Since we’re all stuck at home right now and travel has ground to a halt, I thought I would share some of my old travel memories to provide something to look forward to, or at least to dream about.
I had the good fortune to visit Petra in mid-February 2020, right before the coronavirus hit. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, reminding me of a cross between Cappadocia, Machu Picchu, and the Wild West. I could write a book on it, but for now I’m just going to focus on the amazing animals of Petra.
In Petra the Bedouins are everywhere, riding around on donkeys and mules, yelling to each other, and offering rides to tourists, which makes it a very lively place and not like a dead city at all. The number of animals is astonishing: puppies, donkeys, camels, mules, and horses, many of which take shelter in the tombs. The puppies are adorable, but there are too many of them; they really should spay and neuter their animals. One Bedouin merchant with kohl-lined eyes saw me watching some puppies and asked if I wanted to bring one home for free. I said I wished I could!
Here are some of my favorite animal pics I took in Petra (and a few from other places in Jordan).
A donkey, a mule, and a dog stand watch in the Siq leading into Petra.
A ball of Petra puppies, keeping warm by huddling together.
A mother dog in the Siq
A horse sleeps in an ancient tomb.
There’s a dog sleeping in the space beneath the Silk Tomb.
A cat on the way up to the Monastery.
A dog keeping us company in the Siq.
Camels near the Treasury.
Not in Petra – a henna-dyed cat in Wadi Rum.
Camels in Wadi Rum.
Camels in Wadi Rum.
I don’t usually buy much on my trips, because the stuff I really want — hand-made crafty items — are usually too expensive. But that wasn’t the case in my recent trip to the Yucatan. While good quality, hand-made items aren’t exactly cheap, they were well within my price range. Plus you can bargain for a lot of things. I’m not a good haggler, but I still don’t feel like I overpaid. I came away with a real swag bag of stuff. Such as…
- A hand-embroidered bag made in Chiapas for about $30. I loved the colors and pattern. I got it in a craft store in Valladolid, where you can’t really haggle.
- A cedar mask from a vendor in the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, for about $30, but I may have overpaid. These vendors are everywhere in Chichen Itza. You can often see them working right next to their tables. It’s kind of annoying to have the vendors calling out to you while you’re looking at some of the most famous examples of Mayan architecture, but there’s no getting around it.
- A jaguar whistle, also from Chichen Itza. I got it for about $5, but I may have underpaid. When you blow into it and move your hand over the hole on the bottom, it makes a sound like a jaguar roaring. But I can’t do it nearly as well as the vendors did. You hear them making this sound constantly in Chichen Itza.
- Maya chocolate. Cost about 100 pesos from a store in Valladolid. The Maya basically invented chocolate, so I wanted to try this more “authentic” version. It’s pretty good — a little chalkier than I’m used to, but good. Comes in many different flavors.
- Shells. Okay, so I didn’t buy these, but I thought I may as well include them. I found them on a deserted beach in Cozumel, which is a shell-collector’s paradise. I brought home a small conch, a light pink cowrie shell, and some other beauties.
Have you ever bought anything in the Yucatan?
There are plenty of lists out there on how to pack for a trip – what to take in terms of clothes, jewelry, shoes, toiletries, etc. But what about the countless intangible things you have to take care of before you can put your feet up and relax? Those nagging, pesky little issues that you think you’ve squared away until your plane takes off and you say to yourself, “Wait – do I have enough money in my checking account?” Well, I’ve made a list of all the little things I have to do before jetting off to my next destination. It may come in handy for you too!
If you want to relax, take care of these things first!
Filed under humor, travel
I’ve read lots of horror stories about Asian toilets (i.e., the notorious squat toilet), but none about Asian showers. By this I mean a shower that has no tub, curtain, or any other kind of separation from the rest of the bathroom. You turn on the water and, voila, the whole bathroom gets wet! I’ve experienced this personally in Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.
An open shower/ bathroom in Cappadocia, Turkey
Another open shower/ bathroom in Taiwan
I know I’m showing my ignorance as a Westerner, but I just don’t get this kind of shower. It seems very impractical. You can’t leave much in the bathroom (clothes, towels, etc.) because it will constantly get wet. Unless the shower drain works perfectly, you will have a small flood in your bathroom every time you shower. When the water finally does drain out, it leaves a ring of hair, lint, and other nasty stuff on the floor. It promotes the growth of mold and mildew. Plus whenever you go into the bathroom to use the toilet, you’ll step in a wet, icky mess.
I guess it’s cheaper to build bathrooms this way, but I don’t think it would take much to add a curtain and some kind of recess in the floor for the shower area. I saw a bathroom like this in Thailand, and it worked pretty well.
What do you think about the Asian shower? Is there a trick to using it? Are there advantages to it I’m not seeing? Or does it bother the heck out of you?
I put some of my photographs up for sale on fineartamerica.com. I don’t expect to make much (or any) money off of it, but I want to be able to share my photos with others who might appreciate them – and if I can make a few bucks, so much the better. I’ve uploaded what I think are my best shots from Asia, Europe, and America. You can find my profile here.
My profile on fineartamerica.com
I chose fineartamerica because it’s free to list your art, as long as you keep it under 25 pieces. More than that and you have to pay. You can set how much money you want to make off of each sale (in my case a few bucks), the company charges their fee for production/ printing/ framing/ shipping/ etc., and the total of that is what the customer sees. Easy!
What are your experiences with selling your photographs?
My traveling companion and I rented a motorbike in Koh Phangan, a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand. I mean that he rented the motorbike – I just held on for dear life. I got used to it after a while, and it was a good way to see the island, but what I really liked about it were the passengers it attracted. These were cute, friendly island dogs, and it looked like they were well taken care of. But the best thing about them is that they are scooter-trained. Yes, you read that right. It happened twice that, while our bike was stopped, a random dog would get on the platform and stand there, waiting for us to take him or her . . . somewhere. They know exactly where to stand for balance and are expert hitchhikers.
The first time was this dog, a beautiful white one. Since we were caught off guard, we eventually forced her to get off – but not before posing for a few pictures.
We thought it was a fluke, but later that day another dog got on our motorbike and did the same thing. This one was also much more stubborn, and we couldn’t have gotten her off without really pushing. So we started driving – very slowly – with her on it. She was really good about it too, staying completely still, tongue flapping in the breeze. Every once in a while we would stop and make it clear to her that she could get off. At one point we stopped next to another stray dog, thinking she would like company, but they started growling at each other so we hightailed it out of there. She got off to stretch her legs when my companion stopped to look at something, but hopped right back on when he mounted the bike. She finally left us for good when we got to the major town of Thongsala, where there was a pack of stray dogs to welcome her. We guess this is a normal way for them to get around the island – hitching a ride with humans!
There are lots of other friendly animals in Koh Phangan. Take, for example, the cat who joined us for dinner at our hotel.
And this lovely lizard.
And don’t forget the elephants!
No, this elephant does not have a disfigured trunk, it just looks that way.
I read The Beach by Alex Garland recently, since it’s about finding an island paradise close to Koh Phangan in Thailand, where I went last month. I thought these three quotes about travel were pretty brilliant.
“I don’t like dealing with money transactions in poor countries. I get confused between feeling that I shouldn’t haggle with poverty and hating getting ripped off.”
A tenement in Bangkok
“On that trip I learned something very important. Escape through travel works. Almost from the moment I boarded my flight, life in England became meaningless. Seat belt signs lit up, problems switched off. Broken armrests took precedence over broken hearts. By the time the plane was airborne I’d forgotten England ever existed.”
Ready to escape!
“Collecting memories, or experiences, was my primary goal when I first started traveling. I went about it in the same way as a stamp collector goes about collecting stamps, carrying around with me a mental list of all the things I had yet to see or do. Most of the list was pretty banal. I wanted to see the Taj Mahal, Borobudur, the Rice Terraces in Banave, Angkor Wat. Less banal, or maybe more so, was that I wanted to witness extreme poverty. I saw it as a necessary experience for anyone who wanted to appear worldly or interesting. Of course witnessing poverty was the first to be ticked off the list.”
My travel checklist
Do you have any favorite travel quotes?