Travel Letters

Wilton Manors, Florida: A Gay Halloween

Wilton Manors, Florida, USA
October 31, 2008

My dear trick or treaters,

Halloween is a big thing in Miami.

Sure, kids get dressed up and collect their mountains of sweets.

What I mean is that Halloween is a big thing for adults. Bars and clubs in Miami are crammed with costumed revelers.

What I really mean is that Halloween is a big thing for gay adults.

From Key West to Fort Lauderdale, thousands of gussied-up gay men and women parade the streets in creative, colorful, comely outfits.

Bogotá: "The Way My World Works"

Bogotá, Colombia

November 7, 2008

Here's a sampling of the way my world works:

Eight years ago I met Corina on a day-cruise on The Danube in Budapest, Hungary. Corina lives in Bucharest, Romania and I sent her my very first email ever! By some miracle she received it and she responded. Since I had never been to Romania, I decided to visit her the following summer. I have seen her on succeeding trips to Romania and we remain good friends.

Seven years ago, I met Anita and Marc in Sofia, Bulgaria. They were on their ‘round-the-world trip. Six months later we met again for dinner in Bangkok, Thailand. One day soon I hope to visit them and their three children at their home in Holland.

Five years ago I met Sushma and Paawan in Hanoi, Vietnam. They were on their honeymoon. When their first son was of proper age, they invited me to attend the traditional hair-cutting ceremony in Rajasthan, India. We met again at their home in Mumbai. They have a second son now and I expect to return to India next fall.

Three years ago I met Utami in Bali, Indonesia. We traveled together and she was my guide in Java. This year she was my guide in Sumatra.

Last year I met Li Li and Diego near my apartment in Bangkok. Since they live in Beijing, they helped me with hotel reservations, guides and warm hospitality when I arrived in China a month later.

For some reason (maybe my mother's good example of saying hello to everyone who crossed her path) I meet lots of friendly, like-minded people in my travels. And in this digital age, we keep in touch.

Two years ago I met Louisa and Luis and their teenage daughter Valentina in Flores, Guatemala. According to our plan, we met again two days later in Antigua. Luis and Luisa live in Chía, a town outside Bogotá; and they are also determined to see the world. So when I wrote to them and mentioned that I was visiting Miami and was also planning to fly to Colombia, they volunteered to pick me up at the airport and invited me to stay at their home.

Cartagena de Indias: "Placid Sea, Pastel City"

Cartagena de Indias
Bolívar Department
November 14, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

From time to time, my curious friends ask, "Jan, how are the ladies there?" (Wherever "there" is.) So their "inquiry" regarding "Las mujeres Colombianas" was no surprise.

How shall answer the question about Colombian women without exacerbating my own proclivity for hypertension and without interfering with any cardiac control devices out there? I'll do my best:


Medellín: "A Unique Travel Adventure"

Antioquia Department
Republic of Colombia
November 18, 2008,

Dear Family and Friends,

Now here's a unique travel adventure:

My Avianca flight from Cartegena to Medellín left on time at 08:00. Ten minutes into the flight the pilot made an announcement. Since my Spanish is improving day by day, little by little, poco a poco, I understood the pilot to say that the airplane had a technical problem and we had to return to Cartegena. We made a sweeping 180 degree turn and in a few minutes we were on the ground.

The gate agent estimated that our waiting time would be about an hour, mas or menos (more or less). "Mas or menos" I figured out is the Spanish equivalent of the Arabic "Inshallah."

Vientiane: "Visa Run"

Vientiane, Laos

January 12-16, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
Sabai Dee,

Here's a good one:

"The reason I didn't recognize you, Jan, is because when we met six years ago, you were fat. Now you are slim and younger looking."

So said my friend Kia, a lovely Laotian woman, who with her husband Wisai, runs a small restaurant in Vientiane.

So what am I doing in Vientiane?


Fethiye: "Drop Anchor"

Western Mediterranean

29 October 2009

My Dear Capitan David, Capitano Giovanni, καπετάνιος Πέτρος, and एडमिरल सिंह *

cc: Family and Friends

On your next sailing cruise to the eastern Mediterranean, I recommend you explore Fethiye Bay (Fethiye Körfezi). Drop anchor astride any number of idyllic islands: Yassicalar ( Flat Island ), Tersane Island , or Kizil Ada ( Red Island ). Swim and snorkel in the clear turquoise waters of Cennet Köyü ( Paradise Bay ) or Klopatra Hamami (Cleopatra’s Bath ). #

If your cook has a day off, sail into Fethiye Harbor and dock at the marina. Sea-side and cliff-side restaurants serve delightful Turkish dishes featuring fresh fish and sea food. ##

Steady your sea legs and wander around Fethiye (ancient Telmessos). The Tomb of Amyntas (350 BCE) is a Doric style Lycian temple cut into the rock wall of the cliff facing the sea. Close to the harbor is a Roman theatre.

Is your crew busy scraping the algae off the hull? Take a short ride into the mountains to the sorrowful site of Kayaköy (Karmylassos).