Saturday, May 23, 2015

Washington Gems: Lake Chelan’s ‘Ruby’


While we are in a state of transition between life in the cruise ship and The Stone House on the Hill in Greece we are without Wi-Fi so I am going to tell you about a gem of a place back in Central Washington State. . .(I wrote this one before we left, just in case this happened)

If you’ve ever visited Lake Chelan in Central Washington State, you’ve probably walked right past Ruby - you may not have given the old girl a second glance.

It is easy to take priceless parts of a place for granted when you’re en route to somewhere else. Here, in the heart of wine country, it is easy to be distracted by the 55-mile long glacier fed Lake Chelan on which this small town is located.

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That’s the way it has been with us for decades when it comes to Chelan’s Ruby Theatre, located on the Main Drag in The Scout’s hometown. Our visits, like those of so many tourists, are focused on sunshine and the lake and in our case, visiting family and friends.

Frankly, the thought of going to a movie while in town hadn’t even crossed our minds until our last visit. I was there researching an article for The Seattle Times.  I planned to include a mention of the theatre, so we toured the Grand Old Lady with its owner. . .

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Taken from under the balcony section
The theatre opened in the summer of 1914 at its present location, 135 E. Woodin Ave., and is believed to be the oldest continuously running theatre in the State of Washington.  Named after  Ruby Potter, the daughter of the first manager, the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Over the years a series of managers and owners have been a part of Ruby's history.

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From top left: Concessions, foyer, front row seats and from the back of the theatre
Larry Hibbard, who along with his wife Mary Murphy, bought The Ruby in 2006, took over management of it in 2013.  Hibbard explained that the interior of the theatre is essentially the same as it was when built a century ago. The original pressed tin ceilings, plaster proscenium arch (framing the screen), its horseshoe-shaped balcony and fireproof projection room maintain its historic integrity.

In 2013 a new new concession area was completed, along with a bathroom renovation and installation of new digital projection and sound equipment.  With all that new though, they’ve still kept the old touches in the projection room as well:

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From top left: computerized projection roon, film canisters, projector and Hibbard holding a film reel
We climbed up the stairs and crowded into the tiny projection room as Hibbard showed us both the new digital equipment as well as the film reels, vaults and projector of yesteryear.

Ruby cast her charms during that tour and we vowed, taking in a movie at The Ruby is going to be high on the ‘must do list our next visit The movies shown in this single-screen charmer aren’t first run, but they are pretty darn close.  And the admission is certainly right, as evidenced by the prices posted on the ticket booth window.  And do you like that ticket machine? It was made by a Chelan High School student as a shop class project many decades ago.  But as with all things Ruby, it is also a historical gem!

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Ticket booth at The Ruby Theatre
If You Go:

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Chelan is a 3.5 – 4-hour drive from Seattle. The nearest airport is 30 miles away in Wenatchee (commuter flights from Seattle fly to Wenatchee).
For tourist information and accommodations:  www.golakechelan.com
For Ruby Theatre hours and movie times (as well as a bit of history) www.rubytheatre.com

Thanks for being with us today.  We hope you’ll come back again soon and appreciate having you part of our travels.  Have you been to The Ruby? Any historical theatres near you? Tell us about them if you have the time. Use the comments below or sent an email.

Today we are linking up with:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Marking time on The Red Sea

Having left Jordan a few hours early last night it seemed we had a bit of time to kill this morning so we cruised in circles on the Red Sea for a period of time before entering the Gulf of Suez.

We will transit the 120-mile (193.3kilometer) Suez Canal on Thursday; a journey of some 11 to 16 hours. You don't just sail through - you fall in line and await your turn.

The anticipation is so strong it fills the atmosphere on our Oceania Nautica. And again I am reminded that each time I say 'it doesn't get any better' the next day proves it does!



Egyptian desert
Speaking of days, we are at Day 29 of this cruise that seemed it would last 'forever' when we boarded four weeks ago in Bangkok, Thailand. We are less than a week away from the end of this magical adventure aboard this small ship that has become our world.  We've followed ancient Spice Routes and crossed the desert that Lawrence of Arabia made famous and still have yet to visit the Holy Land, Turkey and Greece.

"Where did the time go?" we've all been asking as we reluctantly talk of our plans for after the cruise.

This 35-night cruise, that sailed from Bangkok with a final destination of Istanbul, Turkey, actually began for some  in Tokyo, Japan. They will have sailed for more than 60 days at the trip's end. Several others are staying on the ship and sailing the next segment to Lisbon, Portugal before disembarking.

We, as you regulars here know, will 'jump ship early' in Rhodes and head to The Stone House on the Hill, AKA our place in Greece.

Aqaba, Jordan
While our ports of call have been an overwhelming and memorable kaleidoscope of cultures, religions, sights, sounds and smells, that have filled our heads and our hearts to the point of bursting; we've also been enriched by the people we've met on the cruise ship. Many of whom have become friends (and travel inspirations) with whom we plan to stay in touch after our floating world disbands and we all head to different points in the world.

"I love these people on this ship," said Ruth- a fellow passenger- one night, "they understand me and my love of travel - sometimes people back home don't." This live-wire who lives in the United States had recently spent four weeks in Israel.

Peter and Wendy - Luxor, Egypt
The people we've met ARE travelers - some who make us look like old stay-at-homes by comparison. One couple we've befriended is busy working on Chinese visas to be ready for another OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) trip that will start soon after the cruise ends.  They plan a return to Cairo after disembarking in Istanbul. Many of our fellow cruisers are also regular OAT (land-based tours) travelers.

An English couple spent two nights at the same hotel in Yangon, Myanmar where we stayed . . .the old historic Strand Hotel (a place I'll tell you more about when internet allows for a few more photos). We simply researched hotels and booked them while aboard the ship. During a ride in to Phuket we discovered we were heading the same direction at the next port-of-call so we shared a taxi  and had two fabulous days in Yangon.

Departing Aqaba, Jordan
Oceania Cruise Lines has been superb about allowing enough nights in certain ports of call for such independent adventures. The ship also has offered some overnight packages, but welcomes the independent traveler as well. For example:

     *One group of independent travelers went from our port of call, Safaga, to Cairo, Egypt and
      spent time there, rejoining the ship a few days later in Aqaba, Jordan.

      *Several left the ship in Cochin, India and flew to the Taj Mahal, then rejoined the ship in
       Mumbai. Some went on a ship's tour and others planned their own.

We've participated in a mix of ship's tours and those we've booked on our own. While the ship's tours have been good, following a tour-guide's umbrella down the street like ducklings just doesn't compare to the thrill of the two of us climbing into a beat-up pickup driven by a Bedouin guide and setting out through the roadless sands of the Wada Rum - the vast desert you may recall from the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

This may be our favorite cruise routing ever and we'd do it again in a nanosecond, but even better, we've convinced ourselves that overland travel in Egypt and Jordan are possible. We are beginning the plans to return . . .

Thanks for joining us as our journey continues.  We appreciate your time, the wonderful comments you've left and your good wishes.  When I get back to internet land, I'll show you more photos of this amazing part of the world ~ you may not hear from us again until we reach Greece, where there may or may not be internet for a few weeks! Rest assured. We are well. We are happy. Hope you are, too!

Linking this week:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gulf of Aden: Somalia to our Left ~ Yemen to our Right

With hummingbird speed and size, they skim the surface of the sapphire sea in which we are now cruising.

Flying fish, they are called.

Sometimes in small schools and other times alone, these tiny entertainers are providing a continuous show as we enter the Gulf of Aden -- yes, that, Gulf of Aden, the one making headlines in recent days.



It is the Gulf where pirates have gained notoriety and where war ships recently gathered. Somalia on the Horn of Africa is to our left and Yemen on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula is to our right.

We've not seen land on either side - yet. Today though,with increasing regularity, we are passing more and more freighters traveling on this shipping route to and from the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Aside from the freighters, we've watched flying fish on this our first of four sea days it will take to reach our next port of call, Safaga, Egypt - our gateway to Luxor.


We were officially introduced to the Middle East with Monday's stop in Salalah, Oman. The exotic sights, sounds and smells didn't disappoint. While we'd left the humid Far East we hadn't left the heat. The sun was relentless as we walked the city's streets - some shops providing an air-conditioned reprieve and others being small ovens with no cooling systems.

Although brain-numbing hot, the dress for both men and women is conservative in this Arabian country. I posted this photo of myself on Facebook following our visit in Oman as an example of the conservative dress required to enter a mosque: womens' ankles, wrists and head must be covered and men must also have long pants and conservative shirts. Feet must be bare (yes, those tiles were hot). The rules are much the same for the Buddhist wats we visited in Thailand and the Hindu temples we entered in India.

The cultural differences, the astounding history we are discovering, the religions we are being introduced to are simply overwhelming. We find ourselves in need of 'de-compression' time back on the boat - to process all the incredible experiences we are having.

I had The Scout pose with our wad of  Indian Rupees before setting off to explore Mumbai on our own last Friday. We'd exchanged $100US and in return had a stash that filled my purse. ($1 = 63.2IND).  Currency calculations and shopping has been an inexperience in itself as vendors offer their wares with machine-gun-like rapid fire persistence and enthusiasm.

We find it difficult to believe that we are already more than half way through this amazing adventure - we really are much richer, even without those Rupees, for the experiences we've had on this 35-day Oceania cruise on board the Nautica.  We thank you for being with us. I have many more tales to tell about the Middle East, so move over Scheherazade, I may just top your tales that filled Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

For now, we have some flying fish and freighters to watch!

Linking this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Arabian Sea: Hot, Humid, Healthy and Happy!

We are at mid-point between Cochin and Mumbai, both cities on India's western coast. We are sailing on the Arabian Sea. We were lucky to be no where near the Nepal earthquake or surrounding areas that were impacted (thanks to those of you who were concerned about us). After this lazy day - a sea day, as they are called, we will be off exploring Mumbai.

 
Sunset over Indian Ocean - (c) Travelnwrite.com
Our cruise is providing us a sampler plate of exotic and tropical destinations -- just as we hoped we would have on this 35-night Far East Adventure that began in Bangkok, Thailand  and will end in Istanbul,Turkey. We knew it would be hot and we suspected humid - but what we've experienced as defied our imaginations. I dubbed Myanmar, "The Land of the Melting Makeup". 

It seemed cool on our deck while sipping morning coffee before 7 a.m. the other morning and that was because the temperatures had 'dipped' into the mid 80's and humidity to the low 90's. Yesterday  the temperature in Cochin was 94 and the humidity 97%.  Far more intense than Arizona in the summer or Puerto Vallarta in September. 

Exploring Cochin, India  by tuk-tuk - the only way to travel!

For those of you not on Facebook, I've been posting regular updates there - many of which show me wearing the same top in almost every photo taken (see above). It is the coolest one I brought with me - a tee shirt that soaks up the sweat (to put it bluntly) and that can be hand-washed between shore excursions. There's a lot of wearing and washing going on this trip by all of us - it is a nice feature of the ship to offer washing machines, dryers, and irons for guest use.

Indian Ocean - a sea day
Another plus for the cruise line is that while a great variety of ship's tours are offered there are options for do-it-yourself travel. Many of our fellow cruisers have organized their own land tours (primarily via Cruise Critic.com) and others of us have set out on our own to explore places. We're currently sailing with 140 of our fellow passengers still on land in India as they opted to travel from Cochin to the Taj Mahal and will rejoin the cruise just before we depart Mumbai on Friday.

Many of us opted to explore Cochin on our own and others chose the comfort of the air-conditioned ship-organized bus tours.
Oceania tour bus - Cochin, India
In Mumbai we will spend one day on a ship's tour - 'big bus' - to get oriented to the city and the second day plan to find ourselves another tuk tuk and set out on our own.

Heat and humidity aside, this is an amazing part of the world to visit. When back in the blogosphere world again I will show you more photos of the wonderful places we've been -- and yes, places that call our for return visits.

Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts as you read the world headlines.  We remain hot, humid, healthy and most definitely happy we chose this routing!  Safe travels to you and yours~ and to my fellow bloggers, I will get caught up with  your blogs once we are again on land and I've got some time for reading.

Linking up (we hope):
Travel Photo Thursday
Weekend Travel Inspirations

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sailing in the Bay of Bengal ~ Heading to HRA

We are India bound as I write this update! As I wrote in the last update, our internet strength is great, but Live Writer (the program I use for blog writing) is refusing to recognize my whereabouts so I am back to Blogger until sometime in the future. . .therefore posts will be brief; but I did want to write a quick update.

Leaving Singapore

We've left the "Far East" part of this Oceania cruise called the "Far East Odyssey" and are heading for India following an amazing three-day stop in Yangon, Myanmar (aka Rangoon, Burma - its old name). It was an amazing, yet-unspoiled-by-mass-tourism destination that deserves several blog posts when time and internet allow.



Yangon, Myanmar
It was a good introduction to the exotic and different ports of call we have ahead of us the next couple of weeks.  We are today sailing the beautiful Bay of Bengal, the largest bay in the world which is part of the northeastern Indian Ocean.  We are slicing through this triangular shaped body of water and will sail south of Sri Lanka en route to our next stop Cochin, India.

Saturday morning
Because many of you were a bit nervous about safety along this exotic route we've chosen to experience, I wanted to assure you that safety is taken most seriously here. This ship, Nautica, was attacked by pirates back in 2008 as it plied the waters we are heading to in a few days. The story has become like a legend among passengers and the bottom line is the pirates never reached the ship.

But for safety's sake we've been notified that we are going to be entering an area known as High Risk Area (HRA) for Piracy as we travel from India to the Gulf of Aden (yes, it is the one by Yemen, but we aren't talking about war - just pirates).  We also will have a pirate attack safety drill tomorrow and have been given certain instructions for on board while we sail the area.

"While sailing through the HRA we will be in permanent contact with an International Task Force, including U.S. and U.K. naval forces that are assigned to protect merchant vessels from pirate attack by a United Nations mandate," says the letter from our Captain.


Off Phuket Island Thailand


This ship kept watch over us while we were anchored off Phuket Island - another example of safety on our route.  So we are not worried. It is rather interesting and adds a bit of adventure to the trip. For now we sail the sea and sip morning coffee with nothing more off our port side than bands of dolphins and flying fish. Thanks for your time - safe travels to you!
Saturday Morning in the Baby of Bengal
Linking up with (maybe):
Weekend Travel Inspirations

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Adrift in the Andaman Sea

Our ship is not adrift – it is us; our plans for organization, our vows to not overeat or indulge, my scheduled plan of blog posts to keep you up to date on our whereabouts and experiences. . .all are adrift. 



Strait of Malacca between Singapore and Phuket





















We’ve been lulled into the world of cruising – a timeless sort of being when the days are charted by ports of call and the passing of time by the rising and setting sun.

 I’d written a post further describing Bangkok to you but so many have written with questions about our ship and our whereabouts, that I bumped it in lieu of an update from the ship.

 
 
Oceania's Nautica - our home for the next month


And the wonders of technology are allowing me to write and post as our ship takes us to Yangon, Myanmar (Rangoon, Burma) on the 1,200 kilometers long Andaman Sea, a part of the Bay of Bengal.  However, the wonders of technology did fail me, right after I wrote that sentence.  I am cutting and pasting this blog post together. So bear with the photo size and captions!


Our cabin - teeny tiny home sweet home

Our home has been Oceania’s Nautica since we boarded in Bangkok nearly a week ago. We’ve visited Singapore and Phuket, Thailand since sailing last Wednesday. (more on those as time allows – I don’t want to wear out the welcome in your inboxes or feeds). This mid-sized ship by industry standards is small in comparison to ships we’ve recently sailed. It has only 11 decks, 9 of which serve passengers.  We are not sailing at capacity, only 550 or so of the 684-passenger capacity was filled when we boarded; a few more came on in Singapore and some are disembarking in Mumbai. Flexibility is a plus with this cruise line.




The Lobby d├ęcor reflects the ship's elegant decor



Our cabin is small, very small. That was our mistake when we booked the ship – we’ll definitely book the larger room should we return to Oceania someday. The bathroom is beyond small – as The Scout describes it, ‘don’t drop your soap!’ in the shower that is 3-feet long and 19-inches wide.

The ship and staff are above board – the same high quality we’ve experienced on Celebrity and Holland America cruise lines. The culinary department is producing excellent morsels for us each day and alcohol prices are high (like all cruise lines) but tempered with a daily 2-for-1 Happy Hour that takes the edge off the over-the-top prices.

The Weather


Balinese day beds and lounges on the Nautica

It is hot. It is humid. Temperatures have hovered at or above 90-degrees the last few days and humidity has also been in the 90 percent range.  We have beautiful Balinese day beds that surround the pool – but there is no clamoring to occupy them – it is simply too hot. (And we’ve consumed gallons of bottled water, which on this ship is provided for free – another big plus!) And for my fashionista friends out there: the Chico’s hasn’t come out of the closet – way too hot to wear. I’ve purchased thin cotton tops on shore to wear – and they tell us the weather will be even hotter in India!

Our Fellow Cruisers

As I mentioned they didn’t fill the ship on this cruise but the cruisers who are on board are a great group of like-minded people.  They don’t wring their hands worrying about safety nor do they discuss age and health issues. They are too busy preparing for their next shore adventure – and a plus for this cruise line is that you can have those adventures on your own; you don’t need to be part of a ship’s tour unless you desire to do so.

Who are these people? Well let me introduce you to a few of them:






* A couple from Florida will have been on the ship more than 60 days when they finish their trip (this segment is 35-days). They were in Singapore a few months ago and Myanmar in December and last year took the first river cruise offered by Ama river cruises through Burma.

* A couple from Australia boarded in Singapore and between cruises and land adventures they have planned, won’t be home for another five months.

*On a small world note, one couple who live full-time in Arizona, still have a home in Kirkland, Washington (we’ve been catching up on Kirkland news with them).

*Even a smaller world tale is two attorneys from San Francisco who have done work in Wenatchee, Washington State and one of whom one of The Scout’s law partners from back in our Yakima days.

* We shared a cab back to the ship in Singapore with a woman who is sailing with her 91-year-old father.  She pushes him around in a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop either of them from taking the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour in that city.

* Another woman is traveling with her 93-year-old mom (who only uses a walker).
Sunset from the Horizons Bar - Nautica



It is an adventuresome, fun-loving group of people we’ve surrounded ourselves with – we meet for cocktails to discuss our day’s adventures and plan for future outings.

We are all off in different directions when we reach Myanmar tomorrow.  A couple from England is sharing a taxi with us as we are all heading to a hotel in Yangon for an independent (on our own) adventure.  Four other new friends are part of a ship’s tour that involves flying to Bagan, a heritage town in the country.

That’s it for now. Safe travels to you and thanks for your time. You can catch more frequent updates on Facebook.

Linking I hope this week with:

Budget Travelers Sandbox – Travel Photo Thursday

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bangkok: Happy New Year ~ Songkran

While sending you Songkran, or Happy New Year, greetings from Thailand, I will also apologize for the proliferation of posts arriving in your feeds and inboxes this last week.  I am making the most of our last few hours of internet connection. . .we board our cruise ship later today and internet – even the unlimited package which we’ve been promised --  is always hit and miss. . .

Songkran is Thailand’s New Year, also known as, Thailand Water Festival, a holiday of great significance here and celebrated each year from April 13 – 15. Lucky us, we arrived early enough for our cruise that we could have a peek at the festivities.

Thailand Water Festival

Water is sprinkled on family members and elders for good fortune during this holiday. In recent years it has gone beyond sprinkling to outright water fun and games with certain areas of the city drawing thousands armed with water guns, soakers, buckets and spray equipment ready to soak one and all.

Street vendors sell every kind of water spray toy and equipment imaginable. Bangkok police, however, have issued warning in the media that those selling high pressure water guns could be jailed for up to five years and be fined up to 500,000 baht, the Thai currency.

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Songkran Water guns are everywhere
Monday, the man sitting next to me on the SkyTrain, (a train that loops above the city with stops, much like bus stops) was heading out for water games.  By use of point-to-it sign language I asked to photograph his gun.  He insisted that he suit up with protective eyewear and hold the gun for the full effect. (Then he asked to have his photo taken with me).

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Songkran

The holiday has its basis though in visits to temples and family time.  Many Thais in Bangkok close up their mom-and-pop businesses and return to their hometown villages to celebrate with family. Which has eased both pedestrian and vehicle traffic immensely since our first couple of days here. Many who stay in the city make it a point to visit temples – those of the Buddhist religion participate in merit-making ceremonies and visiting temples is one sure way of making merit.

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We weren’t out to make merit, we were simply headed to the grocery store down the road to buy a bottle of wine, when we decided to stop in the temple across the street on Tuesday morning.

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We’d no more than arrived when a kindly Buddhist monk approached, welcoming us, and invited  us to participate in Bathing the Buddha image – one of the merit-making ceremonies that takes place on this second day of the holiday.

We each filled a gold bowl with water from the large tub and poured a bit on each of the Buddha images pictured above. We were symbolically washing away the misfortunes of our past year.

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Our host then took us to the large temple where monks gather three times each day to pray. He told us that he knew of Washington State (many here don’t) because he had lived for a time outside Hollywood, California. He currently has a girlfriend living in Boston. After I took this photo, he offered to take our photo. He said that way we could remember our visit. . .

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He didn’t understand we didn’t need a photo to make this visit an unforgettable one!

Songkran Quick Facts:
* Thailand’s Tourism Council estimates that 470,000 tourists will visit between April 11 – 15
* More than 150 charter flights from Shanghai will bring 26,000 tourists for the holiday.
* Silom and Khao San Road are the ‘wettest’ places to celebrate the water festival in Bangkok.
* The Bangkok post reported that by Tuesday more than 60 had been killed in roadway accidents; 40% of which involved drunk driving and/or motorcycles.

Linking up (we hope!) this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Just a ‘dash of Dubai’ to spice up the trip!

I was disappointed that we had only a few hours in Dubai – that fascinating, modern metropolis that sits in the southern Persian Gulf, a part of the United Arab Emirates – en route to Bangkok, Thailand.

We could have spent the night there instead of having a three-hour layover but still only a matter of a few more hours wouldn’t be enough to explore this city which ranks Number 1 in the world’s destinations by Trip Advisor’s 2015 Travelers Choice Awards.

So our stop was just a dash of Middle Eastern seasoning; a taster for what we have in store on the cruise with an itinerary that allows time in other exotic Middle Eastern ports. Even though it was a brief visit, it didn’t take long for me to utter my favorite, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto!”. . .

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Just strolling through the long hallways of shops, was a clue. How often do we see camels in merchandise displays back home?

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We hail from the Land of Starbucks (that would be Seattle for those of you not familiar with the brand – but is anyone not familiar with this brand?) This was the first of our ubiquitous coffee shops that we’d seen displaying the name in Arabic. We suspect it won’t be the last time before our trip is over.

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The airport, the sixth busiest in the world, is as sprawling as the city/emirate it serves.  We were forewarned that it could take 45 minutes to reach gates of connecting flights once we landed in the early evening hours.  By the time our flight to Bangkok left, the gate from which we were leaving seemed to be at the end of an endless – and empty – terminal.

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Moving walkways help ease the distance between the gates.

 I told you in the last post about flying Emirates Airlines Business Class but I didn’t mention that waiting for flights and connections, we were able to use Business class lounges – also rather luxurious places that combined restaurant, lounge, and rooms to take showers and freshen up (which we did). I was so busy doing that in Dubai I didn’t take photos so just imagine it by looking at The Scout at the Emirates Business Class lounge in San Francisco.

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Pretty amazing we have to admit!  But even topping that was the First Class lounge. Remember, I told you they had 12 First Class ‘suites’ on our flight of nearly 500 passengers, well this is where they waited for connecting flights in Dubai:

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Yes, one can only imagine what that lounge must be like . . .

So we were off to Bangkok at 10 p.m. arriving the following morning about 7:30 am – rush hour traffic time.  It made for an hour and a half taxi ride (slightly over $20US, by the way) to our Marriott Vacation Club  ‘home-away-from-home’.  I’ll tell you about it soon - it wasn't the stereotypical Marriott, that's for sure!

Thanks for your time with us.  We can’t tell you how nice it is -- especially when on the other side of the world --  to find your comments on Facebook or here in the comment section – thanks to those subscriber/friends out there in the blogosphere who’ve written emails.  All are appreciated!! Happy and safe travels to you~

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