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Dave & Jo Lynne - SE Asia/Western Australia 2011

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Diary Entries

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Location: Stratham, NH, USA

Unwinding the -13 hour time change...... (the journey home)

Driving north from Busselton, it quickly became apparent that we were leaving behind the two lane roads with minimal traffic. We stayed near the coast as long as we could, detouring onto the four-lane divided road south of Bunbury to try to find the ‘town’ of Stratham (seemed fitting to check it out). After several attempts, we discovered that Stratham, WA is in fact a “locality” in the Shire of Capel. It is comprised of a few hundred souls in a smattering of houses off the ‘highway’ but it boasts the award winning (best in WA) “Forbidden Fruit” stand along the highway – the sign proclaims if the fruit were “any fresher, you’d slap it’s face!”

We stayed as close to the coast for as long as we could as the morning sun made for good pictures out over the water. The road out to Cape Bouvard took us into sand dunes with Peel Inlet to our east and the Indian Ocean to our west before crossing the bridge into Mandurah. It’s hard to judge rush hour in WA, but the traffic started to pick up so we opted for the ‘freeway’ to just south of Perth before turning east to the Perth International Airport. 3,423 km (2127 miles) and one small ding from a pebble thrown up at us in a road construction area later, we got the car turned into EuropeCar and got checked in for our flight. Taking off in the dark, it was easy to see that one doesn’t have to get very far out of Perth and there is lots of nothing – no lights, nada, as far as the eye can see.

Having reserved exit row seats for our 5 ½ hour flight to Singapore, it wasn’t a bad trip, other than one lands at the Budget Terminal at Changi Airport (SIN) in the middle of the night. Hotel vans leave from the other two international terminals, so after our luggage finally arrived on the concourse, we hailed a cab for the 15-minute drive east to our hotel. Nice place, too bad we weren’t there long enough to enjoy the rooftop drop-off pool, etc. We did talk them into a 4 pm check-out (rather than noon!) so we caught some zzzz’s before heading out mid-morning in search of breakfast.

The actual 'town' of Changi Village is a fishing village on the far eastern edge of the island that is Singapore and the ferry to the tiny fishing islands offshore left from right behind the Brittish OC that was across from our hotel. The hawker food stalls were a block down so finding breakfast was an easy task. Our $3 (combined total) Hainese Chicken Rice and fruit smoothie was a welcome change to both diet and wallet.

Changi Village has a series of boardwalks along the shore, through the trees along the bluff above the water, all radiating out from the ferry pier. It’s a popular destination for families on the weekend and there were some people enjoying the oppressive heat and humidity and the threatening skies. A thunderstorm drove us undercover at a 24/7 sidewalk pub and ultimately back to the hotel for a nap, shower and repack before checking out. The afternoon downpours (typical of Singapore, we’re told, in large part because of its location so close to the equator) kept us from exploring more of this less populated area of Singapore but afforded us time in the lobby bar to download some of our final pictures of Australia onto our flashdrives and upload a few pix to the PlanetRanger photo pages over a cup of tea and then a glass of wine!

About 10:30 p.m., we took the hotel shuttle to Changi International Airport and began the final leg of our journey home. No luck scoring a bulkhead or exit row for the 7+ hour trip SIN to DOH, but discomfort meant we stayed awake to catch a couple of movies as well as the on-board meals before arriving (in the dark) in Doha about 0430 local time. Doha, following the lead of other Middle East nations, is building a massive new airport, but while that is in process, they’ve just built a new ‘temporary’ Departure and Transit terminal. Upon landing, the plane is parked way away from any terminal buildings. One offloads from the steps at the rear of the plane onto a large shuttle bus (first class and business offload from the front of the plane into their limo and/or luxury bus to go to the First Class/Business Class Terminal!). It’s about a 10 minute drive to the transit/departure terminal (stop 2 is the Arrival Terminal) where one must immediately go through security – even before immigration! Hand luggage is thoroughly searched (although a separate scan of the proverbial quart-size Ziploc bag is not required) and then one enters the “Duty Free shops” area, complete with luxury cars being raffled off at $100+/ticket.

At the Transit desk, we ask about bulkhead seats for the 15 hour flight from DOH to JFK and are told, regrettably, “there are no bulkhead seats, but I can offer you exit row”. We have our choice of aisle and middle or middle and window (turns out, no one wants the aisle exit row seat so we have the whole row to ourselves! Score!!! The sun comes up while we wait in the airport before going, once again, through security at the gate, including hand pat-down while our bags are being rifled through and searched. One passenger got through the pat-down only to discover that his bag had been emptied (albeit mostly distributed to small lap-top size boxes that are then run through the xray machine again!) David’s plastic belt (because he left his leather belt with metal buckle somewhere in Australia) of course has to be removed, and hence his carry-on gets a ‘special search’. Back on the bus for another 10 minute ride to our next plane and about 30 minutes late, we take off from Doha, seeing the shops, businesses and apartments along the street within 300 yards of the runway!

After 8 beautiful, clean and modern airports, it’s sobering to arrive at JFK as the first airport in the US that many visitors see. JFK is inefficient (it takes nearly an hour to get through immigration – even as Americans and another 30 minutes to wait for our luggage), drab, dirty and cramped. Mandy was waiting for us as she was heading home for the weekend (flying to Boston on JetBlue). After standing in line for 45 minutes to re-check our bags for our Delta flight from JFK to BOS, we went upstairs to the main ticketing area and discovered that our flight was delayed until 8:30 pm. We must have looked tired as we were soon booked on the 6:30 pm shuttle out of LaGuardia, so we headed for the taxi stand and Mandy headed for JetBlue for her 5:30 flight. Bad weather in Boston had put a ground hold there so Mandy’s flight didn’t leave JFK until 7:15, but by then, we’d made it from JFK to LaGuardia at rush hour and were on our delayed shuttle flight to Logan. Having a car pick us up at Logan saved us the wait for the C&J bus and we were all home by 10:30 pm (for us – we’d been up 46 hours!).

From the pounding surf off the southwestern coast of Australia through the steamy heat of Singapore and the cold raw sunshine of mid-March at JFK, we returned to Stratham to find snow everywhere! Where we live is in a pocket and while there had been warm days, there still were 3-4 foot snowdrifts along the road and a couple of feet of snow on the level, especially in places that don’t get the direct sun. A month later, the snowdrifts were still hanging around but as this is written, all but the last lingering bit of a pile in the full shade is evidence of the brutal cold and record-setting snowfall that was winter 2010-2011 in this part of New Hampshire. The daffodils first bloomed April 15th and there’s evidence on the maple trees around that spring may finally get here. Now, if the temperature would just warm up a little so we can lose the layers and layers we’ve been wearing……

An aside - Mandy was home for the weekend because the new synchronized skating team from Figure Skating in Harlem, the Harlem Ice, were competing in only their second competition in Fitchburg, MA on Saturday. So we pulled out the turtlenecks, long pants, wool sox, winter coats and mittens and headed off to Fitchburg on Saturday morning. The girls skated beautifully and placed second in their group! The three coaches spent Saturday night at our house so it wasn’t until after they left mid-day on Sunday that the jetlag finally caught up with us – hard!

We still have some pictures to upload to the final picture pages and David is working on PowerPoint presentations of each country as we’ve been asked by so many to share more than the allotted 12 pix per PlanetRanger page. Know that we’re working on it. Keep checking back – we’ll get it done!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Location: Stratham, USA

Next diary entry coming soon - in the meantime, we've uploaded a ton of pictures to the Australia pages..... check them out!!1

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Location: Stratham, NH, USA

We are home!

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Recent Messages

From Mimi and Bill
Fantastic trip. So interesting, Never a dull moment for both of you. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for the great pictures.
May you continue to enjoy your journey.
Response: We've been as far west and as far south as we'll be able to get in WA, so heading for Perth in the morning and then we begin our long journey home, via Singapore, Doha, JFK and Logan.

Hope there's a little bit of snow left for us when we get back to NH! See you soon!
From Mary Ann Black
You will LOVE this! The front page of the LIfe and Leisure section of the Ames Tribune has a picture of a large snowman living in the Sunset Park Section of Brooklyn, NY. Know that is not Mandy's neighborhood but it looks darling--thought you would get a kick out of that!!
Response: that's cool, Mary Ann - Mandy lives in Park Slope and I'm not sure how far that is from Sunset Park - but I know NYC has had a lot of snow (and more recently sleet!). Stay warm!
From Joyce Tyrrell
I don't see one snow drift--great place to be right now! Everything fine here, just a little nippy. Stay warm!
Response: no snow drifts here - and try explaining them to people who have no concept of snow! Looks like Wyoming is in the deep freeze, though. When we convert -30 F to -34 Celsius - now that blows their minds! It's probably more appropriate that you-all stay warm! :-)
From Larry Smith
How do you find all your guides?
Response: We met our Cambodian guide on our first visit here in 2008 at the recommendation of a friend. He's driven us all over Cambodia this trip! When you come over here, we'll give you his contact info.
From Mary Ann Black
Beautiful pictures and wonderful updates!
Response: Thanks, Mary Ann - and we've only just gotten started! Stay warm and watch the ice!