Monday, December 22, 2008

Xmas Greetings 2008

Another year about to finish and that winter solstice celebration known by a number of names--I grew up with Christmas--followed by what many call New Year.

Living in Asia we have a shifting calendar of New Years. With several to chose from, we can celebrate accordingly.

For me, 2008 was a stellar year, but my scale may be different from others. Travel is a heavy determinant in my personal yearly ratings and once again, this year was a winner.

Trains have obsessed me since childhood, and with the exception of the interrupted stretch continuing on from Kazakhstan, I indulged in a train odyssey of my dreams. Up through western China, a month's stopover in Mongolia, on through portions of Siberia and then south to Kazakhstan.

A small glitch in the form of corruption at the Russian Embassy in Alamaty, Kazakhstan, required that I fly out to my next destination of Ukraine. From there, back to trains and on to visit friends in Europe. (The trip is posted on my companion blog:

At the end, it was south through the Balkans to fly back from Athens. Over four months "on the road." What more could any travel-addicted nomad ask for?
Let's just say...Santa came early for me this year.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas season and a Happy New Year!
May All Your Dreams Come True!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Politics & Protests

It's a done deal! As of Monday, Thailand has a new urbane Prime Minister. The Democrat coalition held up and their candidate, Oxford-educated Abhisit won. Many Thais are already referring to him as "Their Obama." He's young, he's educated and he's smart. He has a reputation for clean politics and heaven knows Thailand can benefit from that.

The yellow shirts prevailed, in spite of Potjamon's phone campaign and Thaksin's last minute video message at a huge rally held in Bangkok trying to destabilize the process, or in his own words, "create social dislocation." At the important moment, the opposition votes remained intact.
The Bangkok Post article stated that "...he brings to the job a mannered civility that has been sorely lacking in recent dust-ups." But that may not be enough. The red shirts are promising more protests. According to them, democracy has been subverted by a judicial coup d'etat.

Like America's Obama, Abhisit has a formable job ahead of him to try and unite a badly divided country. His support is strong in the south and central parts of the country, but "Thaksinmania" still prevails in the northern regions. The threat of more protests and the potential subsequent violence is enough that the army chief is planning a peace-making mission to those areas to try and quell the unrest. As everywhere in the world, money and power are at the root of things.

He takes office as the 27th Prime Minister in a country where democracy is still evolving. Those of us living here who are tired of the corruption that thrived during the Thaksin years wish him well and hope he can bring some stability to Thailand. Thais just want the rest of the world to move beyond the images of mass sit-ins and airport closures and once again travel to the "Land of Smiles."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Color Clashes

Friday, 5 December, 2008 was the 81st birthday of Rama IX, the longest reigning Monarch on Planet Earth, and perhaps, one of the most beloved for good reason. He is a stellar example of the benefits to a country under a conciensously good Monarchy.

But the celebration was muted from past years. King Bhumibol was unable to give his anxiously awaited yearly birthday message. His daughter insisted it was not serious, but the diagnosis sounded serious to me--bronchitis & esophagealitis. In the paper it said..."he couldn't eat." Not good news! We all pray that he will recover and be with us a lot longer.

Things have been a bit chaotic here recently with two Bangkok airports shut down. Dissolution of three political parties accused of voter fraud and corruption cleared the way for a new government and satisfied the demands of the PAD (opposition party). For the moment! Nothing in this political game of chess is certain.

Latest news today...Potjamon (ex-wife of Thaksin) flew in from Hong Kong. Does not bode well!

I avoided the election year color clash in the US simply by being in Thailand. Now I have my own color clash here. Across the ocean it was the red states and the blue states, and our President-elect Barack Obama did blur the colors a tad. Turned a few states purple--my favorite color. Can't wait until he's innaugerated.
Now here in Thailand we have our own color clash--red shirts vs. yellow shirts. Yellow is the color for the King who was born on a Monday, so that was the day of the week to wear yellow shirts and they were seen everywhere. Now with the take-over of the airports and the escalation of political unrest, it's not safe to even wear your yellow "I love the King" shirts. I miss not seeing the sea of yellow shirts on Mondays.

Red shirts are the color of choice for the supporters of Thaksin [UDD] and they are strong in chiang Mai province. The go around the old city here with bull hors and flags flying off the top of Tuk-Tuk's that quintessential Thai transport.

They did stop that once the airports opened. Unfortunately, nothing is resolved with the current political situation. Only a stalemate at the moment. As the Thai say, "jai yen" and that's all we can patient, watch, listen and be flexible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

On Thursday Americans celebrate their uniquely home-grown holiday.

Wan gii ngoo-ug in Thai! Direct translation...
Turkey Day!

All that gobble-gobble & pilgrim stuff.

As a child, Mom kept us busy on rainy Portland [Oregon] afternoons making new pinecone turkeys for her centerpiece. Helping make decorations for the table was as much a tradition in my family as the over indulgence on T-Day of favorite foods.

A big meal tradition in my family along with the proscribed menu of turkey, dressing, mashies and yams, were Mom's homemade rolls...preferably with homemade jam. Continuing that tradition here in the "Land of Smiles" I'll be taking them to dinner when I go to my friends tomorrow. There will probably be a later posting on that one.

On this day of Thanksgiving, I feel doubly blessed this year to have the marvelous new [smart] President-elect and the first family that we the people of the US recently elected. With each new staff and Cabinet selection he is proving he has a good grasp of what the country needs and how to bring it all together. As David Brooks entitled one of his columns last week, "Obama seems determined to justify hype." That's quite okay by me and like many others, I wish he could be sworn in tomorrow.

I am equally thankful that during this period of economic hardship I am in a country with a low cost of living that will allow me to continue living within my meager budget allowance. At this immediate moment I am pleased to be in peaceful Chiang Mai and not Bangkok where all the political nonsense is playing out. It helps to have a simple lifestyle, but it is comforting to know that I can cut back further and still have a good life.

As the years rush on by, I am thankful to continue to have good health while at the same time living in a country where I can have affordable and excellent medical care should I need it.

Above all I am thankful for my friends and family. Wishing all of you a Terrific Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loi Khratong

Asia in general is known for it's vibrant festivals and Thailand is no exception. Amazing colorful events intimately tied to regional cultures, religious beliefs and historical traditions.

Two major celebrations in Thailand, approximately six months apart are Songkran and Loi Khratong. One I dearly love (Loi Khratong) and one that I dread when it is approaching (Songkran).

Dramatically opposed on the calendar, they are equally opposite in the experience. Two basic elements come into play--water & fire.
Songkran is in the Spring at the outset of the rainy season. It has come to global attention as "Asia's Water War" based on tourist hype. For up to sometimes a week, every time you step outside during daylight hours you risk getting soaked. That's the clue to why I'm not fond of this holiday.

However, in mid-November at the end of the rainy season comes Loi Khratong when farmers are giving thanks to the goddess of water. This you celebrate with fireworks and in the north with fire driven hot air rice paper balloons sent to heaven.

Water only comes in to the picture as the vehicle upon which to float your "Khratong" sending off all negativity of the past year hoping for a fresh new start. A "Khratong" is a small boat composed of banana leaves attached to a bamboo base to resemble a lotus blossom and then decorated with flowers. In the center one places a single candle and three joss sticks which you light just prior to floating.

Tahm Khratong, Loi Khratong

(Make a boat, Float a boat)

The festival lasts for three days and on the last two evenings there are parades, the final night being larger and more elaborate. Lavish floats, lovely Thai women carrying Khratongs, musicians featuring lots of drums and gongs, and various marching groups carrying banners and offerings.

All along the parade route there are vendors selling food, souvenirs, rice paper balloons and, of course, lovely Khratongs for those who didn't get a chance to make one. The sky is alive with the fiery balloons and fireworks exploding all around. Lots of color and noise, but only the boats get wet.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President-Elect Obama

After a long up-hill battle, we proved to the world...

Yes We Can and Yes We Did!

This is truly a wonderful day for America and for the world at large.

With a small popular margin and a large electoral vote the U.S. has elected the smart man as 44th President of the United States of America.

No longer must we apologize for our hostile attitudes. No longer do Americans need to hang their heads in sadness regarding U.S. administrative arrogance. We have sent a message loud and clear to the rest of the world that we still want to be part of the whole equation.

Our new President-elect, Barack Hussein Obama!!

My message to friends and family on this historic day...

I am so exuberant and joyful over the election results that I am barely coherent. This is truly a great day for America and the world.

As someone who, over 45 years ago, was picketing and marching for civil rights--the right of a black American to simply go order food at a lunch counter, to use a public toilet or drink from a public fountain, to ride where they chose on a bus--I would not have believed this moment would come in my lifetime.

What a wonderful experience to vote for a winning Black-American for the office of President and to feel that by joining the fight for civil rights I may have contributed in some way to bringing us to this point.

But beyond that, Americans have now chosen the focused, intelligent, articulate candidate for a change. I no longer have to wince when someone asks me what country I am from. I can hold my head high and say, yes, I'm American. We have sent a loud and clear message to the world that we want to come back from the radical fringe of society and join the community of decent honorable people. We have rejected the low road of hate and intolerance and instead have chosen openness and discussion; peace and hope for a better future.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The World is Watching

With the election so close I’ve been obsessively lurking on political message boards. I read on a newsvine board, where GOP neocons rant and rave invoking 4-letter expletives, a reference to Presidential IQ’s. Moderate to liberal Dems were accused of clustering in the low double digits by one insulting blogger.

What a hoot! Reminded me of a game I played last year at Christmas where we had a list of Presidential IQ’s from FDR up to GW and the challenge was to match them. I was off on most, but actually did win. There were two outliers that defied the averages. Taking those scores out of the summation, the lowest Democrat score is 10 points above the highest Republican score. (The two outliers, by the way, were LBJ and Richard Nixon. Tricky really was smart, which probably contributed to his paranoia which did him in at the end.)

For the record, Dems average is 162: Repubs is 107. Rather a dramatic difference!

Worse news for the GOP is that over the last three decades, the scores have been decreasing. Not a good trend.

Now I know you can argue that IQ is just a contrived arbitrary number, but it is one factor in the overall scheme of intelligent sentience accepted within the confines of historical US educational standards.

In TWO DAYS the US electorate gets to select the new Commander-in-Chief. I sent in my vote by registered mail over three weeks ago and I voted for the vibrant smart one. I didn’t have any IQ scores to go by, but looking at the bios and the educational background made my choice easy. Watching the campaigns as this election has progressed confirmed my choice LOUD & CLEAR.

So if you voted early, that’s great. If not go out on Tuesday and Vote Smart.

Yes We Can!! Obama/Biden ‘08

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Positions

Both here in Thailand and my country of origin, 2008 is a year of political upheaval. I’m physically cut off from both, but that’s probably good. Emotionally, however, I am involved in both.

Down in BKK (Bangkok), the PAD (Peoples Alliance of Democracy) continues in its third month. It started just before I arrived back from my trip across Asia. Flying back from Athens I was in BKK less than two hours at Savarnabhumi airport—just long enough to clear immigration and catch a flight north. I had been reading about the PAD take over of the Parliament Building. As a guest in this country, I can only watch from the sidelines, so I knew better than to expose my old latent war protest alter ego to even be in the vicinity of a massive sit-in. Better for me to simply follow in the daily news and sympathize with my Thai friends, most of whom support PAD.

Back on the home front my emotional involvement goes even deeper with the historic event now taking place in less than one week. An event with reverberations that will be felt round the earth.

It’s been over 40 years since I had a candidate to vote for that I really believed in. I have been voting all my life for the lesser of two evils. I had hoped to support Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Having recently returned from my first overseas adventure of almost two years, I was newly educated in global perspective. But then we all know what happened that fateful year in history.

Living in San Francisco during the primary in 1972, it was easy to be both enthusiastic and optimistic about McGovern and I put in enough hours working for his campaign that I received a Western Union “Thank You” message over his signature the June night I returned home after getting out the vote successfully for him to be rewarded with a massive win in California. Unfortunately the national election in November did not go so well, but that Western Union message was a prized possession of mine through the "Weird Watergate" years reminding me that I had done my part attempting to avoid the chaos the country went through at that time.

But this time it’s different. I developed a formula* for the Obama Kool Aid all on my own, long before Barack Hussein Obama even knew he was going to run this election cycle. The minute I heard the “skinny guy with the funny name” give the key note address at the DNC convention in Boston, ’04, I said deep in my heart…I want to vote for this man, and I want it to be in the next election. I read both his books and looked into just who he is and I liked every thing about him. He is the composite of all the best candidates I’ve watched parade before us over the course of my six decade lifetime.

So now we are less than a week away from my dream candidate being my next President. As an American who has chosen to live outside the country in my retirement due to budget constraints (affordable health care availability being a big factor), I am a nervous wreck. I can’t be there as I was in 1972 to help get out the vote, but I refuse to believe that this time the Americans will reject the smart, competent one over the erratic, bad-tempered nasty old man.

I don’t want a maverick for my President. That may be fine in the Senate with 99 other folks to stabilize things. A little cyclone activity to stir everyone up may have its benefits there, but not at the level of Commander-in-Chief. I want stable, focused, meticulous attention to detail and organized consensus after all contributing factors are analyzed. Shoot from the hip worked great in the Wild West. It’s not a working formulae in the troubled world of the 21st Century.

If you care about the future of your country and the world at large, go out and vote for the team that brings real change and hope to all of us on planet earth. OBAMA/BIDEN ‘o8!!

*1/3 work, 1/3 commitment, 1/3 sacrifice with a dash of HOPE

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Memoirs of a Solo Traveler

It's now official. Book #2, If You Haven't Been Pinched...You Haven't Been to Rome, is now LIVE as the publisher likes to say and will soon be available. Estimated time 2-3 weeks. And after they told me I would have to pay if I wanted to include the index, it came through on the galleys at no charge. Yeah!

It's been four years since I published my first book, Safari na Paka, and I hope these new stories will be as well recieved.

How I ever came to write and publish stories of my travels is another story all in itself that goes directly back to my long time friend, Vicki Ramirez. But putting the history of it all aside, I am having fun reliving my years of travel through these stories. I do hope you will enjoy them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thai Tonal Tribulations

As great as some locales can be, no place is ever quite perfect. There is always some little nagging drawback. So just what might that snag be in Chiang Mai? In one simple word--LANGUAGE.

Pah-sah Thai (Thai language) is one of the world's major strongly tonal languages. What that means is that the slightest change in pitch can sound like gibberish to a native speaker. Since intonation is one of the first speech features to develop in childhood, it can also be greatly impaired by adulthood. Although I am not entirely tone deaf, as an old English-speaking geezer (a stress vs. tonal language) I constantly battle nuances of sound.

Add to that my history of being very vocal and outspoken about the necessity to learn a language if you intend to live in that country. Just trying to learn doesn't cut it. You have an obligation to learn it. No excuses were good enough and I was often adamant with my uncompassionate stance. So you can well imagine my frustration at not having yet learned anything beyond a few basic phrases. "Walk in my shoes!" How true it is. I've been in Chiang Mai too long for my excuses to hold up against my previous rhetoric.

That's the bad news. The good news is, I haven't given up trying yet. Once again I have started taking class. My two previous attempts were with a private tutor, and this time I am going for a new format--two hours of conversation every afternoon in a group of five other faranges. We are an international group well matched in our language level.
Hopefully I can achieve success, but in the meantime I have my ready list of excuses.

1) It is really, really hard. Just for comparison, Chinese has four tones, Thai has five.

2) My ears are old. I don't hear the tones.

3) Brain circuits are overloaded. (See #2 above.)

4) Social constraints. Local Thais often just stare at you trying to speak Thai. Or worse, they just start to giggle. It can be very intimidating.

5) Immersion constraints. Too much English is spoken in Chiang Mai.

I guess it boils down to a longevity issue. If I hang in long enough I will learn, and genetics are on my side with this one. My family--both sides--has an impressive history of longevity. Data available upon request.
I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Hangouts

Stay anywhere more than 72 hours and you zero in on a few favorite hangouts. Depending upon your preferences, you will find places that fulfill your needs and where you feel comfortable.

Back in the 60's in San Francisco when I was young and idealistic, it was to North Beach I gravitated. That Bohemian attraction to artistic venues never left me. Nor did my personal taste for espresso (early a.m.) and white wine (late p.m.). I don't always have the option of adding creme de framboise to the white wine like I do in Paris, but I can adjust.

In Chiang Mai I have been lucky enough to find both within walking distance of my lodging.

House of Thai Thai Coffee

When I was still new here, I would walk the full length of Ratchadamnoen Rd. for my morning "Joe." A few hundred meters beyond Tha Pha Gate was JJ's with distinctly farang prices, but the espresso was reliably good and their croissants are, in my opinion, the best available in Chiang Mai.

The route took me directly by the Chiang Mai Language Center which is also Chiang Mai Adventure Travel. Sometime my first season here, Thai Thai Coffee Shop made it's debut in with the other two.

As an early riser, I passed it several times before they were open, until one morning I got a late start and decided to try their coffee and stay closer to home. I became an instant convert.

It's a very special place run by a wonderful local family. In addition to coffee drinks they have selection of food, both local dishes and light western meals. But it's the particular care they take with coffee is what this coffee lover appreciates. Only the best beans, stored properly and ground fresh immediately prior to use. Truly the best coffee in Chiang Mai at the lowest cost. They live up to the reputation of their sign, "Unforgetable Coffee."

Over the last two or three years other coffee places have both come and gone, but Thai Thai Coffee holds top honors. Chiang Mai even sports a Starbucks now near Tha Pha Gate, but you better be prepared to pay double if you chose that option.

Writers Club & Wine Bar
How convenient for me. This little gem is right on the street where I live on Ratchadamnoen Rd., about three blocks equivalent from my guesthouse. (And a few hundred meters from my coffee venue.)

Like my morning coffee place, they weren't yet open when I first started hanging out long term in Thailand. But it's been there for so long now I can't remember what was there before.

Owned and run by Bob, a British expat and his charming Thai wife, Tong. Bob Tilley was a freeland journalist for some 50 years+ and still at it. The ambiance is that of a writer's social group with a touch of the Bohemian.

Soon after they opened I noticed the sign, checked the menu and ventured in. They open shortly after noon and this was early afternoon--good time to stop for lunch. I so thoroughly enjoyed both the food, the conversation and the wine, I've been a regular there ever since.

Narrow and long with heavy wooden tables outside surrounded by a jungle of plants, while inside a lot of dark wood makes one feel at home right away. And books--lots of books--in two glassed-in book cases at the back in a corner with comfortable seating and lights to read by.

On one side is the long teak bar with an old manual early 1900's typewriter sitting prominently on one end. The overall feel is warm and cozy. Magazine racks near the bar with a variety of ferang publications--lots are British--but many are local. It's a readers paradise.

I usually stop by in the afternoons when it's quiet and I can enjoy a glass of wine while I read the newspapers. But on Friday evenings the place buzzes with activity as many of the local journalists and writers stop by for lively conversation.

It's been written up in international travel journals, and I consider it one of the premier spots in Chiang Mai. Chock dii!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chiang Mai Chatter

¿Que hace? Qu'est-ce qui je fais? What do I do in Chiang Mai?

It's a question I'm asked often--and in many languages. Usually I just answer, "I live and enjoy life!!" But there are those who insist...exactly what do you do while you live and enjoy life. There is so much to tell, I almost don't know where to start.

A big reason to be in such a central global location taking advantage of it's low cost of living is to simplify options for my real passion in life--Solo Travel! I traveled often throughout my life and I'm not prepared to give it up yet. Therefore, many of my activities relate to travel in some way. Either I'm planning my next trip or writing up the last one.

Last year I spent a good deal of my time writing the new book I have coming out soon. This year I have been editing and prepping the book for publication. And for anyone out there who says that sounds like work and not play, it's a little of both. But in between my trips and all the work, I do play a lot.

If you've read my first book, you know I like to group stories into categories. So just what are these "fun" categories? They do fit nicely into life categories, i.e., lodging, nourishment and social contacts. One added element as an expat living in Thailand is the adventure of meeting visa requirements. That's a separate story all in itself. So right now we will stick to the three biggies, housing, food and friends.

For my housing I have chosen to live in a guesthouse in central Chiang Mai in the area comprising the old city, inside the moat near Wat Pra Singh. An advantage to that is, I have accessible public transport without the added expense of having to own. All that extra baht goes into the travel budget.

A serendipitous side benefit is that I meet lots of other travelers who invite me to come visit them when I am out "on the road." Definately a win-win situation from my point of view. Nothing can enhance a trip any more than having locals to connect with.

Food fun! This is such a big part of my life, I suspect I will have to do a separate posting to fully cover it. Chiang Mai, in addition to low cost Thai food, has a vast range of restaurants that offer lots of options for a palate such as mine that craves variety in my daily diet. I love to eat and eat well, and I can spend a lot of time in this arena.

So that leaves us with the social scene.

As part of a large expatiate community living in Chiang Mai I can have a huge circle of friends that includes both foreigners and locals. There is an expat club here that meets twice a month and many off-shoot special interest groups. I go regularly to the computer club, occasionally to the photo group, thinking about joining a group who meet once a month to discuss fabrics, have access to a writier's group and there are many other groups I can join if and when I make time for them.

Another big plus in Chiang Mai is the number of universities here that offer free concerts, seminars, out-reach name it. In short, there is something to fill everyone's needs.

Add to that the fact that Chiang Mai has the largest number of used book stores of almost any place on the planet. As a passionate voracious reader, I love it.

And this year, a huge time sink for me is the focus on the global fascination with the most critical Presidential race in my lifetime. All eyes are on America to do the right thing this time around. I'm a heavy "lurker" on political message boards watching the trends of support. Looking for the kernel of intelligent thought that I want to believe main stream America does possess. Hoping for the insight that will get Obama elected.
Look for separate subject postings soon to expand on activities here in Chiang Mai. Visas, food, language, books, lodging, local travel, festivals and other fun stuff.
It's called "The Good Life."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Yes, you have heard it before...the universal principle that applies directly to success, whether it be business or personal satisfaction, is primo location. And I've picked a good one. THAILAND!!

Most specifically, northern Thailand. The city of Chiang Mai!

Often referred to as the "Rose of the North," Thailand's second city, Chiang Mai dates back to the days of King Mengrai in the 13th century.

Nestled in a valley 310 meters above sea level, Chiang Mai is 700 km. north of Bangkok and has a cooler, drier climate than many other parts of Thailand. Situated on the Pin river with the old city contained within a water filled moat, one can still see large portions of the reconstructed wall of the old Lanna culture in place.

Home to 300 temples, the picturesque Lanna tiered roof architecture that is so widely associated with Thailand, dominates the landscape. Known throughout southeast Asia for the wide variety of Hill tribes living in the region, it is popular for the trekking excursions to visit the various tribes.

Twenty years had passed since I last visited Chiang Mai in 1981 en route to India. In the interim some good friends of mine from my years in Africa had retired and settled there. I decided I would go visit them, then travel through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia--three countries that were not open for solo travel when I was last in the region.

I spent ten months traveling in the region that trip; a large segment of it in Chiang Mai. Some things I discovered during that time.

1) All the hype about dental and medical care in Thailand is true. Rock bottom cost for first rate quality.

2) Cost of living vs. quality of life are astoundingly attractive. It's your basic "More Bang 4 the $$, or should I say baht?"

3) Travel options in and out of Thailand worldwide are both cheaper and more plentiful than anywhere else on the planet. This is a biggie for a travel addicted soul like me.

Add to those three solid positives a delightful warm climate and in short, we have a comfortable place to be where I can save money, have a good life and still travel. What's there not to like? Compelling reasons to strongly consider spending extended periods in the "Land of Smiles."

So here I am, nearly a decade later, calling Chiang Mai home. The juggling cycle has been reduced to a simple 1-2. I spend 4-6 months "On The Move" and 6-8 months in Chiang Mai Mode.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tween Trip Terrain

It is rare for this Cat to be truly still. When not on the road, often planning for the next journey. Travel addicted souls do thrive on the movement itself, but just thinking about where to go can get one through a physically static period.

No secret to those who know me, that throughout my life travel has played a major role. Ever since my 1st international solo trip from 1966-68. The bug took hold and I became obsessed with exploring this planet we call earth--the nooks, crannies and private corners that make it so fascinating and overwhelmingly awesome.

How to do this became a game of sorts. Time to put together a mosaic that would work for me. What evolved was a life-cycle juggling act between educational basic requirements, work diversions to fulfill budget needs and ultimately my traveling ambitions.

Just to complicate things a bit, I wasn't satisfied with a traditional 2-3 week package blitz that some delusional people call travel. I eschew the practice of running around from place to place on someone else's schedule. I want to do more than just observe the world; I want to understand. That takes more time and personal involvement but reaps untold rewards.

When I had to work sometimes 2-3 years to save the money for a journey, I indulged in long trips of between 1-2 years. It is true that the longer you travel the less it actually costs. Time indeed does become money.

Now in my retirement the juggling act no longer plays a role. I don't have to stop for work anymore. I simply have to stop to readjust the budget from time to time. So the key at this stage in my life is to settle down somewhere kind on both the budget and the soul. Thailand is a great place for that.

So now I lay low in Chiang Mai, Thailand and travel in half-year stretches. I can feed my addiction and go easy on my pocketbook all at the same time.

Still the question is...

Just what do grounded nomads do between trips?

Tune in & Find out!! Still Life With Cat!!