Travel

Sharon and I recently had the good fortune to spend 60 days of travel in South Africa and Myanmar.  A little time in Capetown; a jewel, Durban; special, and up the East coast of Africa. As one goes further north on that coastline, the poorer the area becomes.  Some of those areas have been settled for thousands of years but the standard of living does not seem to improve  much.  Of course most of coastline was at war over and over again through the ages. The Arabs, then the Portuguese, then the French and then the Brits. Now self governed for the most part, the history of colonization and suppression seems to have left a poor legacy. Mozambique, Madagascar, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Zanzibar and then Mombasa followed. The depletion of those cities seemed constant, but they are fabled areas we had little knowledge of so felt it was a trip we had to make.. While we had been to Kenya on safari we had not visited Mombasa, only Nairobi.

Then east to Victoria just south of the equator in the Seychelles. Lots of walking in tropical sunshine and flora. Now north of the equator to Male in the Maldives. Lovely blue water with many islands and tourism as a mainstay. Noted a lot of twin Otters in the local harbour with a constant buzz of turbines as they use them as taxis to the various resorts. Due to a family emergency, Sharon had to leave here on Cathay Pacific for Toronto. Luckily, I was able to secure an upfront seat for her. I continued on to Sri Lanka, Phuket, Penang and Kuala Lumpur finishing up in Singapore where Sharon caught up with me. She got a seat on China Southern out of Toronto to Singapore. She was delighted with both the lie-flat seating and the service, which she said was over-the-top.  Who knew? Turns out China Southern is one of the largest-fleet airlines in the world.

Two days in Singapore at the Bay Sands with it’s roof-stretching pool and then on to Mandalay, famous in verse and song. Myanmar (Burma) has three cities, Yangon (Rangoon), Bagan, and Mandalay and thousands of Buddhist temples. Tiger Air with a 320 and Asia Air with an ATR got us there.  I had never been on an ATR and found it to be quite comfortable. Not as quiet as the Q400 of Bombardier but for short hops, survivable. The country from the air is lovely with many lakes and mountains. Sparsely populated, there is enormous potential for that country. Still ruled by the military with restrictions on enterprise and land purchase, it will remain poor until that yoke is lifted. We boarded a river boat in Mandalay for a southern, down-river, trip to Yangon.

A newish boat for 54 but only 34 aboard, we had first class service and food. Built with a low keel-draft, the boat simply nudged up to the shore every day and threw out a line to hold it fast to the bank. Lots of walking, a few horse carts and tuk-tuks got us around the villages. Most were poor with minimal services in the homes. The population was nonetheless  very welcoming and smiling. They loved to have their  picture taken and to see the result. One little one screamed in delight to see herself on the camera screen. Many markets along the shore with overwhelming fresh fish and produce so no lack of food here. The country is trying to up the ante in tourism but have a hard sell yet to go. Met some very interesting people on board, some of whom bought my book on ebooks. Got a lot of instant feedback which is nice.  Back to Singapore, again on Tiger, and then Cathay to Hong Kong and Vancouver. 13 hour hop but with lay flat beds, not so bad.

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