A Travellerspoint blog

California Dreaming

In this state of milk and honey good times happen without even trying. There is a reason so many songs are written about this place so pick one of your favourites and hum along while perusing the blog.

Despite the abundance of actors, authors and wanna-bees, the most inspiring people from California are our friends Shannon and Chris. They met us at the airport with a VW van that sits 8, a fold down table, and a cooler full of organic goodies and in a few minutes we were motoring north on Highway 101.

Within a couple days Mike flew solo to Calgary to pick up our van, the camping gear and a very distinguished white hat. The return to ‘Frisco was completed in record time but not before gaining a greater appreciation for American west, meeting a multitude of 5 minute friends and getting a great deal on a new used Coleman lantern.
Mike flying solo

Mike flying solo

Flea Market Finds

Flea Market Finds



In Mike’s absence Shannon and Chris looked after the flying 5 – 1. Based out of Treetops (a San Rafael condo complete with swimming pool), excursions were successfully launched to lush parks, a scientific exploratorium, and the Jelly Belly factory. The team says the factory tour was a bit of a flop – ask about the inside joke. Californian raw vegan cuisine helped fuel the voyages.

Upon Mike’s return a girls’ day out saw a visit to the San Francisco Ballet’s ‘Don Quixote’ while the boys explored the Mission area with its colourful murals packed with political punch .
Afternoon at the SF ballet

Afternoon at the SF ballet

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Our trip to California included a get away to see mother nature at her finest in Yosemite National Park. We were awe struck to see waterfalls cascading down towering granite faces and crossed paths with a big gorgeous black bear that took no notice of us. Sorry folks, we did not take a picture! The 2000 year old Sequoias of Yosemite took us back in time as well as rooting us strongly in the present as they are the largest living being on the planet!
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Back in San Francisco and the immediate area we explored Embarcadero avenue, Alcatraz, a cute vegetarian Mexican restaurant, Gracias Madre, ‘La lucha libre por siempre’, the San Francisco Academy of Sciences and its roof top, the How Weird Street Festival and giant Redwoods all the while eating on the 100 mile diet.
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Upon leaving San Francisco and ‘Treetops’ we drove through wine country, camped beneath Redwoods and beside sand dunes, and played jump the seaweeds before ending up at Purnima’s (Meera’s cousin) place in Portland.
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Portland and the American west is not only the heartland of the environmental movement, but is also home to tax-free shopping, the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi (Powell’s) and OMSI – home of the submarine ‘Blueback’. The rain even stopped long enough for us to be treated to an 80% solar eclipse. Thanks for everything Purnima!
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The state of Washington was rather brief with our stop at Mt. St. Helens being a highlight despite the lack of sunlight.
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The rain hasn't dampened our spirits....next stop Canada!!!

Posted by The Flying Five 09:47 Comments (1)

Waui Maui

We were definitely all WOWED by the island paradise of Maui. There was no shortage of adventures to be had on the island. It is a geographic marvel that a chain of volcanic islands rise from the centre of the pacific ocean and is covered with lush vegetation, beautiful beaches and the most benevolent climate. Best of all was meeting Meera's parents and Solstice's friend, Gentianne. The living was fun and easy and we hope that you enjoy the photos of our last island living experience for awhile.
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Aloha, hang loose, surf's up...

Posted by The Flying Five 23:58 Comments (1)

Xie Xie Taiwan

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We landed, after a long trip from Bangkok via Tokyo, in Taipei, Taiwan and into the waiting arms of my sister Lara and brother-in-law Lindsay. You know you are going to have a good time when someone meets you at the airport with home made cookies.
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Taipei is a fantastic city with a laid-back vibe despite the hustle and bustle of a big city.
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So what to do in such a city: Taipei 101 (just a few years back the tallest building in the world), ride a gondola to a tea house overlooking the city, visit a zoo complete with pandas and koalas, eat Chinese dumplings – steamed or fried, your choice, visit a doctor or dentist as health care is good and cheap, hike and visit the many parks and surrounding wooded hills (no need to worry if nature calls as the city also has the most plentiful and cleanest public washrooms of ANY country we have visited so far – and in my opinion that earns a lot of brownie points!)
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We even made it out of the city to Taroko Gorge and not even the rain could keep us from exploring this natural wonder.
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And best of all we didn’t have to plan a thing as Lara and Lindsay showed off their city and country with pride and class. And if going to Chinese opera isn’t classy I don’t know what is! Thank you Lara and Lindsay.
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Posted by The Flying Five 02:27 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Better Laos than Never!

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 Winding through steep and lush mountainous terrain via bumpy roads damaged by monsoon rains and heavily loaded trucks we left Vietnam for Laos in a bus driven by a man and his cronies who smoked too much and who we are sure were smuggling something, although what one smuggles into Laos we are not quite sure. After sixteen hours of beautiful views when you dared to look and not very much sleep despite having paid extra for a 'sleeper' bus we arrived in the capital of Laos, Vientiane, wondering if it was worth it.  We would do it again, but we are providing photos of our time in Laos so you can be the judge!

Vientiane, the capital of Laos was very chilled out and was enjoyed best on bicycle.
Exploring Vientiane on bicycle

Exploring Vientiane on bicycle

Victory Gate in Vientiane

Victory Gate in Vientiane

Xieng Khuan, the aptly named Buddha park is a surreal collection of Buddha statues and Buddha inspired sculptures of all shapes and sizes. Big or tall, short or small, there is a Buddha for everyone!
Buddha park in Vientiane (Xieng Khuan)

Buddha park in Vientiane (Xieng Khuan)

Playing in the mouth of an awesome, giant, surreal pumpkin at Xieng Khuan.

Playing in the mouth of an awesome, giant, surreal pumpkin at Xieng Khuan.

Xieng Khuan park...buddhas, buddhas everywhere!

Xieng Khuan park...buddhas, buddhas everywhere!

Crocodile snack

Crocodile snack

The kids took to zip lining like monkeys to trees.
Heading into the jungle on riverboat.

Heading into the jungle on riverboat.


Hiking to the top!

Hiking to the top!

Zip lining in Nam Lik Jungle

Zip lining in Nam Lik Jungle

The bravest zip liners!

The bravest zip liners!

Flying high!

Flying high!

What goes up, must come down!

What goes up, must come down!


Monkey behaviour

Monkey behaviour

Vang Vieng was a beautiful stop, nestled within phenomenal limestone karst mountains. We enjoyed exploring the rural parts on bicycle, kayaking, tubing, spelunking and swimming.
Exploring Vang Vieng by bike

Exploring Vang Vieng by bike


Modern buffalo

Modern buffalo

Caving in Vang Vieng

Caving in Vang Vieng

Manas found danger!

Manas found danger!

Jumping into the blue lagoon

Jumping into the blue lagoon

Blue lagoon

Blue lagoon

Kayaking in Vang Vieng

Kayaking in Vang Vieng


Kayaking in Vang Vieng, Solstice was in the lead!

Kayaking in Vang Vieng, Solstice was in the lead!

Tubing in Vang Vieng

Tubing in Vang Vieng

Manas tubing through a cave

Manas tubing through a cave

Aleix tubing through a cave

Aleix tubing through a cave

Luang Prabang was our favorite stop in Laos. This Is virtually the only northern Laos city that survived the American bombing campaign in the mid seventies. This picturesque place is filled with ancient temples and modern monks. The French legacy of colonial buildings, good food and even better coffee remains to this day and we sure enjoyed it!
Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang


Temple repair

Temple repair

Temple junkies

Temple junkies


Mekong river, Luang Prabang

Mekong river, Luang Prabang

Monks receiving Alms in Luang Prabang

Monks receiving Alms in Luang Prabang

Dawn in Luang Prabang

Dawn in Luang Prabang

Exploring Luang Prabang by bamboo bridges

Exploring Luang Prabang by bamboo bridges

Luang Prabang by night

Luang Prabang by night

Sleeping beauty

Sleeping beauty

Skycapes in Luang Prabang

Skycapes in Luang Prabang

Temple bell

Temple bell

Beautiful Buddhas

Beautiful Buddhas


Meera looking for a bargain

Meera looking for a bargain

We visited a community organic vegetable and traditional rice farm. We really enjoyed farming for the day and discovered for ourselves how labour intensive rice farming is! We will never waste a grain of rice again!
Aleix harvesting rice

Aleix harvesting rice


Manas, tilling the land

Manas, tilling the land

Aleix,husking the rice

Aleix,husking the rice

Susan, the friendly water buffalo

Susan, the friendly water buffalo

Mike separating the rice

Mike separating the rice

Happy Farmers!

Happy Farmers!


Rice farmers!

Rice farmers!


Sticky rice ready in 15 minutes!

Sticky rice ready in 15 minutes!

After a two day trip up the Mekong River we arrived back in Thailand!
At peace on the Mekong

At peace on the Mekong


Water Buffalo cooling off

Water Buffalo cooling off

Fisherman on the Mekong

Fisherman on the Mekong

Docking on the Mekong

Docking on the Mekong

Mike chilling on the Mekong

Mike chilling on the Mekong

Panning for gold on the Mekong

Panning for gold on the Mekong

Back in Thailand!

Back in Thailand!


1UploadedFile29.jpgNight Market in Chiang Mai

Night Market in Chiang Mai

Manas finds waffles at the Night Market in Chiang Mai

Manas finds waffles at the Night Market in Chiang Mai

Sidewalk art in Chiang Mai

Sidewalk art in Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

Parasols and temple bells

Parasols and temple bells

Khao San Road, Bangkok

Khao San Road, Bangkok

Guardians of the Emerald Buddha

Guardians of the Emerald Buddha

Guardian of the temple

Guardian of the temple

Posted by The Flying Five 18:58 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Vietnam

Solstice and I went for a 30 km guided mountain bike ride a few days back in  the hills surrounding Dalat. The fresh air and scent of pine needles reminded me of the Yukon. On the way back into town I  was really working it on the bike and struggling in the heat of the day when a 3 or 5 ton truck passed me with a bunch of young guys in the back laughing and joking.  If this had occurred in 1971, the year I was born, roles could have been reversed with the young guys in the truck being white soldiers and the old guy on the bike being some local.  How much can a country and its people change in 50 years?
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The people here know they kicked American ass in, as they call it, "the American War" so people here carry themselves with a strong sense of pride.  Yet although Vietnam's government is still communist, this place is capitalist with a big "C".  "Tip money" is an oft-heard phrase and everything is for sale, from BBQ'd chicken feet to crocheted hats. The boys and I went on a tour of the Co Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong 70 km north if Saigon and we all took turns shooting an AK-47 at $1.00 a round.  
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We enjoyed a great day on the Mekong river.
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Dalat was a favourite place for all of us, the air was fresh and the scenery reminded us of home. The kids especially enjoyed the roller coaster to the waterfall(thanks for the hot travel trip mac & Meg!) and the swan paddle boats!
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And wait until you see the ladies' new silk dresses... Ooh la la!  Even the boys and I had some new clothes tailored in Hoi An.  The historic old town is filled not only with tailors but perhaps the best restaurants of our entire journey to date. Plus Hoi An has beautiful beaches and a  pedestrian-only historic  quarter with fully restored Chinese and Japanese buildings and more recent French colonial buildings.  We were lucky enough to be in Hoi An for full moon when the town dims the electric lights and the streets are lit with colorful lanterns and townsfolk burning fake money for good luck.
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We were able to drag ourselves away from the lovely old town and biked to the beach. We also went to Cham island one day. Sol, Manas and I went for a dive and, after snorkeling, Meera and Aleix went for a hike around the beautiful island. The water was frigid, Manas had to wear 3 wetsuits!
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Our final days in Vietnam were spent in the historic city of Hue.  The misty rain seemed to enhance our scenic walks along the broad  Perfume river and visits to the imperial city and to Thien Mu Pagoda, a seven-storey Buddhist monument  known for political protests.
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The street life of Vietnam is as vibrant as any we've seen and that's one thing we have all enjoyed without having to pay a penny!
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Peace

Posted by The Flying Five 01:19 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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