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Day 17: Somewhere in The NETHERLANDS

Sunday, 30 April 2017 – Day 17: Amsterdam, The NETHERLANDS (52.3702° N, 4.8952° E)

Good Morning…

Brief recap before I get on the EuroStar to London. Teams were given their Euro Scavenge book last night, allowed to do reserach and strategize, but barred from doing anything until 7:01AM this morning. (They must take a selfie in the hotel lobby under the clock as their first Euro photo proof!) They have to do sets of site-doing scavenges in at least four countries–and as many as eight–between Brussels and check-in deadline on Wednesday night at 10:00PM in Dublin.

Needless to say, they are off and running as I write this at 5PMish local time. We saw three teams in Brussels this morning: YoloGoNow, NOLA 2nd Line and Long Gone.

One-Minute Interview with Long Gone.

One-Minute Interview with NOLA 2nd Line.

Brussels is a funny place…a great place to visit. But it is odd that Manneken-Pis – aka ‘Pissing Boy’ Petit Julien is the #1 tourist attraction.?!

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Personally, we like the beers…
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But we love meeting old friends as we travel the world…a friend in every port! (Oops)

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Beautiful Amsterdam…

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The fields are aglow…

We are off to London. Will touch base tomrrow from the Queen’s City.

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Day 16: Brussels, BELGIUM

Saturday, 29 April 2017 – Day 16: Brussels, BELGIUM (50.8503° N, 4.3517° E)

We arrived at Brussels International Airport (BRU) this afternoon around 3PM following our 4:50-hour flight that took us from North Africa to Europe. The local immigration authorities ceded additional powers to the Ringmaster at the airport–thumbs up or thumbs down to visa applicants.

One-minute Interview with TSA Precheck in Egypt

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Our hotel in Brussels just a few steps away from the Grote Market.

We held a fun 6:00PM hospo drink session to let off some steam before we began our next leg. (We love Belgian beers!)

But first the Old Business…the Egyptian Par 4 leg results are in following Peer Review assessments and Road Official score adjustments for a few issues. As Lawyers without Borders have left the event, we now have 9 competing teams:
In 8th place, we have a tie between YOLOGoNow and Traveling Bohemians.
In 7th place, is NOLA 2nd Line.
In 6th place, is Long Gone.
In 5th place, earning 1040 points: Flying Snitches
In 4th place, earning 1315 points: Thundersnow
In 3rd place, earning 1685 points: SLO Folks
In 2nd place, earning 1737 points: Team Ying
And in 1st place, congratulations to TSA Precheck Yourself who earned 1897 points completing 47 scavenges on the second Par 4 Egypt leg.

That means that after six completed legs (par 18/27 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are:
3. SLO Folks (57)
2. TSA Precheck Yourself (49)
1. Team Ying (35)

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated Official Leader Board. There are 9 points left on the table…
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This is the event’s first time in Brussels, and the teams will have seven other potential European countries to do scavenges in before meeting in Dublin in 4 nights on Wednesday, May 3rd  (Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, England, Wales and Isle of Man) making this leg truly frenetic with crazy risk-reward travel decisions to make. We will find out who’s greedy here…who is willing to take some risks to move up the leader board.

It will be a Hard Par 6, 2017 European edition with a lot of moving parts: over 200 scavenges and a mad fun dash to Dublin. There are 2 Mandatory, one here in Brussels and the other in Cambridge, England.

Check-in Deadline & Meeting Place: 10:00PM, Wednesday, 3 May in Dublin, Ireland.

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Among some of their scavenges is:
-Travel the length of the world’s longest unbroken tramway in Belgium between France and The Netherlands.
-Taste Test Time—Belgium Beer Edition
-Price out loose diamonds in Antwerp
-Cycle to the famous Dutch tulip fields
-Go punting with a picnic in Cambridge
-Ferry Cross the Mersey in Liverpool
-Take in an Irish Parliament session

One-Minute Interview with Traveling Bohemians In transit.

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Tintin is here!

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As is the Grand Palace.

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And Reubens too!

More later…

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Day 15: Alexandria, EGYPT

Friday, 28 April 2017 – Day 15: Alexandria, EGYPT (31.2001° N, 29.9187° E)

Hello on day three in Egypt…

Pope Francis is here in Cairo reaching out to the lottery-picked pope, Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The two churches parted ways in a dispute about the nature of Christ in the fifth century, kind of like the Shia and Sunni split in the Muslim world. Security is extremely tight here in the city of one thousand and one minarets.

Teams have been busy we think as some beastie photos reveal:

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The Road Officals finally having fun doing scavenges…

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1/2 of Traveling Bohemians with Napoleon’s target range…

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TSA Precheck at  Pyramid of Djoser (Aka Step Pyramid…the first pyramid)

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1/2 of Team Ying appearing to hijack a carriage horse?!

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1/2 of Flying Snitches trying on hats…

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Having a conversation with Cairo’s bright simmering youth.

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Either going to stud, or to the butcher? Pick’em?

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Magnificent Pompey’s Pillar in Alexandria

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The mystical magical Sufi dancers…

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The infamous fabulous bazzar of Cairo cafe…

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Teeing up at the pyrimds…a lot of sand shots!

All the teams checked in safe and sound, albeit a tad Egypt weary from their thrilling 54-hours in one of the ancient capitals of the world.

Thoughts of the day: One wonders what the idealistic Egyptian activists of the 2011 Arab Spring in Tahir Square and throughout Egypt are thinking these days? They mobilized and protested under the cry of “bread, freedom & dignity”;
239 of them are martyred for their cause of freedom and democracy; repressive 30-year ruling Pharaoh, err, President Mubarak, propped up by American billions in annual military aid  is popularly pushed out of office and charged for the killing of those protestors; Egypt holds free and fair elections for the first time in history; Mohamed Morsi Muslim Brotherhood Party wins the June 2012 election in a landslide; within a year military strongman General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seizes power in a coup (“meet the new boss, same as the old boss”); his regime brutally kills over 800 who protest his coup; Morsi is now serving life in jail and Mubarak is out on bail frequenting Cairo cafes. What must they think? Do they have hope? Who do they blame? (Ditto the freedom loving people of the Philippines and Turkey!)… The 2011 Egyptian revolution began on January 25th when Egyptian protestors focused on lack of free speech and free elections, police brutality, government corruption, high unemployment, inflation, and continued use of emergency law…it sparked other revolutions in Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Libya, and Bahrain. Well, they kept their bread anyway!

Now I know that conventional wisdom suggests that I not interject politics into our event’s blog, or our travels in general. Of course, that is naïve hogwash. Whether we know it or not, everything we do involves politics in some way. Everything. And traveling the world is no different. Traveling allows us to better understand what is actually going on in the world through personal experience and the personal encounters we have along the way. Traveling allows us to get out of our comfort zones and societally imposed default positions; we  get out of the hermetically-sealed tourist bubbles and go out into the streets to eat, play and talk with local people. We ask questions. We are curious. We learn what is really going on in their daily lives and their society. We gleam both context and insights—sometimes provocative ones—about how the other 96% of humanity lives, works and prays. Our shared humanity is ultimately a natural bonding experience between all peoples.

What artificially separates us is politics: how they make a living; what they eat and where it comes from; whether their society is rich or poor and getting better or not; whether they have a hopeful or pessimistic view of their futures; and whether their sons and daughters are healthy or not, getting an education or not and exposed to random or organized violence or not—these are all political issues. Don’t fool yourself; how we organize our lives, what we believe and what we consume—are all political acts. And besides that, asking me to refrain from stating any political belief is like me asking you to keep your opinions to yourself—and I would never do that!

We are off at 10:00am tomorrow to somewhere new for The Global Scavenger Hunt, hard to believe in 12 previous events we have never visited three of our next four countries. Stay tuned…

End with a video from Thundersnow

 

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Day 14: Cairo, EGYPT

Thursday, 27 April 2017 – Day 14: Cairo, EGYPT (30.0444° N, 31.2357° E)

Good day from Cairo…where that old French saying maintains its truth: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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The view from our hotel pool…

We had to say goodbye today to Zoe & Rainey (Team Lawyers without Borders) who had to quickly answer to an antsy judge beckoning them. You will be missed…

That said, some teams are already smellin blood and the chance to move up in the standings in their absence!

The teams have been out and about since yesterday at 4PM local time…they have been given a Par 4 set of scavenges here in lower Egypt: the greater Cairo area, Suez and Alexandria. There are 4 Bonuses and over 60 scavenges to contemplate. But Egypt will be challenging for them…challenging because dealing with the constant local methods of haggling about anything and everything sometimes puts people in strange moods. Time will tell who reacts well and can function efficiently in a notoriously inefficient country.
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Scavenges include:
-Visit the Pyramid Trifecta: Khufu (Giza), Djoser (Step), Dahshur (Bent)
-take our Egyptian Museum of Archeology mini-scavenger hunt
-Bargain for items in the fabulous bazaar of Cairo
-attend the Friday morning camel auction at Souq al-Gamaal
-Take a lazy float down the Nile in a traditional felucca

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Our check-in at 9:30PM Friday night…

A Cautionary Tale: Security is very tight everywhere in the city during these uncertain geopolitical times with the continuing conflict next-door between Palestine and Israel continuing to cause distress throughout the region; threats
of ISIL-inspired terrorism (against local Copts), and that old self-induced paranoid authoritarianism fear–destabilization. But that is what our global cultural immersion is all about, dip out toes in insteresting places and trying to understand other people’s lives, issues and concerns, while enjoying their hospitality and unique customs. Our governments may disagree, but the Egyptian people are always open to visitors (for 5,000 years in a row!) and to their special historic country. We all feel especially safe because our visit here coincides with the Pope’s when he arrives tomorrow…the whole country is on alert. 

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Khan el-Khalili bread sellor

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Wissa Wassef weaver

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How not to mount a camel…no names!

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Henna

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The Spice Market
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New friends at Mohammed Ali Mosque
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Flying Snitches at El Fishawy Cafe
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The better half of SLO Folks in Alexandria
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Flying Snitches at opera…

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The face of the day…Arak (age 41)

Question of the day? What is worse living in a war zone as a result of a sudden violent crisis or in a war zone caused by decades of systemic neglect, corruption and willful decay?

Okay, until tomorrow…that roof top pool beckons.

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Day 13: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 – Day 13: Abu Dhabi, UAE (24.4539° N, 54.3773° E)

The Gulf State Pivot…

Well, it was only a little tease….a brief stop at the airport–that we have come to know in this state-of-the-art Gulf State aerotropolis well.

We are all safe and sound…but now actually in Cairo, Egypt…it is dry and warm here–not hot and moist. There is a unique difference in that. Teams will be holed up at the Kempinski Nile Hotel along the ancient Nile River, and not too far down the street from those famous old ancient buildings–the Pyramids. We have successfully transitioned from South Asia to North Africa.

And it has been a busy day…

A fun hospitality dinner in Colombo, followed by an o-dark-thirty 4-hour Etihad flight from CMB-AUH …a quick (or long depending on your perspective) 90-minute layover in Abu Dhabi. We really know that terminal well, the one with a smoking booth and French cafe surrounded by an amazing Lotus-like green and blue tiled terminal…maybe a little too well!? Followed by a short 3.5 hour flight to Cairo. Bet not many can say they did that!?

And we had a lot of time to think about this event inflight too: the rules n’ spirit of the event, and about what the competition does to people. It makes them push the envelope as much as possible, challenging themselves to do things they might not normally do–for points–and challenge us occasionally too as to what the rules of the game are. Keeping them inside the accepted lines is our jobs. One we prefer not to have to enforce, rather allowing our participants to have fun trusting strangers in strange lands and letting it all hang out site-doing for three weeks. Alas, there is a prize at stake, not only The World’s Greatest Travelers crown and throphy, but a free trip around the world next year to defend that lofty title. And beacuse of that, people test us.

There were a few “issues’ brought to our attention following the conclusion of the Sri Lanka leg, from readers of various blogs, and from the participants themselves. No anonymous notes under the door or letter left with the front desk, but serious concerns about what was “legal” and what was not. Probably a little jealousy too. And yes, competitive juices being what they are in we humans… So, after the peer review proofs were completed, the Road Officals had to adjudicate some messiness among half the teams–some deliberate circumventions and some inadvertent.

The “issues” included: not completing mandatory scavenges completely; excessive teaming up (the official stated limit is 2 each 24-hour period); claiming to have completed a scavenge that under closer scrutiny they clearly did not; not fully completing Bonus scavenges; traveling inter-city during expressedly prohibited times (10PM-5AM); and excessive use of  a taxi or facsimile of public transportation (you may do only 2 scavenges per ride or else it evolves into a driver and guide situation–that is verboten.) Some teams had minor offenses, some were repeat offenders, some multiple offenders. Some teams where playing a tad too fast and loose and some where just absorbed having fun. Nonetheless, we dealt with them all and reenforced the rules and spitit of the event upon arrival in Cairo.

The official final adjusted results of the hard Sri Lankan Par 6 leg are as follows:

In 10th place, earning zero points: Traveling Bohemians.
In 9th place, earning an adjusted 850 points: NOLA 2nd Line
In 8th place, earning 865 points: Long Gone
In 7th place, earning 1,460 points: Flying Snitches
In 6th place, earning an adjusted 1940 points: YOLOGoNow
In 5th place, earning 1965 points: TSA Precheck Yourself
In 4th place, earning 2125 points: Thundeersnow doing 3 Big Bonus scavenges
In 3rd place, earning an adjusted 2190 points: SLO Folks doing 4+ Bonus scavenges
In 2nd place, earning an adjusted 2290 points: Lawyers w/o Borders completing 5 Bonuses
And in 1st place, congratulations to Team Ying who earned an adjusted 2,400 points on the difficult Bonus-ladden Par 6 leg completing 5 Bonuses.

It is the fourth different team in a row to win a leg, but one team has consistently placed in the top 3 each leg.

And that means that we have another shakeup of the leader board after five completed legs (par 14 of 27 completed), just over half…the overall top 3 teams are:
3. Tie at 45 – TSA Precheck Yourself + SLO Folks
2. Lawyers w/o Borders at 39
1. Team Ying at 27.

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1/2 of Team Ying making new friends in Sri Lanka.

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated Official Leader Board.
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Day 12: Colombo, SRI LANKA

Tuesday, 25 April 2017 – Day 12: Colombo, SRI LANKA (6.9271° N, 79.8612° E)

Good morning…

We have reached the halfway point of the 2017 edition of the world travel championship The Global Scavenger Hunt. Hard to believe…San Francisco, Hong Kong, Macau, Hanoi, Colombo, Kandy, Galle and more…so much more.

Slowly but surely, the teams began re-appearing one-by-one starting last night here at the hotel. Emails with photos and Facebook posts began to pop up again after being off-the-grid for a few blessed days.

All the teams reported in safely at the 3PM check-in deadline here at the Galle Face heritage hotel (a 19th century Grande Damme once considered the best hotel East of the Suez Canal.) The beautific smiles they wore expressing the emotions of all they had seen and done since we last meet on Saturday afternoon were easy to see. Tonight we will blow off a littel steam at Semondu, a fusion restaurant in the recently renovated old Dutch Hospital complex. And then…

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The elephants of Yala National Park.

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Flying Snitches on pilgrimage…lot’s of steps included!

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The Tea plantations of Nuwara Eilya.

A Dozen things you might not have known about Sri Lanka:
-estimated 21 million citizens and is a merging amalgam of Sinhalese (70% Buddhist), Tamil (12% Hindu) and 9% Muslim cultures…a small remenat of Christianity from the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial days still exists (about 5%)…
-Ceylon changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972
-Sri Lanka literally mean “Resplendent Island” in Sanskrit. Sri Lankas name in Sinhalese is “Shri Lanka Prajatantrika Samajavadi Janarajaya/Ilankai Jananayaka Choshalichak Kutiyarachu”
-Sri Lanka is slightly bigger in geographic size than West Virginia, albeit with 13640 kilometers of coast line
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Sri Lanka’s per capita income is $3,800 (USA = $56,000)
-Sri Lanka’s flag (which I love and have one at home) contains a golden lion, surrounded by four golden leaves at four corners which represents Buddhism; with the green and orange strips representing Islam and Hinduism respectively
-Although cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka, the national sport of the country is, in fact, volleyball.
-The spice cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka and was discovered by the Egyptians
-at 92%, Sri Lanka boasts the highest literacy rate in the whole of South Asia
-Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth (where the relic of the tooth of Buddha is housed), is the most sacred Buddhist site in the world
-Sri Lanka was the first country in the world to democratically elect a woman as the head of state (3 times): Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1960–65, 1970–77 and 1994–2000)
-the capital of Sri Lanka has moved around: Anuradhapura, to Polonnaruwa…but is today in Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte, not Colombo.

Thought of the Day: It seems to me the person who coined the bumper sticker phrase: “No Pain, No Gain” has obviously never been to the Third World. Life is short and hard here. Especially when you have the all too often modern-day Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (circa 2017): 1) Globalization and all its discontents culturally and socially speaking (rising expectations); 2) Ecological disaster waiting around the corner (the weather on our adventures over the years just keeps getting hotter and hotter during so-called “shoulder season” spring/fall; 3) Religious intolerance simmering silently (global middle-class educated secularist versus fundamnetalists who don’t like change or challenges to the status quo); and finally, 4) pervasive unofficial official corruption (and we see it here as the Chinese have their way with the Sri Lankan governemnt offering grand development schemes in exchange for naval bases and cheap resources…but a single pearl in its strategic string of pearls in its imporatnt south asian geo-political strategy). BTW: The original Four Horsemen were piker’s…just: War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.

Stilt fishermen on southern coast near Welligama.

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Employing an oruwas.

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Lawyers w/o Borders saw monkeys…

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1/2 of Thundersnow on a horse…

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Team Ying a sunrise pilgrimage…

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Thundersnow making new friends…

We try not to hit readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt event’s cause-related, charitable purposes—our method of doing and giving is anonymous and are considered unattached gifts—but, aside from a portion of the event’s annual proceeds going to the GreatEscape Foundation, other good things are happening too, so let me just let you know: some of the teams are raising funds for the GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: of building co-ed elementary schools in developing nations (and a Tuareg Nomadic clinic in Niger too!), and distributing no-fee, interest-free micro-loans to budding  global entrepreneurs. Both methods are designed to help others in their great escape from the cycle of poverty.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small secure online PayPal donation during the course of the 2017 event, we know that a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we will thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you!

 

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Day 11: Kandy, SRI LANKA

Monday, 24 April 2017 – Day 11: Kandy, SRI LANKA (6.0535° N, 80.2210° E)

Travel is the ultimate act of resistance. When you cross a border, you quickly discover that the easy categories we use to describe ourselves with — binary classifications like black and white, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative — become less meaningful.

” – Christopher Elliott

Good Morning…

Only one sighting today so far…TSA Pre-check Yourself in need of grub….but we have a few photos.

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Traveling Bohemians washing an elephant.

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1/2 of TSA Pre-check Yourself looking manly on his steed…

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Lawyers w/o Borders & Team Ying in heartland…

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Flying Snitches in Kandy Garden

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1/2 of YOLOGoNow on similar 4-legged beastie…

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Going forward in the rearview mirror…

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The Red Mosque (Jami Ul-Afar)

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Busy Pettah…

Onwards…check-in tomorrow (Tuesday) at 3:00PM

Ran into a few, what I would call theoretical travelers, whose biggest adventure so far has been looking at the Himalayas on the bottle of an Everest Beer in a Singapore pub… but I give them credit, they are in a strange and exotic country on a local train heading to their all-inclusive southern Sri Lankan beach resort destination for their annual two-week vacation. They are indeed traveling…

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Morning market

Coming back from Galle yesterday, I surrendered to a much-needed flashback while driving the Southern Expressway…Fall 1989, Spring 1991, Summer 2004, or just last year? I dunno…but visions of rice paddies touched memory synapses in my brain. The infinity of green hues (highlighted by white herons and red hibiscus flowers) that framed the dark blue sky…alas, I was there, not here…again. (Kind of like being glued to a cell phone while talking with somebody!) Green…ever present, no, omni-present color of green (aka emerald, apple, aquamarine, beryl, bice, blue-green, chartreuse, fir, forest, grass, pine, sage, sap, sea, greenish-blue, jade, kelly, lime, malachite, moss, olive, pea, peacock, spinach, verdigris, vert, viridian, willow)…the color so dominates the Sri Lankan landscape—not to mention our visual wavelength spectrum at roughly 520–570 nanometers! Few places rival the green that is here…and there, wherever I was in my brian. It seems my travel memories are my only continuity.

It, the flashback, then reminded me of a few of my favorite things about travel…some simply, some transcendental:
-Watching children play everywhere
-Visiting great museums—big and small
-Going to morning markets to see what is for dinner
-Catching a sunset from a high place in an exotic locale
-Dinner…with strangers that won’t be strangers after dinner
-Swimming in hotel pools…and local swimming holes too
-Having a beer before noon and not feeling guilty in the least…one must adequately hydrate after all!
-Looking for (and sometimes buying) moving, surprising and interesting local art
-Those quiet moments after dawn before everything comes to life
-Feeling alive 24/7 because of the newness, challenges and constant decision-making
-Being out of my comfort zone and preconceived (some would say programmed) notions
-New smells
-New sounds
-New tastes
-The constant discovery and learning that is required by meeting new people
-Travel helps me understand the world–it’s beauty, uncertainty and inequality–a little better.
-The feeling of really truly being in the moment…getting into my travel zone—a sublime blissful flow.
-I discover things about myself traveling that I would never have learned by staying put: 
I have learned my limitations; what my real fears are; what my strengths and capabilities are; what my frail human weaknesses and egotistical blind spots are; I have gained humility, tolerance, extreme patience, compassion and empathy…
-travel helped me realize that I was okay being alone with myself;
-Travel has made me understand the transitory nature of just about everything…friendships, sadness, problems, stuff—you just have to let go…
-travel proves the cliche and I have learned that nothing ventured nothing gained…
-I have learned that you are the creator of your life—you get out of it what you put into it…
-travel reenforces to me that families are the same everywhere
, that smiles are universal
-travel allows me to trust strangers in strange lands
…obviously I could go on, and on, and on—I think you all know my passion for travel!

But that last line rings true every time—trusting strangers in strange lands. You have probably heard me mention that phrase often, indeed it is one of the key philosophies of The Global Scavenger Hunt. And over a dozen successful events, I am Happy to report, that we have taken hundreds of travelers to over 70 nations around the world doing thousands of scavenges along the way–that probably included, as a modest guesstimate, over 15,000+ stranger-to-stranger encounters by our travelers (probably a lot more)–and I have yet to hear one single bad story as a result of those thousands of encounters. Not one!  Think about that…think about what you have been conditioned to fear about the world and traveling…and forget what your mother told you about strangers too.
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Market vendors…

Team Blogs:

Sydney’s Blog (of Team Ying): 

Greg’s Blog (of Team Traveling Bohemians): 

Mark’s Blog (of Team Thundersnow):

Jenny’s Blog (Of Team Thundersnow): 

Zoe & Rainey (of Team Lawyers without Borders): 

Avni & Roshy (of Team Flying Snitches):

Lily + Mark (of Team YoloGoNow): 

 

Okay…maybe some more later. But that is all.

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Day 10: Galle, SRI LANKA

Sunday, 23 April 2017 – Day 10: Galle, SRI LANKA (6.2906° N, 80.6337° E)

Good Morning…

One-Minute Interview with Flying Snitches…oaky, 2-minutes…

Team sightings have become illusive…YOLOGoNow, NOLA 2nd Line, Long Gone, Flying Snitches, Traveling Bohemians…all gone now. Basically, no news from teams…now all scattered somewhere in Sri Lanka.

In lieu of event news, here is a random stream of consciousness and photos  from Afar

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The amazing frescos of Sigiriya.

Observations from a foreigner, me: For some reason, I am supremely aware of whiteness today. Local villagers treat me at first like they treat all fellow travelers—as a walking ATM where they just have to push the right buttons (guilt or want) on me and sooner or later money will come out. I just love the bright white-teethed smiles of the cinnamon-colored Sri Lankan women. The only security issue I have seen so far was pickpockets…of the monkey kind, not people.

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Train ride to Galle…

I was told today there are 84,000 Hindi gods…I can’t think of 84,000 things to think about let alone pray to…one seems too many! (Okay, just me.)

Saw an article in today’s paper about Sri Lankan’s 86,000 strong police force reforms…they are stressed on the job; so after a study they have instituted the 3553 plan: 3 minutes of briefing before patrol assignments, followed by 5 minutes of meditation and then 5 minutes of relaxed focused breathing, ending with 3 more minutes of shift briefing…hmm.

Our hotel employs a full-time anti-crow slingshot armed man…who means business; as well as, a bug zapper who walks around the lobby and common areas zapping bugs with an electrified tennis racket-like thingy…

Saw a billboard ad today on a drive sorth to Hikkaduwa fishing village…it was a laxative ad whose tag line was, “Get ready to shake things up!” Indeed.

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Although illegal, still around…

After dinner at Mango Tree, I resigned myself to the Traveller’s Bar. Well. Someone at the bar asked what it was like being a professional traveler…I thought for a second and replied, “Well, I have been felt up more by airport security personal than the happy hooker!”

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SLO Folks on a beastie…

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Lawyers w/o Borders standing on trian for 4+ hours to Anuradhappura…
(Committed to seeing and doing something amazing!)

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A buck a tuna…
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The face of the day (67 years old)

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Galle Mosque (circa 1770)

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Love that flag…and them too!

Tomorrow we are  grabbing a 7AM train down east to a city called Kandy. Temple of the Buddha’s Tooth to behold…

Thought/Question of the Day: I visited a Hindu temple today and began to wonder…Is it just me, or does the spiritual idea of reincarnation remind you of being held back in third grade?

Okay, enough of this…good night from half a world away, until tomorrow!

Again, Check-in Deadline 3PM Tuesday afternoon….

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Day 9: Colombo, SRI LANKA

Saturday, 22 April 2017 – Day 9: Colombo, SRI LANKA (6.9271° N, 79.8612° E)

 Ayubowan…Welcome to Sri Lanka (the Venerable Island)…

We arrived around 1:15AM at our hotel for five nights here in Sri Lanka, at the lovely Galle Face Hotel.

Darn it, another one of those crazy fun days yesterday that only a real-world traveler—like everyone participating in the 2017 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt—can relate to. Wrap your brain around this sentence and see if you don’t smile and say ahhh: Yesterday, we had breakfast at Hanoi, lunch along the Chao Praya River in Bangkok, and then enjoyed a late snack last night admiring Indian Ocean moonglow here in Colombo, Sri Lanka! Yep…kind of special! It was also an arduous, but hecticly fun day including the 7-Hour Bangkok Layover Challenge, then a late flight here to Sri Lanka. Happy to report we have a great group that is bounding and getting along well. Everyone is healthy and in great, almost giddy, spirits. Eager for more now that they have escaped their daily grinds, pre-conditioned routines and pre-set default assumptions. They are in the moment enjoying life to the fullest–traveling, that is.

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The Galle Face Hotel…our home in Sri Lanka. The venerable  Grand Dame of Colombo.

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See, they are all still alive here in Colombo. Proof of life!

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Okay, let’s do Old Business first…the Par 1, short-but-sweet 7-Hour Layover Challenge in Bangkok results are in following Peer Review assessments and official scoring (just a few tweaks):
In 10th place, NOLA 2nd Line (always being mentioned first I just realized their game!) earning 115 points:
In 9th place, Long Gone earning 135 points:
In 8th place, Traveling Bohemians earning 150 points:
In 7th place, Flying Snitches earning 210 points:
In 6th place, YOLOGoNow earning 320 adjusted points:
Then we have a 4-way tie for 2nd place between TSA Pre-check Yourself, SLO Folks, Lawyers without Borders & Team Ying who all completed 9 scavenges earning 325 points:
And in 1st place, congratulations to Team Thundersnow who earned 338.5 adjusted points (and the only team to obtian a photo of a real live elephant) on the second Par 1 super fast leg.

Congrats to all…it was hot, but alt least you all got out there to meet some new friends, have a few laughs and eat some good food.

That means that after Four completed legs (par 8 of 27 completed)…the overall top teams are:
4th place tie between two verteran Teams with 27 each – Lawyers without Borders and SLO Folks;
3rd place belongs to YOLOGoNow at 25;
2nd place belongs to Team Ying at 21;
…and still in first place is TSA Pre-Check Yourself at 15.

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated Official Leader Board.

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We were last here in Sri Lanka in 2012…and had such a great time I promised to return ASAP. It is such a rich cultural target area. And this leg will surely test them all.

Sri Lanka will be a difficult Par 6…14 Bonuses of which they can do only 5 (there are 8 spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Sites here); a couple Team Challenges; over 60 other optional scavenges to keep them busy …4 mandatory foodie scavenges. There are some really interesting “movement oriented” Bonus scavenges.

Our Par 6 Sri Lanka Check-in deadline will be: Tuesday, April 25th at 3:00PM in the Travellers Bar. They have four days…Today, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday…and 3 nights to have fun site-doing all over Sri Lanka. It is still anyone’s event to win, or lose; and this leg will partially determine the 2017 winner of The World’s Greatest Travelers title. It is a steep line in points with a par 6 between 1st place and 4th place, 6 or 24!

So, good luck to all…be safe and have fun.

Word to the wise Travel Tip of the Day: Elephants are rather scratchy critters, so my advice: wear long pants!

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Among their 100 optional scavenges includes:

-Get invited for dinner with a family in their own home.
-Climb Adam’s Peak at sunrise.
-Take a safari attempting to photograph Sri Lanka’s Big Five: Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo, Sloth bear & Blue Whale.
-Learn how to play cricket with local kids.
-Partake in a traditional yoga class.
-Taste Testing of the famous Ceylon tea.

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YoloGoNow heading into the sauna…

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Team Ying’s Sydney on scooter…

On an aside…people always worry about us when I travel, when we travel as a family, and when we do our annual around the world adventure. The world is nasty place full of monsters at every turn. But I fear not beacuse I am informed. (Crazy, eh!) But you want to know why I am so bullish on our planet? Because I believe that we live in a 95% conflict free zone. That despite what you hear about Iraq, Syria, Afganistan and Congo, that the world is getting to be a better place–despite a handful those very few pockets of resistance. True. And how’s this: it is hard to believe that just a decade ago, Sri Lanka was one of the World’s Most Dangerous Places in the world. Civil wars are inevitably messy affairs, but it is over now, and life here has moved on… Sri Lanka is not a failed state, there are no daily terrorist bombings here, there are no kids carrying AK-47 assault rifles here. It is a safe place to see many amazing sites and learn from a historically rich culture and people.

Finally today, from where I sit, my visual cup runneth over with rivers full of fish, sweet exotic fruits falling off trees, water buffalo grazing next to ancient stupas, stunningly long pure white sandy beaches, elephants seeming to roam freely, lush rain forests greener than green, terraced tea plantations decorate the hillside, stately old colonial estates stand gloriously, and then those smiles, so many beautiful smiles. Sri Lanka is a beautiful place… we may have entered an unofficial subequatorial erogenous zone…and late, I expect lightening to illuminates the nighttime sky…a light show included in the price of admission. Thank you Sri Lanka.

More tomorrow…

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Day 8: Bangkok, THAILAND

Friday, 21 April 2017 – Day 8: Bangkok, THAILAND (13.7563° N, 100.5018° E)

Sawasdee. Hello from Thailand.

After a quick 2-hour morning flight between HAN-BKK…we are here in the Kingdom of Smiles.

A One-Minute Interview’s cancelled until makeup and wardrobe get up to speed!

Old Business…the Hanoi Par 3 leg results are in following Peer Review assessments and official scoring:

We ended the Hanoi leg last night at 10PM with all the teams conducting peer review interviews. Frankly, we had some rule infractions to deal with. Nothing that would disqualify any team, but infractions that were addressed and penalty points subtracted from a few of the teams. There were a few concierge usage issues, Internet research issues, excessive single mode of transportation-usage issues, and not spending the required time at scavenges issues. All the teams affected where explained their infractions and accepted their point penalties in good spirits. It was a learning leg for many in the heat of a fiesty competition brewing. The results:

In 10th place, NOLA 2n Line earning 355 points:
In 9th place, Thundersnow earning 515 points:
In 8th place, Long Gone earning 620 points:
In 7th place, Lawyers without Border earning 805 points: completing 27 scavenges but no Bonuses.
In 6th place, Traveling Bohemians earning 835 points: completing 24 scavenges including partial Bonus.
In 5th place, Flying Snitches earning 1,100 points: completeing 34 scavenges including 1 Bonus.
In 4th place, SLO Folks earning 1,235 points: completing 36 Scavenges and 1 Bonus.
In 3rd place, Team Ying earning 1,370 points: completing 37 scavenges and 1 Bonus.
In 2nd place, TSA Pre-check Yourself earning 1,410 points: completing 43 scaveges + partial Bonus
And in 1st place, congratulations to YOLOGoNow who earned 1,570 points on the second Par 3 leg completing 46 scavenges including one partial Bonus.

Great job all…a fun, exhilirating and resourceful leg by all…

That means that after three completed legs (par 7 of 27 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are:
Tie 4th – Lawyers without Borders + SLO Folks (25 par)
Tie 2nd – Team Ying + YOLOGoNow (19 par)
And the new 2017 Global Scavenger Hunt event leaders are: TSA Pre-Check Yourself (13 par)

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated Official Leader Board.
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Okay…on to new business: Bangkok…steamy, sultry, busy Bangkok. It won’t be “One Night in Bangkok” but one quick afternoon… As we only have a short 7-Hour Layover Challenge set up for the teams between their flights from Vietnam to Sir Lanka. We were last here in 2012 (Miss you John & Jack!) and we arrived at noon from Hanoi and we leave tonight at 10:10PM this evening for Sri Lanka. Teams Hit the ground running right out of the arrivals hall pre-Immigration. It will be fast-paced introduction for some to Thailand. It will also be a hot one…over 100 today! Moist is the word of the day.

lay•over  \ ‘lā-, ō-vәr \ noun (1873) – STOPOVER n (1885): a period spent by a passenger at an intermediate point in waiting for a transportation connection; a brief halt in a journey caused by scheduling in the course of a journey; a short stop in a long journey, especially one between airplane flights; free time between flights spent in an airport hub—and to be avoided like the plague.

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Among there Bangkok To Do List:

O Indulge yourself with either a foot, or traditional Thai massage. Prove it.
O Wats going on? Visit two of these: Arun, Pho, Phra Kaew, or Phu Khao Thong.
O Visit Pak Klong Talad for a photo safari.
O 40% of Thai’s depend of street food for their daily meals; try some traditional Thai talad of your choice.
O
Poll 6 locals: ID Thailand’s most famous person. Who is she/he?
O Team Challenge: Obtain a photo of an elephant.

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Temple of the Emerald Buddha

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Wat Po….

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loating Markets

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Don’t miss your 10:10PM flight to Sri Lanka…stay tuned!

 

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