Travel Letters

Khorezm: Castle of Mud

Khiva, Khorezm
June 6, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,    

Near my hotel, on a narrow stone street lies a pile of mud.  The neat, circular pile is no accident.  It is no children's play area.  What is it?

The mud pie is a construction site, or more properly, the preparation area.  Workmen shovel the mud, mixed with straw, into straw baskets that they carry away to a pulley and rope.  The mud is hoisted up to the top of a building.  They are making repairs to a wall using the ancient, time-tested method.

The same thick walls of mud protect the Ayaz-Qala, a group of fortresses dating back to the Sixth Century.  The impressive ruins of the qala sit up on a hillside and dominate the surrounding desert.

Uzbekistan: "Chimgan Mountains"

Chimgan Tashkent Uzbekistan

June 11, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

My friend Elias offered me a good piece of advice: “In the early morning, drive to the Chimgan area.” 

The Chimgan area is about an hour’s drive northeast of Tashkent . The mountains are not so high, but in the distance there are a few rugged snow-capped peaks. And in this eastern province of Uzbekistan , everything is green. Green grass, green trees, green farmlands, green mountain sides.

Bangkok: "Built for Comfort. Built for Speed. Always on Time"

The Emporium
Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok, Thailand
June 30, 2009

Dear Speed Lovers,

I am taking a break from writing my travel letters to visit The Emporium – a high-end shopping mall: Chanel, Hermes, Ungarao, etc, etc, etc.

The Emporium is sponsoring an exhibition of high-end automobiles, built for speed, and I daresay, comfort.

Next to each outrageous auto, an equally outrageous wrist watch is on display: Breitling and Bentley, and Blancpain and Porsche, etc.

Van, Tatvan, Bitlis: "Castles in the Sky"

Lake Van
Southeastern Anatolia
19 October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

The Lonely Planet "Turkey" is 732 pages thick. When I got to the last chapter on page 597, Southeastern Anatolia, I decided to begin my travels out there and work my way backwards in the book, traveling from east to west in southern Turkey. I flew from Istanbul to Van (1642 km…1020 mi).

Out here, Turkey's neighbors are Georgia and Armenia. West of Van lies Iran (only 100 km), and to the south, Iraq and Syria. Even though they were very close, and tempting, I decided not to visit any of these countries, at least not on this trip, since there is so much to see here.


Macau: "Não!"

Macau 澳門


April 16, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I know what you are wondering. And the answer is "Não!"

I resisted the temptation to enter one of those grotesque monuments to avarice and addiction.

Don’t get me wrong. I'm no prude. I adore a hand of Blackjack. I savor the action of Craps. But with limited time, and a retiree’s budget, I just said "No!".


Hong Kong: "Lovely 可爱"

Hong Kong 香港
Special Administrative Region
April 13, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Their answers were always the same.

Whenever I asked other tourists what they liked best about Hong Kong, they responded heartily:

"Hong Kong is safe and clean. Transportation is excellent. Service is efficient. Shopping is supreme. The streets are buzzing. The food is good. The sights are impressive."

As one Aussie couple explained, "Hong Kong is lovely."