Den Haag, the Netherlands / Le Puy-Sainte-Reparade, France / Casablanca and Tangier, Morocco
June 10 / 15 / 19, 2019
More than 3,000 kilometers from Amsterdam to Marrakesh. That was how much distance I covered in my epic trip to celebrate my 50th birthday and the 10th anniversary of my blog and alter ego – TTT (The Transcendental Tourist).
Three countries and 15 cities by land. That was how intimately I was acquainted with my itinerary as I traversed almost the entire stretch through railway and highway, but mostly on foot – save for one flight across the Mediterranean.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That was my motto on my nth trip to Baguio. Nostalgia had been the theme of all my visits to the country’s summer capital. I always tried to relive my childhood memories of a city under pine cover. That meant staying in and around relatively well-preserved Camp John Hay. Not this time. Ki, the veritable Baguio-phile, let me experience present-day downtown Baguio, the area around Burnham Park, with more of the city and less of the pines.
Any DIY trip involving LCC connecting flights could be a dicey situation. Delays would wreak havoc on the best-laid plans with only a few hours elbow room between flights. I’d rather spend the night at my layover. That was how I lived out the 80s hit song, One Night in Bangkok, literally. My friend Jo and I were on our way to Myanmar via Cebu Pacific Air to Bangkok and Air Asia to Mandalay the next morning.
By some twist of historical fate, the repository of thousands of artifacts and relics from the world’s longest contiguous civilization – 5,000 years as the Chinese proudly claimed – could be found in Taiwan. For this reason, I received marching orders from my sister via Facebook to visit the National Palace Museum in Taipei. “All the cultural heritage of China under one roof,” was her pitch, echoed by my Taiwanese friend, Sam, who offered to take me there.
The words of Rudyard Kipling could not ring any truer: “My own sojourn in Rangoon was countable by hours, so I may be forgiven when I pranced with impatience at the bottom of the staircase….” Given less than 48 hours in the city, I only had this day to visit the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda, and I could not find my Myanmar friend, Justin, at our appointed meeting place at the foot of the southern staircase. I did prance, scooting from the guarded gate to a few flights up the stairs.
It certainly wasn’t “only just Bagan,” a pun I sang to the tune of the Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun. “Only” and “just” didn’t apply to Bagan, the historic heart of Myanmar. The numbers alone were staggering: Old Bagan had a long history going back more than 1,000 years and spanned an area of 104 square kilometers dotted by 2,217 extant Buddhist temples from the 11th century to the 15th century. Whew, taking those figures in was overwhelming enough, how much more doing a temple run in this vast, arid valley?
It rained on our parade. Early November was well within typhoon season in Taiwan; Frances, J9, and I learned the wet way. Nevertheless, no inclement weather could dampen our spirit. Armed with a sunny disposition and a warm smile, our driver-cum-guide Kevin Xie (or Hsieh) drove away the rainy day blues on top of his other duties AND the fact that he could speak English well, an uncommon skill among the Taiwanese.