Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


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Peebles, Scotland – Round Two

Since our house sit in Vancouver that ended in late May, I’ve been to Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Albany, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Royalton, Denver, Door County, Madison, and back to Milwaukee. Just listing these locations makes me tired yet it’s where my people live so its been the best of times.

We arrived June 30 in Peebles, Scotland which is the first place we have returned to since we started our adventure. Both house sits invited us back to care for their pets. As Peebles is one of our favorite places, we were more than happy to return. And, after all the visits in the US, it’s a great place to relax and regroup.

Our first week was at Hannah’s with the dogs Rusty and Nell, and her cats Sparkles and Ernie. Each morning the dogs and I walked through the enchanted woods where fairies and elves live.

Now we have moved over to Julie’s with Misty the whippet. Our morning walk takes us up to a ridge overlooking the rolling hills, the patches of foxglove and grassy meadows of Scotland. Each morning I’m inspired by the sweet smell of the morning dew and the sound of the wind.

Hiking trails cover the countryside and we plan to hike as many as time allows. Bob, Misty and I took our first hike following the River Tweed past the Neidpath Castle, built in the 14th century. We continued up the ridge overlooking wooly grazing sheep and a picturesque view of Peebles.

Oh, almost forgot. Bob and I both had birthdays in July. Bob celebrated with an ice cream cone. We celebrated my birthday with lunch at an 11th century hunting lodge, a place where royalty hung out. Happy Birthday to us.

In between the spots of rain, we plan many more hikes and cherish every minute in magical Peebles before heading to the French Alps in mid August.


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House Sitting in Vancouver, Canada

Hi, everyone. We are enjoying our two week housesit in Vancouver, Canada. Country Thirteen. 

We left Malaysia April 26th and traveled a grueling 28 hours including flights and layovers. Talk about jet lag.

Normally we wouldn’t take a two week sit, but it’s Vancouver! We lucked out and were welcomed by the cherry blossoms in full bloom and two happy pups.

It turns out to be a perfect transition to the new time zone. We’ve had a relaxed first week walking the city’s amazing seawall, and giving ourselves permission to be a bit lazy.

Cocoa and Noville keep us busy with daily walks to the park and cuddles on the couch. The pups have won our hearts and it will sad to say goodbye.
We leave for the East Coast to catch up with our six grandkids and the rest of the family in the Northeast and Wisconsin, including a housesit in Brooklyn. After that we are off to Europe again with housesits in Scotland and France (the Alps and Provence).


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Nice Routine in Penang

It’s been pretty low-key since the quick move to our new apartment.

I’ve made a habit of walking the promenade, shopping at the public wet market, and enjoying the yoga community. When walking the promenade, I see the same red-hatted street sweeper each day. The walk ends at the wet market where I often partake in Nasi Lemak, which is coconut rice, half an egg, a bit of mackerel and sweet hot sauce served on a banana leaf, all for 2 ringgits. That’s about 50 cents. On Fridays, yoga is held outside in the botanical garden with a waterfall as our music. Sometimes the monkeys come to watch. All and all, it’s a great routine.

We’ve of course found a few nice hiking trails into the jungle and drink tons of water on the hikes. It’s hot and humid here.

I discovered a Vipassana Meditation Center just up the hill and decided to enroll for a 10 day session. Unfortunately, it was closed to students, but still open to servers, so I applied and was accepted.

The best way to describe the experience is “difficult”. We were short handed and the center was “temporary.” Translated – primitive. Again, serving was outrageously difficult, with little rest.  I always try to see the positive and see the lessons, so here’s the positive.

My meditation reached a new level, I met some amazing people, learned a ton about Malaysian cooking and food, and learned once again, that a common language is not necessary to create a strong bond with a person. I’m pretty sure that Ah Bek, our 82 year old cook, and I are best friends.

Ukeko from Japan and I had no shared language, yet worked in the kitchen for 11 days with lots of smiles, points, and demonstrations. The rest of the team consisted of Connor, a Brit, Chow, a Malaysian with great English, Joe, a real yogi and Jessica who saved the day with her experience at the center and her incredible curry.

The cliche “what doesn’t kill you, makes your stronger” applies here.

Jessica  and Connor came back to our apartment to shower, do some laundry and recuperate for a few days. It was good to rehash our days of selfless service and relax for a bit.

One day after recuperating, I created my own walking tour of the UNESCO Historic District and explored the jetties and the murals. The jetties started when Chinese workers stayed near the water before and after work. Eventually the jetties evolved into permanent homes. Each jetty represented a different Chinese clan. When walking through a few I felt I might be invading personal space, and while walking in others, it was clear that tourists were welcome.

In the afternoon I hunted down the murals of Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic. He was commissioned in 2012 to paint whimsical murals around the city. I love this work because he incorporated actual objects into each mural. My favorite is a child standing on a chair on tiptoes reaching for a window. The chair and the window are real.

Two weeks left in Penang. We have a short list of must-dos before we leave. We recently visited Penang Hill which has “the view” of George Town, and wandered the Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple exploring its nooks and winding staircases. It’s one of the largest temples in Southeast Asia.

We are back in North America in May for a three week house sit in Vancouver and then head to the East Coast to visit the kids and grandkids. My nephew, Kelley, is getting married to a wonderful woman in June, so we will be in Wisconsin for their wedding.

The experiment continues and it’s going quite well. We are approaching year three.  We’ve lived in twelve countries and on five continents. As I wrote in my first post, “Holy Shit. I’ve sold almost everything I own, am living from one suitcase, and traveling the world.” It’s still true, and we love it.  Let the adventure continue.

 

 

 


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Malaysia, The Best Laid Plan

We’re in Malaysia now, specifically Georgetown, Penang.

Our Plan – 3 months

First  month, rent historic shophouse.

Last two months rent near the sea.

It was a great plan. Many of the shophouses were built in the late 1800’s. Usually two stories, the business on the first floor, the shop, and the residence on the second, the house.

We were very excited to live in a bit of history.

Well, that historic living lasted three days.

We moved because of one creepy-crawly reason…

 

COCKROACHES.

Yep, those disease-carrying-unpredictable-scurrying-evil-beasts wanted to share our shophouse.

NOPE, not happening. Jane doesn’t live with cockroaches.

Within the first half hour of checking out the place, I meet my first beastly crawler in the upstairs hallway. A quick inhale, some fancy panicked footwork, and a quiet scream to Bob and I’m on edge.

Oddly, there’s a can of roach spray right there and I empty it on that bugger. It crawled over a wooden Buddha sculpture sitting in the corner, then flipped over dead on it’s back. When we left the house, it was still leg up next to the Buddha.

(Hmm, first clue, why was there a can of roach spray right there?)

I begin my research on the unwelcomed guests. One article suggested misting the floor with vinegar to prevent them from coming into the house, so the next morning I’m armed with two spray bottles and lots of vinegar. I spend the next four hours cleaning the kitchen and misting all the floors in the shophouse.

I’m trying to be a trooper, but I’m on edge. If my pant leg fluttered over my skin, I would quickly brush my leg. When walking around the house, I would stomp the floors announcing my presence showing those beasts who’s boss.

Well, on night three, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve misted many times, I’m stomping, only eating in the kitchen, and keeping all food in the frig. I can do this.

So, on night three, I’ve settled into bed to watch a little Netflix when Bob comes in to talk. I sit up and there it is. A cockroach crawls across the sheet, IN MY BED. I’m on my feet on top of the bed screaming, “There’s a cockroach. Look Bob, there’s a cockroach!” Bob sits up and the roach turns left and heads toward the head of the bed and crawls down over the edge.

Now, I am truly freaked. I’m not ok. I’m not the boss. The cockroaches have won the war.

We email the owner of our next apartment asking if they have cockroaches and if not, asking if we could move in early.  That night we sleep on the couch, and no, I didn’t sleep.

Luckily, we hear back about the apartment the next morning, and we moved by early that afternoon.

It’s taken me a few days to catch up on the sleep and relax. AirBnB helped us negotiate with the host of the shophouse, and we got back half our money. They said I should have taken pictures.

It makes sense, but at the time, I wasn’t thinking documentation. I was thinking, “Get the hell out of here!” Next time – Wait, I hope there’s never a next time with those creepy crawly evil critters.

On a happier note, since we’ve been in our new wonderful apartment, we’ve been to a Chinese New Year party, went to an Thaipusam Hindu festival, explored the coast a bit and are enjoying the beautiful seaside promenade. The markets are plentiful, and my kitchen provides all I need to prepare healthy wholesome meals.

We have two and a half more months in Penang. Let the exploration continue in our bug free apartment.

Here’s a few pictures of Penang. (no pics of cockroaches)


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Country 11 – Thailand

We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand three weeks ago. We’re getting good at settling in quickly. Within days, we had SIM cards for the phones, Bob found his gym and I found my yoga studio. Our apartment feels enormous after Hong Kong. The joy of hanging my clothes, albeit few, brings great satisfaction. It’s the little things.

The first impression for Chiang Mai is KIND. The people of Thailand are kind. They welcome you with a small bow holding their hands in prayer. It’s a laid back atmosphere.

It’s easy to be here. The streets are peppered with hipster cafes and restaurants with amazing food. I have not repeated a cafe yet, not because I didn’t like them, but because there are so many to check out. As for the food, simply put, I LOVE it. We’ve eaten out more than ever. The flavors are amazing and the price is right. Pad Thai, red curry, and fresh juices on every block. Yum, yum and yum!

Of course, I’m learning to cook Thai food. I took a day long cooking class and learned the right way to make Pad Thai as well as many other dishes. An extra bonus feature is that Wan, the woman who takes care of our apartment is giving me cooking lessons right here at the apartment building. She doesn’t speak a word of English, yet we communicate quite well. She models, I try, she gently touches my hand if I don’t get it, and shows me again. We smile a lot and laugh even more. It’s truly a highlight.

Chiang Mai is loaded with Buddhist temples dating back to 1296. Two-hundred ancient temples wait to be visited and treasured. When I sit on our balcony, I’m looking directly at a Buddhist Temple. I feel as if I could almost touch it.

While walking the streets, we turn into a temple for a peaceful meander through the grounds and into the wiharn (the main building used for ceremonial functions and housing iconic Buddha images) to admire the intricate carvings and murals. Dragon carvings line the stairwells, gold Buddhas take center stage and delicate vertical banners hang from the ceiling.

The hiking isn’t as convenient as it was in Hong Kong, but Bob has found a hiking group that takes us into the mountains. One Sunday, we did a day hike into one of the many national parks, passing a waterfall and many beautiful ridge views. On another day we hiked to see the blooming cherry blossoms.

One short week left to explore, eat, cook, and eat again, and see a few more temples.  

Next stop, George Town, Malaysia


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The City of Hong Kong

Although Hong Kong has some of the best hiking we’ve done, the shiny skyscrapers and small local shops captivate as well.  The “Happiness Dispensary” still has me wondering.

I spend many days wandering through new neighborhoods soaking up the new and old of the culture. One minute I’m walking by designer-dressed business people and the next I’m watching a storekeeper sweep the sidewalk with a straw broom. This city seems to give energy instead of drawing it from me. I never get tired of it.   

Another contrast in this cosmopolitan city is that they still use bamboo scaffolding when constructing or repairing any building. It’s odd to see a 21st Century building wrapped in really old technology.  It was used to build the Great Wall. The upgrade–black zip ties instead of rope. I guess…why change what works well?

Bob travels on the Star Ferry to the YMCA for his workouts. He’s an “elder,” so it’s free. The government wants its elders to be out more, so they make it easy. The U.S. could learn something from Hong Kong when it comes to elders and transportation. (Ya gotta love the word “elder.” It oozes respect and wisdom.)

I’ve found a wonderful yoga studio. I always leave early so I can wind through the neighborhoods soaking up the energy of the streets.

We have a few days left in Hong Kong before we are off to Thailand, and plan to use every minute, hiking, exploring and visiting Kristin and the fam.  I could easily stay here another month. So enjoy a quick look at a bit of Hong Kong.

And have a Happy New Year! 


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Hong Kong – First Week

Country # 10

Continent # 5

Chicago to Hong Kong

Our plane landed in Hong Kong 8pm, Nov 1st. That’s 6am Wisconsin time. Yep, a 14 hour time difference. The obvious question–“What’s it like to flip your internal clock?” The short answer, not easy. Those circadian rhythms hold tons of power.

We arrived at our apartment by 10pm and I was tucked in bed by midnight thinking I’ve got this. I’ll sleep through the night and be on Hong Kong time in the morning.

Nope!

2:37am. My eyes pop open. I am awake, wide awake, outrageously productive awake. I pretend to sleep until 4 and finally get up and read the Washington Post.

Needless to say, I’m crabby as the day unfolds. This is when you know you’ve married the right guy. Bob loves me for better or for time zone change.

We grocery shop and adjust to our teeny tiny apartment. It’s the smallest and most expensive to date. However, it is the best shower ever. The proportion of shower to apartment is ridiculous. Seriously, the shower could be a small office. No complaints here. With my challenges adjusting to the time change, the rain shower is a small bonus.

A huge plus in traveling to Hong Kong right now is family. Our niece Kristin and her family are living here for three years. They’re just a short scenic ferry ride away in Discovery Bay.

So on day two, I jumped on the ferry to visit Kristin and the family. Discovery Bay….

A few day later Bob and I returned to Discovery Bay, and we all hiked to Tiger’s Head and then on down to Mui Wo for what turned out to be a five hour hike. As we climbed many stairs to reach the trailhead continuing up to Tiger’s Head, it became obvious we’d lost our Norway mountain hiking grit. We hiked a lot in the UK, but not in the steep mountains that keep you in tip-top shape.

A little humility and a day of sore muscles and I’m ready to tackle more of the many mountains of Hong Kong. Most people don’t think hiking when they think Hong Kong, but this city has some of the best hiking around.

On another note, I’m becoming quite confident when it comes to the markets. A little pantomime, a little pointing, and a friendly smile and I’ve purchased tasty fruits and veggies. The skills are building.

My circadian rhythms are starting to align and I’m looking forward to more time with family, a new yoga studio, a Chinese cooking class, and of course, more hiking.

Until later.