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Travelling to remote and not so remote places

Mekong lives


The Mekong delta, the lushest of lush fields, the rice bowl of Vietnam. Home to floating markets and tiny canals. A must-go!

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Watermelon sales at Cai Rang floating market

“Nooooooo…., no WAY!!!” Max cried when I told him we would get up at 5:30 am to go on a boat trip on the exciting river. I get it. Max is happiest with a surfboard under his feet or a table-tennis racket in his hand. But he had to soldier on.

The market was busy when we arrived. But the few tour boats that were there, easily spotted by the orange lifevests the tourists have to wear, were plainly ignored by everyone except maybe the tea sellers.

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Boats with hot and cold drinks, as well as breakfast Phô keep the traders going

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Where have all the commies gone?


Looking out on Saigon from the Rex Hotel Roofgarden Bar, where Western luxury hotels fight for space with the world’s biggest banks, you can’t help but wonder: what ever happened to communism? Ridiculously biased (but not necessarily untrue) war propaganda in the Army Museum in Hanoi, Hoa Ló prison (Hanoi Hilton) and the War Remnants Museum Saigon aside, the only Budenovkas seen are sold on the markets to tourists for “wan dolla”.

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View from the beatiful rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel, home to the “Five o’clock follies” the American briefings during the Vietnam war.

When the Americans had to bow their heads to failure in 1973, and accept Vietnam falling to communism, they still kept an ace up their sleave; a sneaky back door and a sure way to infiltrate the communist dogs – McDonalds! They may have had to wait a few years but this war the Vietnamese couldn’t win. Communist or not, everybody wants a Big Mac, Nike sneakers or an iphone.

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A poster for the “Glorious Communist Party” next to the epitome of American capitalism: the golden arches

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Spiritual Travellers


Travelling is a lot of fun. And a lot of the fun stems from meeting people. Interesting, funny, exciting, warm, skilful people; our paths cross, we share experiences, exchange thoughts, drink beer, whatever seems right at the time. In the Americas we’ve met a lot of great people and very little people I’d rather not meet. You notice that I’ve switched from the family “we” to a Daniel “I” in the negative part of the sentence: some people claim that I might be more – how shall I put it – prone to not wanting to embrace my fellow humans in more instances than other members of the family. OK, back to people – let’s take my fellow travellers in Brazil: fun seekers, sporty lads and lasses out to do what they love doing. Which seems generally true for travellers. However, there’s a breed of traveller around Asia (and I haven’t met these anywhere else), which make me puke:

The Spiritual Traveller
I guess the dude feels the thousand years of spiritual enlightenment around Angkor Wat flowing through his veins right now. I hope there’s a trace of mushrooms in his blood, too. I sure hope the guy is not sober.

Just look at the guy. At peace with himself? Enlightened? Or just smackable? Continue reading “Spiritual Travellers”

Follow the volcano trail


Who cares about pokemons, when you can go around the world collecting volcanos!

Starting at Volcan, the beautiful rain- and cloud forest area of Panama, a ring of old volcanos protectively surround coffee farms and plantations. The dormant Volcán Barú (3,477 m) was a muscle-man of a volcano, not just quietly and gracefully trickling out lava – oh no – he was hurling big chunks of rocks several kilometers. The Hulk Hogan of volcanos! Even on the other side of the valley, from the cosy cafe at Jansons coffee farm, you could see large blocks of stone thrown there by the explosive volcano.

Volcan Baru from cabin
Early morning sun on a (unusually clear) Volcán Barú

Travelling south from Central America, over the continental divide (where the water flows either into the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific), into South America and Ecuador, we reached the Andes. Pichincha (4,784 m) is an active volcano and lies in Quito’s backyard. With the TelefériQo you can reach almost 4,000 m and either hang with the kids at the amusement park or continue to the peak by foot. (Why you need an amusement park at 4,000 m is another question…). However, a measly 4,700 m wasn’t enough for us, we wanted to see Cotopaxi (5,897 m) and booked ourselves into a Hacienda at its foot. Since Cotopaxi is highly active, with the last eruption in August 2015, it is not safe to climb but at least we got a glimpse through the clouds one early morning.

Cotopaxi peak
Unfortunately we were just awarded with a glimpse of Cotopaxi. Impressive all the same!

 

On a wonderful day we took our rented compact car (read: tiny) and drove through the beautiful country side to Quilotoa. There we climbed into the crater of the 3,914 m high Quilotoa volcano. After the massive eruption about 800 years ago, the volcano collapsed to form a beautiful, and according to legend bottomless, crater lake.

Poncho kids at Quilotoa
Little Lamas at Lago di Quilotoa
Pululahua volcano Quito
Pululahua, the only populated crater in Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are entirely volcanic. Some of the islands are so barren that nothing grows, on others nature has found an astonishing way of creating life. It was exciting to see how the lava had flown, feel the difference of pa hoi hoi and a a lava under your feet and see how some eruptions had blown half the mountain to smithereens. Some islands were pure black lava just stained white in some places by Blue-footed Booby-poo. This was Thor at work: one big showcase of what a super-power of a God can create.

Blue-footed Booby feet
Molly’s favourite bird: the blue-footed Booby

Continue reading “Follow the volcano trail”

Hiroshima – 6 August 2016


It is fair to say that we experienced much more on this trip than we had expected: new friends in Revelstoke and Jericoacoara, nature to the power of ten in Galapagos, raw volcanic power and landscaping in Hawaii, the joy of kite boarding and and… However, we were not prepared for a truly moving event in Japan’s Hiroshima – and the being moved included all members of the Breadbasket Team from six to 51. By sheer coincidence we had the chance to be in Hiroshima at the anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on August 6th, 1945. Just a few days earlier we had visited Pearl Harbor, where we learnt that US intelligence failed Continue reading “Hiroshima – 6 August 2016”

Japan: then and now


My mum once said to me (in a slightly disappointed tone), “why don’t you buy a house in Skanör and settle here like the other daughters?!” I just stared incomprehensibly at her and responded: “how can you show me the world and then expect me to stay here forever!” It’s true, my parents were (and still are) passionate travellers. Already at the age of 5, I had seen more old ruins and temples than I could count (or care for). I had climbed the pyramids and swam in the Dead Sea. At the age of 12 I saw bicyclists in worker uniforms scuttle down the streets of Beijing. And in 1981 I visited Japan for the first time.

Already in 1981 Tokyo was a buzzing, neonlit dragon of a city. For a foreigner it was hardcore. Nobody spoke English, apart from staff in hotels catering for the few foreign businessmen who braved coming, and there wasn’t a single understandable streetsign. People still lived fairly traditionally behind the glitzy modern facades and you could still see one or two geishas. The Tokyo of 2016 was very much different. People now speak very good English, are friendly, outgoing and helpful.

Befriending the Japanese
English is very widely spoken and gone is the Japanese shyness of the past

As a preparation for the Olympics in 2020 all the street names are written with latin characters, helpful information boards are everywhere and the metro personnel have been trained to help lost foreigners. Travelling Japan in 2016 with two kids was certainly much less of an adventure than in 1981 but no less enjoyable!

Train notice board
In 1981 my Dad had the hotel write a note with our train information. We found our way by sticking the note up people’s noses and hoping for signs in the right direction. Now it’s all clearly signposted in English.

Continue reading “Japan: then and now”

Havana – Hasta Que se Seque el Malecon


The title of Jacob Forever’s Latino summer hit, which accompanied us everywhere in Cuba (and is now an entry in my all time favourites playlist), gives the Malecon, Havana’s legendary seaside promenade, a higher rating than I would.

However, Havana was one of the highlights of our journey. What a place! Beautiful buildings, nice restaurants, great bars, but above all a happening, happy vibe which makes it truly unique. Like any other big city with a not so well off population it has its downsides: petty theft, extremely friendly ladies (and I expect lads, too), who, as my old friend Don Antenno once put it during a legendary night, “won’t really love me” and a lot of other people who Continue reading “Havana – Hasta Que se Seque el Malecon”

Walking in familiar footsteps


When I arrived in Honolulu in December 1992, little did I know that just a couple of months earlier I had met my future husband (although I prefer “ski buddy”), and that we would return to Hawaii as a family. Some things were same, lots of things were different!

Already in 1992, I took an instant liking to the crazy excess of Waikiki (it was all so MUCH)! 24 years later Waikiki still has the same overwhelming, mind-blowing Las Vegas feel and although almost nauseatingly over-the-top, I still can’t help liking it. Like  a “Amerikaner” at Tivoli in Copenhagen (four scoops of ice-cream, whipped cream, strawberry sauce and a chocolate covered marshmallow treat to round it off).  Like the name – American!

Waikiki Surf by Night
Stunning view of Waikiki Beach from our hotel room
Waikiki by Night
I have never been in Vegas but Waikiki by Night looks pretty darn good

The hotels in Waikiki compete with each other in being taller, bigger, more glittering than the next. The welcome smiles are broader, the free cocktail more exotic and the leis more beautiful. The surfers are hunkier, more free-spirited and deeper bronzed than elsewhere. Summarized: just more! Yes, it’s touristy, crowded and artificial but it still somehow does it for me, don’t ask me why! I guess it’s one of those romantic memory things…

Max at Waikiki Beach
Max “the surfer”, grounded due to a cold. He was NOT happy…
View of Waikiki Beach
Watching the Early Birds from our hotel room

What I don’t remember, however, is the traffic. 6-laned bumper-to-bumper grinding traffic to reach our rented apartment at Makaha Valley on the west coast. Not much Aloha-spirit in sitting in a commuter jam…

The traffic jam to reach the North Shore was admittedly more scenic with beach houses that must reach well into the million-dollar bracket and quirky little beach/surfer spots, but no less annoying when all you want to do is submerge yourself in crystal clear water and soak up some sun. And don’t even ask about the approximately 3 million “are we there soon”… But just like all those years ago, the North Shore blows me away. I remember sitting on the Sunset Beach watching crazy Big Wave surfers competing thinking “wow” with a capital W. This was pure paradise!

Sunset Beach
In December 1992 the beach was crowded with fans watching the Bravest of the Brave take on the Biggest of the Big

The Hawaiian Islands are, without a doubt, breathtakingly beautiful, the beaches are stunning and the water a turquoise colour you think must have been photoshoped. Even in Oahu you can find almost empty beaches (Yokohama, Makaha) where the local kids frolic on their bodyboards while their parents cook up a bbq in the shade. Now that’s Aloha! Shaka, brah! (Daniel disagrees, of course. This is, after all America! The country that might vote Donald Trump as President…)

Japan vs. Germany – 5:0


Being German I naturally pride myself of belonging to a nation that can organise things. In fact, in line with German modesty, I always thought we were the world champion in getting things done. Not necessarily the best in everything (just most things), but the best overall. Now, Japan puts a serious dent into my patriotic pride. Let’s play a little competition encompassing three disciplines: airport arrival process, train travel, hotel check-out (very appropriate to the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics).

Shinkansen
Shinkansen – a valuable player in the Japanese team.

Let’s start with our arrival process in Tokyo’s Narita airport: my expectation was to see millions of little, hectic people running around nervously, an hour wait at immigration and some more thirty minutes at the baggage claim. Very far from the truth: everything was super relaxed, there was no wait at the approximately 20 open immigration counters and when we reached the baggage claim our bags trundled already on the conveyor belt. I don’t even want to compare this experience with Munich’s airport. Certainly a 1:0 Japan. In fact, even better: I don’t know how you feel about people’s behaviour around the baggage claims. I for myself am always surprised why people think that standing as close to the conveyor belt as possible, ideally with a trolley between themselves and the conveyor belt, is a good idea. If I am honest, it is usually one of these situations where I wish that Q had equipped myself with a vaporising wrist watch that I could point at these idiots and turn them into dust. No need for that in Narita: people waited calmly a couple of meters away from the claims area – this, unfortunately, puts Japan in the lead 2:0. Only 60 minutes into the game.

Next part: train travel. Step one: ticket acquisition. When we arrived at the railway ticket office I thought: bugger! There were at least 15 people ahead of me. Despite the fact that the single queue was served by Continue reading “Japan vs. Germany – 5:0”

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