The Toilets of Bali

It seems that everywhere I travel, eventually I do a toilet blog. Why I must wonder are toilets such a re-occuring theme – and then of course I answer myself – silly woman – it’s so obvious.

I’m a older woman – I need to USE a toilet frequently – and unlike a guy – a nearby tree is hardly satisfactory. I care about these things – I think about these things – and I’m willing to chat about them. Ipsofactso – Toilet Blog.

What does the perfect toilet need? My daughter and I, travelling thru Greece many years ago now, actually came with a check list – and then proceeded to rate all the toilets. I’m guessing the list hasn’t changed.

1. Privacy – sometimes toilets are just a bit too open to the breezes. My toilet on the Live-aboard boat in Komodo National Park definitely lost it in the privacy department. A shower curtain just doesn’t cut it. And there were toilets in some places in Bali (mostly off the beaten track for those worried about this) that had doors that didn’t close tightly – although none matched some of the total open to the world toilets in China. So 3 Stars for this one Bali

2. A Flushing toilet – no joke – lots of toilets in 3rd and 2nd world countries that I’ve visited skip the flushing aspect. It’s mechanical – it breaks – taking a bucket and pouring water to get rid of the ‘evidence’ is an inexpensive functional solution. I’d say a third of the toilets I visited in Bali had this issue – simply didn’t/couldn’t flush. 2 Stars here

3. A throne – not a squat. Sorry – bad knees, and squarts are hard on me. I’m a lot better than I used to be about making sure my feet stay dry and my clothes the same – but still. Please – give me a throne. Squats in Bali are not unusual – but you do have to go out of your way to find them – gas stations, private homes in country compounds, if you look – you will find. I did. Too bad too. I’m giving Bali 4 Stars for really just a few squats – and those were so clean.

4. Toilet Paper – now this is interesting. Not all toilets in Bali had toilet paper – and most needed you to put the used paper in a side trash can – but almost all of the toilets had a hose attachment for – well – bidet purposes. One even had a sign cautioning westerners Not to use the hose to waash their feet. Too fun, that. It’s hard to knock a place that values cleanliness as much as Bali – I’m thinking 5 stars here – although keeping some paper in your pocket is a really good idea.

5. A working sink – preferably with some way to dry your hands after you washed them. I’m not convinced that folks in Bali understand drying hands after washing them – nor do they seem to grasp the importance of napkins – at least from the folks I travelled with. I need both to be happy – and I definitely want a working sink. Critical actually. And less satisfactory if it’s shared by both men and women, but I’ll compromise on that. Places in Bali wihtout a sink were rare – but it wasn’t unusual to have to search for the darn thing. Why hide them I wonder? 4 stars and a flashlight for this one.

6. Level floor. I hate having to step up to get onto the toilet or the squat. It’s unblanced and feels awkward – but often they build up to hide the sewer tank. Guess that’s better than no sewer. 4 Stars

7. Clean – All the toilets in Bali – no matter how back woods, no matter how isolated, no matter what kind of silly establishment (a tiny all night grocery store springs to mind) – were clean. In fact – Bali was generally one of the cleanest places I’ve been. I saw ladies out sweeping and cleaning the roadways in front of their shops every day. Yes I did see a rat – but with everything out in the open air – and daily food offerings everywhere – that’s probably to be expected. Another note – Cleanliness is part of the version of Hindu popular in Bali – people have special clothes to wear to temple – and many of the most important temples including bathing rituals in a visit. And i saw people bathing in the rivers and streams quite frequently. So people are generally very very clean, Despite the heat! Bali in general rates very high on the clean scale. Impressive. 4 Stars.

7. Optional upgrades – fresh flowers (in the airport), options for towel, paper towel, or blow drying (fancy hotel on the beach that we popped in to visit), TV’s in the mirrors (never saw that here), granite/marble floors (only the fancy places did this – for most people tile worked fine. And every bathroom I entered was tiled.) And last but not least – locking doors if it’s a public place. I found several toilets in Bali that just simply didn’t lock closed. My favorite – someone had tied a nail to a cord – and you threaded the nail thru the former lock mechanism to hold it shut. Another memorable toilet was one that trapped a girl inside. She was hammering madly to get out – it took 3 of us pushing hard to free her.

So – Bali – 4 Stars overall. Better than some places – A lot lot better than other places – but not the best for fussy North Americans. Japan and South Korea are still my favorite Toileting places for this part of the world!

Who is the Richest Person You Know?

I had a friend tell me that I was the richest person he knew. Which made me stop and think. What exactly did he mean? Is that comment an insult or a compliment? What is a rich person any way?

Is it only about having money? Or is it more about apparent life style? Did he think I’m rich because I am old enough, healthly enough, and driven by the need to see things I haven’t seen before enough to want to spend my carefully hoarded money on crazy trips?

When I got married, my husband and I lived on boxes of Macaroni and Cheese – it was all we could afford. We’ve worked hard, saved money, spent carefully over the last 44 years. Does that make us appear rich today? Is not spending money when you are young, and then deciding to spend it a bit more freely when you are a senior make you seem rich?

Or is being preceived as rich a reflection of my need for adventure and my willingness to spend the money required to achieve it? Or is that comment just a refection of how few people my friend knows? Or at least how few people he has the true financial picture of?

Bill Gates is supposed to be the richest person in the world – do his friends think he’s rich? Does he think he’s rich? Do I think he’s rich? I’m not so sure that he’s rich in the ways I think are important. Can he travel anywhere he wants, can he just sit at home and watch the bird feeder? I suspect that his life style isn’t really one that I would enjoy – money or no money.

And I honestly believe that you meet more interesting, nicer people when you aren’t staying in fancy hotels and eating at fancy restaurants and taking taxi’s everywhere. You meet people when you take the risk of public transportation, eat in popular places, stay in places where there are kitchens or lounges that other guests use to reach out and meet each other.

I agree that I take wild and crazy trips – but I don’t even own a car, I ride buses! I haven’t bought new clothes in a long time – except for socks. Those wear out – so annoying. I have a tiny suitcase that holds everything I need for a month (or more) of extreme travel. I check the price of everything I buy – often twice.

If I was as rich as my friend seems to think – why would I have tried so hard to win the Biggest Baddest Bucket List contest – a contest that I still say I could have done better with – but water under a bridge and all that.

Despite the exotic locations – I don’t spend a lot of money traveling, or eating, or buying clothes. I bought a new watch a few days ago – $25 at Walmart – because my old one just got tired and stopped working.

I admit to a love of nice faucets and granite counter tops and magnificant views. But I think those are some of the essentials of life. Like a Toto Toilet. What is life without a proper flushing toilet. Really – does that mean I’m rich? Does putting up with a toilet that doesn’t flush properly say something about your financial status – or just say something about what you deem as important.

So I guess I’m wondering what I do that makes him think I’m rich.

I remember my husband once telling me that you always imagine that people have everything you have – and then add to that what you see them having that you don’t have. So maybe that’s part of the issue. He can afford to spend 3 months on an island – I spend just 2 weeks and call my self lucky. I still go to work (and love it) when I’m home – he is full retired – his time is his own.

Well – I guess I’m ok with being thought of as rich. As long as I don’t have to deal with paparazzi. That would definitely drive me nuts!

Signing off to contemplate her bank account (NOT!) – The soup lady.

Life in a Rain Forest – Ubud does Water World

Start with some Simple Geography – Ubud is built upon a series of ravines between, beside, and parallel to the parths 2 rivers. We hiked about 10 KM total along the ridge line that divides theses rivers this morning – (it was lovely) – but this blog is not about that hike – it’s about living in a rain forest.

To the south of Ubud is the plain of Dempasseur – the main city of Bali and the location of the airport. To the north East of Ubud is Mount Agung – a volcano that errupted most recently in 1963 and is still considered active. At 9,944 feet – it dominates the skyline from all directions – and is actually clearly visible from the back porch of our ‘Balanese Palace.”

Naturally – the clouds are forced upwards as they move from the hot wet coast towards the mountain – and thus we get rain here in Ubud. Lots of rain. Even now – at the ‘end’ of the rainy season, there are 2 or 3 rain storms a day – and the one last night was a dosy.

At about 3:30 AM I shot upright in bed to the sound of a clap of thunder so loud the house shook. With no insulation to speak of – and basically a thatched roof – while water tight – our little home is barely protection from the elements – it’s certainly not entirely safe in a thunder and lightening storm – at least that is what went thru my mind at 3:30 AM!

Next thought – what’s the tallest thing around? There’s a series of Palm trees at one edge of the rice fields that surround us – and there’s a magnificant Banyon tree South East of us that fairly large. But in the general height department – there’s not a lot to choose from. It’s a random chance if lightining should hit us rather than our neighters.

So – it rained, and rained, and rained. I had visions of flood warnings – but Ubud takes rain in it’s stride. All streets have 2 foot deep tranches on the sides – and the roads are slopped to drain into the trenches. The trenches funnel the water from the frequent rain storms into one of the 2 rivers – after providing water for the multitude of rice plantings that occupy any land not uesd for housing.

So Ubud can handle the rain. And it sure looks pretty while doing so! The flowers are amazing – everywhere you look there is one flower more glorious, more prefect – than the next. I had to look them up – Heliconia (red firm flowers (leaves?) hanging down from trees everywhere, Bananas – both wild and cultivated – and even growing in our back yard, Flamboyant trees are everywhere – in fact avoiding them is harder than finding them. Water Lilys, Bamboo trees, lotus flowers, the list is never ending – and all are lovely.

For a rain forest habitat – Ubud does not disappoint.

Clearly the issue around here is not on how to get plants watered – it’s how to deal with incredibly rapid growth. Trees have amazingly huge roots, statues if not cleaned frequently quickly develop a glorious green hue – and there are water falls – and signs of wash outs everywhere. But if you’ve always wanted to know what a rain forest feels like – Ubud is your place.

Signing off to go dry her feet – The Soup Lady

Morning One in Ubud, Bali – Roosters, Ducks and Fish – Oh My!

I wake in my over the top comfy 4 poster bed to the sound of rain splashing gently on the ground outside my room. We’re just at the end of the raining season – early March – and rain is a relatively\ constant companion to most day trips – but it’s not a sit at home rain – it’s an on again/off again rain that is gentle and warm. Totally brightens the colors.

What – besides the rain – woke me? I hear the clacking of ducks outside – with the occasional loud cry of the local – and apparently in good voice and not in a good mood – Rooster.

I grab my iphone – it’s also my camera – and dash outside. The colors are completely stunning. The lush greens contrast with the reds and yellows and oranges and purples of the flowers. I’m dutifully impressed. Our house overlooks a rice field – sections of which are flooded and provide a perfect breeding ground for a local flock, carefully tended by an elderly, but still very capable man. I’m going to try for a photo op – but I think he needs to see me as someone friendly first.

Our rental home – found by my friends on VRBO – which now I can see clearly around – contains 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms (and the master bathroom is even nicer than mine – with an indoor and outdoor shower), a long and thin main room with a work desk, a TV and a sofa – and what passes as a kitchen. There’s a full sized fridge – a 2 burner stove top, and a tiny toaster oven. But there’s plenty of storage, a giant sink, and since water in the pipes is not potable – there’s a dispenser that holds those plastic 5 gallons water containers. The main living area is the back porch – and it’s huge. At least 40 foot long – with 2 comfy sofas and a wooden dining table that is totally Balinease. Perfect.

The thatched ceiling is vaulted and at least 25 feet high at the highest point. Since the living room is not Air Conditioned, the tops of the walls don’t meet the roof. Instead there is room for lots of air circulation – even if the glass doors to outside are closed.

But the coolest part of the house are the water ways. You enter by stepping on huge stones that are sitting in a pool of water. All around the ouside of the house is flowing water in narrow streams – several sections of which are wide enough to house fish that Liane feeds every night. You are always surrounded by the sound of flowing water – but it is a bit ‘watch your step’ when exiting the house. You don’t want to miss the edige and fall into the water.

There’s a lovely infinity pool that drains into a white rock studded drain – a wooden resting platform with a roof for relaxing out of the sun – and sun chaises to relac in the sun.

Rumor has it that the place is for sale – $200,000 buys you a 28 year lease – at the end of which time – the home goes back to the owner of the land – who can sell it again. hmm – Not buying in Bali I guess. But hey – I’m not even the rentor – just the guest of the rentor. It’s perfect.

I’m sitting on the desk, typing my blog, when a young woman rounds the corner of the house. She owns the land (houses in Bali can not be owned outright by foreigners – instead they get a lease on the land), and has come to bless the house.

I’m going to repeat that so you’ll know it’s not a typo. Yes – she’s blessing the house. Every exit – and every stair case (just one – but if there were more, she’d be keen). She is carrying a large tray with flower baskets and Incense on it – and proceeds to go to the 2 stone altars on the property. She uses a flower placked from one of out trees to waft the smoke from the incense into the altar. She repeats this process again and again, at the edge of the pool where you would exit it, on the stairs leading up to the porch, on the porch just above the stairs, at the front door and the back door – Keeping this up until every entrance to our house is protected and blessed.

I discover in walking around that all the women have been doing this today – and there are tiny baskets with flowers and the remains of incense sticks everywhere. More popular sites have piles of baskets – as each woman did her personal series of prayers.

What a lovely introduction to Bali. Birds flying everywhere – flowers everywhere – and the protection of the spirts.

Great coffee too.

I might stay here a long time! It’s perfect.

Signing off to enjoy the peace and quiet and to commune with the spirts of the house who are feeling very warm and fuzzy – The Soup Lady


Bali First Impressions – Wow!

It’s Hot here – no really really hot. Not like St. Croix hot – more like steambath hot. Just 15 minutes of exercise and my heart is pounding like a kettle drum. Definitely going to have to be careful.

But it’s also Glorious. Ok – way past Glorious in absolute fact. My friends have rented a 2 bedroom palace on a rice paddy close to downtown Ubud. And I spent most of the morning just amazed at the birds, the sounds, the smells, the place. I’m not mystically inclined, but I can see how vistors and locals alike would start feeling the presence of a greater spirit. Of course it could be sleep deprivation – the roosters wake early!

Backing up – I arrived in Ubud – and after several false starts – missing papers, old US money (not acceptable – sorry), and a very casual search of my backpack – managed to clear the airport security and exit into the airport of Bali.

After getting my luggage, going thru the ‘nothing to declare’ line, and still getting searched – I folowed the exit signs thru automatic glass doors to the outside world. A wall of amazing heat, noise, and excitement immediately hits you. There are litterally hundreds of signs with the names of incoming guests being help up hopefully by travel agents, taxi drivers, friends, friends of friends – and amongst the clamoring thongs – my friend The Lady in Pink. Whew!

She guestures me to continue walking – you have to say hi and then cross thru the duty free shop to get outside – and we exchange greetings. Movement to my right alerts me – someone is grabbing my suitcase! I whirl around – to say stop – as The Lady In Pink introduces me to our driver – Diane. (it’s a guy – I know – probably not quite the right spelling). He was just being helpful – I need to get a grip!

We walk out thru the most beautiful airport I think I’ve ever seen – open to the air – and packed even at 10:00 a night with throngs of people. Loading the car is fast – despite my packing issues – I didn’t in the end bring very much stuff – and head out towards Ubud.

It’s compeletly dark of course – which is probably a really good thing. Cuts down on the ducks, dogs, and mopeds on the road. We drive along past dozens and dozens of shops – shuttered for the night – but clearly lit to reveal thousands of hand carved stones. My favorite at first glance are the stunning ‘monsters’ that are captured with painstaking intensity in frowns, smiles, grimaces, and yawns. I absolutely have to buy one. A big one. Like entire suitcase sized. Can anyone see overweight in my future?

We meander our way out of the airport, out of Denpassar, past town after unnamed village and eventually reach Ubud. If there are highways in Bali – I didn’t see a sign of one – it was narrow 2 lane for 95% of the trip. Diane drops us off at a car park – from here it a dark walk of about 200 feet to the door of our house. After a quick tour of the house (it’s beautiful), a taste of Snake Fruit (kinda like an apple that’s a bit soft), and a long drink of water, it’s time for bed.

My bedroom is a palace. Seriously. Huge 4 poster bed hung with mosquito netting, a simple sheet (it’s hot – so just a sheet is ideal), my own private porch with a garden view, and a bathroom that honestly requires a picture to describe. The sink is one of those craved Stone bowls, the shower has no walls – just a huge cedar ‘deck’ that drains down to the pipes below. And – nice bonus – a large multi-shelved unit for storing towels, toothpaste, and various lotions and potions. I do love a nice bathroom. But it’s late, I’m wiped out – and I want bed.

Want more news – you’ll have to wait – I need my beauty sleep. Signing off – The Soup Lady

Business Class ROCKS – or what a difference a Plane Reno Makes

I knew that they had changed something about my long leg – the flight from Paris to Singapore. When I went to print my boarding passes – my seat assignment was different – and when I went to change it back – the seat map was completely different.

So no surprise that there were changes – but I was still stunned by the difference!

But before I get to my flight – a quick review of the Charles De Gaul Hilton. I arrived in Paris at 8:00 AM – and had to fly out at 7:30 PM – and I can’t sleep on airplanes. So I knew I was going to need to find a bed when I arrived in Paris. My husband encouraged me to stay at the Hilton – he’s used it before on these airport stays – and thinks of it quite fondly.

So – expensive reservation made (I opted for the room that gave me access to the executive lounge, figuring I’d grab breakfast before hitting the sack) – I arrived in Paris – terminal 2E. There’s a shuttle every 15 minutes from 2E to the hotel – but who knew. Despite telling the hotel when I was arriving – the only instructions they gave me had me on the airport metro – a short 4 stop metro between Terminal 2, Terminal 1 and 3, and a parking lot.

So – I got off the plane – walked thru passport control and luggage claim, out to the airport, back towards the center of the airport, got on the metro thingy, go off 2 stops later, then walked around that building until I spotted the Hilton. It was a huge problem – but the entire thing could have been easily avoided had I known to grab their shuttle from terminal 2. Good news – used that on the way back – dropped me right off at my gate.

Breakfast in the Executive Lounge was ok – but not worth what I paid for the upgrade. Message to self – next time don’t bother. I got to the room – nice comfy bed – great bathroom – and collapsed. 4 Hours later – I awoke – really to boggie. Had a very refreshing shower – took the shuttle to the airport – and found the Air France Executive lounge. All good!

On to the flight.

On January 1, 2015 – Air France introduced brand new seats in Business Class on several of it’s long haul flights – and mine was one of the lucky ones. Oh – what a seat. I’ve walked past these egg shell shaped curved seats many times – this was the first time I got to press the buttons!

My seat was awesome. No seriously – really amazing. It was a full Flat bed – which means that it goes completely flat – so comfy for sleeping. The TV screen is huge – and close enough to my face for me to see it easily – and it was clean. And touch sensitive. They provided a fancy touch sensitive remote – but I never actually used it. One part of the egg hold the TV, and a shelf that becomes part of the bed when the chair is extended. Super large – super handy for my purse and back-pack. On the other part of the egg – the part with the chair – there was a very large area for putting stuff – and a cabinet that opened. It held the provided headphones (dearly wish they were more comfy – my ears were in pain by the end of the 19 hours) – and was large enough for me to tuck in my ipad. There were 2 plugs – one a multi-plug outlet that accepted not only my US connectors – but also the connectors for a multiple of other countries. The other plug was a USB port – which would charge my iphone – but not my ipad. Oh well.

So – I sat down – and my neighbor quickly realized I was new at this – and was very happy to demonstrate all the bells and whistles! Up down, into a bed, into a chair – move the back of the chair – what fun. Only thing missing – built in massage!

Standard amenities (how many cheap toothbrushes does anyone need), little slippers – and those socks that fit no one. Nice blanket, big pillow – I was in heaven.

And the food was pretty darn good too! I loved the amuse Bouche of peas and cream, the shrimp was ok – but the winner was the Cod with black Rice. It’s a celeberty chef’s dish – and it was yummy. And the fish was properly cooked – amazing for airline food. Standard cheese course (and great bread), plenty of water – this time wihout needing the constant reminders, and a very light dessert completed the dinner portion. The staff passed several times during the night – and if you were obviously awake (ok – I slept a total of 5 hours – which is probably some kind of record for me) – they gave you little bowls of rubarb-apple sauce. Very refreshing.

Entertainment – watched 3 films – Magic in the Moonlight by Woodie Allen – great film – you have to watch it, and 2 smash ‘m up films – Milifcent and Guardians of the Galaxy. Not sure why I watched the Guardians of the Galaxy – it’s quite silly on a tiny screen. But it is what it is.

Breakfast was a waste – terrible coffee (I forgot to ask for the hot chocolate – and they didn’t offer it either), and unlike the flight from Montreal – the bread was cold. I did enjoy the Broiche though.

Fussy about breakfast aside (I think the big problem for me was the abundance of fancy mushrooms on the omlet. I love omlets – hate mushrooms), I was dutifully impressed. Absolutely worth every penny to get that seat and that food for that long of a flight.

We were a bit late departing from Paris – which put us in late to Singapore – but I had no issues with the transafer – in fact the new gate was directly accross from the old one. One thing surprising about Singapore – the gates are all encloed in glass (floor to ceiling), and the security check is INSIDE the glass. So about 40 minutes before departure – the gate opens and you must go thru security at that point. This despite the fact that you had to have cleared security before getting on the plane you just got off. I guess they have decided that having 2 machines at every gate is more efficient that having one big line at the spot where people enter the entire gate area. Interesting.

Ok – enough of this – I’m waiting for my flight to Bali – making good use of their free internet here in Singapore. It’s 30 degrees C outside – that’s 50 degrees WARMER than what I left 2 days ago in Montreal. But you can’t tell that from here – the airport is of course air conditioned – and people don’t look much different from how they’d be dressed for a Montreal summer. Sandles and flip flops are the norm – but only one gal is wearing a tank top – everyone is pretty conservatively dressed for that hot a climate.

Moving on – The Soup Lady

Turn to the Left – a whole New Way of Travelling

I never travel business or first class. Never. But I’m going to Bali – and it’s 35 hours of travel there – and 25 hours back. Total – 60 hours.

That’s a lot of flight time for one little lady travelling alone. So when I booked my tickets – I looked at something I never even think of looking at – the difference in price between economy and business class. It was $1000. Round Trip. They were having a huge sale.

So $1000 for 60 hours is $16.67. What could they give me to be worth $16.67 an hour? Well it turns out that they are going to give me a bed. A bed. And not just one bed – two beds each way. And that’s not all – buy now and we’ll give you nicer food, a bigger seat, friendlier more personalized service, 2 bags free, priority access to the check-in counter, and guarenteed seats (which it turns out is not so guarenteed actually).

How could a bargain hunting senior possibly resist such an offer.

So – here I am – sitting in the Air France lounge in the Montral airport – snacking on their delicious food – fine cheese, proper nut bread, quiches, salad, biscotti (oh – I love biscotti), chocolates from Italy, unlimited drinks from canned Perrier to bottle water to wine and beer – although I’m not going to imbide any of the alcoholic suggestions – I know from previous flying experience that’s not a good plan.

They just announced that my flight is on time – but not to worry – when it’s time for us to board, they will make another announcement – meanwhile just relax and enjoy the lounge.

Oh man – I’m relaxing – and enjoying – and getting another biscotti!

About that guaranteed seating – I booked back in the spring of 2014 – and at the time I used Seat – great site – to pick out the very best seats. I’m not a fan of bulkhead seats – I need something under my short legs to keep my feet flat – and I definitely don’t want to be near the toilets – or the gallery. So I carefully picked window seats that would be perfect.

Imagine my surprise to discover when I checked in yesterday that Air France had switched planes on me (not a bad thing – I’m getting their brand new upgraded business class experience) – but because I booked early – they gave me consistently bulk head seats! And naturally – there are not nearly as many options now as there where when I booked. So for the seriously long leg of this journey – the flight from Paris to Singapore – I’m in a middle row – no window. But in the image – it looks like one of the privacy booths – I’ll let you know as soon as I know.

Oh – my flight plans – Montreal to Paris – 8 hours in Paris (asleep – I can’t sleep on airplanes), then Paris to Singapore, then Singapore to Bali. Return trip is the reverse – without the long stay in Paris.

Can’t wait to turn to the left – Signing off so she’s really ready to enjoy this brand new adventure – The Soup Lady

I’m Flying Tomorrow – and I’m nervous. My stomach is killing me…

I’m leaving my safe and warm nest tomorrow for a 35 hour flight to another crazy adventure trip – this time to Bali. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali – ever since I saw the movie South Pacific, it’s been on my ever expanding bucket list of things I have to do some day.

And finally – I’m going. The trip is mostly paid for – I’ve gotten some Indonesian Ruples to pay for the Visa when I arrive – and I’m about 3/4 packed.

My packing issues are probably the source of at least part of my stomach concerns. Bali is just a very short stone’s throw away from Komodo National Park – home of some of the best scuba diving in the world.

I can’t go to Bali and not go scuba diving in Komodo Park – that and not seeing the dragons would be an expensive mistake. If you go that far – at least do the highlights!

In the book and susquent movie “Eat, Pray, Love” – the heroine goes to Bali – and doesn’t see the dragons. Loser. Silly movie. Monkeys are cute – and I’m sure that healer was a lot of fun – but when are you ever going to see hundreds of living, breathing, moving, and apparently ill tempered dragons? Get a grip. See the sites.

So – what does this have to do with packing issues? Well – if you are going diving – in a serious way – you need to bring your own regulator, BC, Mask, Snorkle, Fins, Dive Computer, Dive skin – etc. with you. And instead of just easy to squeeze in bathings suits and a few shirts – I’m now trying to figure out where to put stuff that really was never designed to be packed.

To add concern onto worry – apparently luggage has a habit of not making it to Bali. 3 changes of planes, 35 hours of travelling – just too many opportunities for even clearly labeled luggage to go off on it’s own and visit some other city.

So I’m doing carry on for the critical items – unfortunately – that’s my regulator, mask, Dive Computer, C-cards, and Dive tables. Plus bathing suit, shoes for the boat, hats for the boat, my toiletries, and my clothes. If all of that’s carry on – why am I checking luggage I’m wondering? Oh yes – fins and BC – truly bulky and not dive killers if they go missing. So one mostly empty suitcase in the hold (that is probably getting lost), and one over loaded and super heavy (for me) suitcase to carry on.

If you can’t lift it over your head – can you really call it a carry-on?

Well muttering about my packing concerns is not getting the stuff into the suitcase.

Signing off to go be nervous nearer my suitcase – The Soup Lady

A Tale of 2 Cities – Jackson, Wyoming and Park City, Utah

It’s odd how cities with so much in common can be so fundamentally different. So lets start with what they share.

Is Travel Broadening?

Travel plans – or is it true that Travel is Broadening?

I love travel – I hate flying. Too bad teleportation is still in the future. I had hopes when I was younger that by the time I reached the impossibly OLD age of 65 – someone would have figured out the technology.

But no. You can send information around the world in seconds – but yourself – 35 hours of travel time from Montreal to Bali – going either way around the globe. You have got to be kidding me.

Speaking of Bali – I officially blew it. I could have done a round the world trip – flown Montreal, Paris, Singapore, Bali, Toyko, Vancouver, Montreal – but I lost focus when I saw I could get first class for only $1000 more – and opted to go and come via Paris. Missed opportunities.

So – is Travel Broadening? I think the answer depends on your definition of broad. If you mean fattening – I think that depends on who you travel with. When I travel with the Intrepid Traveler – we live cheap and simple – and we walk everywhere, eat little. So nope – that kind of travel is not that kind of broadening.

When I travel with my husband, it’s a bit trickier. I don’t generally put on weight – but I do have to watch how much I’m eating because the meals tend to be more elaborate, longer, and often fattening just because they last so long! But still – in general – I’d say that for me – travel isn’t that kind of broadening. I have friends who complain that a trip = 5 extra pounds, but I don’t think that’s the way it has to be.

What about the other kind of broadening – learning about new places, new cultures, learning new things. Again – this can depend. I’ve chatted up fellow travelers and discovered that they are accidental tourists – not travelers. They came armed with a certain point of view – and are determined to leave with the same. Been there – done that – don’t need to do it again seems the dominating characteristic. And they don’t give places enough time. I’ve been guilty of skimping on time too – so I know what I’m talking about. It takes time to experience a place, to get past the running around – need to see that museum today – headset and start just being there.

Sometimes people can’t help but limit their exposure to a new place. In South Korea we ran into a delightful Indonesian family that had very severe diet restrictions – so they had to cook all their food at the hostel. And they couldn’t even use the pots and pans provided – they brought their own. Trust me – they missed out on a lot of what South Korea has to offer – the food there was amazing. But I get the need for restrictions – it’s a tough choice.

What can you see in a city like St. Petersburg or Rome in just 2 days? It takes a day just to figure out how to get back to your hotel. 2 days is enough to say been there – but not enough to say – BEEN there. Which is why the Intrepid Traveler and I generally try to a lot a whole week per city.

It’s still not enough – but it’s a gesture in the right direction.

And then there’s preparation. I always want to read up on a place before I arrive – in case there’s something that needs to be organized prior to travel, in order to give myself a chance to get more comfortable with what I’ll see, and to map out the must do vs the can do options.

My preferences for planning are a combination of Tripadvisor (if 1000 people love it – you should at least check it out) and print media. I find on-line sources are too often about selling you something (their services, their bus company, their tour plan), and less about reporting what is and is not great about a particular activity. Guide books are quickly out-dated – we have all carefully followed a suggested route to discover that the thing we most wanted to see changed it hours, closed, is under re-construction – what ever. So checking on-line (watch those last updated dates!) and a guide-book and tripadvisor – and common sense – all of these play a part in organizing the perfect trip.

All of this muttering is leading up to my next blog – clearly another trip!

Keep eyes peeled.

Signing off – The Soup Lady!