Our hearts go out to the people of Strasbourg, France. The city is a beautiful place that has seen more than its share of turmoil in its history. We are sorry such a wonderful, historic city has to be touched by hate.
The deal was that I would go to Melbourne with Spider if I didn’t have to get cooped up in an airplane for more than six hours at a time. We are now in Melbourne and it took us thirty days to get here by traveling east from Sacramento and making (quite) a few stops along the way. But not more than six hours in a plane. It was worth the trip.
We found plenty to do within walking distance of our hotel. There is a tram system across the river from here that extends your reach. Expecting big city woes, we were pleasantly surprised to find people friendly and very willing to give recommendations.
We were sent to this restaurant that was unfortunately closed.
Instead, we were directed to this place nearby run by the same people.
When they found out we were friends of friends in California, we were loaded down with plenty of pastries for the walk back to the hotel. Cinnamon rolls for dinner!
Our exploration was pretty much confined to the area within a long walk from the hotel but there was plenty to see. Like the cities in California, Melbourne’s history doesn’t go back far. They have a rich array of Victorian and later buildings and shopping arcades.
We asked this guy for directions to the shopping area and he looked it up on his Victorian cell phone.
The “mall” we visited, took us back in time.
The mall security guards were a little imposing.
This area of Melbourne is a nice blend of old and new with plenty of shops and restaurants that make a lively nightlife.
Let’s hope Bubba can stay out of trouble.
Oh, Bubba! Not again!
A slight confession here. We violated the “go only east” rule. Hobart is southwest of Sydney. We wanted to visit Tasmania and to reach out to the south end of Australia. Hobart fits that. You can go a little farther south but not much. Flight leaves soon, time to go.
We landed at the Hobart International Airport, taxied to the gate and watched the ground crew guy come out with what looked like a garbage can stuffed with crime scene tape. He put the can at the point of the wing, stretched the tape to the plane on one side and the terminal on the other and created a jetway. Hobart Airport is one of the most easygoing, friendliest airports we have ever visited. We arrived at gate one. There are two gates at the airport. We departed from gate six. No, I don’t know what happened to gates two through five.
This is planned as a rest break. An easy going couple of days with nothing on the agenda. Tasmania is like that. The hustle and the hurry of the crowds and the world’s worries are kept to the major cities to the north. People here like their little island away from that huge island up there. At around 225,000, about half the population of Tasmania lives in Hobart. It is a city that has kept the charm of some of its old, grand buildings.
Our hotel was located in an old building…with a modern addition out back.
We took a walk to the docks. I spotted this guy trying to take a selfie with his dog.
Being the helpful person I am, I helped out. Now stand still.
We spotted this cruise ship in the harbor. Let’s take a sun filled cruise and work on the tan. I’ve been a little pale (yellow) lately.
Ah, Ha! Antarctic research vessel. That doesn’t sound like a string of fun days at sea. I think I’ll find something else. I can just hang out with the statues of the folks I can find to the south.
I’ll be fine with this crew. The only animal I don’t want to meet here is a Tasmanian Devil.
Must be time to leave. Back to the International Airport to see what choices might be available.
Let’s do this one.
Day 21 and day 22 in Bubba’s trip to go “East” and our trip to accompany him.
Heading east from Dubai would take me somewhere like the Himalayas, China, North Korea. Maybe I should veer southeast instead. I’ve heard that crossing the equator causes your hair to fall out so maybe I will stop just shy of the big red line on the map.
Singapore is 80 or so miles north of the equator so I should be safe. We stayed in the Chinese quarter at this hotel that once was a Chinese temple.
They have a Bubba sized model of what the area looked like back in the day. Our place is the short one in the middle that still looks pretty much the same.
Up in our room, we found some goodies to commemorate the Mid-Autumn festival. I’m always ready to munch sweets and check out the view of the market from my room.
Singapore is an almost mystical blend of the past and the up-to-the-minute present. A wander around the neighborhood took us back to the historic side of this part of the city. We came across this temple, still in use. This place has some beautiful carvings and is a sacred place.
So you know the bit over your front door? No one really looks there; they are ringing the bell. In this place, every surface is filled with carvings with deep religious meanings. This is the Thian Hock Keng Temple or Palace of Heavenly Happiness first built around 1821.
Inside there are places devoted to the different gods. Each have a deep meaning and each have their own offerings left behind by devotees. This being Singapore, one of the friendliest places I’ve ever visited, a man standing near heard us admiring the work and explained some of the things we were seeing. He was a professor at the local university who would explain things to tourists during his visits.
What is that offering I see at the foot of the God with the big tongue?
It is indeed a can of Guinness!
These two are Generals Fan and Xie, the guardians of hell, also known as the Black and White Guards of Impermanence. One can imagine the significance of the can O’ Guinness.
It is a little hot and damp today. Illegal forest clearing in Indonesia contributes smoke to the mix. It is downright melty out here.
It is time for something to cool my soul. I’ll ask this guy for a ride.
“You know where a guy could get a cool drink in a classy place that represents Singapore’s past?”
This is, of course, a not so cleverly done set up for the next bunch of pictures.
Take me to Raffles Hotel!
The hotel’s roots go back to the 1830’s and it was eventually named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore. It is a classic colonial British building. I could sip tea on the veranda.
Nah! That isn’t my style. I’ll head to Harry’s bar. This is the place where the Singapore Sling was invented…and they have free peanuts.
Warm day, fans overhead gently moving the hot, moist air, and a nice tropical cocktail. I can’t help overhearing someone speak of a tiger hunt and I think he actually said the words, “Dash it all!” and “My word!” It is a dozy kind of day.
You must forgive Bubba in letting his imagination roam a bit. This is a modern bar with all the trappings from the past so it is easy to send your mind back 100 years or so.
Time to go back to the room for a nap. Let’s see if I can find it. It had red shutters and looked out over the shopping arcade.
Yeah, one of those. Tomorrow I’ll check out the modern version of the city.
We made it on the flight that took forever and arrived in Dubai. I thought I’d look around and see if there was anything interesting to see. If you look west you see the Persian Gulf, look north (with better eyes than mine) you see the Strait of Hormuz and maybe the coast of Iran, south is sand and east…one…big…building.
That is the Burj Khalifa. The tallest building on earth. It reaches 2722 ft., I’ve been told. I didn’t measure because TSA took my pocket tape measure. I had to find a way to get up there.
Maybe I can take a helicopter to the top.
At about a half mile up, it looks like I’m in some type of aircraft but no, this is a shot out of a window in the building.
The nice lady helped me get just a little higher to see better.
You can get in a line at the bottom and buy tickets to go to the 125th floor, or if you think you are clever you can get in the shorter line. The shorter line costs about twice as much but gets you on a very long elevator ride to the 148th floor.
You know you are in a different world when you are met at the elevator door by a uniformed attendant with a tray of sweets and a glass of fruit juice. It gets narrow up this high so it doesn’t take long to walk around. You can even go outside and take in the somewhat hazy view. There are about fifteen floors above you here.
And 146 floors below.
Closer to earth, I thought I would look for other attractions. I’m here for a short time, what wonderful sights await me. It is hot outside so I didn’t see any parks. Not much in the area of natural green color plants at all. You could sit on the beach. Hot sand melts the plastic off me so that would be a “no”. I like to visit historic… That’s problematic too. While the history of the region goes way back, Dubai really wasn’t much to look at before the 1990’s. Since then there has been an explosion of growth resulting in some very stunning examples of modern architecture but not much in the way of historic. So what do you do? We went to the mall. That is the air conditioned place to go and the people here make the most of it. We visited two; the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates. We barely got to scratch the surface. The Dubai Mall alone has around 1,200 stores.
There is artwork.
These aren’t swimmers and they aren’t guys leaving the Big Building taking the express way down, it is art, man.
There is the chandelier of all chandeliers.
Kind of that jelly fish effect.
You can go ice skating.
Or meet this guy.
I think he is supposed to be a penguin but looks more like a duck to me. There aren’t’ a whole lot of penguins here to complain about misrepresentation.
Yes, the sign behind him is correct. Here, in the desert on the shores of the Persian Gulf, you can go snow skiing.
Don’t bump your head on the ceiling when riding the ski lift.
Dubai is a pretty mind bending place. A building so tall it looks like it has to be Hollywood special effects, snow in the mall, and a chalet of sorts, with a form of fireplace.
Or at least a video of a fireplace. It is too hot here to even think of such a thing.
This is a place unlike anywhere we have been and before my mind explodes, it is old world customs meeting with modern technology in the desert.
I think I will get in a plane and head east again.
To go further east we headed to Doha in Qatar where we would change planes and go to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The trip should be easy enough except…
Bubba and I watched on the seatback monitor and realized that the phrase “as the crow flies” doesn’t apply to commercial aircraft. We were doing a little zigging and some zagging to avoid “conflict zones”.
We traveled east to Germany, turned south east down the coast of Italy, took a hard left to skate over Greece and the north part of Turkey, a hard right to go south and wander back and forth along the Iraq-Iran border to the gulf where we made a pretty hard right (west) to skim down the coast of Saudi Arabia to finally land in Doha. By this time, we were late for our connecting flight and had to spend a few hours at the airport. Bubba speaks.
This isn’t where we planned to be hanging out. Since we missed our flight, we were a little concerned about what to do next, but we were met at arrival by a kind lady with new tickets. Seems they kind of knew we weren’t going to make it on time and went ahead and rebooked us. To go from arrival to our new gate we had to go through a security line. We ended up on the other side with a lot of time and no cash. We had US dollars, Canadian dollars, Euros, and Dirham but no Riyals. We finally were called to boarding and Rick was in the last row and Spider in the second to last. After a delay, we started to taxi. A down side to traveling with a pilot is she notices things I try to ignore. As we taxied, she turned back and whispered, “I smell smoke. Something is burning.” Not something you want to hear on a plane. And, just as I was saying, “Nah, just your imagination”, the flight crew advised us we were going back to the terminal with a “technical issue”. I may have been tired before that, but I was wide awake now. We stopped a little short of the terminal and the flight attendants went to the emergency exits, took off the little party streamer things, and stood next to them. There were looks back and forth and some quick calls on the cabin phones. Eventually, they relaxed a bit and we turned around and headed back to the runway. The plane took off with everyone sniffing for the duration of the flight to Dubai. It sounded like a flight of bloodhounds, sniffing for, but not wanting to smell, smoke.
You may have noticed a lack of photographs in this narrative. That would be because I was hiding deep in a pocket and Rick and Spider had a tight grip on the armrests and were not letting go.
We arrived in Dubai around one AM somebodies time. I lost track and quit trying to change my watch several time zones ago. Although late at night, the city was lit up a Christmas tree and was quite enchanting. Like a refinery at night enchanting. Like the spaceship landing on Close Encounters enchanting. Lots of lights on lots of tall buildings.
Tomorrow, I need to pick up a few supplies. We have been on the road for 19 days so far, time to restock. I wonder if I’ll be able to find a little shopping mall around here.
Bubba is on day 17 of his quest to go somewhere east. Heading back from the Ypres area toward Brussels, we passed near the battlefield at Waterloo.
On June 18, 1815 The forces of France led by Napoleon Bonaparte met the European forces aligned against him led by Wellington and Blucher near the hamlet of Waterloo in Belgium. We could not pass this area by without a stop.
How do I get up there? Oh look, a staircase. Just a few steps to go.
But once you get to the top, you get a great overall view of the area with a chart showing the battlefield highlights.
The mound was put in about ten years after the battle, so things were still pretty fresh. Left on the site are a farm that figured prominently, another farmhouse where Napoleon spent the night prior to the battle. There is also a Panorama housed in a round building put in about 100 years ago and a great museum. They chose to build the museum mostly underground so as to not interfere with the views.
We stopped off at the museum and there was the man himself. Kicked back in a chair checking the polish on his boots.
I like the cut of those uniforms. The beats my shirt any day and they get some pretty cool hats instead of this peg thing on my head.
Hey guys!! Do you have a place for me? I’m looking for a laid back position, with maybe some built in nap time.
It must be time to leave now. I’ll go look at the farmhouse where the Emperor spent the night prior to the big battle.
His bed and desk are still there.
He must have left in a hurry. He didn’t make the bed. One more stop to pay homage at the spot that was the last stand on Napoleon’s Old Guard.
Back to Brussels for a brief stop before boarding a plane and heading east again.
Travel tip: The world is so rich in history. With a little research, you can find some bit of history, a notable place, a tiny museum, near to anywhere you happen to be standing. Give yourself some time to hunt out these places so you can visit and enhance your trip that much more.