Searching a way to Mexico

Two years ago when we first started this blog, we wrote about a dream journey to Mexico (here). We said that if we make that journey, we would be focused on the pyramidal structures constructed by the Mayans and Aztecs. But then in the past 24 months as we continued our research and crafting of an itinerary, our views have changed.

Mexico is not just the land of the Aztecs or Mayans, it is also an eclectic culture of Spanish and local traditions. In a way we had experienced some of that back in our journey to Peru (here), though it also stands unique on its own. That is an example of what we want to see in a country.

And this time we’ve learnt our lesson. We shall not pack all of the journey into two short weeks like we did in Peru and Chile. Because when you only see snippets it makes you want to return. Darn it means budget constraints again… so it would be best to ‘get it over with’. This will be just 3 weeks solely on Mexico. And already that is not quite enough we hear some of you whisper…

Yes we know that.

But as folks who need to work for a living (not living to work heheh), there will be limits to how long we can be away from our jobs without losing it… So here’s to our dream of placing our handprints on Mexico.

We are adamant about getting to Mexico. Have you been there? What would you recommend?

King of the Hill, for a day or two

We all know a (wo)man’s home is her (his) castle. Talk about trying to be gender neutral here… anyway you know what we mean right? But how would one like to really own a real castle? Not the ones that Kings of ode can dream up and build in reality, but buy one. Not the one in the featured image, unfortunately.

Some months back, we read this article that suggests that for a princely (heheh) sum of £46, one can become a joint-holder of an abandoned French Fortress in the Dordogne region. Yep, you can become one of 10,000 folks that will be able lay claim on a stake in this relic of noble past. A minor ‘Princelet’ perhaps? Maybe we need to update our exciting business opportunity!

But the point today is this : do these folks really understand what they are getting into?

In our little red dot we have properties from a bygone era, from before the 1960s. Pre-war houses they call them and they are conserved. Well some of them anyway. To buy them meant to ensure that they are preserved externally with no cosmetic amendments. Sure you can turn the inside into what you wish, but it remains a responsibility of the owner to manage the conservation. Overall, that costs a fair chunk of change… actually those who bought in early have reaped the rewards (darn why did we not join our friends?). Will the new greater fools rushing in be able to count on the same?

There are many outstanding structures in the world today. Especially in Europe and Asia. Should the State own them all and conserve them at public cost, or would private citizens coming together to fund conservation be the answer?

This is not just a ‘Bearen’ place

Just leafing through one of the editions of NatGeo travel magazine some months back, we came across the ‘expeditions‘ planned to the polar region. One in particular caught our eye : the one that covers Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland’s East Coast.

Coming in at US$14,950pp for the lowest category (of cabin), these journeys are led by a NatGeo expert who Svalbard NatGeo Expeditionworks with the ship’s experienced captain to chart a course for the voyage. You will be in safe hands!

In particular, our interest was piqued by the stop at Svalbard, kingdom of the polar bears. There you can seek an audience with the monarch of the bears provided they are not in hibernation… Seriously, in the capital Longyearbyen, one never venture out of town without your guide who has a loaded rifle cocked at all times for use.

Because in a “Bearen” place like that, one could become bear fodder in an instant. It would be an ignominious way to add to the statistic of chewed up tourists. Ponder that.

We plucked the following from the website:

  • Explore Arctic Svalbard, the polar bear capital of the planet, to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, on the sea ice. Got that.
  • Navigate the arctic wilderness of the Greenland Sea to Iceland’s wild western coast, with expert naturalists and a fully equipped expedition ship—making multiple stops en route completely dependent on ice, wildlife and weather conditions. Ok sounds like fun.
  • Watch for huge walruses, whales, and reindeer, and spot rich birdlife. Woah… Wunderbar!
  • Glide between soaring ice floes, exploring via ship, Zodiac, and kayak. Now that’s super!

Sounds so exciting. Time to save up for it.

Nope, not the average expedition ship where you pay to work… heheh. But no dancers performing evening shows either. Now you know why we categorize this post under “Sweet Dreams are made of these”. Aside from the fact it’s the title of an Eurythmics song.

Obvious question, will you go on this journey if you have the means to do so?

Oooo…Translyvania

Castle of the CountSome castles you are stunned by, others you sit in awe. But there is one that should strike fear – the Count’s castle…

No, not Math school. The one that lives on blood.

After reading this a few weeks back, we felt we had to post the link to this story. Well fear not, this is not only far removed from the Count, it’s also in the land of fairies. Yeah, they are sort of transforming Transylvania into a land of friendly mythical creatures instead of the blood thirsty kind.

All part of a market re-imaging programme. You get a limited audience seeking teethmarks on your neck. But with fairies, no. A lot more people are likely to be happy seeing a pixie fly up to them. Huh?, I hear you thinking. This was really to add up to the word count of this post.

We have also read of bloggers who are now journeying across Romania. We’ll be stealing with pride to present this link to Ramona’s blog. Not only is she fashionable (Suan says so) but she’s also traversed this one part of Europe that our handprint has not touched. So motivated to add this to the bucket list…perhaps you will too?

A new kind of Cuba emerging?

Don’t know why but I keep associating Cuba ONLY with cigars.

Like many folks whom we read such as the post here, it was with with trepidation that we felt when Obama made that historic visit to the island just 90 miles (or is it less?) from the tip of Florida. Almost immediately, a cruise ship was due to dock (it had since) and more than 20 flights (6 airines approved) will be soon shuttling between the continental US and the island that some says look like a crooked cigar (ah that’s why).

Like the post’s author, the impression we have of a communist country is that of a militarized society, where freedoms are curtailed. But it appears that life is just as colorful on the island though choked by sanctions for many years. It clearly demonstrates the indominable spirit of people to overcome adversity yet continue to build a life story.

Some years ago, Suan’s brother visited the island to attend a friend’s wedding (read post here). The images that he brought back echoed the author’s observations.

Our intent is to journey to tap on Mel’s business trip to fly direct into Cuba from NYC for a few days before returning home. We want to get there before thousands of tourists pound the streets of Havana like the rest of the Caribbean…not that we have anything against Americans. Just that it becomes another Cayman, Cozumel etc…

It seems that it is becoming more of a challenge to find a really exotic destination these days. With the advent of budget flight, it’s like taking a short bus hop for a couple of hundred miles in just an hour. Google’s about just mapped every square inch on earth (almost anyway).

We wish that Cuba would retain most of the old charms it has, hopefully without holding back progress for the living standard of Cubans. Our hopes seem to be a little dashed as the first US chain of hotels make its landing. At least until we made our landing there. Yeah it’s a wet dream. But on a blog you can dream and write all you want right?

Adding Iran to the list

The land that is today Iran was Persia, one that evokes images of grandeur, of magnificent palaces and flying carpets. Huh? Flying carpets? Sorry for the mix up. The carpet salesmen were from the Arabian nights.

But then Persian carpets are really valuable. And we digressed as usual.

Greatest extent of Persian Empire
At its greatest extent, Persia straddled Europe and Asia

Yes it is true that the Medes, those ancient Iranians had already migrated and dominated the present day borders by 1000BC. However, it was established first as an enduring, united and vast empire by Cyrus the Great in 550BC.

Persia has lived through two millennia of falling and rising dynasties like China. It has outlasted its contemporaries in the form of the Romans, Byzantines and the Ottomans. Well, not quite the Ottomans whom the Turks lay heritage claim to.

In 2017, Mel intend to commence collecting and reading of Persian history books having completed East and Central Asia. What a coincidence.

Being labelled a pariah state is not a compliment. For years the country felt the harsh hand of sanctions and exclusion from the world stage. Thus it is a good thing that this country is slowly being re-welcomed back into the family of nations.

With the country opening up rapidly for tourism as this article suggests, it is definitely time to make the journey before it loses its exotic allure just like Cuba is likely to. With even BA resuming flights 6 times a week (London to Tehran), what excuse do we have for not planning? Aargh…so many places opening up at the same time and we have limited time and money to journey there!