Monthly Archives: January 2014

KO PHA NGAN, FULL MOON PARTY AND BANGKOK PROTEST MARCH

I first came to KO PHA NGAN in 1994. It was during the FULL MOON PARTY both then and now (totally unplanned). I’ve stayed at the THE SANCTUARY twice before.

20140124-102741.jpg
YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE WATER TAXI TO GET TO THE SANCTUARY
It took us 12 hours of traveling from Chiang Mia to get here, right at sunset. At the reception I tell them who I am and that I made reservations over 3 months ago. He insist that I prove I have reservations, “your kidding?” “Don’t you have my reservation?” I get the WiFi password, dig through the correspondences and presto. He finally opens his reservation book and there’s my name. They made me feel like I was on trial. It took a 1/2 hour, just to get the room. There is so many people here, I’ve never seen it so crowded.

20140124-104216.jpg
MOSQUITO NETS ARE THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT BEING BITTEN
The beach here is nice and the water is warm.

20140124-104558.jpg

20140124-104633.jpg
.

20140124-105101.jpg
IS THERE ANY SUN IN SLOVENIA?
I’ve been sick but still want to see the full moon party. We hang out and take a few photos of the (pre) craziness.

20140124-105351.jpg
I feel terrible, we take the taxi boat back to our cottage. My dreams come true, I throw-up (finally), I feel great now.
The Sanctuary use to be the escape from the partying of the Full Moon beach. But no longer, a new bar played house music ALL night and loud. The Sanctuary provides ear plugs, not my idea of a quiet beach resort. The resorts here need to buy out the house music guy and reclaim the solace that this area use to be.
We head to Bangkok for some shopping, eating and protesting!
The best way to get around Bangkok is with a Tuk Tuk.

20140124-112607.jpg
THEY USE LPG INSTEAD OF GASOLINE
I really wanted to experience the protest in Bangkok. (Thank You Chops). So we boarded a bus until we saw some marching got off the bus and joined in. I got a Thai flag, whistle and we started marching. Natasa wasn’t to keen on this adventure, “I have family at home.” People were taking our pictures and video taping us. I had someone come up and ask us to “ask Obama for his help.” I felt good about supporting the Thais in their struggle for a true democracy.
I VIDEO TAPED THE MARCH, WATCH IT HERE
The Thai people really made us feel welcome at their protest march, giving us water, muffins and

20140125-195414.jpg
THIS GUY WHO GAVE ME A BOWL OF FISH BALL SOUP
He was so amazing I had to video tape him. I have not adjusted the speed in any way, he was crazy fast. WATCH THE VIDEO HERE
Tourism is 10% of Thailand’s economy and the business community is pressuring the government to find solutions and fast, it’s actually quite interesting.
The protesters have blocked all the main streets downtown trying to shut the government down. Of course I got the T-Shirt, “SHUT BANGKOK DOWN” and a couple extras for my protest friends back home.- Our Tuk Tuk is turned back from several streets

20140125-204857.jpg
BANGKOK IS NOTORIOUS FOR IT’S TRAFFIC PROBLEMS, THIS WORKED
Were finally back to our hotel, Natasa reminds me just our stuff is there, we don’t have a room anymore. She suggest a walk to the river, before we part ways at the airport in a few hours.

20140125-205215.jpg
WE HAD A GREAT, EVENT PACKED, VACATION? I NEED A REST AFTER ALL WE DID!
Natasa is going back to Slovenia and I’m heading to Myanmar (Burma). I will be going at a much slower pace, since I have a little more time.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed sharing our adventure? I know we did.
Love
Jeff and Natasa
YOU CAN SEE ALL THE THAILAND PHOTOS HERE

20140125-210207.jpg

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND IN 2 DAYS

Natasa only had 12 days for vacation. You must fly more than bus , buy tours, and try to pack in some time to just lay on the beach. (which I rarely do anyway). I rode the camels in Morrocco and wanted to ride the elephants in northern Thailand. I consulted the internet and found BLUE ELEPHANT THAILAND TOURS. They had something for both Natasa and I. She likes hiking, waterfalls and living with locals and I wanted to ride the elephants, go rafting and immerse myself in local culture too.
At $200 a day, each the tour had everything we wanted.

20140120-163130.jpg
IT CAME WITH A PRIVATE TOUR GUIDE IN 4WD VEHICLE WITH LEATHER SEATS.
I’ve never done a tour like this, I usually have more time than money. Time wasn’t on our side, this time.
We started the day with our tour guide Jackie, shopping at the local market for dinner supplies.

20140120-163718.jpg
THE PIG ENDS UP PLAYING A LARGE ROLE IN HILL TRIBE LIFE.
We finally get out of town and visit DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK.

20140120-165741.jpg
WE HAD TO WAIT OUR TURN TO GET A PHOTO, I STILL DON’T GET THE ATTRACTION TO FALLING WATER?
Then we head to the TOP of Thailand, MT. DOI INTHANON AT 2565 meters (8400 ft.)

20140120-170038.jpg
THE HIGHEST POINTS IN OUR HOMELAND IN JANUARY IS COVERED WITH SNOW AND COLD, BUT NOT HERE!
After lunch Jackie set us up with a trekking guide. He said he spoke english, no. I heard two words, “coffee” and “mango.” The Karen Hill Tribe people practiced slash, burn and move farming. The government, in an effort to save the forest, is encouraging sustainable farming.

20140120-173048.jpg
THE HILLS ARE COVERED WITH THESE MINATURE GREENHOUSE FILLED WITH FLOWERS
This region has a wet and dry season, so they are only able to plant rice during the wet season.

20140120-173450.jpg
THE WATER BUFFALO WERE EATING THE RICE PLANTS LEFT FROM THE LAST RICE CROP
The hike followed the river

20140120-174412.jpg
THE BAMBOO WAS HUGE AND USED FOR LOTS OF THINGS, LIKE THIS BRIDGE.
They were saving the forest yet still growing “shade grown” coffee under the canopy.

20140120-174802.jpg
YEP, THAT’S THE WORLD FAMOUS COFFEE BEAN
Of course we get to drink some. Its the best coffee I’ve had on the whole trip.

20140120-175057.jpg
WOOD IS STILL USED (HEAVILY) FOR COOKING AND BOILING WATER
Thank goodness we have 4wd, I can’t believe the road to the Karen Hill Tribes village.

20140120-175609.jpg
DURING THE WET SEASON IT MUST BE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAVE THE VILLAGE

20140120-175810.jpg
EVERY HOUSE HAD A PIG UNDER THE HOUSE, TIED BY THE ANKLE SO THEY WON’T “ESCAPE”
So were cooking curried chicken,rice and vegetables.

20140120-180637.jpg
NATASA WAS HAVING FUN HELPING OUT
Everything was going great, till they pulled out the BBQ rat.

20140120-180918.jpg
I COULDN’T GET THE COURAGE TO SAMPLE THE LOCAL FAIRE
We were pretty tired from everything, so we partied till 8pm and then to bed.

20140120-181727.jpg
WE HAD OUR OWN COTTAGE TO SLEEP IN
At home Natasa likes the bedroom cool, “freezing.” It’s pretty warm where we are

20140120-182111.jpg
SHE SLEPT WITH 5 BLANKETS, I ONLY HAD ONE!
I was going to get another chance to have some of the local fair, BBQ rat.

20140120-182952.jpg
I AWOKE TO LAST NIGHTS CATCH BEING BBQ FOR BREAKFAST
I decided to try some at breakfast. Jackie showed me the trap used to catch them.

20140120-183332.jpg
THEY PUT SOME RICE IN THE BAMBOO AND IT TRIGGERS THE STRING TO CHOKE THE RAT

20140120-183605.jpg
IT WORKS PRETTY GOOD

20140120-183734.jpg
OUR HOST IS DIGGING IN TO THE RAT, THE BONES WERE A LITTLE CRUNCHY
It takes an hour to drive and an hour to hike to the elephant camp. You don’t have to ask Natasa twice, a hiking WE go.

20140120-184507.jpg
I ACTUALLY LIKED THIS HIKE MORE THAN YESTERDAYS

20140120-184647.jpg
NATASA WITH OUR TOUR GUIDE
You could tell we were getting closer to the elephant camp.

20140120-185055.jpg
JACKIE CALLED THESE ELEPHANT COCONUTS
I read so many different things about the “elephant” camps. The elephants were used for logging. In an effort to save what is left, there is no more elephant logging. Elephants eat A LOT, this tourism helps maintain (feed) the elephants and allows me this pretty awesome experience.

20140120-185658.jpg
I LEARNED NATASA WAS NOT THAT EXCITED ABOUT THIS PART OF OUR TOUR (can you tell?)

20140120-190324.jpg
SHE DID BETTER WHEN WE RODE TOGETHER, I DROVE, SHE DIDN’T WANT TO
Then it came time to bath the elephants, were up close now.

20140120-190824.jpg
HOW BIG IS AN ELEPHANT! DO YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIGGER BRUSH? PLEASE
All and all it was a great day, I think Natasa did pretty good considering she didn’t want to get near the elephants, at all.

20140120-191624.jpg
ONE LAST PICTURE OF WHAT WAS A GREAT DAY, SO FAR
One more adventure awaits us, bamboo river rafting. Natasa wasn’t so hot on this one either.

20140120-191950.jpgONCE WE GOT GOING, SHE SAID SHE REALLY LIKED IT!
I thought we were going on a mellow river rafting trip. It was till we hit a section of kids that loved to splash passing tourist on bamboo rafts. We had no choice but to fight back, but we end up soaked. Does that mean we lost? It was fun.

20140120-193148.jpg
THIS IS A GROUP OF THAI ENGLISH STUDENTS AND PROFESSIONAL SPLASHERS
It was a long day and were finally back to our hotel, THE ADVENTURE HOTEL (the real name). We get the room that is entirely mirrors.

20140120-194403.jpg
I HOPE IT’S NOT THE LAST TIME, EITHER!
That was 2 days in Chiang Mai, hope you enjoyed it? I know WE did.
THANKS FOR READING
JEFF
MORE PHOTOS HERE

20140120-195205.jpg
YEP, ADVENTURE “TRAVELLER” MASTER

WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE COUNTRY? PART II

SLOVENIA
I knew nothing about Slovenia except it had mountains and trees, I could camp! It was a country that was part of the Lonely Planets Mediterranean countries, so I had to visit in order to bike “The Mediterranean.” I had done some research, LAKE BLED seemed like a good starting point.

20140105-114350.jpg
I WAS SO WARMLY WELCOMED, THIS GIFTED FLAG BECAME A TRADITION IN EVERY COUNTRY
The camping was restricted to campgrounds only. (I may have broke that rule a couple times). There was a sign with a tent that had a red circle and slash “No Camping”. Further down the sign was a picture of a bear. I thought about it, the bear sign pretty much covered the no camping too!

20140105-115323.jpg
I STARTED AT, WHAT I LEARNED LATER, WAS SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PARTS OF SLOVENIA, TRIGLAV NATIONAL PARK
I love staying with locals, they have great insights to the country. So got an address at CAMP KAMNE and contacted them 2 weeks later.

20140105-121802.jpg
NATASA INITIALLY PUT ME UP IN A HOTEL ACROSS FROM HER PLACE, THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE, I’M LIVING HERE NOW!

20140105-122524.jpg
THE FUN THING ABOUT BIKE TOURING HERE IS THE DESTINATIONS INCLUDE CASTLES LIKE THIS
I don’t want to seemed bias, since I maybe moving here, but Slovenia, is a must visit country. It has all the ingredients for adventure travel: history, landscape, food (deserts!), great biking and my top consideration for a country THE PEOPLE. Warm, friendly, helpful, inviting and for me and most travelers, they spoke English everywhere.
Slovenia is a country of only 2 million people that you can drive across in 2 hours, in any direction!

20140105-144250.jpg
SO THE CHANCES TO TOUR WITH TWO-WHEEL TRAVEL ARE PRETTY GOOD. THEY ARE ALSO FROM PORTLAND, WE LIVE 10 BLOCKS FROM EACH OTHER.

CROATIA
This was a must visit destination for me. I didn’t know a lot about the country except it had beaches and islands that you could ferry hop between. I like to travel “alone”, I get into a lot more fun situations.

20140105-145913.jpg
LIKE MY FIRST NIGHT IN CROATIA AT THE CASINO WITH EVONNE, SO MEMORABLE
Croatia is famous for it’s “ NATURIST (nudist) CAMPGROUNDS. I wanted to stay outside of town so I could camp and the only campground was, yep Naturist.

20140105-151100.jpg
I FOUND OUT THAT “THE AMERICAN” WAS THE BIG TOPIC AT THE RESTAURANT, “IS HE OFFENED?, “DOES HE THINK WERE CRAZY”? I FOUND IT ALL VERY ENTERTAINING.
I was passing through early October, so the “tourist” crowds were gone and not much traffic on the roads. Island hopping was what I was hoping it would be, FUN and fun it was.

20140105-151809.jpg
THE VIEWS FROM THE BIKE WERE SPECTACULAR!
I had 4 close calls, over 7 months on the bike and 2 of them were in Croatia. I got a feeling that drivers weren’t quite sure how to deal with bikes on the road, I used a lot of hand signaling. I didn’t get to spend my normal full month here, but in 3 weeks I saw a lot. Again the history, culture, landscape, food? (not sure) and the people were awesome. Croatia’s main city, DUBROVNIK is a tourist mecca, I highly recommend you don’t visit during the peak tourist season, July-August. It’s a cruise ship destination and 10’s of thousands of people pour onto the streets. I will visit Croatia again for sure, hopefully they can remedy some of their sewer problems before I return, WHEW!

MONTENEGRO
Before this trip, I couldn’t have found Montenegro on a map, any map, not even on a map of Montenegro! I was feeling the pressure to move along and Montenegro didn’t make the cut. I gave it less than 24 hours. For me to say much about the country seems unqualified. But more happened here in 24 hours than anywhere else!

20140105-160750.jpg
THIS IS THE VIEW FROM THE BUS, BIG MOUNTAINS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE OCEAN AND UP!
The bus I was on crashed and I was left no option but to peddle to town. It was the end of the “season” all the campings were closed. I did some stealth camping near the beach, actually pretty nice spot. I had resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t get to “feel” Montenegro. I was so wrong about that, a lot happened in 30 km.

20140105-161520.jpg
LIKE THIS FARMER WITH HIS SHEEP, BROUGHT ME SOME OF HIS HOMEGROWN FRUIT AND LET ME PICK SOME GRAPES
I’ve never felt so much love and acceptance from drivers. From both directions nearly all of them waved, honked and gave me a thumbs up. I was now regretting cutting this loving country short. Pomegranates lined the roads.

20140105-163644.jpg
HAVING A SUNNY DAY WITH LOW TRAFFIC ALWAYS MAKES BIKING AWESOME
I’ll be back to Montenegro, sooner than later. It’s only an 8 hour drive from Slovenia! Talking with some other travelers they said the interior of the country was really beautiful. You may have never heard of or know where Montenegro is, but if you want some adventure travel I think it’s here.

ALBANIA
This is another country I knew nothing about and couldn’t find on a map either. I was told to get a rabies shot because “wild dogs are waiting at the highway overpasses.” The many stray dogs never gave me a second look, so it ended up not being a problem. I was considering skipping this country too, but thankfully I didn’t. Albania ended up having ALL the ingredients for a great travel experience.
The first city I visited was SHKODER, it’s
nick named THE BICYCLE CAPTIAL of Albania. They reportedly have a 27% bike usage, my kind of town, all without special “bike lanes”, just total respect from the drivers.

20140105-181713.jpg
THE CYCLING IMAGES WERE EVERYWHERE, (check this LINK)
TIRANA was not a bicycling city, I didn’t see one biker while riding to the hostel. Albania was communisms last stand. In 1991 the Lenin and Stalin statues were pulled down and now reside wrapped up behind the Art Museum. For 40 years ENVER HOXHA ran Albania, some say into the ground but was also credited with some positive things, like raising the literacy rate and making Albania agriculturally self-sufficient.

20140105-183306.jpg
HE ALSO USED SCARCE RESOURCES TO BUILD OVER 1/2 MILLION BOMB SHELTERS, WHEN MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE BUILT ROADS AND OTHER MUCH NEEDED INFRASTRUCTURE? It may take years to recover from this misplaced priority.
The people were awesome, the food was OK, but one thing it was cheap!

20140105-183859.jpg
I BOUGHT SEVERAL “EVERYTHING” PIZZA’S FOR ABOUT $3 (I tipped $2) FROM ONE OF THE MANY HAPPY PEOPLE IN ALBANIA
I found Albania’s cities and museums interesting and full of Albanian pride. I biked the remote south coast and got to see a part of Albania most tourist don’t see. The images of a hard working and honest people were everywhere.

20140105-195332.jpg
LIKE THIS COUPLE WALKING THEIR ANIMALS DOWN THE “HIGHWAY”
The scenery along the coast was spectacular and the most dramatic of the whole trip (I started in Portugal).

20140105-200248.jpg
I TOOK MORE PICTURES ALONG THIS ROUTE THAN ANYWHERE (can you tell where this going?)
Yep, with the many negative aspects of Albania: open sewers, garbage strewn around, winning most corrupt government of Europe award, roads in disrepair, a train system where people choose the bus, a mafia that scares the Italian mafia.(I must stop). The positives: it’s history, landscape, potential to recover from years of communism and the will of the majority of people to work hard and honestly along with Lonely Planet’s must visit country of 2011, it still holds up as a must visit. Sometimes you must turn your head away. I saw a couple things that were a little tough to take. Lots of countries are counting on Tourism to lift them up, Albania is no different. I never felt threatened or endangered and I was riding solo the whole time, in the middle of nowhere. This country has adventure travel written all over it. Book your trip and surely bring your bike.

GREECE
WOW! “Only 2 countries left” my exact thoughts while on the road too. What did I know about Greece? Economic troubles and Protests about every austerity measure required by Germany’s Prime Minister,Merkel. Greece pride is everywhere, I saw the Greek flag being flown proudly. I didn’t have the energy to tackle Athens, so I stayed north. Lonely Planet stated, Greece is 80% mountainous, Oh Shit! So I took the bus to KALABAKA as a jumping off point. The “BIBLE” (Lonely Planet) said this is a “must see.”

20140106-143648.jpg
METEORA IS HOME OF THE HISTORICAL GREEK MONASTERIES
We biked a non-tourist part of Greece, how do I know? no post cards available, none! We were the talk of DESKATI, “what are you doing here?”, “tourist don’t usually come here.”

20140106-145229.jpg
ME AND VINCENT OVER LOOKING THE TOWN SQUARE
The people always make or break a trip. Score a huge one here, Yannis made our experience an all around “home run.” Not only was he the “BIKE GURU” of ELASSONA

20140106-150121.jpg
YANNIS TOOK US TO HIS “FAVORITE” RESTAURANT TO TRY THE “LOCAL” SPECIALTIES , WE WOULD HAVE NEVER FOUND THIS WITHOUT HIM, (thanks Yannis)
There was Mt.Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain. The second largest city THESSALONIKI had many museums that showcased lots of Greek history. In the old town, I had the best grilled octopus salad.
Writing this reminds me how awesome Greece is, regardless of it’s current (hopefully temporary) economic situation. Again: history, art, landscape, FOOD, and again without hesitation- the PEOPLE I know Greece has many places and people I have yet to discover and look forward to re-visiting, soon!

TURKEY
Turkey was my ultimate destination and I made it. I had no plans of “Bike Touring” Turkey, Istanbul–finished! I fantasized about immersing myself in Istanbul for as long as I can remember. The opportunity finally was here and I planned to rock it off. So this re-cap won’t include any nature landscape highlights. Biking to Turkey had a torturous head wind that killed me. I stayed in the town of KESAN to rest, adjust and explore a little.

20140106-170754.jpg
99% OF POPULATION IDENTIFY WITH SOME FORM OF THE MUSLIM RELIGION
I was told by several cyclist “don’t ride into Istanbul.” I saw out the bus window a cyclist riding in best described as Los Angeles freeway congestion. There was a guy selling bananas, on the freeway. On the bus and in Istanbul you could see quite a few Mosques.

20140106-171916.jpg
THIS WAS A RARE PHOTO, IN A MONTH I MAYBE SAW THIS 10 TIMES?, TURKEY ISN’T GOVERNED BY RELIGION
We visited TOPKAPI PALACE, having visited several Palaces this one’s best feature was the TREASURY ROOM the world renowned dagger with 3 giant green emeralds and the SPOONMAKERS DIAMOND, fourth largest diamond in the world.
The famous BLUE MOSQUE was just a couple hundred meters from our Hotel.

20140106-203442.jpg
AT NIGHT OR DURING THE DAY, THE BIRDS FLYING AROUND THE TOWERS GAVE ME AN EERY ALFRED HITCHCOCK FEELING
Every Hotel, Hostel, Restaurant I or we visited were super friendly. I felt Istanbul attracted a very interesting mix of travelers and quasi-refugees from the Middle East. I stayed a month, the weekend warriors just skimmed the surface of what Istanbul has to offer.

20140106-204428.jpg
KARIM (from Egypt) and ANDRE’ (from São Paulo, Brazil) WERE VERY INTERESTING AND ENTERTAINING
I like the option to live without a car and Istanbul’s many options made your daily commute an adventure! I read they move 5 million people a day.

20140106-204951.jpg
ONCE I FINALLY GOT THE HANG OF IT THE FERRY SYSTEM, IT WAS A FUN OPTION
I noticed early that border towns were always unique and held true their countries values. I felt Istanbul, the city that divides Asia from Europe was no different, it was very true to it’s cultural values. The food, clothing and music wasn’t over run with western tastes. The Starbucks was crowded!, but Turkish coffee was tough to swallow, so I’m with them on that one!
I stayed 32 days in Istanbul, the only reason to return would be as a launching point to explore the rest of this amazingly interesting country. When I visited other countries history and war museums the Turks always seemed to be involved in some way. They have shown compassion regarding the stressful situation on their southern border with Syria. Corruption is currently threatening Turkey, 350 police and 50 public officials have been sacked during the past month. A countries tourism areas don’t seem to be effected by all the political turmoil. Feel free to visit Turkey, taking a ferry from the many close Greek Islands is a very good option.

*CONCLUSION*
This was an interesting task for me, reviewing and evaluating my 8 month bike journey across Mediterranean Europe. I would return to anywhere and everywhere I visited. But for me, the view from the bicycle seat,
ALBANIA stands out as an adventure on all the aspects that make adventure travel exciting: Landscape, History, Architecture, Art, Bike Friendliness, Food (ok) and again THE PEOPLE:where the vast majority are hardworking, honest and as friendly as you could find anywhere.

Places are always a great experience but like I’ve said, “IT’S THE PEOPLE.” I scored on this too.

20140107-122954.jpg
WE BOTH FOUND SOMEONE THAT SHARES OUR VALUES
We’re going to Thailand, Jan 8, 2014, for 12 days. After that, I’m going to Myanmar (Burma) for a month. I will continue to Bike (rent) and continue Jeffs Bike Tour Blog about travel through SE Asia. I hope you find it as interesting as the Mediterranean Bike Tour.
Please write your government representative and plead for action on Climate Change. Prevention is cheaper than the cure!
thanks for reading
Jeff

WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE COUNTRY? PART I

Everyone asks “what was your favorite country?” I had never really thought about it because I had nothing but positive experiences everywhere I stayed. So the answer I’ve used several times: “I would re-visit every place again, if given the opportunity.” “If you told me you were going to Tavira, Portugal I would want to go with you.” The only place I visited (and without my bike) was Morocco, that I couldn’t make a recommendation one way or the other. It was great at times but trying at other times, the jury is still out on Morocco.
I’m going to write a small commentary on each country I visited. I hope there’s enough for you to plan a trip to one of the many places I visited.
PORTUGAL
I pace my travel in order to avoid having to return. But I spent 5days in LISBON, I left feeling a yearning for more.

20140104-105632.jpgTHE PUBLIC PLAZAS WERE ALL VERY INTERESTING AND CREATIVE

20140104-105759.jpg I RODE DURING THE EARLY SPRING BLOOMS, OUTRAGEOUSLY BEAUTIFUL

20140104-105942.jpg
MIGEL’S HOSTEL IN TAVIRA, FELT LIKE HOME
Biking in Portugal was so satisfying, I felt all the work in planning for this trip was paid back and I could have come home. (notice could have)
SPAIN
I’ve had friends rave about Spain, I get it now. The history, art, landscape diversity and the people were tops. I had a year for this adventure, I could have easily spent it all in Spain.

20140104-110819.jpg
LOTS OF AWESOME VIEWS

20140104-110930.jpgCLIFF’S HOSPITALITY WAS JUST A SMALL SAMPLE OF WHAT PEOPLE EXTENDED TO ME

20140104-112825.jpgI FOUND THE MUSLIM ART AT BOTH ALCAZAR and ALHAMBRA TO BE IN MINT CONDITION. (much better than Topeka Palace in Turkey)

20140104-114356.jpg THE VILLAGE OF COLERA HAD ART, NUMEROUS ACTIVITIES: DIVING, HIKING, SNORKELING, SWIMMING, KAYAKING. HISTORY AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK ON NURIA’S COMMUNITY GARDEN PLOT!
After staying at 2 “border” towns I find they have a lot of the countries uniqueness without the crowds. I would re-visit COLERA without hesitation.
MOROCCO
I wasn’t going to go to Morocco, but from Seville, Spain a round trip ticket cost 130 EURO ($169), OK I’ll go! I spent 2 weeks: SAHARA DESERT and SIDI IFNI and FEZ . I consider myself pretty well travelled (3 times around the world), but MARRAKESH ate me alive. I wasn’t ready for the continuous opportunities they found to take advantage of me.

20140104-121736.jpg I GOT SCAMMED INTO VISITING THE TANNERY DURING THIS WEEKENDS “CELEBRATION”. Remember a tannery is where they work dead animal skins, WTF!

20140104-122135.jpg
I LOVE AND RESPECT AGRICULTURAL WORK, BUT HERE IT SEEMED ONLY THE WOMEN WERE WORKING IN THE FIELDS

20140104-122557.jpg
THE CAMEL CAMPOUT WAS A GREAT EXPERIENCE AND A SUPER VALUE

20140104-122816.jpg
AWAY FROM THE BIG CITIES BIKING CAN BE SAFE AND VERY REWARDING (rented bikes are shit)

20140104-123018.jpg
THEN THERE’S THE GARBAGE SITUATION, TOSSED INTO THE STREET AT NIGHT, BUT CLEANED UP BY SUNRISE

20140104-123605.jpg
MOST OF THE MOROCCANS WERE AWESOME, BUT THE SCAMMERS GAVE THE COUNTRY A BLACK EYE
Like I said earlier, the jury is out about recommending or returning to Morocco. I have a friend building a house there, so maybe I’ll return someday?
FRANCE
The first 2 hours of biking in France, I flipped off 3 drivers, non previous to that. It was the start of their busy tourist season on the coast, everyone was in a hurry, to have fun? I was in France 20 years ago, you couldn’t hardly get a cup of coffee unless you spoke French. That’s over, they got the memo, English is the International language, not French. I felt so welcome speaking only english, it was awesome.

20140104-124940.jpg
MY GOOGLE CALENDAR ALERTED ME TO NEIL YOUNG’S CONCERT, I QUICKLY LEFT SPAIN AND HEADED EAST.

20140104-163744.jpg
THE FRENCH WERE VERY HOSPITABLE, DINNER, CONVERSATION AND LOTS OF LAUGHS
The tourist office in TENDE (another border town) recommended I visit GRANILE. The tourist office was spot on about this recommendation.

20140104-163957.jpg
GRANILE WAS THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE I VISITED IN FRANCE
I was so close to MONACO I decided to join the 20,000 tourist who visit daily. The country is 2km X 2km, best known as a tax haven and for gambling. I thought it was kinda of a police state too, I was stopped 3 times and reprimanded for something? (no police photos from here).

20140104-174838.jpg
MONACO’S AQUARIUM WAS AMAZING! BUILT IN 1910 (PHOTOS)
ITALY
I had several awesome bike tours planned. The more I thought about it and some of my other options, it came down to, no Italy. I did spend some time in VENICE. It was pretty hot, crowded and the transportation options were limited. I was kinda burned out from traveling, so I holed up in my air-conditioned hotel room.

20140104-181412.jpg
THE MURANO GLASS WAS REALLY AWESOME
A local told me there were three businesses that made good money: the water taxis, gondola paddlers and

20140104-184217.jpg
THE LUGGAGE GUYS (this guy is earning his now) I NEEDED HELP GETTING MY BIKE AND TRAILER OVER A PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE, $10 FOR 1 MINUTE OF WORK (I did it myself)
I got the train out of hot Venice and headed for the cool mountains of Slovenia.

20140104-184908.jpg
RIGHT OFF THE TRAIN, I GRABBED THIS BIKE PATH ALL THE WAY TO SLOVENIA!

20140104-185607.jpgBUT NOT BEFORE I CAMPED ILLEGALLY AT LAGHI DI FUSINE
I really didn’t give Italy a chance to win me over, but my decsion to skip Italy proved to be life changing. Maybe Italy will be in some future travel plans. If you really must see the leaning tower of Pisa, google it.
This blog post is longer than I thought it would be, so 2 parts.
Thanks for reading (the stat page tells me your reading)
Climate Change needs your action to stop, please stand up and make a difference.
Ride On
Jeff
NEXT? WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE COUNTRY PART II

TAKSIM: HOME OF THE PROTESTS AND SHOPPING

I moved to the Taksim area via of the ferry and metro. I had visited several times, but I really wanted to immerse myself into the neighborhood. I was here just an hour and I realized it was a great move. I collect bike themed stuff and I found this awesome shop,
TOSBAA. The site is in Turkish, but you can click along the bottom of the site to see some really fun bike themed stuff.

20140103-135141.jpgI BOUGHT THIS MEMORABLE BOOK END, (professional bike walker) I also bought: a coffee cup, cooking apron, t-shirt and shopping bag.
I walked to meet Andre and friends at the X-ist gallery where the art show was. I found myself on the other side of a canyon, but have no fear,

20140103-140612.jpgISTANBUL’S MANY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS INCLUDED THIS GONDOLA RIDE ACROSS THE CANYON ( saved me 1/2 hour of walking around)
While walking through Taksim Square I could see

20140103-141401.jpgTHERE WAS STILL A STRONG POLICE PRESENCE, DISCOURAGING ANY FUTHER PROTEST IN THE SQUARE.
I was recommended to stay at the CHILL OUT HOSTEL. Not all Hostels are created equal. I was now at the party hostel, but too lazy to move, I endured. They had a kitchen, so I could cook an American breakfast that I shared with everyone.

20140103-142830.jpgEGGS, POTATOES, VEGGIES, CHEESE AND SAUSAGE There was a homeless women staying there she looked like she hadn’t eaten in weeks. She ate more than 2 times as much as me, I was happy to share. The Hostel was somewhat in dis-repair.

20140103-143230.jpgTHIS ENTRANCE WAS JUST A SAMPLE OF WHAT AWAITED INSIDE I chose a nice 8 bed dorm that had only 2 people in it. That didn’t last long, 4 student’s showed up.

20140103-143911.jpg THAT’S MY BED, THEY HAD THEIR STUFF COVERING THE “ENTIRE” FLOOR, I ASKED FOR JUST A SIMPLE PATH TO MY BED AND THAT’S WHAT I GOT, A PATH! The Hostel owner offered to move me to another room I told him after 8 months of travel I can endure almost any situation.

20140103-150504.jpg
THE OWNER GOT US IN THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT WITH THIS CHRISTMAS TREE

20140103-150736.jpgTHE HERO OF THE HOSTEL “HOUSE CLEANING”
It doesn’t snow often in Istanbul, but lucky me

20140103-151251.jpgMY TENNIS SHOES DIDN’T WORK, SO I HAD TO BUY SOME BOOTS

20140103-151438.jpgMY VISIT TO THE MODERN ART MUSEUM
Walking can again show you a city close up.

20140103-152533.jpgLIKE THIS BIKE THEMED ART
I love to travel there is so much to see

20140103-152757.jpg

20140103-152829.jpg
I left myself a couple of days to re-visit some favorite spots in Istanbul. Hush Hostel in Kadikoy, you win. I’ve read there are between 13.5 and 20 million people in Istanbul, it looks and feels more like the 20 million! The 3 to 4 day Hush Hostel kitchen remodel is into 15 days now and not finished. I re-visit my favorite restaurant, Tonton Efendi. Lucky for me Selahattin’s daughter is there,

20140103-193123.jpg
HER NAME IS MELIKE AND WELL, ME LIKE TOO!, SHE’S AS FUN(NY) AS HER (step) DAD
You can’t drink the water from the tap in Istanbul. The Chill Out Hostel had a filter on their drinking faucet. When you shower, you can smell the chlorine. Protecting your water supply from contamination is so important..

20140103-194339.jpgIT’S SEEMS A LOT CHEAPER TO PROTECT YOUR WATER SUPPLY THAN TO DO THIS!
I’ve said I was Kebabed out, well I’m not alone

20140103-194639.jpgKEBABS ARE TURKEY’S AMERICAN HAMBURGER, TIME FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT
A city this big needs a comprehensive recycling program, what’s going on is ridiculous.

20140103-200239.jpgPEOPLE JUST THROW RECYCLABLES AWAY, THEN THE RECYCLERS HAVE TO PICK THROUGH THE GARBAGE TO RETRIEVE RECYCLABLES.
Spring will be in full bloom in Istanbul.

20140103-201054.jpgSPRING BULBS BEING PLANTED

20140103-202052.jpgANDRE’ TOOK THIS PICTURE WITH MY CAMERA WHEN I WAS PASSED OUT, (Hush Hostel)
I was warned about the rug salesman of Turkey, their nothing compared to Morocco. They tried a few times with me but after Morocco, I know all the tricks. I still bought a few things.

20140103-202629.jpgTHE SHOES

20140103-202809.jpgAND PURSES WERE BEAUTIFUL

20140103-203305.jpg
ONE LAST PHOTO IN FRONT OF YET ANOTHER MOSQUE, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!
I bought the transit pass, that you can re-charge as needed. I still had some $ left on mine

20140103-203555.jpgSO I SOLD IT BACK TO THE GUY I BOUGHT IT FROM, THAT WAS EASY
I stay 2 more nights at the Almina Hotel, “Best Breakfast Buffet in Istanbul”, a great send off. At the airport our furniture receives the special treatment.

20140103-204646.jpg
FRAGILE HANDLE WITH CARE
It’s been a great month in Istanbul, but Slovenia get ready I’m coming.
Thanks for reading
Jeff
Turkey Photos are HERE
NEXT? WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE COUNTRY? good question

20140103-205502.jpg
PERSONALLY I WAS TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM AMERICA, I MAY END UP FURTHER AWAY THAN I EVER IMAGINED!