Tag Archives: beach

…The Turquoise Coast

A pancake vendor near St. Nicholas Island. We tried the Lemon and Sugar. Absolutely Divine. Other options included Nutella and Banana or Spinach and Cheese.
The BlueKey, our (not really a sailing) yacht for the week.

Southwestern Turkey is known by the doubly meaningful “Turquoise Coast.” The water is both blindingly blue, and the country is Turquoise (or Turkish, in it’s more Anglophone spelling).

We just got back from a weeklong break from Dhaka to Turkey. Yes, I know, we’re doing a lot of travelling recently, but we’ve got to make sure we take all the trips possible from here before we leave, no? And other than Sri Lanka, a few of the Emirati airports and some of China’s lesser known cities, we’ll have made a nearly complete tour of all the “direct flights from Dhaka” before we go. Turkey is the longest haul from here, (though Biman flies to London as well, that’s just too far for a short visit). 

So, to Turkey.

We divided our week into two bits, a sailboat cruise along the coast and a urban sightseeing adventure in Istanbul.

The beach at Olympos

The first bit was incredibly HOT. The weather was promised to be in the 80s (35 C), but it was instead in the hundreds. Since the boat was in the sun, without a/c, this was a bit of a challenge. Most people sleep on the boat deck, but in a fit of modesty, and for fear that Neko would keep everyone awake, she and I tried to tough it out in the cabin the first night. And, yes, it was torture. I would have been less (sweaty) wet if I’d slept floating in the Mediterranean. The rest of the nights we kipped it on the deck, midnight wake-ups and feedings be damned. And, no one even noticed she woke up (3-4 times a night). I was refreshed and happy. Sleeping outside under the stars with a 6 month old? Priceless.

Of course, when we got home a week later, she had a bit of sleep regression. She must have liked snuggling cozy between us on a gently rocking boat. Yes, that does sound nice.

Some of the really tasty food aboard. The crew shopped in the towns along the way to ensure fresh ingredients. Olives, tomatoes and fresh bread… Roasted fish, eggplant, pasta….
An open market shop in Kas.

We visited the lovely village of Kas, which has the air of the Riviera, and is the kind of place that people dream of for a retirement home. Quaint cobbled streets, bright white stucco, wooden shutters, geranium window boxes, tiled roofs, shady central squares, open fresh markets…. Such a happy day. We bought a handpainted bowl, comparison shopped on ice cream (one guy charge us 2.50 lira for a cone, another guy charged twice as much! We ate both), and watched as a steady stream of competetive swimmers made their way from the waterfront end of the race to the main town.

We also stopped in at a few ruinous sights (the ancient Roman town of Olympos, the sunken city of Kekova, the Island of St. Nicholas). We visited a hippy backpacker campground and farm only accessible by boat known as the Butterfly Valley, but butterflies were out of season, and we only saw 2. A great waterfall and some crickets and grasshoppers, though. We missed the Lycian tombs and the mysterious Chimera flames, but that’s just more reason to head back down there some time, right?

We did a lot of swimming (even Neko), and (forgetting that I’d applied sunscreen while wearing a shirt) got really sunburnt in a 15 minute snorkeling session. I missed out on further swimming because the burn was pretty bad, and didn’t really snorkel in the best spots, so that was a bit disappointing.

Swimming with Neko

The water felt really salty at first, but was alternately bathwater warm and chillingly refreshing. You could see about 30 feet down in most places and some of our fellow travellers used the opportunity to dive under the keel of a boat. Most everyone else on the boat was from down under, deeply tan and on extended journeys (of a year or more) before they returned home. I felt like a bit of a fly-by-night tourist.

Ruins at Olympos. Nearly all the rocks were chunks of ancient buildings.

Overall, I highly recommend the Turquoise Coast, though you don’t need to see it by yacht. Most of the harbors offer day long tours to the same sights we saw slowly over three days. Of course, you miss out on sleeping under the stars if you do, but you’ll be blessed with air conditioning instead. It’s a toss up.

Tomorrow, a recap of Istanbul.

Happy (and hot) hikers.

…Singapore, part 1

(I apologize for a lack of pictures, imagine a thorougly modern world city, with ample trees, sidewalks and fancy shopping, poised on the coast, and you’ve got Singapore.)

We’re back from a whirlwind immersion in modern luxury that left me in tears on the way to the airport. Why? I was that depressed about having to leave the McDonalds, the Pho, the opportunity to try clothes on before you buy them… and walkable streets, open parks and movie theaters.

Those tears were a pretty clear indication that I enjoyed the trip a lot, of course. I’d move to Singapore, if opportunity presented itself, though the sheer number of malls and shopping centers might make me fear for my bank account. I think we spent 80% of our waking hours in malls of some sort or other, even when we weren’t shopping, we were walking through them on the way to other things. The official language of Singapore is English, but it’s a cultural melting pot, and the architecture, sound and taste are pan-Asian and Western combined.

We arrived at the bleary hour just before dawn on Friday, after an altogether too short red-eye from Dhaka. The flight was 4 hours, punctuated by a meal, children who acted like banshees (not babies, but older kids who screamed like them for long long long intervals—childrearing is very different here than I am used to), and a few bouts of turbulence (it is the rainy season after all). Thankfully, our hotel had arranged for a private car to take us into town, and we checked in incredibly early and crashed on the bed until noon. The room had this great opaque shade that made daytime seem like night.

We then crawled down to the first floor to partake of the included lunch, yummy, and then ventured out into the wide world of Singapore’s tourist industry. We went first to Sentosa Island, a cross between a beach resort, a Disney-like gardening theme, and a casino. We visited an aquarium and saw a dolphin and sea lion show with local pink dolphins. They’re rather ugly because their mottled pink and grey skin looks more like they have a disease or bad case of sunburn than something natural. One of the sea lions was a total ham though, and danced to the music the whole time.

We also walked on the beach there, saw a fountain that was reminiscent of Gaudi, and ate the first of many ice creams over the weekend. I was totally wiped out by the time we got home later that night, crashed again, and woke up just late enough that the housekeeper was already opening the door to clean our room.

On Saturday, we got a tourist transit pass and made our way out to the zoo. The exhibits were almost completely open, many of the animals were on islands surrounded by a stream as way of containing them, rather than cages. They also had some free ranging orangutans. It was truly an amazing zoo, and I’ve been to many of the world’s best zoos. What made it even better was the gentle drizzle that kept the day cool, and the animals active and alert. We saw an elephant show and another sea lion show. Mr. A was chosen to be the audience participant (a big “macho man”) and was challenged to toss Frisbees from quite a distance to a sea lion on stage. He did remarkably well, even considering that they handed him a floppy rubbery disc that I wouldn’t have been able to toss to the computer screen in front of me now. Next door to the zoo is the equally awesome Night Safari zoo, made especially cool by the night mist and the solitary trails between exhibits. We made it back on the last train to our subway stop and creeped back to the hotel for another dead sleep.

Sunday was full of shopping, eating Pho and cheesy fries and picking up some of the stuff requested by people here in Dhaka (lemons, for instance, are unavailable here… weird).

Monday was more of the same, but much hotter and Tuesday we visited a movie theater to see the new X-men movie before hopping on the plane back to Dhaka. We made sure to pick up the strange Korean meat product that was described by previous visitors to the Singapore airport as “meat crack” and sat amongst a forest of orchids above a koi pond while we waited for our flight. And here we are, back in Dhaka, where the weather is surprisingly pretty and blue today, you can thank us for bringing it back with us.

…the Sundarbans (“beautiful forest”)

 

The flight from Dhaka to Jessore was on Regent Air, complete with sari-ed flight attendants.

The boat creaks at night. Only the most subtle sense of movement and the creaking of wood remind you that you’re on a boat. The sense of movement, the creaking, and the quiet.

At the dock in Mongla, detritus from old ferries.

We slept for three nights in a tiny room with a sloped ceiling that would have been right at home in a black and white movie set in colonial Africa. A pendant lamp hung in one corner–its 10 watt bulb barely illuminating the futon bed. The shutter-like door opened directly onto the bed. To each side, in the teak paneled walls pegs for hanging clothes and towels. The mosquito net was hung each night, though the mosquitoes weren’t a problem. The window was a grate, which tilted out over the water and was covered by a wooden shutter at night.

The deck of our restored teak river boat, the "B613." Contic provided chess, Carom and Othello and a few local interest books. We brought Set, Unexploded Cow, MahJong, Bohnanza, Milles Bournes, Cards.... iPods, DS's, Kindles and Cameras.

Out in the hall, a rush matting kept nighttime steps quiet, as need called someone to the little bathrooms near the kitchen.

Raising the sail

Above, the springy roof of intersecting bamboo was a tempting place to experience the sunrise and moonrise, or bask in the breeze while the boat sailed.

Unfurling the sail.

Our days were spent mostly on the deck, eating, playing games and watching the world go by. The real world, capital-E Earth. On the river, we saw a few people, some fishing, some tourists, like ourselves, but not many, and not often. Only when we stopped at the designated “forest stations” were there many other people, but nothing like Dhaka, and nothing even like the famous national parks in the US.

Sunset at Tiger Point, low tide.

There was kind of a mysterious vagueness about time on our trip. When we first arrived, there was a fear that 4 days with nothing to see but trees and water would drive us to insanity, but we didn’t want to leave, and the days didn’t stretch on. Instead, there was the surprise that it was suddenly time for another meal, surprise that the sun was reaching the horizon, or that the mist of the morning had suddenly become the heat of the afternoon.

Our forest service guard, like many public officers in Bangladesh, carried an old, derelict-looking weapon. I hope he never plans to use it, as it hasn't been maintained in a long time.

In the Sundarbans, you come for the tigers, the crocodiles and the kingfishers. If you’re visiting from abroad, these things are worth seeking. If, however, you’re living in Dhaka, the best part of the trip is the solitude. Go on a small boat tour with a few people you know, people who whisper only loud enough to point out the monkey while the boat rows silently down a canal, people who are willing to play a couple rounds of dominos or mahjong. Go when the noise of Dhaka has made you crazy, go when the dust of Dhaka has coated your lungs and eyes until you can’t even stand to step outside. You’ll enjoy it.

Rowing through a canal in the early morning to catch kingfishers and monkeys as they wake up. There were also many storks and other water-birds, mudskippers, crabs...

Our tour was coordinated by Contic, and is the only tour of the Sundarbans given by sailboat. They offer the tour between November and February, on request. The rest of the year, our boat offers sunset cruises in Dhaka. Contic also arranges day cruises of the rivers around Dhaka on their smaller teak boat, the Fleche D’Or. Other tour operators use traditional river cruise ships, and have a less intimate experience.

Hiking through the jungle near Katka forest station, thankful to have appropriate footwear. Do not rely on flip-flops alone!

Travel from Dhaka is via air to Jessore (30 minutes), and mini-bus to Mongla (2.5 hours).

Interactive map of the Sundarban’s region, showing the clear division between the natural forest and the cultivated surrounds.

Dave‘s 2009 experience on a different boat.

…beach fun

Crabs by the dozen just off Rte 301.

Mr. A and I spent a few days in Ocean City, MD recently (up and back in 36 hours, really), and it was so fun! We stayed at a great family hotel that was right in the heart of things, about a block off the boardwalk. I’d highly recommend finding a place in “downtown” if you’re only going to be there for a short time, it was nice to be able to walk to everything. On the first day we walked to both ends of the boardwalk, and back to the beginning again. (We needed a tram ride for a bit of that!). We ate fries, funnelcake, ice cream, lemonade, crab, eggs, strawberries…. We played in the water and baked on teh sand. The second day we rented bikes for a morning ride, walked in the surf, then hitched a ride on a big high-speed boat to ride up and down the full shoreline and spotted some playful dolphins (ok, I didn’t spot them, but everyone else seemed to be able to see them….).

Yeah!

…language exams

Mr. Adventure took his end-of-course language exams this week and passed with flying colors, exceeding the requirements for his upcoming post. He’s one inch away from a 3/3 and they recommend he do a few more weeks of one hour classes while he’s in another course and then retest before we go. He agreed, even though they start at 7:30 am. More power to him, those early mornings are not my style.

To celebrate, he checked himself in for some surgery at the local hospital and we’ve been sitting on the couch watching movies to recouperate. He looks a little bit pathetic with his big bandage, but he’ll fit right in at FSI when he gets back. That place is a rehab center, everyone seems to get their elective surgeries and major accidents out of the way while they’re stateside between posts. You can’t turn around without seeing someone in a cast or sling.

We made some last minute plans to head out to the beach at the end of next week, and got one of the last rooms available in Ocean City. Supposedly the place is supremely tacky touristy, like Dollywood at the beach, so I am excited to visit. I gotta love me some tacky touristy stuff.