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

Tie for 4th Place between = Team Ying 2.0 and Order & Chaos with 265 points

3rd Place = Lazy Mondays – who lost their book before leaving the airport…but recovered in time to find a real live elephant and earn 270 points

2nd place = The FILLIES who had a ball earning 290 points

1st Place = Lawyers without Borders with 310 points

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…

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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!

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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.

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Day 8: On The Road to Mandalay

Day 8: Friday, 19 April 2018 – Mandalay, Myanmar (21.9588° N, 96.0891° E)

Come you back to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay: Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay? On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin’-fishes play, An’the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!” – Rudyard Kipling


Surreal to think that we all met just a week ago…so much has happened…so many friendships made…so many sites seen and done…Vancouver, Saigon and today from Myanmar. A week goes by in a flash when traveling. You are just so much in the moment. Being. And with two weeks still to go before we drop anchor in New York City, we have a lot in front of us still…

Random thoughts of the day as the teams continue doing their site-doing scavenges all over Myanmar on Day 3. It’s like this…we see them a lot, then not at all for days on end.

Observation: Hard to dispute when a driver agrees on a price and takes the cheapest way their…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?


From Inle Lake…a fire a little too close for us Californians…a controlled burn.

Field notes from the war between independent travelers and mass tourism. Mass tourism is winning, badly, making travel itself almost less than ethical it seems at times…full planes, airport malls, the photo ops, the selfies, the water bottles, the locust-like cruise ships passengers dropped into a place, the homogenization of food…sometimes I feel like we‘re visiting a zoo and all the locals are our visuals. Reading the hotel supplied list of Minister of Hotels & Tourism “Do’s & Don’ts for Tourists”…including: don’t take photos of people without asking; wear decent clothes; don’t expose your feet to the Buddha; don’t touch anyone’s head; learn basic words; no PDA’s; don’t cajole prayers; use sustainable traditional transportation; don’t use black market money changers  who give you a better rate; do not go where you are asked not to go;….yea, most tourists are listening. How do we exit this?


The hi-ways, by-ways & water-ways…


The amazing Kakku Pagodas…only 2,500 of them!

Was thinking how Orwell would do in the age of Twitter and thought about a few people from the past that I wished had a Twitter account: Dorothy Parker (can you imagine?), George Carlin, Ann Richards, Oscar Wilde, Gore Vidal, Lord Byron, Ambrose Bierce, Jesus (WTF Would he think they’ve done to his message of: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, having compassion for the poor, loving thy enemies…and  of course His Gospel of Prosperity!?)

Hope this isn’t the new leader board?

So, our check-in deadline is 6:00PM tomorrow (Saturday) in the lobby of our Sule Shangri-La Hotel. It is to be followed by a letting-off-some-steam hospitality event…followed eventually by a 4-Hour Notice to somewhere else…stay tuned. Wishing everyone luck and skill getting back to Yangon from Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake…you can do it!

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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!

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Day 6: I Dream of Mandalay…

Day 6: Wednesday, 17 April 2019 – Yangon, Myanmar (aka Burma) (16.8661° N, 96.1951° E)

If you smile at me, I will understand. Cause that is something everybody everywhere does in the same language.” – Wooden Ships lyrics from Crosby, Stills & Nash

Mingalar ba…Welcome to Myanmar!

We have successfully transitioned from Viet Nam to Myanmar on an early morning flight. Well, for the most part.

What do they say about foolish consistency? We ran into a bout of issues transitioning today from SGN to RGN via Vietnam Airlines. First, one agent wanted to know our onward flight from RGN four days from now? Hard to say why (Maybe the result of the old 60’s Hippies Rule when they didn’t want young people coming into their country without an onward tickets?), but it caught fire with the other agents as our group started checking in…hard to keep secrets in this world anymore and totally arbitrary as some teams just waltzed through without it being a concern. Next came a typo in an approved visa from Myanmar: all the data was correct save one passport date—that had already been approved by the Myanmar government. Not good enough for Vietnam Airlines though…the team (Order & Chaos) were kindly requested to apply online for another valid visa again…problem is that Immigration office closed until after the big holiday—tomorrow. Try as we might, they did not allow them to board the flight…they have since moved along to Bangkok and are booked on a flight to Yangon tomorrow assuming their visa comes through? Never a dull moment.

Anyway…We arrive at an auspicious time too…the last day of a loonnnng weekend celebration, the New Year “Thingyan Water Festival” holiday in Myanmar (13-17 April 2019), in which pretty much everything is closed…

Quick Observation: Oh, oh that smell…the olfactory memories we have: temple incense, cow dung, piss, cut flowers, traffic exhaust, baking bread, BO, curries… “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”  (Rudyard Kipling) indeed, the list grows…vehicle exhaust, sewage, cooking meat, sweating bodies, urine, rain in the air, jet fuel, fermenting fruit…a cacophony of odors that plays on the mind.

We have birthdays…today is Barbara (The FILLIES) and tomorrow because we won’t see them is Eric’s (Lazy Mondays)…Happy Birthday folks…enjoy your gifts of extraordinary experiences!

Old News: We have gone over all the peer reviewed SGN Leg (Par 3) scores; checked scavenges completed & strategic Bonuses. And here’s what happened:
9th – with 16 completed scavenges earning 515 points – Team NEXUS
8th – Transformed Goddesses completed 1 bonus and 13 scavenges for 590 points
7th – SLO Folks doing 1 Bonus and 21 scavenges for 760 points
6th – Retired Traveling Chicks completed 1 Bonus and 19 scavenges for 785 points
4th – The Fillies who completed 19 scavenges for 805 points
4th – Order & Chaos who completed 25 scavenges for 805 points
3rd – Team Ying 2.0…1 Bonus & 19 scavenges for 865 points
2nd – Lawyers without Borders who completed 1 bonus and 24 scavenges for 1050 points
1st – and completing 1 Bonus and 26 scavenges in all (plus the Team Challenge) Lazy Monday with 1070 points
Congrats to all on finishing the second leg…

The photo that won them a 1st place finish with 55 points in SGN leg…fun and creative…and accurate.
 
It’s a live…it’s bigger than he…it has 4 legs…it looks like a beast too!

Three-Things I Learned from the short Viet Nam Leg: Teams should find their sweet spot ASAP; It was hot; the mirror of the competition is real.

The New News: So, here we go, moving on to the third of nine legs making up the 2019 world travel championship event. And it will be doozy; a four-day difficult Par 5 country-wide four-day leg that will have teams not only dealing with Yangon scavenges, but also scavenges in Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake too–all some distance away. It will be a difficult leg because there are a lot of options and movement involved–and of course some strategic choices to consider. They are not in Kansas anymore! Teams will also have options as to where they will be staying a night while they set out to discover  this amazing country. Today is Wednesday morning and we see our Teams again come Saturday at our 6:00pm check-in deadline. (Oh yea…the Heat Index here is 114 degrees! A dry heat when it’s not so wet out…)

5-Sample Myanmar Scavenges:
-take a pilgrimage to the Golden Rock pagoda…
-take the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River Express between Mandalay and the Bagan Plains…
-visit a zen meditation center to learn from a master…
-smoke a big fatty, a cheroot that is…
Team Challenge: How high can you get, vertically-speaking, in Myanmar…

And today the real travel test will begin. Our teams collective travel savvy and travel IQ will be tested here in Myanmar… in this daunting, breathtaking, frustrating, exhilarating haunting, sacred, dynamic, traditional, thrilling, rapidly changing (and I could go on and on) destination! It will be an interesting four days. Have fun and be safe folks.

SLO Folks working on their ground invasion strategy!

An Instant Observation: Coming from the scooter capital of the world to here is jarring because motorbikes are outlawed, which means you’re in a car, a bus, or on foot. Crazy visuals….

It is said that: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away.” And Myanmar will do that to you…if you let it.

Video of the day? Watch this on YouTube.

Stay tuned…the 3rd Day Syndrome is wreaking havoc on us…

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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!

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Day 4: Good Morning Viet Nam!

Day 4: Monday, 15 April 2019 – Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam (10.8231° N, 106.6297° E)

We have arrived in south Viet Nam quickly establishing our home base the grande dame of old Saigon at the French Colonial Hotel Majestic situated right along Saigon River. With only 44-rooms, I consider it a boutique establishment, albeit an old one; and for the next two nights it is our home. As such, we are located in the heart of a rather dynamic city. It could be worse…I am certain we will shake off the effects of our trans-Pacific flight in no time I reckon.

By the way, again for those that know me, I am still in awe crossing oceans; thinking how lucky we are to be able to do so without even giving it a second thought and arriving in our desired destinations happily without incident–and it happens (aka commercial aircraft lands) over 110,000 a day worldwide! Think about that…every nine days there are a million flights globally.

Old News: We went over all the teams Vancouver Test Run score sheets and talked about what they could tweak and answered any lingering questions about how the game is played…everyone is all ready for a real international challenge.  We also met up with last years champs SLO Folks in our plane change city of Taipei and now we have all ten teams ready to go.

The official standing score sheet looks like a 9-way tie for 1st with 1 each for all the teams that competed on the Par 1 first leg, with the defending champs taking a knee and getting handicapped at a 7. My guess is that won’t last long…

Things I Learned from the short YVR Par 1 Leg: …we have some serious competitors and great people. It was a pleasure getting to know everyone better over the first few days and during our less than arduous transition here 12,000 kilometers from Canada.

So, we turn the page to our brief visit here in HCM City (aka Saigon). Teams will be conducting a quick two-day moderately easy Par 3 regional scavenger hunt starting on the final day of a long holiday weekend here.


5 Sample Ho Chi Minh City Area Scavenges:
-Take a market to table Vietnamese cooking class…
-Attend the early morning Mekong River  floating market…
Team Challenge: Be the first team to get a photo of a team member atop a four-legged beast …
-Hang out at Beer Corner with locals learning about what’s happening in Viet Nam…
-Find an artist to make a famous reproduction for you…

One-Minute Interview with SLO FOLKS Team: (on our YouTube Channel)

The 2019 Complete Set….of competitors!

Teams are off. No phone use. No teaming up. No nets. We will see them again tomorrow night at 8:30pm luxuriating atop the Hotel Majestic’s sublime rooftop bar at our official leg ending check-in deadline. Be safe and have fun…

Now…This event has many aspects…trusting strangers in strange lands; site-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. Using the culinary metaphor, this is a dinner of several tasty, light and oh so memorable—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 Vancouver, and so far a little Asia…what’s the next hor doéuvre coming our way?

BTW…I just realized that I am one of just 2.4 million people worldwide who created and posted on a blog post today. I feel so special!

Okay, enjoy you day…

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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!

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Day 2: A Canadian Test Run


Day 2
: Saturday, 13 April 2019 – Vancouver, Canada (49.2827° N, 123.1207° W)

The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff.” – Britney Spears

Good morning and welcome to Vancouver. We have a few mild hangovers from all the cheer at last nights gala Bon Voyage Party at nearby The Coast Restaurant where towers of seafood awaited us. A fun time was had by all…and all the Teams are chomping at the bit, excited to begin their adventure! Us too…

Our YVR home away from homeFairmont Hotel Vancouver

That said, we will be conducting a test run, a trial and error one-day event here in Vancouver (Canada’s 3rd largest city after Toronto & Montreal)–and perennially ranked among of the world’s most livable cities (along with: Vienna, Melbourne, Osaka, Auckland, Munich and Zurich). It is an area we used to call home. This relative calm before the international storm that awaits the Teams aboard will acclimate all participants into the inner workings, rules and scoring of the world travel championship competition. Like any game, there are rules that need to be followed. And like any game, sometimes playing it once with nothing on the line helps them better compete later on down the line. We want a level playing field, and with all the new rules in 2019,  we knew this tester would help all the teams gain confidence to hit the ground running in our first international stop. They would know what to expect–if that’s possible?!


Our Teams minus one…

Quick Observation…lingering since my elementary school days in Riverside, Ontario: Although I do indeed find it refreshing, I must confess that I am still utterly confused with Canada’s muted patriotism in the face of America’s unabashed “We’re #1” boosterism, as to just what Canada’s national anthem? Is it, “O Canada,” The Hockey Night in Canada theme? “God Save the Queen,” or “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams? Nuff said…

Okay, Vancouver is graded an Easy Par 1 urban safari--on the 2019 event scale of 1 to 6. It serves as the first of nine such legs in the coming three weeks. So, we Road Officials have calibrated all the Team’s cameras, offered some general event tips (ie: read their scavenge hunt booklets completely before heading out willy-nilly!), acknowledged any specific leg rule changes (ie: they may use their smartphones in Vancouver; but were warned not to get too attached to them!), and then sent on their way to have a great day. We will see them all again tonight at our 8:00pm hotel lobby check-in deadline.

5 Sample VYR Scavenges:
-Attend a Vancouver Canucks NHL Playoff game…kidding!
-Take a marine sea safari…
-Assemble a picnic @ Granville Island Market…
Team Challenge: The team that gets closest to an anchored cargo ship gets all the points…
-Walk to the center of Lion’s Gate Bridge…

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 (blog) Twitter fed –
The FILLIES (blog) FB + FB & Instagram links –
NEXUS (blog) –

Pre-Event Global Literacy Test: Question 1
Yesterday we asked our teams to answer a few question (16) about the state of the world…it is the Hans Rosling Chimpanzee Test…in that a non-thinking chimp would answer the questions correct 33% of the time; whereas thinking humans with their biases and alleged facts, get it wrong more often. An interesting suggestion as it pertains to our global literacy and how we see the world.

1. In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary school?
A – 20 percent
B – 40 percent
C – 60 percent
What do you think ? No cheating…answer at bottom of page.


Great seeing Coast friends the Hindmarch’s…good times.


Team Order & Chaos almost touching an anchored tanker.

Their Vancouver map…

Truer words we know not of…

By the way, we also occasionally help out our travelers with some trusty language tips to help them get through the day; here’s our
Canadian Language Tips:
loonie = One Dollar coin
toonie = Two Dollar coin
Doctor = A medical professional everyone in Canada has!
Eh = What did you say?
Eh? = What do you think?
EH? = something to say just to end a sentence
Eh!! = WOW!!
EH!? = What do you mean?
Eh?? = You’re joking!!!??
Hoser = a good friend
Keener = suck-up, brown-noser
Take off! = you’re kidding, no way
Skates = the first shoes of every Canadian
Sorry = Something Canadians say a lot—and mean it!
a serviette = a napkin
Smarties = M&Ms
winter = 7-month polar vortex
Newfoundland = pronounced noofunlan
Toronto = pronounced trawna
Two-Four = a case of beer
Pop = a soda
Hydro = electricity
The States = The Unites States of America (FYI: Because we all live in America!)
Double-Double = a Tim Horton’s coffee with 2 milk & 2 sugars
Bob’s Your Uncle = Everything will work out great.
tuque = a winter hat
Molson Muscle = a beer belly
Chinook = nasty wind
Z = zed not zee
Washroom = the loo, a toilet, bathroom

a Canuck = a Canadian
processed orange plastic cheese = American cheese
Police = Mounties, OPP’s

We welcome your comments, sorry.

Answer to question 1 is C  60%…NONE of our travelers got that correct! 90% chose A only 20%. (And that is why as a Foundation we are so happy building co-ed elementary schools that emphasize girls equal education…)

More later…

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