Bali Indonesia Land of Peace and Land of the Monkey King

Bali Indonesia Culture

Bali is clearly one of the most beautiful islands in the world.  Beyond that the people and the culture there is the richest I’ve found in all my travels.  The people are so humble, so nice, and so culturally rich.  I had the chance to witness a Balinese wedding.  Bali is far from where I live, and yet I still feel a very strong longing.  I find there’s a real peace tangible there.  Life in Bali is simple.  The word simple doesn’t do it.  It’s something much more pure, it’s not about how rich you are, it’s not about how smart you are, you feel that it’s not about judgment either.  It’s more about understanding sincerity.  It’s about being true to yourself, and respecting others.  I understand why Eat, Pray, Love ends in Bali.  The protagonist really finds something about themselves that they couldn’t find otherwise.  I don’t care if you liked the movie or thought it was long and boring.  The beauty in Bali in the movie was great, but what you really didn’t get to fully realize it there is something about it.  Something special there.  I hope I can covey a piece of what I experienced.

When I arrived at the airport in Bali, I was already feeling very relaxed.  I hadn’t decided yet how I was going to get to my $6 hostel a block from the beach in Kuta.  I was still at the airport, looking for some wifi when I was sitting in some little café when I noticed a young girl was staring at me.  I’d look back and she was really staring at me.  I smiled and she smiled back.  It was great.  I think I figured it out.  I was strange to this young girl.

Later on, my first stop of my personal tour.  In fact I hired a driver from the airport to take me to my hotel, drop my stuff and then we’d go visit a large torso statue.  While I was taking pictures, a man approached me and asked if his daughter could take a picture of me.  I was a bit shocked, but remembered the girl from the airport.  Sure.  I replied and handed him my camera.  The girl took a picture, but didn’t seem ok.  I asked what was wrong.  He then explained she wanted to be in the picture with me.  She then approached and was much much happier as she stood next to me and her father took a picture of her.  This would repeat itself multiple times, and in other parts of Asia.  I have learned to embrace it.  It’s gets even better when I have my kids with me.  It’s much more “lucky” to have pictures with my pale skinned kids.

Now let me tell you about Kuta.  Kuta is known for it’s surfing, it’s a great tourist town, great shops, relaxing atmosphere, and it really attracts the tourists.  Lots of Australians, lots of Japanese, and Koreans.  Kuta is becoming more of a resort area.  Most of the hotels on the island are in Denpassar, Ubud and Kuta the beach suburb.  Ubud has everything a tourist could want minus the beach, which is why Kuta is popular… the great beaches.  Bali is a very cheap place to learn to surf.

The south end of the island is Uluwatu.  An incredibly beautiful Hindu temple on a cliff overlooking an amazing rocky shore.  The sun begins to set and monkeys run around.  A troop of monkeys including itty bitty little monkeys.

I was walking around, soaking up the sun and taking some video when this little monkey jumped onto my shoulders.  I was taken by surprised as he treated me like a fellow monkey and started picking at my hair, face, and ears.  It was then he started climbing down my arm to check out my camera.  He was really getting quite comfortable, and I was definitely enjoying it when I started walking and he got freaked out and jumped back off.

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Thailand Trekking: Traveling by Elephant in the Land of Smiles


I grew up really LOVING “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”, reading the comic strip, reading the books, and later watching the shows.  I imagined myself having a job like his.  Travel the world and capture images and stories the bizarre and fantastic.   My trip to the golden triangle of Thailand included amazing animals including elephants, tigers, monkeys, and cobras, with people so far removed from my world, from indigenous people living off the land, to refugee hill tribes are simply happy to find peace.  The refugees escaping oppression and seeing extreme contrast in Thai joy and Burmese oppression. Visiting the hill tribes especially the long neck Karen tribe was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.  What a joy to spend time in the “Land of Smiles.”

Long Neck Karen - Giraffe Hill Tribe

The big question is why did they start putting these rings on their necks?

Long Neck Karen Children Weaving

There are a number of reasons to describe why they have the rings on their necks.

  1. The rings actually coils make them more beautiful are a sign of beauty and wealth
  2. The coils are designed to protect their necks from tigers!
  3. The coils make the women unattractive to the nearby tribes.

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Cultural Philippines in the heart of Manilla


Getting Ready for Battle

I really, really love South East Asia.  Going to Manila was a huge treat.  One thing that’s always important to me whenever I visit a place is to see the place in it’s authentic beauty and warts.  I want to see the best and not best of a place.  We were staying at the amazing Shangri la hotel, one of the most beautiful hotels in Asia.  They are famous as having 5 and 6 star hotels in the big capitals in Asia.

Paul (black t-shirt) and I (in the red shirt, yes flash, and yes Big Bang Theory) were happy to pose with the staff.  Beautiful hotel.  Very posh.  We were definitely very pampered.  One thing you should know about Manila is it is very easy to spoil yourself.  Manila is very modern, and you can get anything you need.  My friend Dux Raymond Sy, who is very popular in the SharePoint community grew up in Manila.  It was great to meet his family.  Dux moved to the U.S. and if you talked with him you’d have no idea where he came from in fact he speaks perfect English.  No accent at all, and smart, very smart guy.  We were all in town for Sharing The Point Asia which would get us to China and Vietnam as well.  Fabulous tour.

We had a day in the nicer parts of Manila, and had some amazing food.  I was then very anxious to try other foods.  One early morning Michael, Dux and I escaped early to catch the sunrise over the sea.  We got up early enough we could get the first catch.  We had squid in it’s ink, prawns, and very fresh sushi.  Amazing seafood breakfast.

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Secrets of Cambodia from Angkor Wat to the Killing Fields

Tomb Raider

The largest religious complex in the world.  Angkor Wat is one of the most amazing structures in the world.

Sure, Karnak in Luxor, Egypt is the largest religious structure, but Angkor Wat stretches over miles and miles including many many buildings.  I’d like to see a comparison of Tikal to Angkor Wat.  It’s a UNESCO world heritage site for good reason.  The complex itself was built 1110-1150.  It’s estimated it would take 300 years to do today, but took 40 years back then with thousands of workers brining in stones from all over.  Ok, read more on Wikipedia article on Angkor Wat beyond my research… If this was the only building that was constructed it would still be one of the most amazing in the world, but it is among 74 others in the complex of buildings many many miles apart.

This is definitely a bucket list item.  A New Seven Wonders runner up.  One of the most amazing places in the world!

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Cappadocia Turkey: Underground Cities and Cave Churches

Cave Houses and Ferry Chimneys

Cave Houses and Ferry Chimneys
Cave Houses and Ferry Chimneys

When I first learned about Cappadocia, I was up late watching a late night Sci Fi show on Ancient Alien God theory.  The spokey of underground cities where 20,000 people could live in caves.  The spoke cave cities of 13 levels deep and how for thousands of years these caves had lasted time.  No one really knows how old these caves are… you can’t carbon date a cave.  They think they are at least 1700-2000 years old.  These caves helped save Christianity at a time where it was illegal and the Romans were looking to wipe it out!  How do we know?  There are hundreds of early 3rd and 4th century cathedrals built by these Christians.  IMG_6663They went on to say there are 36 such cities that could support a hundreds of thousands of people…. underground!  Some cities are connected by 9 KM tunnels.  Only 10% of the caves had even been excavated.  What!!?  Seems to me like we’d learn more about ourselves and where we came from if we knew more about these caves.  Why have I not heard of such an incredible place before?  I immediately added it to my list.  About 6 months later, when I was planning a trip to Sofia, Bulgaria I remembered these incredible stories and decided… I must go.  I priced it out and for less than $200 I could visit this place.  You can fly to within an hour of the place.  I decided I needed to see how much of this was real.  Much to my surprise, these crazy facts were real!  I read as much as I could and gasped at the amazing pictures on any image search.  I dare you to look.  If you’re a world traveller, you’ll immediately add this to your list, and if not it will be a bucket list item.  Don’t wait till you’re too old for this one.  Remember there’s hiking and walking in caves.  You don’t want to hurt your back.

How this destination of underground city supports a population larger than most civilizations at the time still boggles my mind.  No way.  Too incredible.  Who wiped out these ancient people?  Who were they, what did they believe?  Was it an attempt to escape an alien overlord?  Doesn’t matter.  Despite whether you believe aliens built the multiple thousand year old tunnels or believe it was the Hittites an ancient civilization that’s no longer around, the mystery of these crazy tunnels and underground cities are no less of a wonder.  There’s a lot you can read about Derinkuyu, the largest underground city in the world, less than 30 minute drive from Goreme.  562343_10150787036148783_613898782_11776192_940521962_n[1]It’s only been available for tours since 1969.  There are plenty of tours that take you on organized tours or you can rent a car and take it at your pace.  The tunnels are excavated.  I went 8 levels deep on my tour and there were at least 4 or 5 tunnels that went off into the dark, one such tunnel my guide explained went to the next city.  In the underground city you’ll find a winery, church, animal stalls, wells, ancient phone system, ventilation shafts,  and a morgue.  I visited all of these places on my tour.

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