Day 19: A Field Report from North Africa

Day 19: Tuesday, 30 April 2019 – Fez, Morocco (34.0181° N, 5.0078° W)

“Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Travelling the train through clear Moroccan skies…”
Marrakesh Express lyrics by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

There really is a Marrakesh Express…it runs through Casablanca en route to Fez (6.5 hours) , where we imagine many of our travelers at least started their day. Where they are now is anyone’s guess. My guess? Gibraltar or Seville…maybe a few lingerers in the smokey cafes of Tangiers.

So you know…the Road Officials left Marrakesh this morning, hoping the Dior Express flight to Lisbon with dozens of pouty-mouthed models (Was that Haim sisters  we saw in 1st Class?)…and then onward after a brunch with a former major metro art museum director to Porto, the final meeting place of the teams on Friday.

A couple videos from Marrakesh…the souk-area at night: Call to Prayer & a 360 of the Circus.

A few photos pilfered from the blogs…

A Drum Circle…

Ying 2.0 eating sheep brains…

50% of Ying 2.0 & Lazy Monday getting henna

A day spent looking at rugs…well, the mint tea was free!

The Tanneries of Fez…

Goats head soup anyone? Mick? Keith?

The Straits of Gibraltar  shipping lanes (aka the Pillars of Hercules)


SLO Folks…got to Gibraltar fast!

That said…here’s what I can report from Morocco….

First, if you have any romantic notions of Casablanca, that we last visited in 2004 (they are still looking for the credit card fraudsters)…a port city that forever recalls the black-and-white movie era…complete with  foggy steamships and fedora hats, forget it. It is a busy African city bulging at the seams. If you are thinking about author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, strolling its wide Art Deco building-lined boulevards on his way to Dakar, or Timbuktu, forget it.  No one, aside from diplomats currying favor, stops here any more…Bogart and Bergman are long gone, and Hollywood magic can only bring a place so far and any glamour Casablanca might have actually had pre World War II, wore off a long time ago. It is now a rough-edged metropolis of probably 5+ million.

The really great cities of Morocco are the so-called Imperial Cities: Rabat, Meknes, Fez and Marrakech. With Fez and Marrakesh retaining that medieval Arabic/Berber feel. Fez is my favorite because it is so other-worldly…a true test for any traveler lacking nerve with its labyrinthine-like medina Fes el-Bali is…maybe the world’s largest car-free urban zone…that is a maze of twisting alleys and crowded souks. It was a Mandatory Scavenge for our travelers…and they will be better for having seen and done it.

So, about Morocco’s political situation—now that I’m safely gone from it’s bureaucratic grasp—36 million people with an average age, like most Middle Eastern nations, a young 26.5 who earn statistics say, about $7,500 per capita…and that the unemployment rate hovers around 10%. Is it safe? Yes, we had no problems and felt no threat—it is just chaotic, hectic, crazy and many people are desperate—but not violent. What does it’s future hold? Well, I don’t believe that the only options in the Arab world are between authoritarian regimes and Islamic jihadists…maybe not; maybe there are secular, liberal, market-oriented moderates out there…seeing that a growing middle class serves their tenure… What bout the Arab Spring? It was canceled. There were no Middle East dominos…places like Tunisia, Morocco have been facing economic problems and allegations of corruption in ruling circles for decades. But Morocco and Jordan (and now Algeria?) do allow limited freedoms of expression and have so far been able to contain any real regime changing protests….Like Jordan, Morocco’s monarchy has strong support among sections of the public—BUT Morocco’s reputation was damaged after Wikileaks revealed allegations of increased corruption, in particular the royal family’s business affairs and the “appalling greed” of people close to King Mohammed VI (who in 1999 succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Hassan II)…that said, things appear stable, the economic pie is growing and they are entering the 21st Century. Whether theocratic aspects remain neutral, is another thing; but they keep a tight leash on everyone with their Chinese-like surveillance-systems and French-like local policing system.  Nuff said…

Okay…tomorrow starts the Euro report…BTW May Day tomorrow!


What would Bill do? Maybe…maybe, not!

Read More

Day 18: Just another Marrakech Monday

Day 18: Monday, 29 April 2019 – Marrakesh, Morocco (31.6295° N, 7.9811° W)

Monday in Marrakech….

“.…the lost in search of camels, castles, palm-trees, Foreign Legionnaires, brass trays and bandits…” wrote George Orwell

 

It is good to be back in the intoxicating, contradictory city of Marrakesh (aka Red City) for the first time since 1985…30+ years has passed since I once spent a Christmas here after being picked up hitch hiking at the Spanish Ceuta enclave-Moroccan border (that I had to bribe my way in, because Americans were persona non grata here days after the Reagan bombing of Gaddafi’s Tripoli tent) by three Germans hell-bent on getting to Marrakesh by sundown…it was a high fast ride through the twisting mountain passes and dirt valley roads through the even Higher Atlas Mountains.

The city evokes: mystery, glamour, romance, wannabe French elegance, wanderlust, Cold War intrigue, Arabian, African, and European influences; and captivates: moody literary-types, hippies, jet-setting partying celebrities, closeted social life personalities, and Indian Jones-types. And always, the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains are there on a clear day—which in 1985 was everyday! Founded in 1062, Marrakech was once the capital of a vast trading empire that stretched from Toledo to Senegal—Timbuktu was it’s rival; of which ancient Berber dialects report two contradictory meanings. It either means to “pass by quickly”—an old warning about desert bandits and wild animals; or, “murr akush” as in “the land of God.” Schizoid Morocco…part-Arabic, part-Gallic, part-Africa, part-ancient and part-modern, it still revels in its old cross roads ways though, as Nomadic tribes from Mauritania, Niger, Algeria & Mali, still ply their trade here to scantily-clad European housewives, paramours and college coeds tourists. Dueling chants of “balak” (get the hell out of my way) and the ritual call to prayers “Al’lah al Akbar” (God is Great) resonates throughout Morocco. Pick em.

 
Sites are many here: the classically Moroccan architecture of 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa, the splendid towering Koutoubia Mosque, the exquisitely-carved Bahia Palace…but the piece de resistance here is the adjoining Jemaa el Fna (aka Assembly of the Dead) and labyrinth-like souk. This is where the action is as the day turns into night.

Question of day? Why is King Abdul square a roundabout?

First the ancient funky cold North African medina…a maze-like area full of shoe salesmen, faux-antique sellers, juice makers, derivative art dealers, leather goods extraordinaire in every color imaginable, endless spice cones: henna (green), chili (orange), paprika (red), turmeric (yellow), etc…nowadays more motorcycles than donkeys warning you with cries of “Balak!” (watch out!) lurking through the clogged arteries of the walled old city…here you survive on luck, charm, a good sense of direction, wits and baraka (divine grace)…caveat emptor indeed as our cabinet of curiosities expands. 


Sydney Sisters missed…overlooking the circus.

Then as the sunset call to prayer wails, the main stage of Moroccan halqa (street theatre) begins taking shape in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el Fna. Once a medieval trading square where public executions took place (hence the Assembly of the Dead), nowadays it begins filling with honest workers plying their tourist trade: jellaba-clad Moroccan Berbers, Tuareg nomads, West African traders, veiled women, henna artists, donkeys, camels, tooth pullers, magicians, henna artists, storytellers, conjurers, acrobats, snake-charmers, fire-eaters, Gnaoua musicians, hashish salesmen, clang castanets, metal qarqaba (castanets), duff (hand drums) and twanging three-stringed ginbri (bass)…all surrounded by scores of chefs firing up makeshift grills with billowing exotically toxic smells and impromptu picnic areas…stirring vats of steaming snails, goats head soup, and sizzling kebobs…there is nowhere quite like Djemma el-Fnaa. Nowhere. The circus performs nightly….

 

We will let the days photos take it from here…
 

 

 

 
The things people do for points…love the camel butt crack!

  
Think of the smells…since 1562!

Hmmm: Interesting!? Marrakech is one the least re-visited cities by tourists—which proves one of my iron law of travel truism: Every place is worth at least one visit, even if it’s just to remind yourself that you never need to go back. Check Bucket List Box here…

Okay, off to…see you tomorrow from somewhere else.

Read More

Day 16: An Athens Lazy Saturday

Day 16: Saturday, 27 April 2019 – Athens, Greece (37.9838° N, 23.7275° E)

Good Morning…well, the Road Officials dispatched the teams yesterday afternoon upon arrival from Jordan with Scavenger Hunt Booklets, Athens maps and hotel Grand Hyatt Athens vouchers in hand. We opted to refresh ourselves for a quick 30 hours at the sea closer to the  airport before our last crazy week.

Some look one way, some the other…

Athens past….


Greece isn’t all about the food…a little history here too!

Missing our pooch Barney today, for some reason?

Threw a fun On-the-Go Team Challenge at folks today in Athens: Gave a photo of a street and said first team to find the Chalmers Family nearby earned 76 points…amazed 4 teams found us. But who was first?

Ying 2.0 found us…

Lazy Monday found us…

Order & Chaos found us…

SLO Folks found us too…

FYI…enjoy some of our 2019 team blogs, and social media posts:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  
Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

We touch base later from our North African destination of Marrakesh!

Read More

Day 13: Looking for Indiana Jones…

Day 13: Wednesday, 24 April 2019 – Petra, Jordan (30.3285° N, 35.4444° E)

Petra…what does that word conjure in you? The exotic destination? An immovable object? Me, well thinking of home, my daughter’s name is Petra. And today, her namesake is everywhere. It subconsciously gnaws at me…a parent away from one of their children.  “I don’t know what’s worse: suffering from homesickness when traveling or from wanderlust when not?” – William D. Chalmers, circa 1989

And here we are wandering around Jordan today.


Better half of Order & Chaos on beastie


What are odds teams would all be at same truck stop at same time?

.
…we are all doing our part.


World’s smallest hotel…oh yes, a crusader castle atop that hill too.

And good night from the Dead Sea with Palestine/Israel in the background.

Read More

Day 11: The Middle East Pivot

Day 11: Monday, 22 April 2019 – Abu Dhabi, UAE (24.4539° N, 54.3773° E)

Ahlan wa sahlan…Welcome to the consumer wonderland known as Abu Dhabi; the place were trophy building developments occur before the actual need for them—if you build it they will come philosophy. Cool when you have deep oil-rev pockets and only 12% of population are people that actually matter. But I regress… We were last here officially in 2015, although we know all the nooks and crannies of the AUH international airport…as it has served for years as our useful Middle Eastern pivot for us either heading to Europe, Africa or South Asia.

Today we are holed up for two nights at the wonderful St. Regis Abu Dhabi beachside of the Persian Gulf.


The bus they sent to transfer 23 passengers from the airport…seems they forgot about where to put our luggage!

This mornings opulent breakfast salved everyone from an arduous day yesterday and everyone is ready to go…

Quick Thought…Was thinking…ten places that didn’t exist not so many years ago…let’s say since the 70’s…Incheon, South Korea, an airport city of 3million+…every major development in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar…Brasilia, Brazil…and then thinking what will surive us in 3000 years…only things in the dry deserts…so Vegas, Dubai, etc…

Old Business:  The Road Officials have had time to go over all the peer reviewed hot & nasty 8-Hour Layover Challenge Leg (Par 1) in Bangkok scores…

7th Place = Transformed Travel Goddesses with 145 points

6th Place = SLO Folks with 235 points

Three-way tie for 3rd Place = Team Ying 2.0, The Fillies & Order & Chaos with 265 points each

Tie for 1st Place = Lawyers without Borders & Lazy Monday (who lost their book before leaving the airport…but recovered in time to find a real live elephant) with 270 points each

Congrats all on finishing the fourth leg…

Overall leaders after four completed legs (par 11 of 25 completed)…the overall top 3 teams on the 2019 – Leader Board 2 are:

The Elephant Shot that won the Team Challenge (again by Lazy Mondays…beginning to think it’s their thing.)

Three-Things I Learned from the RGN & BKK Legs: More is not our goal or our spirit…Quality matters over quantity…teams need to slow down and enjoy the experiences (between themselves and the places they are visiting), learn from the people the meet about what they are seeing and doing; experiences matter more than points. All good life lessons. We have 5 legs still worth 15 Par…so this is still anyone’s event to win.

Having fun with the Global Literacy Test…Question 4 a simple one: What is the average life expectancy of the world today?
A – 50 Years
B – 60 Years
C – 70 Years (No cheating…answer below)

New Business: Having arrived last night after a three country sprint from Yangon and Bangkok, we are really only in operation here for one full day, today. So we have put together a relatively easy nouveau riche Middle East urban adventure Par 2…with our check-in deadline tonight at 10:00 pm here in the hotel lobby.

5 Sample Abu Dhabi Scavenges:
-Ride the world’s fastest rollercoaster…
-Visit the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and handle one…
-Kayak the mangroves of Abu Dhabi…
Visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi and find the world’s most expensive painting… 
Visit a Western fast food establishment (Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.), but eat something not on the normal American menu…

One Minute Interview with Barbara & Sally of The Fillies.

FYI…enjoy some of our 2019 team blogs, and social media posts:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  
Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –


An eerily beautiful phenomena of winter is the morning fog playing with the buildings


The amazing, Taj-like,  Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


They put gold leaf in coffees here…for a price.


Time for lunch…

Again…we try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt. Thank you…shukran jazilann too!

The answer to question 4 of our Global Literacy is C – 70 years! There has been amazing progress in this regard as infant deaths are drastically reduced. Only 2 of our travelers answered correctly…Chimps now up 4-0!

See you all tonight at our 10:00PM Deadline Checkin…

Read More

Day 10: A Sultry Layover Challenge in Bangkok

Day 10: Sunday, 21 April 2019 – Bangkok, Thailand (13.7563° N, 100.5018° E)

You say layover, I say happy hour!” – William D. Chalmers, circa 1988

Sawasdee—Welcome to Thailand! BTW…Happy Easter everyone…

We took a rare backtrack today, because oddly, we had to fly slightly east to further our westward global trajectory…Myanmar is still hard to get into and out of with limited connections to mostly its regional neighbors…especially Bangkok and Singapore. Today we chose Bangkok as a more interesting layover in our exit strategy. Thus we a have fun 8-Hour Layover Challenge…but I am getting ahead of myself.

Old News First: We have gone over all the peer reviewed challenges of the Myanmar Leg (Par 5) scores…with Team Order & Chaos receiving a prorated average of 613 points that was the average score of the top 5 teams first 24 hours in Myanmar scores (throwing out the high and low) through no fault of their own due to not being allowed entry into Myanmar on a visas technicality. This was only fair.

#7 – The FILLIES did 32 scavenges in Yangon, Bagan & Mandalay (but elected to fly between the latter) earning 395 points after hefty penalty…but having a ball with no regrets.

#6 – Transformed Travel Goddesses did 20 scavenges in Yangon & Bagan earning 770 points

#5 – Order & Chaos in their abbreviated scavenging did 20 scavenges and after the prorated points earned 1,668 points.

#4 – Team Ying 2.0 were all over the place, from Yangon to Bagan and Mandalay…earning 1,935

#3 – Lazy Monday did 47 scavenges (the most in Yangon) along with some in Mandalay earning themselves 1,945 points (including winning the 4-Legged Beastie Challenge again!)

#2 – SLO Folks did 37 scavenges in Yangon, Bagan & the point rich area of Inle Lake for 2,055 points

#1 – Lawyers without Border completed 52 scavenges in Yangon, Bagan & Inle earning themselves 2,745 points

That said, the new overall leaders after three completed legs (par 9 of 25 completed) are:

3rd Place = Team Ying 2.0 @ 30
2nd Place = Lazy Mondays @ 19
1st Place = Lawyers without Borders @ 12

Three Things I Learned from the Myanmar Leg: Having a sound travel strategy is key and travel IQ still matters more than money; some teams are still moving way too fast—he who runs can still not walk with dignity; Myanmar was amazing—it always is. Oh, and Emory’s blog is too funny!

One-Minute Interview with Team NEXUS.

Onward…now about this Par 1 urban 8-Hour Layover Challenge!

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.


5-Sample Bangkok Scavenges:
-pay homage to the Grand Palace…
-get a cool foot massage…
-utilize four different modes of public transportation…
-eat at one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite street food carts…
Team Challenge: Obtain a photo of a live elephant…

Do you stay at the airport trapped like a tourist in transit in the mall-like terminal? No you don’t
Do you find a floor, a quiet corner or bench, and attempt to catch a few zzzz’s. No you don’t…
Do you zone out talking with other travelers drinking beer watching CNN? No you don’t
Do you get an expensive spa treatment at the airport spa? No you don’t
Do you go to the airport fitness area or prayer room to work on your cardio, abs or soul? No you don’t
Do you hang out in a premium lounge and answer e-mails, play computer solitaire, or post a new Instagram photo? No you don’t…
Do you eat some notoriously bad generic airport food? No you don’t…
Do you go guilt shopping for duty-free? No you don’t…

-You escape the airport albeit for a short time with only one rule…don’t miss your flight!
…you embrace this short window of opportunity
…you take a mini-excursion…explore a neighborhood…see something you’ve always wanted to see
…you stretch your legs in an exotic location
…you go out and see and do as much as possible
…you maximize your exposure to a new place, a new culture
…you engage with real human beings
…you have a good time
…take a whirlwind hit n’ run no-time-to-waste tour
…but the clock is ticking— you have to be time sensitive
…you won’t turn into a pumpkin—but you will miss your flight!
…so efficiency matters…you have to know when to walk away—it’s just not working out
…forget lines and mass tourism spots
…our layover challenges test their Travel IQ…their situational awareness…
…but they have to be careful, be smart
…remember the vagaries of local logistics
…and the airport boogaloo awaiting them: check-in, security, customs & immigration queues…
Remember: don’t miss your flight!

 

On the other hand, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist George Stigler—that if you’ve never missed a flight, you’ve probably spent way too much time in airports!

Here’s math professor Jordan Ellenberg getting his geek on for you with his three options:

“Option 1: arrive two hours before flight, miss flight two percent of the time
Option 2: arrive one and a half hours before flight, miss flight five percent of the time
Option 3: arrive one hour before flight, miss flight fifteen percent of the time

Using util values for time, you can figure out which scenario affords you the most positive utility. In the first scenario, two hours of your time equals -2 utils (negative because it’s a loss to be wasting time), but the chance of missing the flight two percent of the time has to be accounted for as well (-6 utils times the two percent chance of that happening). When the two are added together, the utility for the first scenario lands at -2.12 utils. For option two, your utility ends up being -1.8 (-1.5 utils plus -6 times five percent) and for option three, your utility is -1.9 utils. So from a mathematical standpoint, your best bet would be to arrive one and a half hours before your flight.” (Smithsonian, 23 June 2014)


Okay, that said…we are now en route to Abu Dhabi…martinis at midnight!

Read More

Day 9: The Plains of Bagan

Day 9: Saturday, 20 April 2018 – Bagan, Myanmar (21.1717° N, 96.8585° E)

Good evening, or is it good morning…depends on your time zone…our’s is Good Evening.

Here’s all the news fit to print…by me not the New York Times, with my four fingers.

Bagan is Myanmar’s most visited spot. Marco Polo once called it the gilded city for its surfeit of Buddhist temples and pagodas. Today, many thousands still remain—2,200 at last census—and some real keepers too; a sunrise balloon ride over them is unforgettable. It’s a place where horse carriages, dusty bike paths, and building things just cause it makes you feel good still exist.

   

Question #3 of our Pre-Event Global Literacy Test:  Q) In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has…
A – Almost doubled
B – Remained more or less the same
C – Almost halved? (Answer below…no cheating what do you think?)
  
A few of the faces we’ve seen today…

Sunset fishing @ Inle Lake…

So, all the teams eventually arrived this evening for our 6:00PM Deadline check-in with beautific smiles on their faces…they have all seen and done a lot over the past three and half days. More than they thought they world. Myanmar is an amazing place. Everyone is safe and accounted for. After a quick change of clothes…we all met again for a fun hospitality dinner at Gekko…Japanese for all our friends!

All the teams in sorta action from somewhere?

 

 

 

When we returned to the hotel, teams were given their 4-Hour Notice…but in this case, it is a 8-Hour Notice…tomorrow will be an interesting travel day as we transition from here to there…breakfast in one country, lunch in another and cocktails in a third! Yep, only on The Global Scavenger Hunt can you do that kind of day. Stay tuned…

Question #3 answer is: C – Almost halved…and just 3 of our travelers answered correctly (Chimps now winning 3-0!)

Good till we touch base again tomorrow from Thailand.

Read More

Day 7: The Temple of Temples

Day 7: Thursday, 18 April 2018 – Yangon, Myanmar (16.8661° N, 96.1951° E)

“This is what’s priceless about travel: It allows us to fill in the blanks, put names to faces, and make bits and pieces of the wide world, now and forever, part of our own worlds. And through it, we gain a better understanding of everything from the front-page news to our next-door neighbors.”Thomas Swick (travel writer)

Day Two in Myanmar…might be easier today considering life is back to normal following a week of serious holiday making…

My Early Morning Question of the Day (and I have a lot today):  What is it about shoes…every temple makes you take them off…do shoes impede spiritual progress?

Good Morning…

I love getting up before dawn refreshed and full of hope, anything seems possible; it seems to me that disappointment rarely ever shows its ugly face until before noon. Mornings when traveling is mine, all mine…Now, my family…well…it’s fifty-fifty!

So…yesterday we confronted, what I have referred to in years past as  the 3rd Day Syndrome…a little drama that plays itself out every year. It is normal for travelers with heightened emotions, jet lag, place lag, culture shock to go through…and it especially occurs on the 3rd day of our event when the results of the first international leg are revealed. Note that no drama occurs before the results are made public, only after!? So, I offer you my perspective on the sometimes dreaded 3rd Day Syndrome in a little YouTube video here.

To visit or not to visit? That is another question for us today here in Myanmar.  Should we even be in this country considering it’s repressive ways? Here is what I told our travelers yesterday, some of whom brought up the issue:

“Another aspect of this leg  is important for us to chat about…we want you all to know that you are serving as goodwill ambassadors here…on an informal diplomatic mission…a fact-finding operation. We want you to dare to understand! …Frankly, Myanmar is one of the most complicated and captivating destinations you’ll ever visit…with an equally spectacularly rich culture and amazingly beautiful people… BUT, and it is a big BUT… there can be no doubt that Myanmar, just emerging from decades in isolation…suffers tremendous problems… make no mistake about it, it is a troubled country with great suffering…and certainly we are aware of the human rights atrocities (yes, atrocities!) taking place here in the name of religion, nationalism and ethnicities…we are not tone-deaf! But we want you to get past the “official story” you may have heard…to experience it for yourself…to meet and engage as many locals as possible…to bear witness for yourself what’s really going on here…to play journalist…to be your own reporter and ask a lot of questions–difficult questions–and then to listen carefully and with great respect to what is said to you…to learn from what you have heard in order to gain an honest perspective…of course please offer support when appropriate. We have no illusions…there can be no doubt that parachuting into a place for a short time never allows one to mirabile dictu, to acquire instant expertise…that of course takes time…but we fundamentally believe that you can acquire a more accurate idea as to what local perceptions, and maybe even what the real facts on the ground here are…by seeing it with your own two eyes and asking questions…I want you to be able to say: Here’s what I found upon arrival from my own personal experience in Myanmar…to make your own decisions.” Nuff said…

More questions…Does a place become holy because holy people come there, or do holy people come there because the place is holy?

People always ask me, no really, they do because I am considered (wrongly) to be an expert on most things travel related especially obscure cultural nuances that Harvard PhD’s specialize in…What’s the difference between a pagoda, a temple and a stupa? I was confused once too by this distinction, but here’s what I know: A pagoda is a generic term for a stupa or a temple. Stupas are pagodas that you can go around but you generally can’t go into—Shwedagon Pagoda (below) is a good example of a stupa—the biggest baddest one in the world IMHO. Temples are pagodas that you can go inside and typically they have four entrances and exits located north, south, east and west with a Buddha awaiting you at each entrance.

Was interesting how few of our travelers had been here to Myanmar…it reminds me that we know more about our solar system than our oceans and that more people (530) have traveled to outer space than have have traveled to all countries (180)!

FYI…Although we have no idea where they get the time (or energy?); some of our 2019 teams are blogging, and open to social media interactions:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –


We try not to hit our readers/followers over the head about The Global Scavenger Hunt’s cause-related, charitable purposes, but this annual event raises funds for GreatEscape Foundation’s twin goals: building co-ed elementary schools in low & middle income nations, and distributing interest-free no-fee micro-loans to budding global entrepreneurs (mostly mothers). Both our methods of helping others help themselves are designed to facilitate their great escape from the cycle of poverty—one person at a time! Happily, we have improved the lives of thousands: building a dozen schools, a mid-wife training facility, and funding thousands of mothers wanting to make a better life for their families.

So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week in order to make a small secure PayPal GreatEscape Foundation donation during the course of the 2019 event, we know a lot of kids needing a basic education that would thank you. And we’ll thank you too…with a tax receipt.

Thank you, or should I say ce-zu-beh!

Read More

Day 5: The Mekong Delta

Day 5: Tuesday, 16 April 2019 – Cần Thơ (Mekong Delta), Viet Nam – 10.0634° N, 105.5943° E

Good afternoon from a special place…the Mekong Delta. Hard to imagine, difficult to describe, amazing in real life. I’ll try to refrain from using any of those tired-ass travel clichés to describe Viet Nam as “the hidden gem stone in Asia”…I’ll leave that for the other same-old, same-old travel bloggers. But within my POV I see what seems like chaos, beauty, green,  exotic, a bustling river life…I see  tradition. The way it is and always has been. Buying, selling, eating, laughing, coming and going. Young and old going about their daily routines. It is just another weekday afternoon after a long holiday weekend for them. For us, it is time out of mind; a mental place lag between our world and theirs. So for us it is unique, special, exotic, thrilling, and spectacularly appealing. For them it is 2:17pm on Tuesday.

Make things with rice…


River life…

169 km from HCM City to Cai Rang floating market…

Back in HCM City proper we have a different POV:


Lazy Monday enjoy a rooftop breakfast @ hotel

 
Art & History

 
The Old Guard & the new reality…


Crab, anyway you like it!


This is not your father’s Vietnam…


Did you have a sandwich today? Us too, #10!

Observation…growing like China circa 2007…double digit prosperity.

Question 2 of our Pre-Event Global Literacy Chimpanzee Test: Where does the majority of the world’s population live?
A – Low-income countries?
B – Middle-income countries?
C – High-income countries?
Answer below…no cheating!

FYI…Although we have no idea where they get the time (or energy); some of our 2019 teams are blogging, and open to social media interactions:
Lawyers without Borders (blog) –
Order & Chaos (blog) –
Transformed Goddesses (blog) FB & Instagram links –
MargoPolos –  Twitter fed – Margo’s (blog) Karen’s (blog)
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –
Team Ying 2.0 (blog) –

The answer is B – Middle-income countries; and only 3 of our test-takers got that correct—again the monkeys guessed better than they answered! The moral of the story is that the global middle class is expanding by leaps and bounds—hence over-tourism—but great for humanity.

And so to close the loop on the day, we met all the travelers at 8:30PM for a beverage on the hotel’s rooftop bar and will set sail tomorrow in the AM for our next destination and close the books on our Par 3 Vietnam leg.

Of course, we like many others who love the city of Paris are sadden by the sudden blaze at Notre Dame…but we know the people and government of France will rebuild ASAP.

So good night from HCM City until we meet again…in Myanmar!

Read More

Day 3: Inter-Continental Bebopping

Day 3: Sunday, 14 April 2019 – Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean

Happy Birthday to Pamela: my accomplice in this annual adventure, the mother of my son, my partner in life, my editor, my therapist, my best friend, my lover, and my wife.

Pamela sadly get’s robbed frequently of elaborate birthday festivities as her big day’s date usually coincides with the beginning of our annual event’s dates. Sure, I could easily say that I take her around the world each year for her birthday! But frankly, this is work folks–believe it or not, no really. So, she misses a full day devoted to her.

Like today, she gets about 3.75-hours in economy on a redeye  777 flight across the Pacific to celebrate until we cross the International Date Line (IDL) and then puff, her birthday is over before it’s even acknowledged.

Well, Happy Birthday Pamela! We all appreciate you and love you! (Don’t we? Hint, Hint.)

We land in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam @ 9:45am Monday morning…to be continued.

BTW: The normal seafaring routine for novices crossing the imaginary International Date Line (it is a line of convenience drawn by the British Admiralty in 1921 and is really a zig-zagging line–around Kiribati–with no real purpose save to lose yourself a day (aka the Circumnavigators Paradox) as we are now–sorry Pamela!–that I like to refer to simply as: a line where yesterday and tomorrow come together today!) for the first time is to have their heads shaved, their bodies painted, and eggs cracked over their head in celebration…I saw none of that onboard our flight sadly; just a lot of sleepy snoozers and anxious boozers. What has become of tradition? We take so much for granted…

Almost there…so says the pilot…and I hope I arrive not looking as dried out as a piece of beef jerky!

BTW…here is one person’s inflight playlist….gets me through the turbo:
Eugina (Michael Woods Remix) by Salt Tank 8:19
Touch Me 8:34 by Rui Da Silva-Cassandra Fox
Angels 2:52 by The XX
Amelia 7:28 by Herbie Hancock-Luciana Souza
Hello Earth 6:13 by Kate Bush
Fly 4:39 by Ludovico Einaudi Divenire
Stella del Mattino 2:31 by Ludovico Einaudi
The Dark Bank of Clouds 3:11 by Ludovico Einaudi
Departure 3:53 by CFCF
Nuvole bianche 5:58 by Ludovico Einaudi
Written on the Sky 1:40 by Max Richter
So Numb 4:12 by R.E.M.
Spies 5:19 by Coldplay
Heaven 4:09 by k.d. lang
Caravan 6:23 by Opium Moon
Sorta Fairytale 4:02 by Tori Amos
Electra 6:12 by Airstream
Coast of Malabar 6:01 by Ry Cooder-The Chieftains
Weightless 8:00 by Marconi Union
Somewhere Over the Rainbow 5:01 by Eva Cassidy
Beautiful Ghost / Introduction to Songs of Experience 3:52 by  U2

Till we meet again in Saigon!

Read More