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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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Day 7: Ha Long Bay, VIET NAM

Thursday, 20 April 2017 – Day 7: Ha Long Bay, VIET NAM (20.9101° N, 107.1839° E)

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” – Isaac Newton


GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!

I always wanted to say that!
 (We miss you Robin.)

Okay…Vietnam, Hanoi. A quick catch up…We arrived about Noon yesterday local time at Noi Bai International Airport which is about a 45-minute drive outside the city. The city is busy with motorcycles (the 2 stroke kind), bicycles, and the energy of the 8 million people that live here. And to think they have survived the Chinese to the North, the French colonialist era, and that little war for “the future of the free world” against the US?!  (they aptly refered to here as the American War) 

Hanoi has grown up–read: economically developed–significantly over the last few decades, evolving from a grim, famine-ravaged place that was all but bombed “into the Stone Age,” into a sophisticated metropolis with high-rises and sensational cuisine; it may be one of the most beguiling cities in Asia with its lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant parks and quiet old world charm. It is home to such diverse architectural treasures like a 1500-year-old pagoda, colonial French homes, and head scratching modern skyscrapers. Its bustling markets, thriving and murky nightlife, and excellent food…yes, the food again…make it an attractive city. It is the nature capital and birthplace to so much of Vietnam’s traditional culture. Hanoi, more than any other city I have visited in Vietnam, is a unique fusion of old and new…and world-class art. And art is what I will be seeking out in the bustling famous Old Quarter here during my free time…well, that and my never-ending search for the perfect goi cuon–Vietnamese fresh spring rolls!

We are sure that all newbie teams are trying to find their own personal and Team balance. That balance between doing too much and wearing themselves out too early; and finding that fine line that will keep them competitively pushing forward happily and merrily. Vietnam is their real first test, as Hong Kong is a developed Western-ized city that works–Vietnam is a tad different. They will also be getting outside the city a bit, to some beautiful lazy green country sites, along with the oodles and oodles of things to see and do here in town. I will report more later today…hopefully we’ll have some videos to share soon!

One-Minute Interview with Team YOLOGoNow.

By now the 3rd day syndrome is occuring amongst our travelers….There are a few nervous twitches among those not as connected as they usually are to their info and social bubbles; their minds are detoxing from scrolling, texting and emailing incessently (aka obsessively) I promise you, you are living life to the fullest and not missing out on anything I promise you, just another day with the same stuff being reported….but you are on a real life adventure now…you should all realize that this is now your new reality for the next 19 days to come…so, let go of the daily grind, be in the here and now and enjoy!
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Before Picture:

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After Photo…

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Sydney (Team Ying) bags her first 4-legged beastie photo!

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Thinking…Pre-school graduation at the Temple of Literature…

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Deregulation…
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Ho’s here…

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SLO Folks in the wild…

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Hoam Kiem Lake

I think a few teams headed to the coast today to fulfill life long bucket list items….

Tomorrow will be an interesting day…breakfast in one country, lunch in another and a late dinner in a third—just another day of traveling fun on The Global Scavenger Hunt…

Silk lanterns in Hoi An city, Vietnam 

Finally, The Global Scavenger Hunt is not just about a great international travel adventure that ultimately crowns The World’s Greatest Travelers in the annual world travel championship, it is also about helping others help themselves. As avid passionate travelers. This year, to celebrate the 13th edition of our event, our goal is to fund schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that— empowering both girls and boys. 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.

Check-in is 10PM Thursday night in lobby…then?

The word Where in red 3D letters and question mark to ask for the location of a mystery spot or best travel destination

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Day 6: Hanoi, VIET NAM

Wednesday, 19 April 2017 – Day 6: Hanoi, VIET NAM (21.0278° N, 105.8342° E)

Good food, good eating is all about risk…Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride” – Anthony Bourdain

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The Apricot Hotel…our home in Hanoi.

The last time we were here was in 2010. Happy to be back in the foodie mecca…

We arrived here just before noon following our 2-hour, rather circuitous route, on Dragon Airlines from HKG; and will be here for two nights at the Apricot Hotel Hanoi.  We are smack dab in the middle of the old French historic district.

One Minute Interview at HKG airport with Team Ying!

Teams are now well in their groove after the completion of two legs and have their travel mojo firmly working for them now as we reach our second international destination. I was proud of how everyone was so game in Hong Kong; working hard and having fun doing what they wanted to do while playing the travel adventure game we have devised.

First off, congrats to SLO Folks and Pre-Check Yourself for both getting as high as you can (physically) in Hong Kong to 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton Building. They split the Team Challenge of 100 points each.

Old Business…the Hong Kong Par 3 leg results are in following Peer Review assessments and official scoring:
In 10th place, earning 605 points: NOLA 2nd Line, who completed 23 scavenges.
In 9th place, earning 665 points: Long Gone, who did a BIG Bonus, but then complted only 11 other scavenges.
In 8th place, earning 690 points: Flying Snitches, who completed 19 scavenges.
In 7th place, earning 740 points: Traveling Bohimians, who also completed 19 scavenges.
In 6th place, earning 920 points: Thundersnow, who compeleted 27 scavenges.
In 5th place, earning 1010 points: YoloGoNow, who also completed 27 scavenges.
In 4th place, earning 1060 points: SLO Folks, who completed 31 scavenges, but no Bonus ones.
In 3rd place, earning 1070 points: Team Ying, who completed 23 point-ladden scavenges and one Bonus.
In 2nd place, earning 1195 points: TSA Pre-Check Yourself, who completeed 27 scavenges and one Bonus
And in 1st place, congratulations to Lawyers w/o Borders who earned 1355 points completing 35 scavenges and 2 BIG Bonus pointed ones on the second Par 3 leg.

That means that after two completed legs (par 4 of 27 completed)…the overall top 3 teams are:
3. Team Ying with 10 points
2. TSA Pre-Check Yourself with 7 points
1. Lawyers w/o Borders with 4 points

Again, congrats to all and you can click here to view the updated IMG_1326

Official Leader Board.

I know some teams might be deflated and some elated with the scorces, but this is so early into the 2017 Global Scavenger Hunt, that neither should feel low or too high with themselves.

Okay…on to new business: Hanoi

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The 2017 Participants (-one) in Hanoi…

 

Teams were given their  Socialist Republic of Vietnam booklets revealing a tricky Par 3 with more than 60 optional scavenges to overwhelm them. There are some interesting “movement oriented” Bonus scavenges available to them?!

A few Hanoi area scavenges include:

-a Vietnamese cooking class.
-Attend the early morning flower market auction.
-Figuring out how to ride a water buffalo
-Hang out at Beer Corner with locals learning about what’s happening in Viet Nam.
-Finding an artist to make a famous reproduction for you.
They have 30 hours with our check-in time tomorrow night at 10:00PM (22:00) in the hotel lobby bar.
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Vietnamese faces

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ot so famous artists….

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Dog anyone? (Hide Barney!)

I want to send a BIG thank you to all of you making online donations to the GreatEscape Foundation. It is greatly appreciated. In our 17th year now, we plan on building another coed elementary school from the proceeds.

10:00PM Check-in Deadline tomorrow night, Thursday, April 20th.

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Day 5: Macau, CHINA

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 – Day 5: Macau, CHINA (22.1987° N, 113.5439° E)

“It may be the way the cookie crumbles on Madison Avenue, but in Hong Kong it’s the way the egg rolls.” – Robert Orben

Good morning to all from partly-cloudy Hong Kong…and day two…it is 9AM Tuesday here.

 Everyone should be checking in tonight (your tomorrow but our yesterday?!) at 9:00PM this evening in the hotel. We hope that no alcohol-related penalties for tardiness are assessed.

We just had breakfast: fresh pineapples, dragon fruit, lychees and Denver omelets, shu mai dumplings, miso, congee, Indian specialities, chocholate croissants, sliced ham, an array of cheeses, etc–and more than one espresso drink. It’s not like we checked into the Hotel Insomniac or anything yesterday, but dang last night was tough. Rebound jetlag at 2AM. But, experience tells me we will quickly get acclimated to Asia time; as it is much easier flying east than west on your body, and that 14-hour late night flight here helped our biological clocks along. By tomorrow morning, my guess is that everyone will be refreshed, refueled, renewed, and invigorated to start anew…and so will we!

BTW…did you know that studies show that it takes on average 24-minutes to fall asleep in a hotel, as opposed to only 15-minutes at home. Not me, 90-seconds tops last night.

So, another day here in Hong Kong….

Figuring out a strategy  may be the most important element of this competition–aside from dealing with the travel inevitabilities of:  jetlag, logistical snafus, language barriers, cultural nuances and the varagies of the not always smiling travel gods. This event is a serious competition and our travelers take the game seriously…they do want to win. Points are awarded to Teams for completing certain scavenges as requested. For example, they locate and visit a market and find an unusual fruit sold there. They might get 25-points for that. But if they must take a 2-hour local bus to a village outside the city to locate a unique temple or talk with an artist, they might get 100-points for completing that scavenge. Scavenges are usually all interactive in some way, and time, uniqueness, and degree of difficulty, along with active participation of the culture and people, are all factored into the risk-reward point system. No Team is required to do any scavenges outside the few “mandatory” eating scavenges in each destination. Their are a few team challenges where only one team earns points and a few tougher bonus scavenges too. Hope they all figure it out quickly…

…I always get nostalgic when in Hong Kong…don’t know if is the memory of The Road to Hong Kong (1962) — the last of the Hope and Crosby “Road to…” movies (and that hottie Joan Collins’ debut) — but Hong Kong was one of my first foreign destinations in the bad old days of my early travel years. A port town where anything could happen–and usually did. It has changed a lot in the last 35 years…it is simply mind-boggling to soak it all in. Money, development, hustle and bustle, mega-land reclamation projects, corprate brand homogenization, clean streets, red cabs, green Star Ferries, hazy Victoria Peak, hectic Nathan Road…Hong Kong is like no other global city in its dynamic energy–and food. The eats here are just wonderful; but you do have to know which of the 30,000+ restaurants are worthy. They also have a Michelin-stared take out restaurant–that is NOT called Nobu.

NEWS from Hong Kong: Beijing denouces installation of US THAAD anti-missile systems in South Korea. Beijing proudly opens new naval base in the strategic choke point port of Djibouti. Bejing reports first quater GDP growth at 6.9%. In an unrelated story, a Tibetan monk lights himself on fire.

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Tim Ho Wan (always good and always busy…baked bow buns!

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Macau

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Lama Island fishing village

 

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Wonders of the world…

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Only in China where the shamelessly copy everything!

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No really, everything…

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The Infamous HKIFF is in full swing…

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The view from Victoria Peak…the most expensive real estate in the world!

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The Star Ferry still reigns (although the ride is getting shorter!)

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Team Ying plotting and planning
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Traveling Snitches enjoying, err, doing an early morning scavenge

More after our 9:00PM Check-in and maybe a 4-hour notice?

Here is everyone’s blog again:

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HKG 2010 (2)

Day 4: Hong Kong, CHINA

Monday, 17 April 2017 – Day 4: Hong Kong, CHINA (22.3964° N, 114.1095° E)

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Our Hong Kong digs in Kowloon (thank you Joyce and the entire staff for making it a seamless checkin from airport to room!)

Good morning from Hong Kong…though I imagine it is evening where most of you are.

(Group photo not posted beacuse nice gal whole helped us–took a black photo? Twice–we will do a do-over tomorrow…)

I love Asia, despite being repeatedly mugged by the full-force of its tropical humidity that hits you the second you walk off the plane…

Okay, old business first: At the check-in following each of our nine global legs, we copy all team scores sheets (what they said/claim they accomplished) and then assign each team a peer review team. Peer Reviews as we have designed them, are great ways for our travelers to both share their travel war stories and photos with others, as well as prove that they actually did what they claimed/said they did, in a fun non-threatening way. It has proved to be great way to hold all the teams accountable, as well as keep the competition fair and honest. People are less likely to be cheaters when they have to answer to their peers. Of course, if any issues do arise during the peer review process, both Pamela and I, as the event’s Road Officials, are the final arbiters.

At any rate, despite being asked to only complete 8 scavenges we did assign San Francisco Peer Reviews teams as a learning curve siutuation with vets teaching the newbie teams. So, they were assigned, score sheets evaluated, and then officially scored by the Road Officials. The results of the first Par 1 San Francisco leg of the 2017 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt are in with top finishing teams completing 8 scavenges:

We have a ten place tie for first place. Yep, that even means that Jim & Betty are in first place for the first time in three years!

Congrats to all on a job well done…learn from your mistakes and competitors and know that you are all now battle-tested and ready for more after that short introductory leg.

Click here to view the Official Leader Board following the first leg. (Well, not posted because they are all in first place!)

Okay…on to new business: We are here in always exciting Hong Kong, the jewel of the Pearl River Delta, for two nights. After handing out their new booklets, the teams were sent out on the second leg of The Global Scavenger Hunt, a full two-day medium level of difficulty Par 3 (mostly due to language barriers…because everything works well here). They have over 60 optional scavenges to strategize and find their own risk-reward strategy. Again, there is no way any team could possibley do them all the optional scavenges. So, smart choices are always required as they head out into the urban, transportation saturated area. They also have the option of doing scavenges in three potential “countries”: Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.

And so, the second leg has begun. Here are a handful of Pearl River Delta area scavenges they have to figure out.

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-Team Challenge get to highest building in Hong Kong.
-Visit a local herbal pharmacist and have your qi tested.
-Practice some Tai chi with elders in Victoria Park.
-Hike the Dragon’s Back.
-Eat at a Michelin starred take out restaurant.

…and a whole lot more than that. Good luck all and have some fun…remember our 2016 event theme: When was the last time you did something for the first time? Make it true again, but remember this year’s too: Escape your bubble for 23 days and be really social.

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Busy Hong Kong…


It was fun watching the slack-jawed looks on the collective faces of our travelers as they got their new second leg book of scavenges…followed by the inevitable flourish of calculating and strategizing to figure out how the heck they were going to accomplish some of their challenging tasks…and then their was mad dash scramble, and off like banshees they went into the ether that is Hong Kong. Some were no doubt off to catch a morning train out to the New Territories, others to catch a hovercraft to Macao, and others just drifted gingerly off to the nearby Star Ferry terminal…

One Minute Interview with SLO Folks….

So, Hong Kong. It was one of the stops in French writer Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” published in 1873; and we have been here before too. HKG is exotic (still) and chock full of iconic sights and experiences the Far East has to offer: the pungent aroma of burning incense; of a gleaming high-rise metropolis lining Victoria Harbour; the financial energy of anything goes no-holds barred hyper-capitalism; a fast paced people moving to and fro 24/7. Two things you note right away: the fast tempo…it seems that a New York minute is really but a Hong Kong second; and the verticality of the former city-state, which is home to over 8,000 buildings topping fourteen floors and, get this, over 310 skyscrapers (buildings higher than five hundred feet). BTW: NYC has only 241…and not sure how many Shanghai has?

The gravitational pull of Hong Kong has always been strong to me…and I have returned many times. We look forward to the teams having a great couple days here and that they learn the Chinese meaning of the utterance “mu“–which literally means unless I am mistaken, “not yes, not no.” Careful with your binary exploratory questions folks…

Leg Two’s check-in time is 9:00PM (21:00) tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Stay tuned…

BTW: Since this was the first time we all mingled about the baggage carousel here in Hong Kong; we officially have a winner of the lightest packing participant and the BIGGEST packer participant…but no names yet. We will wait for the weight of the situation to let itself unfold…

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