As the sun set over the distant hills in Egypt, and I sat on the beach in Aqaba watching it go down, I thought about the close on another vacation. It was not one of my typical vacations where I would go out and try to see as much as I possibly could. Instead, I spent a lot of my time sitting next to a pool, and reading a book. Are there things to do in Aqaba, and could I have gotten out of my seat to do them? Of course there are plenty of things to do. I could have visited the castle that was once built to fight off any invaders that might have shown up to this shore. I could have explored the Roman ruins that are being unearthed here as they are in many other places in the area. I could have booked a snorkeling trip to check out the sunken boat or crashed commercial airplane. They would have made for an adventurous holiday, but it is not what I needed at this time.
I needed a vacation where I sat around a pool and relaxed on the beach.
I will always enjoy those trips where I go out and see and do a lot of things, and there will be many that are coming up where I will do exactly that. But there also comes a time where I need to recoup, and that is what this vacation was all about. Things have been a little crazy at work, and when I get back in a couple of days, they will pick up right where they left off. There are a couple of trips thrown in there as well, one with students of mine, so I needed to make sure that I was up for the challenge of this next run.
So am I going to remember a lot from this trip? Probably not.
It is okay though. I still had the sunset. I still had the beach. I still had the couple of days of complete relaxation. And all of this allowed me to keep my sanity.
Thank you, Aqaba for the wonderful vacation. I am sure I will be back again soon since you are not that far away, and during that time I hope to see more of what you have to offer.
As the sun finishes another lap In the northern sky, I watch the shimmer Of its light glimmer on the ocean’s sap. I know the night will only get dimmer, So I can sit out here a bit longer, And from my well deserved drink, take a sip. As a distant brewing storm gets stronger, And threatens to give the air a sharp nip, I will breathe in deeply this last moment As I wait for its coming arrival. For the sun in the sky has not been spent; I will bear witness to its survival. What else can I do on this grassy shore, But enjoy the scene that’s been laid before?
One of the greatest appeals of the island of Naxos is the fact that the major city on the island faces to the west, giving people who visit the perfect opportunity to watch the sun set every evening. For those of you who followed my blog during the time I was trapped in Thailand knew that I spent a lot of my time out there searching for the perfect sunset. So now that I am on another island that offers the same feature, of course I would take advantage of it.
The perches that a person can find in this city are countless and each one gives its unique perspective. I was lucky enough to have found one in the little apartment that we rented while we were out here. It has a beautiful roof patio that gives that perfect view over the ocean. There are a couple of buildings in the way, but it still made for the perfect opportunity for pictures.
Most visitors like to head out to the peninsula at the tip of the island to get the perfect picture there. Not only does it get you away from all of the modern buildings, but it also offers the perfect structure to take the pictures with, Apollo’s Temple.
Of course the perfect shot that everybody tries to obtain is the sun sinking below the horizon while being framed by the forgotten door way. I don’t know what this is like during the height of tourist season, but I suspect that you will need to get out there early if you wish to position yourself for the perfect spot to get that picture. I was lucky enough to be out here during the offseason, and did not have to fight for that spot, but the wind still likes to whip over this little plot of land and makes it really cold. If you find yourself out here during the same time, I highly recommend dressing in warm clothes because you will need them while you are watching the sun set.
Some people still find the perfect spot along the coast for their picture. There a lot of those little spots as well. No matter where you go to get that picture, you will not be disappointed because Naxos has plenty of great places to get that amazing sunset snapshot.
If you are spending time in Oia, a great way to spend the day is to take a quick fifteen minute bus ride to the main town of Fira, and hike along the ridge of the caldera back to Oia. It is about a 15 kilometer hike, and with all of the sights you will see along the way, it will take a little over fours hours to do.
When you get off the bus at Fira, you basically head north through the town of Fira. It is similar to Oia with a bunch of restaurants, cafes, and shops, and though the views are still dramatic, I like the feel of Oia a little bit more.
That does not meant that there still is not a lot to see in the city, and you will spend a good first quarter of the hike hanging out in this town. The path is pretty easy to follow. You just stay on the main drag, and when you hit the Blue Note restaurant, you take a left for the rest of the way. If you are worried about making a wrong turn here, there is a sign that points you to Oia, and tells you that it is a ten kilometer hike from this point. It is also a good spot to stop and have some gelato from the Blue Note. Tiramisu, and raspberry and cream were my favorite flavors. It is also a good place to go to the bathroom because you won’t see many more of them along the way.
Though you never really leave civilization behind, after Blue Note, the buildings become fewer and further between. I was lucky enough to be out here in the spring and the explosion of wild flowers added a new surprise once we left town. The downfall of this is the wind and cool weather. Bring layers if out here in the spring because it can get cool on top of the ridge of the caldera.
Being in the city is really cool, but looking back and seeing the whole white expanse of them is also dramatic. There are basically three cities that you will see along the route, and each of them offers their own beauty. The first two blend together and are a great place to stop for lunch before making the final trek.
Oia is the third city and it pops in and out of view as you continue your hike. It is also a great reference point if you take this hike later in the afternoon so you can watch the sunset while making your way to that final city. The hike here gets more hilly with pushes uphill and steep downhills. Also the path turns into a path of loose volcanic rock which makes hiking go a little slower.
There are still hints of civilization along the way. There are time that had me wondering why they had built these structures in more isolated places. There were a couple of churches along the way at the top of the hills that took some effort to get to, and with no obvious road to get there. It made me wonder what kind of services they had there and who were the people that joined the congregation.
There are also a couple of vineyards carved into the hills along the way. It is a nice reminder of what is waiting for you at the end of the long voyage, and it is also nice to know that the land on the island of Santorini is used to the best of its advantage.
Eventually you will get to that final descent that will take you into Oia. It creates some amazing views from atop this perch, and it is also around this time of the hike that you start to feel the strain for the long hike. But you know that it is coming to the end.
The paved path also returns at this point as well, making the end of the hike more comfortable. It is a great way to see a lot of what the island of Santorini has to offer, and a great way to spend the day. If your a photographer, it is a must do experience. Most of the path is safely away from the dangers of the road, even though there is a short hike along the road, but it is not more than 500 meters long. It is a highly recommended experience, and if you find yourself out here, I hope you take the opportunity.
It’s a long day’s journey through rock and sand Before I can reach my intended goal. Though the trials I face never go as planned, A miracle’s in each moment I stole. I will teach my children to hide behind A boulder, so a weary traveler Will find our game of Boo! the merry kind That makes any hard hike less of a chore. I will find my friend with a hot kettle, Making a sweet tea with the herbs he has found. In the west, when the sun starts to settle, I will watch it on a soft patch of ground. Everyday is a day that I win When I live the life of a Bedouin.
It might have been a long day of travel to make it all the way from Bangkok all the way to Koh Lipe, and my first evening here was more to decompress from the travel rather than soaking up the island life, but after a good night’s sleep, and a change of perspective, I really found the groove of this place really quick.
And that is to move slow. There is no reason to rush anything because everything I really need is right within my reach, and even more than I really do need.
I have landed on the far corner of the beach that stretches along one side of this tiny island at a spot they call the Sunrise side. It is supposed to be the perfect place to rise up early and get some amazing photos of the sun rising over the horizon. I am not at the place in vacation yet where I want to set my alarm so I can see the sunrise, but it will be one of the things that I will do while I am out here. It is also nice because it makes this the quieter part of the beach. Many of the people who choose to stay here do so because they know that people will be going to bed earlier because of the allure of that sunrise option in the morning.
But if there is a sunrise side of the beach there needs to be a sunset side as well. When the tide rushes out, the beach becomes wide enough where you can make the walk easily to the other side of the beach and watch the sunset from over there. When I first heard of this feature, I though that meant that I would have to curve around the island to get to the other side, but it shaped more like a horseshoe or a bay with each side looking out over the other side of the island. Once again, I have been only here for a day and have not made it to that other side yet, but it is in the plans to make sure I get in one good sunset while I am here. This one should be easier to do because it won’t require me to set an alarm to make it happen.
In between the sunset and the sunrise, there are all the things one would expect to see on an island. There are great snorkeling opportunities, and I have been out a couple of times already. The fish that hide among the coral reefs right off the shore are amazing and I need to figure out a way to take pictures underwater so I can share some of these treasures. There is a Market Street to explore that has a lot of great restaurants and a night life scene that I will have to participate in a couple of times while I am out here. And there is always the surprise around the corner. I have heard wild boar rooting around underneath my cabin at night, and I have run into a couple of monitor lizards enjoying the beach as much as the tourists.
All in all, now that I have slowed down a bit and am able take in things at a more reasonable pace, the vacation mindset has taken over. It is nice to be a part of the slow life every once in awhile, and it looks like Koh Lipe is the perfect place to take in this slower pace.
It is that time of the year again where we all look back at where we have been, and reflect on the lessons learned there. By far, 2020 will be remembered where there was a lot to be learned. I hope that we can take a lot from the experiences of this year and use it to grow not only as people but also as a world wide society.
When looking back at the posts that got the most views this year, I noticed that they had a sense of positivity to them, and I know that not all that I posted this year could say that they had that spin on them. It is nice to know that even though I might have found some dark places in this dark time, it did not bring people down and they still searched for that positivity in their lives.
I hope you enjoy the look back as much as I enjoy presenting it to you, and I hope, like me, that you look forward to 2021 with a new sense of revitalization as to what great prospects it may bring.
#10 To Choose a Side of the Valley – Wangen versus Murren
Most of my posts come from the first few days of 2020 when there was only a hint of disease taking over a small town in China. At this time, the hope of the year was still in front of me and I was wrapping up one of the best trips I have been on in a long time. It was great seeing snow again, and being forced to wear winter weather. This picture was taken on one of the last days on this trip as I sat on the balcony of our hotel room in Murren, Switzerland. My mind often wandered back to the beauty of this part of the world.
#9 In a Valley in the Swiss Alps – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Like I said, many of the most popular posts come from my trip to Europe and the beginning of the year, and this is no exception. Lauterbrunnen is a small town in a valley in the Swiss Alps and is the perfect home base for exploring these mountains. It is not nearly as cold in the valley as it is when you find your way to the towns closer to the top, and the views from down below are still as dramatic as they are up top.
After a tough semester of teaching on-line and being quarantined, Thailand had done well enough with the world-wide pandemic to allow travel to open up again, but only for those who were living in the country. It was never my plan to get to know Thailand as well as I did this summer, and it was interesting to drive down to Phuket and see how much this island had been affected by Covid-19. It has picked up since then, but it is still wrangling with the devastating effects it had on its economy. I got to experience it with mainly only its residents, and I still wonder what it would be like to see it when it is full with its regular amount of tourists.
I am actually really glad that this post had the reception that it had. Dachau was one of the more earnest moments of an unforgettable year. I did not know it at the time that I walked around the site of the Nazi’s first concentration camp, but a lot of the images and lessons learned there would haunt me all year long as I saw similar things play out on the political stages all around the world. It is one of the places that I believe everybody should see at least once in their lifetimes, right up there with Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
Koa Yao Yai was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I was able to travel to this exclusive island in mid-July just as it was starting to open its doors again, and they were trying to entice tourists to come and stay. The prices were too good to pass up on this amazing island, and I am so happy that I was able to stay in this little paradise. I am pretty sure I will never be able to afford it again, but it is one of those things that make me look back at this year and realize that I was pretty lucky to be stuck in Thailand for this worldwide crisis.
This was one of the more touristy posts I gave on this trip. It is a must do if ever traveling to Salzburg, and it is really hard to forget about because no matter where you are in town, this imposing fortress is staring down at you from its hill. It is a fun way to spend a day in Salzburg and really lets you feel that medieval experience that you want to get when you travel to Europe.
When I was in this part of the world back in 2007, I was on a very limited budget and could not afford the brunch at the top of this Swiss peak. I almost did not believe it was worth the price earlier this year, but I am glad that I decided against being frugal and went up to this restaurant and had breakfast. It was fun going up and coming down this mountain, and I will never forget this experience. The post really picked up after the death of Sean Connery which is weird because this peak is most famous for the first Bond movie after he stopped playing the iconic character.
I have only had one of my other poems make the top ten list, but there was something that struck a nerve with a lot of people when I first posted this poem. It was early in the lockdown stage that everybody in the world was feeling, and they might have understood the sentiment I was trying to get at with this poem even though that was not what it was written about.
The image of a half full bottle of champagne sitting in front of this statue on the university campus in Salzburg is what inspired this poem. I did not post the poem with this picture until the end of the last school year, but it was around the holiday season this year that the poem started to gain in popularity. It took a year to get back to that feeling of the end of the semester, but I hope it helped everybody rejoice when the difficulty of both school semesters ended.
The title of this post started as a joke between a few people that I travelled to Rayong with earlier this summer. It was one of the first places that opened up after lockdown, and we went there for a couple of days before traveling to Koh Samet when that finally opened up. Rayong was not the best place to stay, but it was nice to be out of Bangkok. This post was about a comparison between Rayong and the amazing island of Koh Yao Yai, and people must have really loved it because the still visit it today. I do not know if it is because they want to know more about Koh Yao Yai, or if the title makes them laugh, but either way thank you for visiting it.
As always, these are posts that received a lot of traffic this year even though they were not posted this year. Some of them have taken a couple of years to gain in popularity, but the last one is the one I can guarantee somebody visits on a daily basis. The funny thing about “Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else” is that it was a throw away post that has now become one of the ones that gets the most traffic. It just goes to show that I do not know what will speak to the public, and what will not. It is always surprises me which posts do well, and which just disappear into obscurity.
You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20
Thank you for joining me in my travels this year. I am sorry that it was not as diverse as it has been in previous years, but it has been an interesting year for everybody. I hope that when things loosen up again next year that you find these posts and the other ones that I will continue to post inspiring and that you get out there and see the world. It is a great way to experience life and I would love to hear about some your adventures some day.
I think I have become obsessed with sunsets. I have been collecting my things and rushing to the closest beach around 6 o’clock every night to try and witness the best one before the end of the year. For some reason, it makes me believe that when I see it, it will give me a sense of closure to a tough year, and it will let everyone out there know that there is still beauty in this world.
My new beach has given me the best sunsets so far. I had to do a little traveling to get there, and I arrived just in time to witness a pretty good one, but I still believe that it could have been better so I will keep on searching until I get that perfect one.
This sunset came of Railay’s west beach. Railay is a tourist destination on the tip of Thailand that is a small strip of rocky mountains and sand that juts out from the country’s mainland. You can not get there by car or airplane. You can only arrive by getting in a tiny boat and having them shuttle you around the tall jutting mountains that surround the beach.
But the promise of sunsets from the spot is huge, and it looks like the perfect playground to stay at for the next couple of days. I will let you know more about the place during the next couple of days, but for now I hope you enjoy the moment that my camera was able to capture.
One of the things that everybody visits if they come to the island of Phuket is the beach. It is impossible to miss one of them. They are all over the place. There are small beaches with an almost private feeling to them, big public beaches, sandy beaches, and even ones that are a little rocky. There are ones that look to the east in anticipation of the sunrise and there are one that look to the west and collect people on its shores to watch the sunset every night.
I have visited a lot of the beaches on my stay out here, and it has been a treat this time around. Phuket is still waiting for the tourists to return to the island, and the beaches are practically empty, but the city is ready for their return so they have been cleaning up the beaches which makes them really nice to walk on and enjoy.
The city life is a little different though. Many of the business owners have not returned and there are many for sale signs on buildings and restaurants that have not opened up in a long time. There are still enough of them out there to make it feel enough like a vacation and there are corners that are opening up again.
For the most part, I can feel a more positive vibe coming from the people of Phuket then I felt when I was out here during the summer. They know that there is hope around the corner and they can get back to the thriving economy that this place once was. It will be a slow process and there will be a struggle to get back there, but they are up for the challenge.
You can see it on the west facing beaches of Phuket. The people who live here have come down to watch the sunsets. They know it is the one feature of the island that can never be taken away even though they have not been as great as they are during the summer months. During my whole trip out here, there has been a collection of storm clouds gathering on the horizon, and I have never been able to see the sun set completely. I have had some nice views of it as it has reached the storm clouds, giving a hint at how glorious it can be, but it has never reached that level of spectacular. But just like the people of Phuket, I know that those clouds will eventually disappear and I will once again get to see its beauty. I just have to keep on chasing it until I get to see it for what it can be.
Until next time, stay safe and be kind to each other.
I think I have hit that point in this vacation where I am starting to feel more like myself and am ready to take on bigger adventures. I am sorry if my posts have not been that exciting the last couple of days, but if you are ever in the mood for one of those relaxing beach vacations, I would highly recommend Nia Harn Beach. It is a little off the beaten path on the Phuket island, but it has some great restaurants within walking distance, the beach is relatively quiet with calm waters during the winter months, and the place just begs to be lazy for a couple of days.
One of the things that I like the most about it is that the it had a nice view of the west and there should be a good view of the sunset almost every evening. I have gone out the three nights I have been out here in order to witness one of these highlights from nature. Unfortunately, this is the best one I have seen so far. Something has always seemed to pop up in order hide this from view. The first day had big violent rainstorms out in the distant sea that obscured the sunset from view, and the second day was too cloudy for it to make an appearance.
It does not mean that I will not continue to try to get that elusive picture of a great sunset. Last time I was down here, I could out every night and catch an amazing light show on the horizon, but it is funny what s difference a couple of months makes. The sun shifts a bit, the weather makes adjustments as well, and now the sunset is hard to come by.
But it is important that I continue to look for it. If I give up and let myself by satisfied with the small example I collected earlier, I will miss the bigger show when it comes around. I fear that too many people give up too early when there is something spectacular on the horizon, and if we would just practice a little patience, it will be another beautiful sunset.