Day 8: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Friday, 20 April 2018 – Day 8: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (8.9806° N, 38.7578° E)

Selamat, Tena yistilign and welkem from Ethiopia…We have made the successful transition from Asia to Africa and picked up two-and-a-half hours in our jet-stream wake.

Coast of Africa & Somalia

Not so funny a story…the day I booked our DEL-ADD airline tickets the government of Ethiopia declared a “state of emergency” after the sitting prime minster resigned under a siege of political uncertainty. They have a new PM and all is good. So, know that we are all safe and in a safe place today two months later. But yes, they are having a little political turmoil here, democratic growing pains really in the form of protests and disruptive strikes, in some restive regional states most notably in the underrepresented Oromo and Amharas ethnic areas, but here in the capital Addis Ababa, all is calm. They are working on it…

We are here in Ethiopia for two nights and staying at the Radisson Blu Addis Ababa. We are at an elevation of about 7,816 feet…a little higher than Denver.

Old Business: we have gone over all the peer reviewed DEL Leg (Par 4) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses)
6th Buckeye Terriers
5th NOLA Secondline
4th  Team Tuna
3rd Leo & The Crab
2nd Sonoma County Strong who did really well in the heat and craziness that is India
1st SLO Folks – did it again with two BIG Bonus do’s…27 scavenges and accumulating almost 1400 points. 

So, now the overall leaders after two legs (par 7 of 24 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are
3. Leo & The Crab
2. Sonoma County Strong
1. SLO Folks

Three-Things I Learned from the Indian Leg: India gives more than it takes; people love great hotels; and SLO Folks are building a BIG cushion for what is to come….

Addis Ababa brief…smiles still!

Congrats to all… let’s move to the here and now, India was so yesterday!

New News: Ethiopia will be a simple Par 2…with more than 30+ scavenges…1 mandatory…and a few bonus scavenges…transportation will be tricky here. Scavenges include:
-Locating the world’s oldest human “Lucy”
-Navigating and negotiate Africa’s largest open-air market
-Locating something commemorating Bob Marley
-Catch an Ethiopian sunset high atop a nearby mountain


It’s the faces, always the faces, that move you


House of Abbot Libanos


Odd Observation…leaving Delhi I noticed a Garuda airline jet on the tarmac—Indonesia’s national carrier—and it struck me: How does Garuda airline’s Hindu and Buddhist symbol go over in the largest Muslim nation on the planet?

The original lost tribe…or the original apostles, pick’em.

I am out to price check some khat…film at 11.

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Day 7: Delhi, India

Thursday, 19 April 2018 – Day 7: Delhi, India (28.7041° N, 77.1025° E)

India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” ― Shashi Tharoor

I was ordered to take the day off. To rest and regroup…not going to happen. Khan market, Sunder Nagar market, National Gallery of Modern Art, Masala House, etc, etc…

Just back from a wonderful afternoon out and about…Oh, oh that smell…temple incense, cow dung, piss, cut flowers, traffic exhaust, baking bread, BO, dust, curries…ah, India!

All the teams are safe and accounted for today…some are in the city, some in Agra and some in Jaipur…but we will all meet tonight at 9:00PM in the 1911 bar to share a beverage, a laugh or two and details about our next destination.


Sonoma County Strong making friends at the Taj.


Bukhara’s signature dish: Sikandri Raan (spiced leg of lamb)


The amazingly beautiful and simple Lotus Temple.

The huge Akshardham Temple…


India without elephants is unthinkable…but then again, the ubiquitous Ambassadors are extinct! As in taxi cars…


Cliche snake charmers are hard to find…

Cricket players reign supreme.


Color abounds.

A lazy ass at the pool….

Welcome back again from the sensory circus that is India. It is compelling…it is in perpetual collision with the past and present, the present and the future, East and West, incense and dung, Porsches and cows clog the roads…one doesn’t just visit Delhi and its 26+ million inhabitants (aka Dilliwales = the place where people with big hearts live), one submits to its all-encompassing hurricane-like embrace…the ambient noises I heard walking back to the hotel from CP today, included: hawkers, beggars, blaring car horns, shrieking cicadas, birds gawking, the sizzle of cook fires, crying babies, laughing youth, curious beckoning hollers from locals. The mere act of walking down the street is as thrilling as skydiving! And beyond the chaos of its largely unmarked, traffic- and cow-clogged streets; beyond the pushy touts and scam artists trying to turn a rupee, there is true beauty here, and one of the most gracious, genuinely warm people on the planet to welcome you. India has always been a functioning anarchy to me, a symphony of pandemonium that includes mysterious and fantastical scenes out of a Bollywood movie: holy cows confounding rush hour traffic, vividly colorful saris, and an endless stream of humanity in the world’s largest democracy (there are 1,281,935,911 people in India, and I think I saw them all toady) and…it is genuinely disarming and life affirming too!

East meets West: Hard to dispute when a driver agrees on a price and takes the cheapest (aka longest) way there…his priority is money not time; whereas the tourist cares about getting there quickly…be damn the cost. That old time vs. money equation we have mastered in the West…or have we?

Onward we go…until we meet again in another place and time.

Where we going? Disorienting isn’t it?

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Day 6: Agra, India

Wednesday, 18 April 2018 – Day 6: Agra, India (27.1767° N, 78.0081° E)

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away.”

And India will do that to you…if you let it. India is a real test for our travelers, no, all travelers: daunting, breathtaking, frustrating, exhilarating haunting, sacred, dynamic, traditional, thrilling…I could go on and on…India!

And so we devour India. Ohh India, ohh India…We all know the first line…but not the last two?
Here is Rudyard Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” (1889)

Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!”


The turret gates of Mahal…


Gandhi’s gnat…a pilgrimage spot for many…


Shopping for colors…


Morning school bus…

Hawa Mahal palace in Jaipur…


Hindu’s largest temple: Akshardham Temple


Contrasts


Sacred

Art fir the wall…

Question of the day? Have selfies become the leading killer of tourists? Well, globally, selfie deaths exceed/outnumber shark deaths by 5:1. India is responsible for the vast majority of selfie related deaths 42…be careful out there folks.

Teams are still out and about…we will see everyone tomorrow night at our India leg’s 9:00PM check-in. What I understand is that most teams headed south to Agra via trian and car…but a few went to Jaipur. It will be interesting.

A sad day in our household, the 2012 & 2014 Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings will not raise the cup this year.

Good night (or is it good morning?) from India…

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Day 5: Delhi, India

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 – Day 5: Delhi, India (28.7041° N, 77.1025° E)

Swaagat and Namaste…hello from New Delhi the capital of India.

It has been a long morning/afternoon repositioning ourselves from Taiwan to India, doing a lot of airport line dancing and gaining two-and-a-half hours as we did in the process. Later earlier. And yes, I said two-and-a-half—they do things differently here in India—as any one who has been here can attest.


The regal grande dame of Delhi – The Imperial. They do colonial well here…

Old Business: We have gone over all the peer reviewed TPE Leg (Par 3) scores…(Scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses) and here are the results:
6th – The Buckeye Terriers
5th – NOLA Second Line
4th – Team Tuna
3rd – Leo & The Crab
2nd – Sonoma County Strong
1st – SLO Folks (who kicked butt doing 2 BIG Bonus scavenges) 
-congrats all on finishing the 1st leg…you now know how the game is played!

New Business:

Three-Things I Learned from the Taiwan Leg: 1) People like surprise; 2) People are really nice to other people when strangers are trusted and asked with a smile; 3) SLO Folks are on a mission. Is the 3rd time their charm?

Teams are out and about on a 2.5-day scavenger hunt here in the Triangle area of Delhi-Agra-Jaipur. It will be a mildly difficult Par 4…because after all it is India and things won’t be as efficient as urban Taipei was. Patience will be the key word here; that and water and sunblock-it is 100 out! …we are certainly not in Kansas anymore!

Teams have 5-Bonuses to choose from (Taj Mahal, Jaipur), a couple all-or-nothing Team Challenge, and more than 70 items on the India list, including…
-Taking a 4-hour Indian cooking class
-Practice morning yoga with a yogi master
-Crashing an Indian wedding
-Attending a Hindu cremation ceremony
-Visit the busy & crazy Chandi Chowk market

Indian humanity abounds…

The ten-headed Ravana Vahana…

India is not just a place. India is an altered state…for those open to it; and not all are. India is a drug that pulls you back in, again and again. I, myself, am an India junkie; because, India is equally irresistible and repugnant simultaneously. Travelers can easily develop a love/hate relationship quickly. I am in love; and when I leave India, withdrawal symptoms eventually occur. India is everything, and more, all at once. It is sensory overload. It is a visual explosion. It is organized chaos. It is humanity in all its glory, frustration, despair and hope. Life and death, poverty and wealth, sacred and secular, peace and violence, traditional and modern, heaven and hell, are all always seemingly within every sight-line. It defies logic. India is bursts of sunlight and hundreds, nee, thousands of curious gazes. India is the home of chess, pi, the decimal system, yoga, cotton clothes, meditation, quadratic equations, non-violence, zero, the world’s largest film industry, it is the largest buyer of gold in the world…and there are as many Muslims in India as in Pakistan…and of course, India is the world’s largest democracy–and my personal favorite: home to over 40-varieties of mangoes! But make no mistake, India is so very much more than just the old cliche land of turbans, monsoons, mustaches, palaces, flying toilets, mountains, blinding-colored saris, bougainvillea, lumbering cows, and marigolds…India cannot be described–it can only be experienced.

India can inspire, horrify, enlighten and astonish you; it is utterly heartbreaking from moment to moment. India is all about serendipity as the best laid plans quickly go by the wayside as you inevitably are challenged with adventurous detours, unavoidable mishaps and life unfolding chaotically right before your eyes. You cannot fight India and expect to win. All you can do, as conquers and travelers before us have done for centuries since Alexander the Great, is ultimately just embrace India. I suspect this will be a life-changing experience for some of our travelers…it always is.

But most of all, India is personal, real personal; there are no canned experiences here because each and every one of us deals with India differently. Every traveler coming to India has their own personal Darjeeling Limited experience. Some will embrace it. Some will be repulsed by it. Some will fight it.  Some will be overwhelmed by it. But each and every one of them will react to it…and differently. I have often heard it said that you either love India—or hate it. And that is indeed the full spectrum of emotions India evokes. But until you experience India personally, face-to-face, you don’t know India. And even when you have visited many times as I luckily have…you still don’t know India. That is why I keep coming back here, over a dozen times to date!

So, today and over the next few days, we will all be trying to get to know India a little better. Good luck…you’ll need it!

We will see the teams again on Thursday night at our 9:00PM leg check-in time…

I am out on a art hunt…

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Day 4: Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Monday, 16 April 2018 – Day 4: Kaohsiung, Taiwan (22.6273° N, 120.3014° E)

Whoosh…I love fast trains. Really fast trains…amazing technology and seamless efficient affordable travel from city-center to city-center. They might be on to something here…

They run at daily operating speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph)!


Ci-en Pagoda at Sun Moon Lake.


The night market last evening…


The wonders of Taroko Gorge…

Over the last two days I have seen: SLO Folks looking lost, Team Tuna drinking adult beverages, Sonoma County Strong plotting and planning, and Leo & the Crab indulging…it seems all good.

SLO Folks, not being slow.

I’ll try not to use any of those tired-ass travel clichés to describe Taipei as “the hidden gem stone in Asia”, I’ll leave that for the newspaper travel sections!—but, along with the other seven million residents in this city, a few of my favorite things to do here in Taiwan are eat, eat, and then eat some more! Did I mention the food!? 24/7 day or night, the time is always right for a few bites of what the Taiwanese call xiao chi—small eats. There’s Cantonese dim sum, hot pot, fresh seafood, congee, Shanghai noodles, sea eel rice, Beijing dumplings, sushi, snake, curls of pig intestine topped with sprigs of cilantro, chopped garlic and chili sauce…scrumdiddlyumtious one and all! Nuff said. It is one of those special eating Mecca’s of the world for travelers who subscribe to the culinary gods—and we do!
 
Seafood riches…and a line for braised pork rice…she does one thing very very well says the line.
 
Noodle dishes come in all shapes and sizes…

Taipei is a vibrant, busy city. Locals have a name for this seductive street bustle they live amidst, it is called renao. It is their urban beat, the city’s siren song of the artificial…and all too real. And it really comes out at night…high heels, business suits, neon signs, restaurants, coffee shops, the color red is ubiquitious, shopping, movement to and fro…

This event has many aspects…trusting strangers in strange lands; sight-doing (authentic, challenging and participatory scavenges)…but it also is all about Global Grazing. Face it, this event allows for a lot of things, but lingering in one place watching rice grow is not one of them. (Although that was a meditative scavenge once in the hills of Ubud on Bali a few years ago.) Using the culinary metaphor, this is a dinner of several tasty, light and oh so memorable appetizers—versus just having one main course and knowing immediately that you made the wrong choice and it is just not going to hit your sweet spot darn…you can’t return a vacation can you! Nope, this is Global Grazing…a little San Francisco, a little China, and so far a little Asia…what’s the next hors d’oeuvre coming our way?

Observation funny of the day: I was perusing a  glossy travel magazine in the lobby of the lux hotel we are staying in earlier this morning–my daily fix of travel porn really. I came across an ad for an exclusive all-inclusive island resort that will go nameless because they haven’t paid me to plug it…they charge $4,000 a night (in a country whose per capita GDP is half that–which is another obscenity really, but I regress)…it read:  “…you literally can be on that island, with the whole place to yourself, and have 400 staff taking care of you.” Just imagining myself there, alone for a second, and fending off the 400 staff members constantly asking me, “Is there anything you desire, sir?” Fun times I am sure; a circle of hell for me.

Okay…going to meet the teams for the 8:30PM Day Two check-in and let them know where we are headed to next…should be exciting! Stay tuned.

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Day 3: Taipei, Taiwan

Sunday, 15 April 2018 – Day 3: Taipei, Taiwan (25.0330° N, 121.5654° E)

Nihao…A BIG wet windy welcome from Taipei, Taiwan the Republic of China (ROC)–where everything used to be made.

Day 3 report…but what happened to Day 2 you ask? Well, we were surfing earth’s time-space continuum for thirteen plus hours aboard a China Airlines 767 from SFO, which thankfully, safely alighted us here in Taipei. Missed my wife Pamela’s birthday altogether—sorry honey, maybe next year!

We have established our home base at the Palais de Chine Hotel in Taipei, a traditional Chinese establishment centrally located near Taipei’s major logistical hubs in the heart of a rather dynamic city. It could be worse…but our travelers are smiling though a tad discombobulated…they just traveled 16-hours ahead in time to a strange culture…We should all shake off the effects of our trans-Pacific flight in no time, although I highly discourage napping today.

Teams quickly refreshed and were sent out for a moderately easy and introductory two-day urban Par 3 Scavenger Hunt in one of the safest and easiest-to-navigate public transport network that links this cosmopolitan capital with a bounty of natural and man-made wonders. High-speed rail, subways, buses…use them all!


Our 2018 tribe at San Francisco Bon Voyage dinner sans two teams…

We will see our teams again tomorrow evening (Monday night) at 8:30PM.


Teams have 5-Bonus Scavenges to choose from and 40+ regular site-doing scavenges, including:
-Making paper, making lanterns, making noodles…
-Visiting a Zen meditation center to get Zen
-Attend a Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) game
-Take a dip in a communal hot spring
-Play board games with locals

It is said that traveling is like flirting with life—go flirt folks…have fun and have a great day!

I am on a noodle scavenger hunt myself…then…


Off to fish market…

Visiting  Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall…


Locating surprises that await in the night market…

Our Taipei home away from home, the logistically located: Palais de Chine Hotel

A few knee-jerk observations from Taipei…Taiwan is not part of China. I know this because unlike China, Taiwan is a democratic country—and it shows with their President only having a 50% approval rating (No his name is not Trump, it is Tsia Ing-wen, and he is a she: Madam President Tsia Ing-wen!)…as the economy is not growing as much as her voters would like it to, but her rapid empathetic response to a recent earthquake here, helped show off her obvious skills. Taiwan is slightly bigger than Belgium and about the size of Massachusetts for our friends who don’t know a solitary geographical thing about Belgium. Taiwan is of course China’s contrarian runaway bride–and they want the renegade province (sic) back despite not ruling the island since 1895, then called Formosa.

Oddities: Taiwan has the highest density of convenience stores in the world—snacks and beverages on the go-go…Get this: Most Taiwanese don’t like the rain; and it rains often here as it was on our arrival…yet, walking in it, even in a bit of rain, is a no-no. Why? I think this has to do with pollution and fears of acid rain falling on their skin?! Maybe not… Taiwan also has one of the highest recycling rates in the world—no trash anywhere here and easy places to discard stuff…Taiwan also currently has the lowest birthrate in the world—don’t see a lot of babies here, but a lot of twenty-somethings on phones—so you never know!?…but Taiwan is home to 23.5 million folks that call this island their home—making Taiwan one of the most densely populated places in the world…Metro Taipei has 7-million residents (about the size of Houston)…Taipei is a very livable city–calm and clean with free nation-wide Wi-Fi…and one of the lowest poverty rates in the world (although homeless can be seen near the train stations) and one of the safest cities you’ll probably ever visit…the subways work well and are cheap—about .35 cents a ride…and folks here wear surgical masks not out of fear of catching someone elses infectious disease—but as a courtesy to others because they feel sick! Think about that…

So that is all news I have…till tomorrow.

 

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Day 2: Inter-Continental Bepopping

Saturday, 14 April 2018 – Day 2: On our way…

Took Magellan months…us, thirteen hours! We are here.

Happy Birthday Pamela…

The Guess the Countries we are going to visit? Pool looks sad….that’s all I am saying. Even Mickey only got one of eleven!

Any guesses? In fact, whoever can name 10 of our 11 pending countries–you already know Taiwan—and get your guesses to us here on the blog before we leave for our next destination (Tuesday), the winner (the one with the most right guesses) will win an official T-shirt!

More later….

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Day 1: San Francisco, USA

Friday, 13 April 2018 – Day 1: San Francisco, USA (37.7749° N, 122.4194° W)

Buenas tardes… misa’ il khayr…Guadn åmd…or wǔ’ān…good afternoon and hello everybody. Thank you for coming to our 2018 event blog called PostCARDS. My name is William Chalmers (please call me Bill if you comment)…I am the Event Director, the (CEO)–Chief Experience Office, and some call me the The Ringmaster. I will be the chief blog poster over the next 23-days.


The World’s Greatest Travelers™ trophy

I want to welcome you all to the greatest show on earth…the 2018 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt, the travel world championships…our 14th event!

Here are the members of our competing 2018 tribe, those hardy, adventurous and curious global travelers that have joined us for the a quick lap around the world. They are all taking a giant leap of faith…because they don’t know where or what they will be doing over the next three weeks while taking A Blind Date with the World. All they know is that they will be visiting 10+ countries spread across 4 continents. Which countries on which continents, well soon be revealed–albeit very slowly. Enjoy the ride…


Jim & Betty, back for the 4th time as NOLA Second Line


Tom & Paula–is their third time the charm?–as SLO Folks


Bill & Anahi, returning from our 2013 event, as The Buckeye Terriers


The legendary Lawyers without Borders, Rainey & Zoe


1st-time teammates, 2nd-time travelers, Greg & Marnie, ATX Traveling Bohemians


Greenhorns Rusty & Donna, Team Tuna


Newbies Gil & Kim known as Leo & the Crab


Rookie gal pals Pamela & Denise of Team Sonoma Strong

That’s the field…they all share a strong passion for travel, to see and experience the world like few ever get a chance to. They are seizing that opportunity. They have an explorers curiosity and desire to engage and learn from the other people of the world. They are positive, hopeful and willing to trust strangers in strange lands. They prefer to do stuff, to enjoy experiences and bank those memories than just acquire more stuff. They are willing to unplug from their social media for 23-days and be truly social mano-a-mano. They are willing to leave their expectations unpacked in the closet back home and thrust themselves and their egos into the world. They are ready to have fun playing a global game that will encourage them to live, be, and act in the moment for the next 23-days that will test their stamina, their travel savvy, their acquired Travel IQ and their resourcefulness.

There will be eight unique  legs in the 2018 round the world event that will take us to nine new countries: The legs will be divided into: 2 Par 1’s, 1 Par 2, 2 Par 3’s, 1 Par 4, and 2 Par 5’s . The lowest possible score for the event is 24. My guess is that won’t happen–the Sydney Sisters are not joining us this year! So, good luck to all…

We are off to dinner and then…All our bags are packed and we’re ready to go!

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