is appreciated with a hands-pressed-together-bow-of-the-head).

After the haircut we took off for the pharmacy which can be found in Phuket  every five or six blocks when driving along the main roads.  We decided to stop at the same tiny store we’d visited a few times in the past for hydrogen peroxide, Tylenol and contact lens solution.

Tom removed his glasses, closed his eyes and the 40 minute cut began.

This could prevent us from having to make yet another stop (beside the supermarket) on the four or five hour harrowing drive from the hotel in Bali to the villa in Sumbersari. 

Pharmacies in most countries are just that…they carry medicinal items only; no mascara, no shampoo and no razor blades.  Most supermarkets don’t carry most of these items either requiring travelers must be well stocked  with such toiletries and supplies when staying in the more remote areas.

During the cut, I asked him to open his eyes and smile for a photo.

Also, we should mention that pharmacies in many countries do not carry commonly prescribed medications one easily finds in the US, Australia, Europe and other parts of the world.  Its best to bring enough of any necessary medications in one’s carry on bags (along with a copy of prescriptions) in the event of lost luggage.

Having found each of the three items we needed, we made our way back to our villa.  It was raining hard and we saw no reason to be driving any further than necessary with the poorly working windshield wipers in the less-than-stellar rental car. 

Seven analyzes Tom’s hair for his buzz cut.

We giggled over how little fuel we’ve used in the rental car when we filled it upon arrival.  Of course, my desire to stay close to “home” while recovering contributed to this fact.

Today, we’ll finish packing with only a few items we’re still using yet to be added to the bags.  Tom will place everything by the front door so we’ll be ready to head out first thing in the morning. 

The interior of the salon area was no larger than a medium sized RV or caravan.  A massage area was located in a back room we didn’t see.

Hopefully, we’ll both sleep well tonight.  We have a tendency to toss and turn on nights before departure, especially when we have to use an alarm to ensure we’re up on time.  Invariably, I awaken before the alarm goes off.

Tomorrow, the post with our final expenses for the 41 days in Phuket which we’re preparing today will automatically upload in time for your usual viewing.  Please keep in mind that these total expenses are lower than we’d expected when we spent little during my convalescence.  Dining out, boat tours and other tourist activities would have increased the total costs. 

Coconut shells stored on the side of this building near the salon.  Coconut shells may be used to make charcoal which is used as fuel.  See here for details.

When we commence the long drive to the villa another new post will upload.  As a result, no daily posts will be missed during the two day’s of traveling.

We’re looking forward to the dinner the two Katuks which will have waiting for us upon our arrival around 5 or 6 pm.  We’re both anticipating their happy faces, their fine food and again seeing Gede, the house man and Ribud, the pool guy. Of course, seeing the buffaloes walking along the beach during dinner makes us smile as well.

Happy day!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 31, 2015:

The view of Double Island and Scout Island are a pleasant beginning to any day in Trinity Beach.  For more photos as we began our final week in Australia please click here.
 

Spending idle time…Two days and counting…Favorite Phuket photos begin today…

Boats anchored in shallow waters.  Owners can walk out to the boat.

Although we arise early most days, the thought of setting an alarm is always done so with a bit of dread.  Having retired in 2011, in my old life, there had been few mornings where I had to arise and be out the door in a rush.

Since beginning our travels in October, 2012, there’s been more mornings than we can count where we’ve had to be up and “at ’em” early in the morning in order to begin a travel day.  What time do we consider early? 

Arising by 5 am is considered early by our standards especially when we have to be somewhere.  Most mornings, I’m awake that early but not necessarily preparing to head out.  There’s a big difference, isn’t there?

Chalong Beach.

Why I dread those mornings we have to leave early baffles me. I don’t have any trouble getting out of bed when the alarm goes off.  Is it the prospect of another long travel day?  The heavy bags?  The long lines? Immigration? Customs? Paying for excess baggage fees?  The tight seats on the plane? Perhaps its all of these.

Once we get into the taxi for the ride to the airport, a bit of angst begins to waft away, escalating further after we’ve checked in for our flight disposing of our three heavy bags, left with only a few carry on bags. 

With international airports requiring arrival two hours prior to a flight’s departure, we’re often left with more than 60 minutes until boarding.  In most cases, we find a restaurant, purchase a beverage and get online if the airport has free Wi-Fi, which we find more and more common.  Only a few airports charge for Wi-Fi access.

Boats tied to shore at the beach. Life jackets hanging on a post.

The next issue is our laptop batteries discharging.  For Thursday’s upcoming flight, we’ll have no less than an hour of waiting time at the airport in Phuket and then another three hour layover in Singapore (our third trip to Singapore in these past four months). 

Some airports have recharging stations but we’ve seldom needed to use them.  In this case, it may be necessary when it seems our laptop batteries are losing life after almost two years of use.

My laptop may indicate I have seven or eight hours of a charge when in fact its much less.  Tom has a similar laptop but can function unplugged a few hours less than mine.

Boats in the bay.

These was a time that reading a physical book would have been handy but there’s no way we’re willing to carry books with us. 

Now that Tom doesn’t have a smart phone until our shipment arrives, he won’t be able to read books on his phone. The charge on my phone may last eight hours if I don’t get online.  Good thing, I saved my phone with the rice after dropping it in the toilet, or neither of us would have a working cellphone.

In most cases, I read books on my phone during flights putting the phone in “flight mode” as required.  I usually save the phone for the flight as opposed to reading while waiting in airports.  When a flight has individual video screens, a movie is often ideal as opposed to reading.

Entrance to the long pier at the beach.

I suppose we’re not unlike many others who use electronics to whittle away idle time.  Where are the days when we’d sit quietly in an airport reading a People magazine which now holds no interest whatsoever?  Where are the days when people watching could occupy two hours of idle time?

We’ve trained ourselves in this digital world to need constant stimulation.  Tom and I are no exception.  Sure, in Bali again we’ll spend some idle hours staring out at the beach and its wildly interesting activities, which again we’ll continue sharing in our “Sightings on the Beach in Bali” daily feature on the posts.

But, there again, its all about mental stimulation.  Neither one of us are inclined toward quiet contemplation without any form of activity for the brain.  Maybe to an extent this is good for our aging brains as both of us still possess great memory and recall as we’ve aged. 

Second long pier at the beach.

We can’t believe much of which we read about these topics online when the speculations change week by week.  (We’re talking about adults here, not children, which is an entirely different scenario).

What is one to believe?  I guess we can leave it to our own devices, figuratively and literally.  What’s gives us the greatest sense of engagement with our surroundings, our world and with each other?  What makes us the most fulfilled?

If spending hours online, on our tablets, computers and phones provides us with a sense of accomplishment and pleasure who’s to argue with this?  Then again, perhaps the biggest concern is a lack of physical activity while we’re entertaining ourselves. 

“They” say sitting is bad which may be true.  But which group of seniors (or those younger) spends eight to ten hours a day on their feet?  Few.  Very few.

Fisherman searching for a possible catch.

Off we go in two days, arising at 5:30 am on Thursday to be ready to head out the door by 7 am for our arriving taxi. We’ll arrive at our hotel in Bali around 8:30 pm that evening after a very long travel day.  In the morning, we’ll have breakfast at the hotel and begin the four or five hour harrowing drive with a few stops along the way.

I’m a little concerned over how I’ll do over these two extended periods based on my continuing recovery.  But, with digital equipment in hand, hopefully, I’ll be able to distract myself well enough to maneuver through the lengthy process.

Be well and stay entertained however that works for YOU!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 30, 2015:

We couldn’t resist taking photos of these Flintstone’s character statues in a nearby yard in Trinity Beach, Australia.  For more photos, please click here.








Bit by bit…Piece by piece…Getting it all together…3 days and counting…

Flowers blooming in pond in front yard of the villa.

It’s surprising how easily I’m getting through my share of the packing this time considering my extra caution in avoiding bending over.  Sure, there are certain aspects of pulling it all together that are tricky right now when I’ve always been the one to gather all the odds and ends we’ve placed throughout  the vacation home.

Tom handles all the cords, electronics, emptying, washing and drying the ice cube trays and packing his clothing, while I usually gather and pack the toiletries, shoes and the few kitchen items (place mats, a few dish towels, measuring cup and spoons, turner and peeler).

This style of house in Phuket could be anywhere in the world, including the US.

Slowly, over the past few days, I’ve gathered what we won’t need to use with only two meals left to prepare.  On Wednesday evening, we’ll pack the remainder and be ready to walk out the door at 7 am on Thursday morning (its Monday here now) when the driver arrives to take us to the airport.

With my clothes packed except for what I’ll wear over the next few days, I’m beginning to have peace of mind knowing its under control.  Over this past year I’ve been able to get the packing down to less than an hour (prior to the injury) but now it’s proven to be a cautious step by step process in a determined attempt to avoid further injury.

If I had to leave the entire process up to Tom, he’s do it without question.  But, the time has come for me to be a little more active.  What better a time than to do it now when soon we’ll be walking long distances in the airports in Phuket, Singapore (a long layover) and Denpasar.

Driving on the highway to the market.

I’m thrilled we’re staying overnight in Denpasar, Bali (the capital city) at the same hotel close to the airport we used on the prior trip to Bali before embarking the following day for the grocery shopping and the four to five hour harrowing drive to Sumbersari.

Our driver Butu, will arrive at the hotel at 10 am Friday to take us to the supermarket (the grocery list is already on the phone app) and then commence on the dreaded trafficked drive to the villa.

Salons, spas and nail studios are popular in Phuket.

For my comfort Butu will be bringing a pillow from the villa.  Also, he’ll drive Egon’s (the villa owner) comfortable newer air con van. These two facts help immensely.

Now as I speak into my laptop using speech recognition, Tom is watching the Minnesota Viking pre-season game in the living room using the NFL GamePass app with the HDMI cord.  He doesn’t yell or make a peep when watching the game so I have no idea how its going.  He’s always been a quiet observer, considering his propensity to lively conversation.

Yesterday, we both researched online to find him a replacement smart phone.  He’d considered a Kindle device but after reading many reviews, it didn’t appear that any of the available models would be meet his criteria. 

This view although cloudy on many days always takes our breath away.

He didn’t like the idea of the larger sized reader although insisted on having a good Wi-Fi connection on such a device.  After reading dozens of reviews we discovered that Kindle devices can be data hogs with lots of uploads transpiring in the background at all times in an attempt to get the user to buy, buy, buy. 

With the reality that at times we’re paying for data (metered or on a SIM card using device) that made no sense at all.  A new smart phone was the best decision.  Also, he didn’t want to add to our overall weight by purchasing a larger device.

Tom doesn’t relish the idea of learning how to use new and different devices, software and operating systems.  For me, its the opposite.  I love new technology.  Based on this fact alone, it made sense for him to purchase the identical phone, Blu Win HD Lite; ideal for reading books, email, surfing the web and use as a factory unlocked cellphone. 

The elaborate sign at the entrance to the Muay Thai Kickboxing facility down the road from us.  Many nights we can hear the activity.

The price was under US $100, THB $3466 for the smart phone including tax with free shipping (to our mailing service), not bad for an unlocked phone when unlocked phones were close to US $1000, THB $34,660 when we first started traveling.

This item along with the many other items we described in yesterday’s post will arrive with our shipment in Bali sometime in the next month. (We’ve yet to place the shipment request).

As its turns out we won’t need another trip to the grocery store.  We have enough food on hand for tonight’s, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s meals.  The only outings necessary before Thursday’s departure is a haircut for Tom and a quick trip to the pharmacy for a few items, both on tomorrow’s agenda. 

We hope that whatever you tackle today brings you considerable pleasure, whether its reading a good book, watching a favorite TV series, preparing a great meal or out on an exciting adventure.

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Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2015:

Seagull in flight in during our visit to the Great Barrier Reef.  For more photos, please click here.
 

Equipment failure…Shopping for upcoming shipment to Bali…



A variety shop along the highway.

Tom’s smart phone died last night.  Not the battery but the phone itself.  Kaput. Today, I’ll contact Microsoft for a possible fix but the message on the screen appears to indicate it’s all over.  Its almost two years old and although he only uses it for reading, its been an important device for him.

We tried installing my good battery which didn’t help and we were unable to bring up the home screen to reset the phone.  This occurred last night, after coincidentally, we ordered a new battery for it yesterday, thinking that’s all it needed before it went belly-up. 

This is the Palm Breeze apartment rentals.  For prices and information, please click here considering that THB (Thai Baht) $1000 is equal to US $28.85.  To calculate various currency denominations, click here.

Once the error message appeared on the screen, long after placing the battery order and it had already been shipped, we decided a new phone may be on the agenda or, perhaps a Kindle Fire device which we’ll order online.

The new battery will work in my phone so it won’t be a total loss that we ordered it.  It will be good to have a backup battery we can keep charged for travel days and also so I don’t run out of juice in the middle of the night when I’m online for hours when having trouble sleeping.

Restaurants are abundant serving popular local foods.

Over these past few weeks we’ve been in the process of ordering much needed supplies which we’ll have shipped to us in Bali in the upcoming month.  We purchase most items using Amazon Prime with the link on our website receiving free shipping on most items sent to the US.

Our mailing service in Nevada receives all of the purchases, removes all the boxes and packing materials and ships everything to us in one big box.  We usually request a three day shipping option, receiving the package within a week even in even the most remote areas of the world. 

Many signs indicate rooms for rent. There are many affordable places to live in Phuket.  Many young travelers come here for water sports and adventure.

The cost of shipping is high, often hundreds of dollars but what can we do when none of the items we purchase can be found or shipped locally based on the countries we visit?

What do we buy that can’t wait until we arrive in the US in nine months?  We include such items as: Crystal Light Ice Tea; water shoes and underwear for Tom; a special travel sized neck pillow for me; sleep tee shirts and two swimsuits for me; a few vitamins (probiotics and B6 for Tom for kidney stone prevention) and so on.  Today, we’ll add the reading device for Tom to include in this upcoming shipment to Bali.

Certain days, the traffic is light on the highway and others its bumper to bumper.

Ordering supplies such as these are a reality of our lives of travel.  Beside the shipping costs, we’ll have to “negotiate” with customs in Bali over how much we’ll be required to pay in custom fees.  Generally, we’ve been able to keep these costs relatively low.

Our readers and family members occasionally send us links on how to “pack lighter.”  We appreciate their good intentions.  But, traveling with literally every physical item we own, is an entirely different scenario than a traveler packing for a trip. 

A variety of businesses line the highway with many laundry services as shown on the right.

We need the third checked bag to contain items such as the above including all of our shoes (with only four pairs each), although clothing goes into our individual suitcases with electronics packed into Tom’s laptop backpack. 

Surely, we’ll have to toss some old clothes to make room for the new items which by the time we leave Bali won’t be a problem.  Wearing the same items over and over does result in wear and tear, although we’re often surprised on the durability of some of our tee shirts and shorts.

We continue to see family, friends and readers enjoying time at the Minnesota State Fair, posting photos on Facebook.  Thanks to everyone for sharing their photos.  We’re happy to see you’re having a good time at the “Great Minnesota Get Together!”  Tom didn’t like the traffic.  I didn’t eat the food. 

Have a fabulous last weekend in August!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 28, 2015:


At the Great Barrier Reef, this semi-submersible had seats for 20.  As shown, it was packed as tight as sardines, not good for those who may be claustrophobic. For more photos, please click here.
 
 

The prospect of a scary change in plans?…Five days and counting…Photos at a premium…

Chalong Bay in Phuket.

While living in most locations when we get low on photos its not a problem.  We jump in the rental car for a drive searching for interesting scenes to capture.  If we don’t have a rental car and are using a driver, we get out often enough each week to get all the photos we need for the posts.

Now, down to five days until departure, with my ongoing recovery process and the less-than-stellar rental car, I’ve had little desire to get out to take photos.  With the blurry film on the windows it requires I get out of the low seat in the car to avoid taking photos through the glass which in itself in my current condition feels like an athletic event.

If you’ve ever owned or gone for a ride in a Corvette, it kind of feels like the same thing…not necessary the right vehicle for getting it and out of when suffering from a spinal condition.  Under normal circumstances, this would be less of a challenge.

Its not as if I can’t get in and out of the less-than-stellar rental car.  Its that I don’t want to re-injure myself subsequently staring the healing process all over again.

Boats stored at the shore as opposed to a marina.

Only days away from a full three months of recovering, I’ve only spent half of this period over these past almost six weeks in Phuket actually “working on” getting better, I’ve finally begun to turn the corner.  

On many occasions over these past weeks, I’d mentioned improvement in our posts although it was in such small increments it was barely noticeable.  Frustration easily set in when I’d awaken each day only to find the pain was basically still the same.

A few times, as recently as in the past two weeks, we considered a visit to a hospital. After reading many negative online reviews about local medical care, we decided against it.  Instead, we made a plan that if I didn’t improve close to our scheduled time to leave Phuket, we might head directly to Sydney and drop out of our airfare and booking for Bali. 

As we seriously considered such a plan we had to accept the reality that we’d lose rent for the two month booking in Bali (on such short notice) and also the non-refundable airfare.  This change would ultimately cost us thousands of dollars.  Tom, as worried as he’s been about me, never flinched over this prospect while I cringed over the prospect.

Yard of a house in the neighborhood with motorbikes and clothes drying on a line.

As soon as this possibility came to light, I decided I had to do something different to escalate the healing process to ensure we could continue with our future plans. 

I began reading volumes of books on the topic of healing compression fractures, speeding recovery for back, neck and spinal injuries and came to a few new conclusions:

1.  Started a light exercise program…very light and gentle following recommendations in a great book I read.
2.  Changed the pillow I was sleeping on from flat to slightly fuller, creating an indentation for my head.
3.  Changed from using mostly ice to using mostly heat on and off throughout the day and evening. (Using a microwaveable gel pack).  At bedtime I positioned an ice pack close to my spine using a rolled towel to hold it in place while lying on my side.
4.  Have Tom massage pressure points on my back twice a day.
5.  Only lie down for 10 minutes at a time instead of longer periods during the day.  Spend more time standing and walking around the house.
6.  No bending at all, which seems to be the most harmful at this point.
7.  Sleep with a medium sized pillow between evenly placed bent legs, again lying on my side.
8.  Focus on having perfect posture when walking and sitting.
9.  Using the speech recognition software for better ergonomics when typing.

With only five days until departure I can definitely say I’ve improved by no less than 75% in these past weeks, no longer feeling as if we must change our plans to get me to a major accredited hospital.

Oh, maybe it was “safari luck” and the implementation of the above changes or a combination of both.  That’s the thing about medical care, when one begins implementing multiple modalities, its difficult to determine which measures most contributed to the improvement.

The mix of the old and the new is commonly found in Phuket.

I’ll continue with all of the above even after we arrive in Bali.  With no required cooking, cleaning , laundry or tidying necessary with the daily household staff, I’ll spend more time focusing on continuing to improve on this remaining 25%.

By far, these past three months have been the most challenging since we began our travels on October 31, 2012.  Surely many of our readers can look back over the past four years to recall periods of time when life wasn’t exactly as you might have liked it to be.

Tom comments about how I overall maintained a good attitude through this. Each day I’ve struggled to stay optimistic. I was scared to death, to be honest, scared our travels were over, scared our lives would have to change to accommodate my limited range of motion, my ability to walk long distances and my overall interest in getting out.

Yesterday, I packed my single clothing suitcase which in doing so gave me hope, leaving out clothing for the next few days.  I sat on the bed folding everything and then standing straight I placed them into my open bag which is situated on a tall luggage rack.  The rest will be easy. 

This simple act added to my optimism removing a sense of dread I had about packing.  Tom would happily have packed for me but I needed to know I could do it.

Many homes are raised above ground in the event of flooding.

As we continue over these next few days, we apologize for the lack of interesting photos.  Its the way it is for now.  And, once we arrive in Bali, we may be posting similar photos to those we’d taken during our last stay, although all photos we’ll share in future posts will be new. 

Halfway through our second round in Bali we plan to stay in a hotel in Lovina for five days to complete the every-other-day-three-step required visa extension process.  During that mini vacation/holiday, we’ll explore taking many photos we’ll excitedly share in posts to come. 

Once we leave Bali at the end of October for the 33 night cruise to circumvent Australia, we’ll have many months of exciting cruises and tours, along with the stay in Tasmania at two separate locations for six weeks each and a 40 night stay in the exquisite city of Sydney.

So, loyal readers…on we go to continue in our world travels with a renewed hope for the future, as always striving for good health as we share all of our steps along the way.

Have a healthful, productive day!

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Photo from one year ago today, August 27, 2015:

The colorful views around us was only a small section of the Great Barrier Reef which we visited by boat one year ago today.  For more photos, please click here.

Earthquakes and after shocks in Italy…Heartbreaking loss of life…Our own earthquake memories from the mountains in Italy…


BBC news photo of earthquake rubble as rescuers search for victims from this week’s 6.2 earthquake.  See details below.

Some of our readers may assume we’re so far away from civilization at times that we don’t hear what happening in other parts of the world.  Without a TV in many locations, we’re still easily aware of world news by online announcements we receive and when reading online news and watching videos each day.

In most cases, we’re aware of news as readily as those in the more populated regions of the world with news available 24/7.  The Internet also provided live video news feeds and broadcasts from around the world.  Many who only watch news on TV may have never utilized online news. 

Its as detailed and up-to-date as any broadcast news, keeping us well informed. However, local news feeds here in Phuket are behind some of the international reporting services throughout the world, as we’ve seen with the recent bombings.

The 300 year old building we lived in during three months in Boveglio is near the clock tower in the top right in this photo.  Certainly, none of these homes were earthquake proofed.

We were shocked and saddened to hear of the earthquakes in Italy that occurred on Wednesday (Thursday here) reported again this morning on BBC news, a source we often use:

“The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Wednesday, 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome in mountainous central Italy.

The worst affected towns – Amatrice, Arquata, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto – are usually sparsely populated but have been swelled by tourists visiting for summer, making estimates for the precise number missing difficult.

More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone, Ansa news agency reported.”


View from the living room window of other historic homes where we lived in Boveglio, Italy in summer of 2013 where, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake without significant damage.

For today’s ongoing story of the earthquakes and after shocks in Italy including photos and videos, please click here.

We send our heartfelt sympathy and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors and tourists for those who lost their lives, for the rescue and healing of those injured and, for those hundreds, if not thousands of citizens who lost their homes, their livelihood and their sense of history and heritage as many historic buildings crumbled to the ground. 

Also, we pray for safety for the many rescuers who risk their own lives in the process.  Many have traveled from around the globe to assist local rescue services.

In summer of 2013, we lived in a very similar village in Italy, in Boveglio, high in the mountains of Tuscany in a 300 year old stone house as shown in a few of today’s photos.

A short walk in the neighborhood where every building was old and most likely not earthquake proof.

Only four days after we arrived in Boveglio, Italy, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake in the region described as following on our site with seismology statistics we’d discovered at the time.  Please click here for details.

For our story of the experience, please click here for our post of June 21, 2013.  For Tom, it was the first time he’d felt an earthquake as described in that post:

Halfway through writing our blog today, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake as we sat on the veranda.  Having grown up in southern California, this was a familiar sensation for me although  it was Tom’s first experience.  We reminded ourselves as we ran for cover, that we are in an over 300 year old stone house, most likely the safest place to be.  Wow!  The adventures never cease to amaze us!”

Little did we realize at the time that the 300 year old building didn’t provide us with a safe place to be during an earthquake as described in the above BBC news story.  Apparently, many of the historic buildings provided no safety for the residents and tourists of the above listed villages devastated in this week’s 6.2 quake. 

Apparently, many are angry and frustrated that building codes didn’t require “earthquake proofing” of the old buildings.  Sadly, for many of the owners, had such requirements been imposed by regulatory agencies, they’d have been unable to afford the costly upgrades.

It was required we walk up this steep set of stone steps to gain access to the living quarters of the 300 year old stone house in which we lived for three months.  To hang laundry we had to maneuver these steps to the ledge shown on the left to get on the veranda, a very tricky and dangerous proposition.  Can you imagine trying to escape during an earthquake?  Most likely, many of those trapped under rubble were faced with similar scenarios.

This is sad news.  Should one wonder if further investigation isn’t necessary when staying for long periods in historic buildings or in living in high risk areas where crime is rampant or with a high risk of many types of natural disasters?

Good grief, we could go nuts trying to avoid what appears to be transpiring throughout the world.  No place on the planet is exempt from some sort of risk or another.  Undoubtedly, risks may be higher in certain areas which we attempt to avoid.  But many seemingly safe regions present their own versions of risk.

We can only continue to book venues and locations considering many aspects of safety.  Honestly, other than avoiding high risk areas of civil and political unrest, we continue on researching our next leg of our itinerary. 

At this point, booked to March 18, 2018, we’ve decided to wait to add on to our itinerary until we arrive in Tasmania in December, 2016.   While there for three months, we’ll have a good Wi-Fi signal and be able to concentrate on the future.  It is during this research period that we’ll have an opportunity to study a variety of risks for each new location.

From the road below in the mountainous area we took this photo of neighboring houses.

As an aside:  As we prepare today’s post, for the sake of our Minnesota readers, Tom is listening to Garage Logic on KSTP 1500 radio, broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair which opened yesterday.  Over the remaining five days in Phuket with a good Wi-Fi signal, we’ll be listening to the two hour show (which is on live weekdays only but can be listened to at any time via saved podcasts on the website) including another few hours of Sports Talk.

For our readers who aren’t able to attend their local state fairs, most states and counties broadcast information and stories on similar radio shows that can be found online and listened to via a podcast.  If you need help finding such a broadcast for your state fair, please write to us and we’ll try to help you find the link.

Enjoy the day and be well.

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Photo from one year ago today, August 25, 2015:

We were shocked to see the reasonable price on this exquisite flower arrangement at only AUD $20, USD $14.20 at the famers market in Cairns, Australia.  For more photos, please click here. 

Two more bombings in Thailand…”I’m not a celebrity but get me outta here!”…Seven days and counting…

Elaborate exterior of oceanfront property.

Yesterday, there were two more bombings in Thailand.  Click on the following link for details.  When I read this article this morning I was reminded of a TV show called, “I’m a celebrity get me out a here” and although we’re certainly not celebrities we’re kind of looking forward to “getting outta here.”

Much of the loss of life has been local people, not the intended tourists in many cases.  In addition to the horrific loss of life and injuries, these incidents have a deleterious effect on tourism, preventing many tourists staying away entirely or ending their vacations/holidays earlier than planned.  The locals pay the price when their many small businesses suffer under these circumstances.  .
 
That’s not to say that Bali is exempt from bombings and a variety of terrorist-type attacks.  And yet as we speak people are being murdered as a result of heinous radical behavior all over the world including in our own USA.

Gated oceanfront property.

We won’t elaborate over this topic today since we covered it in detail over these past week.  Most of us have access to news from a wide array of media outlets that keeps us informed, biased or not, as to what horrific events are transpiring throughout the world.  Its heart wrenching.
 
One week from today will be heading to Phuket International Airport for 10:15 am flight including one layover to return to the capital city of Denpasar to the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. We’ll spend one night in a hotel in Kutu before we commence, the next day, on the four or five hour harrowing drive. 

We weren’t certain of the purpose of this trellis or the plastic bag (sometime used to “catch” grasshoppers or crickets) when it appeared mostly weeds were growing beneath it.

Before we head out from Denpasar we’ll stop at the Carrefore Market to purchase food items that are unavailable anywhere close to the villa in Sumbersari.  At all costs we want to avoid having to return to Denpasar for another long drive during our upcoming two month stint in Bali prior to returning to Australia for a number of cruises, vacation home stays and more.

Between October 31, 2016 and April 22, 2017, we have four cruises booked around Australia, the fourth of which sails from Sydney to Seattle.  It’s hard to believe this is coming up after spending 23 months in the South Pacific having satisfied our curiosity and our interest as to what this part of the world has to offer.

Travelers could easily spend a lifetime exploring many more islands and considerably more of the continent of Australia.  We have no delusions that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.  With visa restrictions allowing us entry into Australia for a continuous period of three months we’re disappointed we never made it to the Outback.


The exterior of many homes are adorned with elaborate decorations, doors and artwork.

We’d investigated the possibility of renting a caravan/motorhome but found the cost prohibitive and the time constraint restrictive.  Although the concept of renting a caravan/motorhome has some appeal for the future when we’ll for the US,  at this point doing so is not a priority.

With only a week until our departure from Thailand we’ve begun to think about our final meals, packing and preparations for our departure.  As always, on the last day, we’ll be posting the final expenses for the six weeks we’ll have spent in Phuket, Thailand.

The expenses will be considerably less than our usual expenses based on the fact that we haven’t done much while we’re here do my current condition;  no restaurants, no tours and few tourist venues. The low cost of the less-than-stellar rental car will be included. Overall, the car has served us well.


Many residential streets are narrow with room for only one car to pass without a bit of maneuvering.

I wish I could say we’ll be heading out to take more interesting photos but right now, it’s simply not on the agenda in light of recent attacks in tourist areas.  We have enough new photos yet to share over this next week and with only one more quick trip to the market we’ve already begun the process of winding down.

Thanks to all of our loyal readers for sticking with us during this quiet time.  Hopefully, as I continue to improve we’ll be able to share more interesting photos and events in our lives.  Much more excitement will begin on October 31st when we board Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas for the 33 day cruise circumventing the Australian continent. 

We’re very excited about this cruise and being back aboard ship.  This will be quite a test for us to see how we feel about long cruises.  The longest cruise we’ve experience to date was the 18 days from Honolulu, Hawaii to Sydney Australia in June 2015. 


Entrance to apartment building under constriction.

Tom says, “One of those days was only two hours long when we crossed the international dateline making that cruise only 17 days.”  The cruise line unfairly referred to it as an 18 day cruise.  Hummm…

Returning to the US in eight months, we’ll recover the lost day for a 24 day (or will be two hours of the 25th day?).  Confusing.  We’ll report back on that as it occurs.

May your day be filled with wonderful surprises that make you smile.

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Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2015:

Fresh greens appeared to be a little higher priced than the grocery stores at the farmer’s market in Cairns.  For more photos, please click here.

Posting today using voice activation as opposed to typing…Ergonomics, vital as we age.

There are lots of pharmacies in Phuket but none seem to sell toiletries and cosmetics as do chemists in some other parts of the world.

Based on my current condition I have no alternative but to begin using speech recognition software to avoid ergonomic anomalies as a result of sitting in a position that is exacerbating my condition.

It’s not my choice to prepare this post using my voice.  I have to look at it as a new learning curve that only enhances my online experience and expertise while possibly aiding in my recovery with improved ergonomics. 

As we age, with more and more aches and pains, and for those with repetitive use injuries and conditions from years on a computer (many kids of today are already experiencing painful repetitive use conditions), the ergonomic use of speech recognition software will become more prevalent.

Talk about a pristine sandy beach!

Most computers built in the last 10 years or more have installed voice recognition  and narrative software.  By going to “my computer,” then “control panel” or a similar location on your PC, tablet or device, you’ll find speech recognition with a means of activating it.  Many are already using it on their smartphones or other devices.

(My last car which I sold a month before we left Minnesota, had a voice activated “command center” which I used on occasion as a safety feature and at other times as a fun novelty).

Tom noticed this small well maintained wood boat.

By clicking on this location you’ll be instructed as to how to activate and begin using speech recognition. It can easily be turned on and off. The app will learn to recognize your voice based on practice while you speak into a microphone, headset or directly into the computer’s speakers. 

Yesterday, while considering this option I tested speech recognition using both a standard plug-into-the-ears headset comparable to those used to listen to music on your phone.  But I also tried it without the headset by speaking into my laptop’s built in microphone. You don’t need a special device although using one enhances the recognition of certain words.

I should mention that the software on my Windows 8.1 laptop had a link to a video with explicit instructions as to how to best use the speech recognition software.  Most likely I’ll watch this video and others available online to become more adept at using the software. 

Why use this feature?  For many reasons, which in my case revolves around spending half of each day in a somewhat uncomfortable position while posting the blog.  As I continue in my recovery I am considering every option that may precipitate a better and faster result. 

Chalong Beach on a cloud covered day.

I’ve noticed that on days when I spend less time at my computer I’ve felt slightly better.  Of course, using the software as opposed to typing is no guarantee that improvement will be found from this one additional change in my daily activities.  Its a combination of many changes and adjustments.

Sure, one may say, “Stop sitting at your computer. Wouldn’t that be a simple solution?”

But it’s much more complex than that when a huge portion of the enjoyment of our lives lies in traveling the world while sharing our stories with our readers.  Why would I deprive myself and others of that enjoyment and purpose when there are alternate solutions that can work well especially during this interim period?

It’s not as if vacation homes have work station including desks and chairs with ergonomically adjustable options.  It’s simply not available.  In today’s world in some countries workers sitting at a computer all day have the right to request an ergonomically correct work station. 

Scattered among many newer more modern homes is a wide variety of older properties owned by locals.

Those of us using a computer “at home” have to figure this out on our own or with the help of a physical therapist, if available.  Obviously, no such therapist is available to me at this time.

Over these past years of travel I’ve spent every morning sitting in some arbitrary chair with no less than two pillows on my lap onto which I’ve placed my computer.

By raising the computer I can avoid exacerbating my painful neck and spinal condition by having the computer closer to eye level.  Unfortunately, after my recent injury I found that raising my arms to type only added to the pain and discomfort.  Was there a happy medium?

It reminded me, not that I needed reminding, that Tom’s 88 year old brother Jerome is totally blind and has been so since 1970.  Jerome learned to use speech recognition and narration software in the 1990s in order to be able to listen to text and speak, creating text while using a computer.  We’ve always been in awe of Jerome for his adept skills in learning these processes.

Pond at the resort of a few days ago post where rooms go for as low as US $20, THB $693.  Click here for details.

As it’s turned out over these past years, Tom has been copying and pasting each day’s blog minus the photos and sending only the text to Jerome via and email making it easier for him to access. 

On many occasions Jerome’s mentioned how much enjoyment he’s derived from the daily sharing of our story which he listens to.  No words can describe how much this has meant to both of us.

I’m not certain using this speech recognition software is going to cause a substantial improvement as I continue to recover but there’s nothing to lose to try.  Perhaps over a period of time I’ll reap the benefits of utilizing this means of typing as I prepare each daily post.

Many people with a wide array of disabilities are currently using speech recognition software.  We can easily imagine many others could benefit from using the software but haven’t learned to do so. 

Many locals use these small local markets to shop for food and other grocery items.

Often family members and friends assume such a software is only important for the visually impaired when so many others could learn to use it as well.  Many seniors never learned to type or do so with such deliberation it deters their interest in being online.  The software can alleviate this common issue with a few short days of being shown how to use it and with a bit of practice.

If you know someone who can benefit from speech recognition or narration software and can accept the reality that some of the words will be incorrect when each person’s voice is different and the software may misinterpreted the spoken word.  

In writing to loved ones, who cares if a word or two is hard to decipher?  Tom says it puts a smile on his face when Jerome uses narration and few word are hard to decipher.  A quick rereading of the sentence easily clarifies the intent.

For me, it’s a little different when we’re posting a medium as somewhat of a business entity.  As I’ve written today’s post almost entirely by voice I’ve corrected no less than 25 errors.  However, I’ve seen that as time goes on and I become more adept at pronouncing words more succinctly, it will become easier. 

Two doors down and across the street from us is this cluttered yard with a cat looking up.

Will I use this over the long haul?  At this point I’m unsure.  We’ll see how it goes and if I derive some relief from the avoidance of holding my hands in this less than ideal position day after day.  Most certainly, we’ll report back as time goes on.

I haven’t yet determined how to add the photos by using my voice but technology nut that I am, in no time at all, I’ll have that figured out as well.

Jerome, thank you once again for being an inspiration to us and may you serve as an inspiration to others who may find great enjoyment from being able to communicate with those they love and the online world.

Have a beautiful day!  We’ll be back again with you soon.

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2015:

Pandan leaves from the Pandan Plant are used to make these beautiful fragrant bouquets we encountered at Rusty’s Market in Cairns, Australia.  As quoted from the owner’s written material:  “The leaves are used in Southeast Asian cooking as well in making the “flowers” which act a repellent to roaches.  In addition Pandan leaves are said to possess medicinal benefits containing tannin, glycosides and alkaloids.  The scents emitting from the flowers last a week and may be used as a freshener in cars, homes or washrooms.”  For more photos, please click here.

How to post a blog every single day of the year without angst, writer’s block or dread….How does this happen?

Beautiful statues mostly of Buddhist influence are found in many locations.

Many readers have asked over these years how we, (and I mean “we” when it requires the diligent attention of both of us each morning) feel motivated, interested and committed to posting 365 days a year, give or take a day here and there.
Flippantly, I always respond with a genuine, “Oh, we love doing it! Its easy to do something you love.”
 
Although, its much more complex than that, albeit true, lighthearted response.  It truly goes to the core of who we are as people, aside from who we are as world travelers, as we become more and more “seasoned” as time marches on.

In part, we’re not the typical world travelers.  As our long term readers are well aware, we aren’t always about visiting the popular tourist locations, although at times we do so with considerable pleasure and gratefulness for the experiences. 

The placement of hands, Mudras, as gestures in Buddhism is explained here.

More so, our world travel centers around living in various locations, blending into society, as best as we can.  We strive to mingle among the locals learning how they live, as best as we can while living within the realm of our financial means, within the constraints of aging and certain age related precautions and limitations. 

Above all, our personal interests are a driving force, as opposed to what may be expected from us as world travelers.  Fortunately, our personal interests not necessarily totally aligned, are superseded by our innate desires to please one another to ensure we are not only happy as a couple but also individually happy living life to the fullest considering our hopes, dreams and expectations.

As a couple, its relatively easy, even though we are so different from one another in many ways. Tom’s head strong fuel driven personality with my more laid back conflict-avoidance-at-all-costs persona has proven to be somewhat of a complementary element.

In a way its almost a fluke.  Did we know this going in, when we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012, driving to Scottsdale, Arizona to prepare for living outside the US for years?  We had an inkling when in the rigors of the fast paced life we lived in Minnesota, kept us close and connected with a few rare exceptions.

Beautiful embrace.

And even now, on a rare occasion we butt heads, only when I don’t have the stamina to leave the room and let him fight with himself.  No one ever continues fighting when there’s no one in the room to fight with. 

I’m always willing to talk it out, when Tom can diffuse in minutes with a few choice swear words to become cheerful and loving moments later.  Go figure.  I’ve learned to tune it out although I’m not exempt from reminding him later what a jerk he was for the 30 seconds.  He’s not beyond apologizing.

Its this foundation, this relationship with each other and…traveling the world, that is the primary reason we’re able to post each day.  If it was always about tourist destinations and sightseeing, we’d easily run our of stories. 

Do any of you go sightseeing everyday with a story you could share each morning, 365 days a year?  After awhile, you’d feel stressed and pressured to get out to see one more thing.

The talent of artists in Thailand in creating such detailed artwork is breathtaking.

If you were to search for days you’ll find few bloggers posting daily stories with photos. Only through our willingness and perhaps craziness, are we able to share the mundane and sometimes boring events of daily life along with the exciting stuff. 

Its just so happens we do share the mundane news as we move from country to country, sightseeing on occasion, observing nuances of living in lands different from our home country, different from the lives we each lived for over 60 years.

Apparently, even our mundane periods of time still keeps our readers in touch, which often surprises us and for which we’re always grateful.  How did that ever happen?

Do we keep a running log of future stories?  Only when we’re involved in a multi day venue where stories and photos continue to back up.  Otherwise, most mornings, as soon as I’m showered and dressed for the day, cup of coffee at my side do I open up the Blogger app without a single thought in mind.

A pine tree with branches pointing upwards.

On occasion, Tom and I discuss possible topics.  I check the local and international news which may inspire a topic when often there’s nary a blurb I’d care to share. 

An event may have occurred that precipitates a topic such as dropping my phone in the toilet a few days ago.  Or, like today, nothing and I mean nothing occurred in the past 24 hours worthy of mention.

Instead, I let my mind wander to comments and email messages from our loyal readers of these past years that inspired today’s mention of the how and why we do what we do. 

And, it all of YOU that continue to inspire us, since without you, comparable to my leaving the room when Tom wants to carry on, without an audience, its pointless.

________________________________________
 
Photo from one year ago today, August 23, 2015:
Not the most flattering photo of us on a very hot day without AC.  But, we couldn’t resist including a photo of us tasting the Mimolette cheese we’ve written about on this date one year ago, know for its “mites’ that live on the outside of the cheese as it ferments.  For more details on this story, please click here.

What is the cost of a typical hotel on the beach in Phuket…Why bother to travel? Astounding pricing!

Prior to entering the grounds of Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort we asked permission to tour the property to take photos.

In light of the recent bombings in Phuket, it may seem ironic that we’re writing about how reasonable it is to stay in Phuket for a holiday/vacation for the cost conscientious traveler.

The entrance to the spa on the opposite side of the parking lot at Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort.

It only takes watching a bit of news to see that murder, terrorism and other heinous crimes are occurring everywhere in the world, not just in Phuket, which statistically has had less murders than many major cities throughout the US.

With this knowledge one can easily say, “Why bother to travel?” 

The resort has a good sized pool and Jacuzzi facing the ocean.

The answer for those with the “travel bug” is clear…no where in the world is free of risk.  If one is to fulfill their dreams of world travel we can only anticipate that now may be better than later.

Alternate view of the pool.  It was a cloudy day but plenty of guests lounged by the pool.

With soaring prices, airline rate and luggage hikes and failing economies worldwide, waiting for some magical period sometime in the future may leave those hungry for the adventure sorry they didn’t push themselves to do it now. Who knows what the future holds in this uncertainty surrounding us? 

When we traveled to certain parts of the world in 2013, 2014, we sensed an element of heightened risk at the time.  We’d never have chosen to visit many of those countries at this time when so much has transpired over these past few years.

An outdoor Thai massage area.

And yet, looking back, we’re grateful for the experiences, many we discovered as life changing and enriching in ways we can hardly describe, having added an element to our world travels like none other that we’ll ever experience in the future.

A waterfall and pond on the grounds of the resort, next to the spa area.

Sure, at the time we were on alert and highly sensitive to the risks we faced, with such situations as a security guard on our bus in Egypt wearing a black Hugo Boss suit with a collapsible Uzi in a holster underneath his jacket.  Now, we’d hardly consider such a trip.

We were excited to see a Koi pond.

Then again, here we are in Phuket, Thailand and the risks may be as many as where we’ve traveled in the past.  Do these facts impact our future travels?  Only in regard to specific areas in countries we’ll visit.  We all know from the media, no place is safe. 

Even the most secluded of country villages fall prey to horrific crime and devastation.  Sure, we felt safer living on an alpaca farm in New Zealand as opposed to riding on a bus in Egypt or Turkey. 

As we approached the pond, the fish swam close , mouths open, hoping for food.

As we’ve mentioned on many occasions, we prefer remote areas away from most big cities with a more  quiet life, reduced traffic and with less outrageous commotion in the streets.  And yet, next March we’ll spend 40 days in Sydney, certainly a big city with little fear. Although even that seemingly safe city has also fallen prey to terrorism over these past years.  We can’t live in a bubble.

Soon, as is the case for this resort guest, we’ll be lounging in a chaise by a pool and the ocean.

As for Phuket, we decided to do a little research about the area for anyone who may consider this location at some point in the future.  The best way to do this was to select a popular resort in the area and check it out which we did a few days ago.

The spa lounge.

We chose what we thought was a midrange resort located directly on the ocean, Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort when most of the more upscale resorts require a reservation and passports to get beyond the guarded gates, neither of which we had at the time.

We easily gained access to the property after we showed our business card and explained to the reception staff we were preparing a story about the property and would be taking photos.  They happily obliged.  Security was at a minimum as we perused the property.  (Had the 11 bombings in Thailand not occurred recently, most likely, we’d never have noticed a lack of security).

Another decorative pool on the property.

The resort was packed when we later learned it was promoted as “Phuket’s lowest waterfront room rates” which after a little online research we discovered starts as low as US $25, THB $868 per night!


An exercise and lounge area by the spa.

Moments ago, I checked the link for Hotels.com on our website to find a rate for
Friendship Beach Waterfront Resort for only US $19, THB $659!  That’s less than the cost of a low priced hostel!  (These rates may be seasonal and higher priced during peak holidays, etc.).

These rates include free Wi-Fi, free parking, air con, daily maid service and more.  Had we not visited the property in person, we’d have thought the online photos were deceiving.  But, after our visit, before we knew the prices, we both admitted we’d happily have stayed at such a property.  It was a surprising experience, one we’re glad we took the time to investigate.


Walkway back to the reception area.

Today, Monday, we’re staying put as I continue in my recovery…some days up, some days down, each day providing us with enjoyment as we live our lives in appreciation for the present and ultimately, for the future.

Happy day to all!

________________________________________


Photo from one year ago today, August 22, 2015:

The sign outside the huge permanent farmer’s market in downtown Cairns, Rusty’s Markets, a popular tourist attraction as well as a favorite shopping site for locals.  For more photos, please click here.