Photo of The Day #75, Rick-Shaws at The Blue House in Penang Malaysia Played My Emotions

As we approached the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion commonly known as The Blue House, in the old Georgetown section of Penang Malaysia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I immediately gravitated to the plethora of Rick-Shaws lined up on the front porch. I have no idea why I am attracted to these antique modes of transportation or why I take endless photos of them. I can remember my first visit to Hong Kong in 1973 and how common they were at that time, as a personal transportation source. They have fascinated me for over 40 years.

 

Single Rick-Shaw with Umbrella

Single Rick-Shaw with Umbrella

 

Over time the quantity and elaborate vehicles have waned and their use diminished extensively. They are still found in a select few cities, like the Georgetown area of Penang, but in most cases it is just a form of tourist attraction and there seems to be a perpetual contest to see which Rick-Shaw can be decorated the gaudiest. We stopped our first night in Penang and all climbed into our Rick-Shaws for a pre-arranged guided and moderated tour. I was fortunate that my guide spoke excellent English and was familiar with local history.

 

 

Double Rick-Shaw

Double Rick-Shaw

 

I was amazed that my guide was near my age, probably had about 1% body fat and I had to outweigh him by at least 50 pounds. He peddled like I was a feather and no sign of struggle or additional effort was displayed during our tour. I think he was used to this routine and when we stopped the ride I tipped him, thanked him and walked away. When I looked back he was lighting up a cigarette, as if to say “I got this covered and then some”!

 

Double-Single Rick-Shaw That Could be a Triple

Three-Single Rick-Shaw That Appear to be a Triple

 

I would recommend you take a whirl on one of these magnificent contraptions and try and visualize what is was like “Back in the Day”! They are in the process of being phased out and it is just another piece of history that we will not be able to experience before too long. Jump in and travel back while you have the chance. I feel fairly certain your brain will allow you to transport yourself back in time and you will be able to appreciate a little slice of history, when things moved at a slower pace and one could appreciate their surroundings.

 

 

 
*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

Photo of The Day #74, Indigenous Men Dressed in Indigenous Attire, Are Very Rare in Cuenca

One sees the Indigenous women all over Cuenca Ecuador and never thinks twice about the attire or manner of dress. Each various tribe dresses in a distinguished manner and has it’s own colors of shawls, skirts, hats, etc that signifies their heritage and what part of the Andes they are from. The apparel ranges from loud bright colors to a more demure earthy tone in some cases and in my humble opinion, they are all beautiful in their own manner.

 

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking To Me

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking To Me

 

It is more uncommon to locate or visualize Indigenous men associated with the various tribes. The majority of the men seen accompanying the brightly adorned and hatted women have converted to a more western style of dress, including blue jeans, khaki shirts and ball caps. The men you do see dressed in Indigenous apparel, are as a whole dressed in sold black, as these gentlemen in my post are outfitted. I am also guessing the Indigenous men originate from the same tribe and are the last hold outs wearing their native garments.

 

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking Away

Indigenous Man in Cuenca Walking Away

 

They all wear the black bowler hat, have a long ponytail tied back, wear heavy black work boots and the pants are shortened and come to just below the knee. I am not sure of the reasoning for this or the purpose, but I am guessing it as to do with not obstructing their work. You will not find any Indigenous people in what we classify as shorts. It is just not accepted or practiced. A few of the men smoke, but I have never seen any of the Indigenous women light up. Who knows you might just be lucky and see an Indigenous man on your next trip to South America and the Andes range. I truly hope you are fortunate enough to experience this, as I have a feeling the men dressing in Indigenous clothing will soon become a thing of the past!

 

Photo of The Day #73, Convenience Store Meals are Fantastic in Japan

I worked in the convenience store industry for thirty long years and loved every minute of it, especially when I was in the stores talking with employees, customers and vendors. No two days were the same and I had the luxury of meeting people that have become life long friends.  It was always an adventure filled with laughter, hard work and long hours. I am not a desk person and my job allowed me to travel daily. Some days were planned routes accompanied by other management people and some were just random driving with unannounced visits. My favorite method!

 

Drinks Section @ the Local 7-11

Drinks Section @ the Local Japanese 7-11

 

I first remember the US market attempting to do fresh food and make our own in-store food. It was kind of exciting to be on the precipice of this venture. I watched over time as the products changed from purely deep fried unhealthy calorie filled typical state fair or carnival food, to a more healthy alternative. At Circle K a decision was made to try and open “Take Home Ready Made Meals”, that just needed to be heated. It was a good move with lots of choices, but our customers weren’t ready for the process or option at that point. I am also not sure they thought a convenience store chain had any business producing take home meals.

 

Various light Snacks at the Local 7-11

Various light Snacks at the Local Japanese 7-11

 

Then I visited Japan, where the largest franchisee Ito-Yokado, bought 7-11 in 1998 and took it out of bankruptcy. It is also where they do the ready to eat so much better than we can ever think about. Daily a truck brings all fresh items and takes away their leftover product. I was blown away and utterly mesmerized by their process and the extent of the items offered. I could virtually eat at my local 7-11 in Japan and not have the same meal or item for I am guessing 90 days or more.

 

Yakesoba and Other Great Heat and Serve at the Local 7-11

Yakisoba and Other Great Heat and Serve at the Local Japanese 7-11

 

I was amazed and tried sampling many of their products. It was like I was at a restaurant in Japan or someone’s home. Yes it is really that good! They did it right and I wish that we could get it right in the US. I think geography has a lot to do with it, as their stores in Japan are just blocks apart. If you find yourself hungry after hours or any time of day, while in Japan, I highly recommend you visit your nearest 7-11 and try their food. You will not be disappointed, it’s a bargain and it’s obviously fresh, given they bring it in daily!

 

I am going back again in December to one of my favorite countries in the world (Japan) and you can bet your bottom dollar I will take every opportunity I get, eating breakfast, lunch and an occasional dinner at my local 7-11. I love their food and can’t wait to get back. I am sure their options and menus have expanded and I will be surprised with the new foods being offered. Definitely a business success story of the highest caliber!

 

Photo of The Day #72, HomeAway Winner

We had our kickoff meeting for the Austin chapter of Travel Massive recently. One of our feature speakers, Erin Portman of HomeAway, was a vivacious young lady with more energy in her, than Carter had in it’s Little Liver pills. I was amazed how how deftly she set up her box for her give away. She laid out the brochures, refrigerator magnets and business cards. I think she has performed this assembly before. Erin had a smile from ear to ear and was a pleasure to visit with. We were very happy that her company donated a good size gift certificate.

 

Erin Portman with Home Away alias

Erin Portman with Home Away, alias @HomeAway_Erin, #HomeAway works 

 

After all the presentations were given, Erin proceeded to award the prize of a HomeAway gift certificate. I was attentive, but had no idea that the name pulled would be mine. I was totally caught off guard and offered to place the gift certificate back in the box and have someone else’s name drawn. Everyone to my humble surprise told me no and I should keep it and use it on my Europe trip in September and October. So by gosh I will! Thank you kindly HomeAway for such a wonderful gift!

 

 

Photo of The Day #71, Panaderia Deluxe at The Oro Verde Hotel Guayaquil

As I stumbled down to the coffee shop in the lobby of The Oro Verde Hotel, I told myself the trip to Ecuador was just beginning and I needed to just have coffee and something healthy, in a manner of speaking. I had no idea I would encounter such a plethora of sweet items that challenged my desire to remain healthy. After all I was on a 5-week trial run to see what the real cost of living in Cuenca was for a month. I knew my fiend Efrain of Mio Tours would be there soon and I had to make a decision.

 

Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day

Assorted Sweets for Anytime of the Day

 

I decided I would eat healthy when I got to Cuenca and settled into my condo. To heck with being healthy, when all this was staring me in the face. Not only was I pondering the quantity and assortment of sweets to ingest, I actually had serious debates with myself about the assorted sandwiches and salads displayed in this case below. Decisions should never be made when you are hungry! I knew this and also was very familiar with the process of having Mio Tours (You Tube Link) drive me to Cuenca. I knew full well that we would stop at a restaurant my friend Efrain favored in Puerto Inca. The lunches with juice and soup run around $3.50 per person and are very tasty.

 

Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items

Sandwiches and Ready to Eat Items

 

Then of course another challenge is the magnificent bread they prepare all over Ecuador and since it is so inexpensive you want to buy every type of loaf available and see what is in line with your tastes and what isn’t. Down deep I knew I couldn’t buy more than one type of bread at a time and would have to wait until I got to Cuenca and shop at Maria’s Alemania Bakery. This bakery has the absolute best breads in the world, bar none!

 

Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan

Loaves and Loaves of Fantastic Bread / Pan

 

Oh how I wanted to box up one of these whole cakes and take it with me to the Condo. I could then bury my face in all that sweet goodness and eat like a pig! No one would see me and no one would know. So why not you ask? Because rather simply put, I have to live with myself and couldn’t do this without totally stressing out! Oh well maybe next time. I absolutely love all the Panaderias in Ecuador and they make very delicious goods. Most are so inexpensive it is almost embarrassing. This shop was nothing really out of the normal and is fairly representative of the bakeries in Ecuador. One of life’s small pleasures and I can’t wait to get back to Ecuador and eat my fill of sweets! Waistline? What waistline? I can always walk it off in Cuenca! After all it is situated at around 8500 feet above seal level and that takes more than a little effort when you are my age.

 

Take Home Cakes and Other Sweet Delicacies

Take Home Cakes and Other Sweet Delicacies

 

 

 

 

 

My Amazing Life-Chapter 14, The Oasis Spa a Heavenly Retreat Away From Everything in Bangkok

After three legs and around 30 hours of airport and flight time, I was worn out the first night we arrived in Bangkok. I knew the first day was full of things to do on our agenda and knew I would be tired at the end of the initial day. Then I found out that we had a massage scheduled for each of us, at The Oasis Spa Bangkok. I also believe acutely, this is the answer to jet lag and a way to ease into new time zones. As we walked into this luxurious establishment I was in awe. Most of the places I receive massages in the US are rather small enterprises and not really a 5-star operation as this appeared to be. The lady on the left below in the light colored top turned out to be my masseuse.

 

Sammy, General Manager and the Owner, Lady on the Left was My Masseuse

Sammy Our Tour Guide, General Manager & the Owner, My Masseuse is on the Left

 

We were introduced to the lady who owned the spa, the General manager shown below delivering instructions and were given the rundown on the rules of the Spa. We were told we would all receive a traditional Thai Deep Tissue Massage and would be very relaxed afterwards. We were told if it hurt too much to tell our masseuse. I had no idea!

 

General Manager of the Oasis Giving Us Instructions

General Manager of the Oasis Giving Us Instructions

 

The entire reception room was decorated with very upscale furniture and soft music played in the background, as in most massage operations. We each were served a warm tea and a warn washcloth to help cleanse our faces of the grit and dirt picked up from walking the streets of Bangkok. A very nice additional touch.

 

Zen Bowl, Tea and Warm Cloth for All

Zen Bowl, Tea and Warm Cloth for All

 

We all anticipated our massages and were fairly exhausted. I managed to get a group photo of the ladies below, as they waited for their individual massages. I will tell you none of us were disappointed. I think some of us needed the massage more than others, me included!

 

Group Photo of The Ladies

Group Photo of The Ladies Waiting on Their Massages

 

They had a retail shop in the corner with tons of creams and lotions, both scented and non-scented. I really didn’t look into any items but made sure I jumped up when my name was called. I was led back through a very nice complex and the massage room was nicely done and even had a shower located outside that I used afterwards (had a wall that hid the people showering so don’t go there).

 

Various Lotions and Creams in Retail Section

Various Lotions and Creams in Retail Section

 

My masseuse led me in to the room with the table and asked me to disrobe when she left the room. She placed a large box on the bed and I asked her what it was for. There might be a small problem! She didn’t speak any English. She opened the box and to my surprise she pulled out a pair of disposable mesh underwear. I could choose either a Speedo type or a thong. Oh My God really? I was taken back by this action and motioned no way on the thong. She left and I had an issue. My fat butt wouldn’t fit into the large size pair of the Speedo underwear, which apparently was made for a 125 pound man. I put on my robe and communicated that they were too small. She retrieved a much larger and adequate size which I put on. We were finally set.

 

Outside View of Grounds

Outside View of Grounds

 

She began to give me my first ever Thai Deep Tissue Massage and I must say it was truly intense, especially after doing the normal prone portion. She then had me sit up erect. She worked her elbows into my back and worked me over, very much like a punching bag. My word it hurt! I have never had a massage that placed me in so much agony. On the other side of the equation, about an hour later I felt fantastic and actually felt that the jet lag had left my body. Even though the massage involves discomfort, I highly recommend you visit the Oasis Spa and endure one. You will not be sorry and your body will thank you immensely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

My Amazing Life-Chapter 13, Wat Arun Temple of Dawn

As we boarded the Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok shuttle on the Chao Phraya river, my curiosity intensified. We were on our way to see the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun. It was our first day and we had a full schedule. Tour Wat Arun. Tour a portion of the backwater khlongs. Have lunch. Tour Bangkok Chinatown. Get a massage. Inspect a hotel and eat at one of the top 50 retsaurants in the world. This was on the back of a 27 hour three-legged flight for me and about three or four hours sleep. At first it appeared huge, but a drab grey in appearance and I wasn’t sure if it was going to really enjoy the tour.

 

Photo Approaching the Temple of Dawn

Photo Approaching the Temple of Dawn

 

As we disembarked and walked toward the Temple of Dawn, named from the morning light reflecting off the Temple, I began to change my impression. It’s a magnificent architectural structure in my humble opinion and one cannot visit Bangkok without devoting an hour or so to strolling through it’s grounds. It has so many various segments, stone statues and ornate trimmings that I couldn’t stop taking photos. I was simply shocked by the close up appeal, after viewing what I thought would be a drab Temple from far away. I was not prepared for what it contained.

 

Central Prang of Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Central Prang of Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

As you enter the Ordination Hall is off to the side and is a remarkable structure in design and appearance. You can’t help but go that direction first and investigate what lies inside the gorgeous building.

 

Ordination Hall

Ordination Hall

 

Walking toward the Ordination Hall you pass this portrait of the King of Thailand and several more. I am curious though since the government overthrow has transpired, if any of these portaits remain, were defaced or if they were removed to avoid damage. If you have been since the coup please leave a comment below and let us know. Sawadee!

 

Before the Coup

Before the Coup

 

Rounding the corner and heading towards the Ordination Hall you are met with this rather imposing set of guardian figures, ornately decorated with vivid colors, unique accessories and elaborate adornments of a warrior genre. I was hypnotized by these majestic figures. They towered over the visitors attending and I took way too many photos trying to capture the demeanor of the imperial sentinels, as they watched over all that entered. I truly hope in some small way, I was successful.

 

Yaksha Guardian Figures at the Entrance of Ordination Hall

Yaksha Guardian Figures at the Entrance of Ordination Hall

 

As I grew closer and scanned the apex of the entry I again was mesmerized by the architecture and how detailed the design was. I will have to become more of a historian and be able to interpret the symbolism behind all the various trim and palatial work. Thailand has over 31,200 Temples and I was just beginning to realize the talent behind their construction.

 

Ornate Top of Entrance to the Ordination Hall

Ornate Top of Entrance to the Ordination Hall

 

Throughout the grounds I came across various and sundry stone statues, figurines and artistic structures that were stunning to view and diverse in design, purpose and placement. Again I took photos of what seemed hundreds of stone characters and had to limit my inclusion in this post to the more distinctive, at least in my opinion. I sincerely hope you enjoy the photos, but highly recommend a visit if given the chance. I would not want to tangle with this individual in real life.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

Nor would I have any inkling to become combative around this individual in real life. Although he is immobile in his present form I am positive he would do severe damage to my body if we engaged in some type of duel or combat.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

“A covered passageway, phra rabiengkote, lines the walls around the ubosot. The passage is lined with 120 Buddha statues in the sitting position. These statues were cast in the reign of King Rama II. The remains of deceased are kept in cubicles below the statues.”  This is a quote taken directly from a post on Tour Bangkok Legacies and explains the shrines below.

 

Buddhas Inside the Temple

Buddhas Inside the Temple

 

Additional stone figures are scattered throughout the grounds and some are regal in nature as compared with the warrior/guard figures at the entrance. They are both intricate and detailed in design. I was fascinated by the sheer numbers of figures and their various themes.

 

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

These ferocious stone carved guardians resembled dogs to me and were present right at the entrance to the Temple area. It would make sense that these sentries were positioned to announce wayward or stray people animals or evil trespassers.

 

Stone Sculptures in Wat Arun Complex

Stone Sculptures in Wat Arun Complex

 

As I approached the entry to the Temple I glanced down the side and caught this structure’s opening with two stone almost obeliscal formations. I thought it was cool the way the front structure framed the stone towers in the back of the area.

 

A Unique View On the Side of the Hall

A Unique View On the Side of the Hall

 

I removed my shoes and walked into the Temple and was completely caught off guard by the array of wall paintings, chandeliers and artwork present inside and displayed for all to view. It really was beautiful and I am afraid I didn’t capture the true essence of the shrine. I hope that you can at least partially comprehend its magnificent beauty!

 

Inside the Ordination Hall

Inside the Ordination Hall  

 

As one walks into the actual main Prang area this gentleman awaits you and the sign portrays what is acceptable dress and what is not acceptable for the ladies. It also had a directional sign for the restrooms. My bladder was about to burst, so Sammy our guide and I went and paid our $.10 to go. Ha!

 

Guardian Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

Guardian Stone Chinese Statue at Wat Arun

 

This cherubic Buddha waited outside the entrance to the large Prang greeting everyone and bringing great luck and prosperity. He gladly accepted donations to ensure your tour was favorable. The lady on the right thought it was funny that I was taking this photo and grinned at me. I would bet anything she or her boyfriend/husband took one also!

 

Laughing Buddha at Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

Laughing Buddha at Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn

 

When you first see the porcelain tile applications it puzzles you, as you do not expect this decoration to be so beautiful or well defined. I was impressed at the mount of detail put into the overall structure and cannot begin to capture what it looked like in person. I am definitely not that good of a photographer. I do hope that a sampling is conveyed and you can realize the extreme work that went into the construction of this facility. The following photos are of various sections and appliques on the Prang and hopefully convey the quality of work involved.

 

Amazing Porcelain Tiles On Wat Arun

Amazing Porcelain Tiles On Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

 

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

Detail of the Porcelain Filled Wall of Wat Arun

 

As I turned around to leave I took this photo. I did not climb the steps past the first level and I have no idea how many steps there are, as every web site I viewed on Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn did not have this information. I Googled it and still could not find my answer. If you take a close look you can tell how steep the steps are by the way the people are holding on for dear life as the descend. I knew in that instant I was not going up to the top!

 

The Long Walk and Steps to the Top of Wat Arun

Part of The Long Walk and Steps to the Top of Wat Arun

 

At the bottom there is a traditional market filled with stalls selling every imaginable souvenir one could associate with the shrine, Thailand or its history. It was very interesting and slightly cooler than being out in the Bangkok heat and humidity!

 

Souvenir Stalls

Souvenir Stalls

 

A sample of local snacks that one could purchase. Not sure if they were healthy or not, but they were unfamiliar to me and I held back on testing anything new, as we had a wonderful dinner planned later that night At one of the to 50 restaurants in the world.

 

Snacks for Sale

Snacks for Sale

 

This stall had many wood carvings of elephants, Buddhas and other items we found at every shopping place we visited. I am not entirely sure, but I hope the “tusk carving” wasn’t real ivory. Elephants represent good luck throughout Thailand.

 

Various Souvenirs for Sale

Various Souvenirs for Sale

 

The mango stand was unique and I really wanted to buy a bag of mango to snack on, but against any concept of appetite I passed. I really, really wanted to sample it, as I love Mango. Fortunately I ate my fair share later.

 

Sliced Mangoes for Sale

Sliced Mangoes for Sale

 

This stand was selling coconut water and a few of the members our group tried it and stated that it was the best they had ever consumed.

 

Coconut Drinks for Sale; Some of Our Group Said It Was the Best Coconut Water They ever Had!

Coconut Drinks for Sale; Some of Our Group Said It Was the Best Coconut Water They ever Had!

 

 

My initial impression of Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, from a distance was so ill conceived I was embarrassed. I thought I would be bored to tears and not really interested in seeing this vast complex. It just goes to show you the best laid plans of men and mice go astray! I cannot stress enough how important it is, if you visit Bangkok you absolutely have to visit Wat Arun. The Temple of Dawn. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

Photo of The Day #70, #TilleyEndurables #RuggedClothing for the Adventure Minded

In June of 2013 I attended my first #TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) conference in Toronto Canada. It was my first conference and my first time in Canada. Ahead of time we were able to make appointments with travel companies, countries and points of interest around the world. Additionally, clothing manufacturers like Tilley Endurables were available and I was fortunate enough to secure an appointment with Tilley.

 

Hat Only is Tilley

Hat Only is Tilley

 

At the meeting I secured my Tilley Endurables as my first sponsor and as I am fairly well known for my Panama Hat, they decided to send me two different hats of my choice to test. I have worn these all over the world in the last year and I will tell you they are very, very durable. I love smashing them flat and packing them in my suitcase and when I arrive I just pop them out to wear. They will last forever I assume.

 

Hat Only is Tilley

Hat Only is Tilley

 

I am happy to announce that our partnership will continue and I am preparing to order additional items of clothing to test. Tilley Endurables is a great company and they stand behind their products 100%! My type of vendor.

 

Can’t wait to reach out and order, after I finish my diet and lose my extra weight. If you need a tough long lasting line of clothing take a look at their line. My earlier post today reminded me of my original post on Tilley and the hats and brought back memories of Ecuador and my Ingapirca tour.

 

Hat Only is Tilley

Hat Only is Tilley

Photo of The Day #69, Here’s Looking at You! #Ingapirca #Historical #Ruins

In March of 2012 I visited the Incan ruins at Ingapirca, outside of Cuenca Ecuador. One can take the normal tour and if game, walk the extended tour up and beyond the ruins. It passed by the Emperor’s bath carved out of stone and through a local village. The route was at a higher altitude and really stretched us to the limit. As we rounded a corner and began going down the backside we saw this face carved in the stone,  by the Inca people,according to our guide.

 

The Face on the Mountan

The Face on the Mountan

 

It blew me away and I am not entirely sure the guide was giving us the straight story or was embellishing the tale. Regardless, it was an impressive sight and I was mesmerized by the facial features.

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