A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about air travel

Mexico and New Mexico

This winter was different. Instead of our usual travels we decided to go closer to home in consideration of a possible move from upstate New York. The Mexican portion of the trip was the only "abroad" section and was really a chance to have a couple of weeks of warm weather before driving across country to Santa Fe. We had visited both of these places many years ago.

In Mexico we spent all of our time either in Oaxaca or along the Oaxacan coast in the small town of Zipolite. We went on this trip with our friends Debbie and Bill, and stayed in what had been an ancient monastery close to the center of town. Our room, on the second story, faced an inner courtyard where we had breakfast everyday. Oaxaca did not disappoint. Although there are obviously tourists it is not overrun by them, and manages to retain its distinctly Mexican and indigenous feel. The Zocolo is remains the center of life in this mid sized city, and many of the colonial buildings are still standing. It is quite lively during the day as well as the evening, with Mexican families taking a paseo or young people just hanging out. There are shops and restaurants lining the nearby streets.




The pace of life is relatively slow, and though the province of Oaxaca is one of the poorest in Mexico, it doesn't feel that way in the center of town. The poor live on the outskirts and in the rural areas. The city spreads out in a wide valley between two mountain ranges, with the Pacific on one side and the Atlantic on the other.

Most days we spent wandering around the streets, and exploring.




We went to the nearby market, although we were told there was an even larger one about a mile away.




We checked out the main catedral, and on one day they were filming a quinceanera.




Oaxaca is said to have the best food in Mexico, and with four different kinds of moles, great seafood and beer, and inexpensive prices, I would have to concur. So when we weren't walking, we were eating.

Posted by jonshapiro 10:34 Archived in Mexico Tagged churches people food air_travel buildings_postcards cities_postcards Comments (1)

London with a brief foray to Dublin

We flew from Antalya to London, dirt cheap as previously mentioned, and were picked up in the middle of the night by our good friends, Michael and EJ.
I took few pictures because the weather for most of the week was dismal, rainy and cold. It was, if anything, worse than Albany weather, which usually starts to improve by the beginning of May.

Left to Right: Michael, Jon, EJ, Nanette (In front of their house).

Their street in Primrose Hill

At any rate, we managed to have a great time walking around the city, going to pubs, etc. We were constantly wined and dined by our extraordinarily generous friends, and it was fun meeting Michael's divorced (but still friends) parents, who are our age. A visit to the Tate Modern, and a performance of a Cuban ballet/modern dance troop that had us leaping out of our seats, completed the visit.

From there we went off to Dublin for one night, largely to save on the airport taxes out of London. It just so happened that Katya, the young German woman we hiked with in Morocco, was in town for a new orientation with Oracle. We had dinner with her and a friend, and then home.


Trinity College

For all my loyal readers. I am posting this from chaing rai Thailand. We are embarked another trip to southeast asia. We arrive home on April 2 and I look forward to blogging about this new journey. Hope all is well and as our former monk friend., now in chaing mai, would say, may you all be happy and healthy.


Posted by jonshapiro 02:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged people postcards air_travel Comments (2)

On to Wangen, (pronounced V) Germany

We left Tafaroute on a narrow, serpentine track through the mountains with huge drop offs most of the way back to Agadir. There we dropped off our daughter Mia, and boyfriend Dan, in front of a grand taxi stand where they made their way to Casablanca and Fez. We headed back to Taroudant to return the car and spend another night with Abdel. It was nice to get back to a place that seemed slightly familiar, and the maize of alleys did not seem quite as intimidating. We noted how friendly people seemed. Perhaps some of them recognized us from before? We retured to Marrakesh the next day by grand taxi, much shorter than the bus, albeit more expensive because we paid for extra seats to have more room. This time we stayed right in town in a cozy riad, Bleu and D'orange, which was, not surprisingly, French run and owned.

After Nanette enjoyed a massage and pedicure at a nearby, but rather upscale spa, we left the next afternoon for the airport. The plan was to fly to Basel, Switzerland, and spend one night there before taking the train to Friedrichshafen, on the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in southern Germany. There, we would be met by our friends Antonette and Joachim, who we met in China in 2008, and they would bring us to their farm in Wangen.

Ah, the best laid plans. We arrived at the airport more than two hours early, but nothing was posted about our flight and the departure time came and went. No one seemed to know anything about it, though we noticed a number of cancellations, which only increased our anxiety. There was nothing to do but wait. Finally, after another two hours, they posted our gate number and we assumed we would leave shortly, only to be told that we would have to wait yet another hour before being told when our flight would depart. And so we sat down on the floor in the small departure area as all the seats were occupied. We happened to sit next to two Swiss girls, though one was from Ethiopia and the other Montenegro. They spoke English well, and we chatted with them about the flight situation, but they knew little more than we did. Both were office workers on a five day holiday in Marrakesh. Another two hours went by, and we saw people queuing once again. This time we succeeding in boarding and then a long announcement, first in German, and then English and French. Apparently there was an air traffic controllers strike in France, and they were limiting the number of flights that could land and therefore take-off from Morocco. Of course, we weren't headed for France, or so we thought. The captain said we couldn't leave for another 90 minutes because of this, and since the airport in Basel would be closed after our newly scheduled departure time, we would have to go to Lyons in France, and then take a five hour bus ride to get to Basel. I went back to talk to the Swiss girls who confirmed that not only did the Basel airport close at midnight, but so did all the airports in Switzerland. Astonishing.

At any rate we finally landed in Lyons shortly before 2 AM. We were then told the bus would arrive at 3 in order to give us time to go through customs. It didn't arrive until almost 4 AM, supposedly because it had to come from Geneva. Meanwhile, we started to get worried about not making our train at 10:45 because the bus was not due to get to Basel until 10 AM. I went back to talk to the Swiss girls once again, who said that it would take that long because of Swiss rules that said they had to switch drivers after four hours, and then we would stop for breakfast for 1/2 an hour. Not to worry, they said, we would still make our train on time. They would help us get from the airport to the train station. We did stop for breakfast, and since we had no Swiss Francs, one of them insisted on paying. It came to the equivalent of $34 US for three small coffees, croissants, and a yogurt. At these prices, it was a good thing we were just passing through. We arrived slightly early. The girls were headed for the Swiss railway station and we went with them part way, until we had to get off and transfer to another trolley to get to the German railway station. They paid another 8 Francs for our tickets, because for some reason our credit card didn't work. Wonderful people.

We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare, exhausted after no sleep, and Nanette appeared to have caught Dan's cold. The train ride was, thank God, uneventful. When we arrived in Friedrichshafen, after searching around for a bit, we found and recognized Antonette, after four years and knowing each other for all of a week. We drove the 45 minutes to Wangen, stopped to get bread, and then went on to their farm, another 15 mintes away.

Joachim, Nanette and Antonette, in Wangen

She and Joachim had sold the adjacent old farmhouse, and were engaged, along with their friend Peter and his family, in reconstructing the old cow barn, probably four times the size of our 3000 square foot house. They will make it into into two large apartments. Peter is an architect, and without him the whole project would not have been possible.

The construction site after an early April snowstorm

We were staying in a nearby outbuilding, which they had partially renovated. The bathroom and toilet were not yet finished, for which they apologized profusely, but we could use the bath in the old farmhouse, where Peter,Lissie, and Max were staying until the new owners moved in.

The farmhouse

Where were Antonette and Joachim staying?

In Wangen, in an upstairs apartment in Joachim's father's house. When we left, they would move into the outbuilding until the big barn was habitable.

We chatted about their sailing adventure. They recently spent three years sailing up the coast of South America, one of which was a year docked off the coast of Argentina. It was the first time either of them had owned a boat. We thought they had a broken mast, but it turned out not to be quite so serious, only a torn main sail. In China, we talked about meeting them in the Caribbean and sailing to Cuba, but it took them a long time, and they only made it as far as Tobago. They sold the boat and moved back to Wangen, a town of about 17,000, near where they both grew up. It is easy to see why they returned. The place has a very bucolic feel, with verdant rolling fields, patches of woods between the old farms, and in the distance, the snowy Alps of Switzerland in one direction, Austria in the other.



Their new plan, is to finance the place in part through the production of Cidre, hard cider, which they will make from their own apples and pears. It is not unlike our apple cider, but more subtle and bubbly, with the alcohol content of beer. They also plan to distill and sell schnaps, also from their own fruit and berries. This is Joachim's idea. How did he learn to do it? Mostly from reading about the process. He would give Helen and Scott Nearing a run for their money. They also plan to do much of the finish work in the barn by themselves, and then to spend the winters in Thailand or some other warm place.

Posted by jonshapiro 10:51 Archived in Germany Tagged air_travel buildings_postcards Comments (1)

Book 2: Bangkok to Burma, Indonesia & Southern Laos

The Spy Who Stayed Out in the Heat

View Burma, Indonesia and Laos on jonshapiro's travel map.

In case you were wondering, (not) I've decided to describe our most recent travels while they are still fresh, and then I will return to our teaching experience in China and travels to other parts of Asia.

We are on the road again, or rather we have just returned from an 11 week jaunt to Southeast Asia. At the suggestion of so many of our Burmese refugee English students, including our favorite monks, we began this latest excursion with a visit to their troubled country.

Our first stop, Bangkok. Khao San Road and surrounds remain largely unchanged, still a throwback to the 60's. Sitting here by the small pool at New Siam 2, the place feels very familiar after five or six previous visits.




I am reading The Forever War, about Iraq and Afganistan, and am reminded how US soldiers came here for R@R from Vietnam. Now it is mostly young backpackers and families resting up in between their travels. Iraq is too far away for these new soldiers, but with the cheap street food, Thai prostitutes, cluster bombs and phosphorus, jihadis instead of gooks, the sense of historical deja vu is nearly complete. The only thing missing is the napalm, but you don't need that in the desert. The jaunty disco music in the background rounds out the picture. Fuck You, Fuck You, very, very much. I kid you not.

In our bathroom the sign reads: To Flash Toilet Push Handle Until Finish.

On the the street the sign reads: Fooking Good Food, Fooking Good Song, Fooking Good Beer, Fooking Nice People.


After a couple of semi-comatose days recovering from the 26 hour flight, we took a long taxi ride to the only Burmese Monastery in Bangkok, which just happens to be run by the nephew of my English student, the Sayadow or head monk, here in Rensselaer.


He has a boyish, infectious energy, just like his Uncle, and was quite pleased to see us, especially as we had agreed to sponsor him for a visit to the US. Also there was an ex-professor of ethnobiology, Dr Myint, who seemed quite knowledgeable about many things, and who spoke English well. He said he had a wife and daughter in Yangon and was planning to return in a few days. Another gentlemen, with even better English told us he had been living in Thailand for 10 years, but was hoping to gain political asylum in Copenhagen.

In typical Burmese fashion, they fed us a huge meal, though I ate little, already having some stomach problems adjusting to the food.

The beds at New Siam were much harder than I remembered, or was I just getting older?

Posted by jonshapiro 16:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged air_travel Comments (3)

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