Rena and Wade Around the World

Our first Round the World trip from Jan 2006 - July 2006.

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Location: Regina/Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

The adventures of living and working abroad. From Cayman to Europe, a break year and side adventure travels, this is our story.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Back in Saskatchewan

After a quick stop down in London we headed back to the centre of the Universe, well okay maybe just the centre of Canada, to Saskatchewan. After some tough travelling moments during the last 6 months, we ended up getting pampered. We were upgraded to Business Class from London to Vancouver and it was a sweet 9 1/2 hour ride. Funny how when you are travelling in some of these places (obviously London excluded) that flight days become something to look forward to...sleep, service, endless amounts of movies and on some of the flights a bottomless glass of wine. At least we're not perpetuating the "Cheap Canadian" stereotype!?!

Favourite Airline: Cathay Pacific, followed by a close second of LAN Chile.
Worst Airline: Vietnam Airlines

Anyhow, after a plane change in Vancouver and then Calgary, we were back in the homeland. For how long, we had no idea, however, it ended up being quite short. 2 1/2 weeks allowed us a very quick visit with the promise to return later in the summer. We enjoyed not having to plan out our days and just relax and spend time with family and friends.

One of the first thing Wade did at home was go golfing with his friends outside of Saskatoon. I now remember why the license plates in Saskatchewan say Land of Living Skies. How beautiful is this picture?

Of course, we also had a few presents to hand out when we got home. Although, some were not as appreciated as others. Avery, Wade's nephew, does not seem too pleased with his Vietnamese outfit, particularly as it appears that Vietnamese babies have smaller heads! Don't fret Avery, it just means you are smarter than the average bear with that big brain of yours!!!!

We also made it back in time to take in our friends Maggie & Jeff's wedding. They had a lovely day for an outdoor wedding. Congratulations to you both. Oh, and our apologies for Wade doing the worm on the dance floor, but it was requested and how could Wade disappoint his fans?

The day after the wedding there was a big party out at Jeff's parent's farm. As has become tradition with Jeff, he is the bonfire king. Well, him and Shane.

And we got to spend some quality time with our friend's kids Jack & Kamden. Wade was very disappointed that he missed this season of hockey and so he made up for it by playing with the boys. Jack's right in there, but Kamden seems a little leery of Kamikaze Kenny.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Thames/ Windsor (England)

Our last day in London was spent boating on the Thames around Windsor. Our friends Nicola and Craig took us out on Nicola's family's boat and we had a fantastic time. We pottered up and down the Thames and then had a picnic on the grounds just outside of Windsor Castle.

Here is our El Capitan, Miss Nicola. Someone had to keep charge of the boat with two crazy Canadians and a couple of Kiwis as the crew.

Here is a picture of Wade with the two Kiwi's, Craig and Stewart. What a small world it is when we found out on the boat that both Craig and Stewart had worked with our friend Jamie's brother Greg in New Zealand some years ago. Jamie, pass on a hello from Craig and Stewart to your brother.

And we even came across a set of locks on the Thames. Okay, they may not be the size of the Three Gorges Dam or the Panama Canal...but they were still tricky and Nicola safely navigated us through!

Here is a look at Windsor Castle looming in the background. Apparently the Queen was in as the flag was flying (apparently she likes to spend Sunday's in Windsor and attends church there), but once again we were not invited in for tea. That's okay though as we had a fantastic picnic, complete with Champagne. I say we go visit Nic and Craig more often.

And here is a picture of some of the buildings that line the Thames around Windsor. Just like a postcard. Isn't England charming.

Thanks Nic and Craig for such a great day!!!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

London (England)

After a few hot days in Dubai, we boarded a plane in search of cooler climes. Although our time in London was short and sweet at only 4 days, the weather was AB FAB! At 30 Celsius it was not exactly cool, but enjoyable none the less. Everybody seemed to be out in the parks sunbathing. Guess sunshine is a rare occurrence in England!

We hit all of the typical tourist destinations. Here is a look at the Parliament buildings and Big Ben. Wade loved the architecture in London. He said it looked like a real life Gotham City.

A side view of Westminster Abbey. We thought it was picture perfect.

And of course, Buckingham Palace. No such luck in spotting the Queen, apparently we were not important enough to be invited in for tea.

Last but not least, here is a picture of Wade at Tower Bridge. No London Bridges falling down here.

The best part of being in London was that we got to meet up with some old friends from Cayman, Nicola and Craig. On Friday night Nicola took us out for a night on the town, which included dinner in the Covent Garden area pictured here. We had a great time and headed out to one of the nearby pubs for an after dinner drink. To our astonishment the pubs close here at shortly after 11 p.m.! We couldn't believe it. Who thought such a big metropolis would close down so early.

Just when we thought the English were completely lame, we experienced Football Spirit. On Saturday afternoon the kick off game for the World Cup between England and Paraguay was on. Wade and I decided to get into the local culture and head to a pub to watch the game. Here is a picture of the pub. After the game the streets were roaring with fans. Probably the most accurate description of what this was like is to quote the following which Wade found on the londontourist travel website "The worst part about the English in general is their total inability to hold their liquor, and their frequent occasion to prove it."

The above being said, we had a great time in London and couldn't help but admire some of the Football fans for their team spirit.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Desert Safari (U.A.E.)

So one of the top 10 highlights of our trip was this day, just outside of Dubai. We went on a desert safari which included sand duning in Toyota Land Cruisers (serious amounts of fun when you weren't fearful of rolling), visiting and riding camels, partaking in an Arabian BBQ and belly dancing.

Our safari consisted of 5 Toyota Land Cruisers with 6 people in each and a driver. We whipped around the desert for a couple of hours, which was better than most roller coaster rides we've been on. The inclines were insane at some points and we were sure we were going to roll. We soon discovered why a safari was necessary. Every single Land Cruiser got stuck at least once, except for one. Here is a picture of a rescue mission!

Wade made a friend out in the desert. Apparently a fair weather friend, because after he discovered that Wade didn't have a Coke to feed him, he really wasn't interested anymore. One of the drivers fed this camel two Cokes and he loved it. That would probably make a fantastic commercial for Coca Cola.

By the way, Wade and I converted while in the U.A.E. Do you think we fit it? Actually, I found covering my face very hot and uncomfortable. I don't think this is for me. Wade on the other hand seemed to like his get-up.

Wade also seemed to enjoy the belly dancing and was even selected from the audience to partake. It was a pretty funny sight to see him trying to wiggle his hips and shake his body. Unfortunately, our camera does not take the best night pictures and none turned out. Too bad, although after the Arabian Princess post I think I'm banned from such unauthorized posts anyways. Guess you'll just have to use your imagination!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dubai (U.A.E.)

After a very, very long day of travel from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Mumbai ...we finally we landed in Dubai. If you ever want to have the experience of being a stunned animal caught in the middle of a circus, we recommend you take a flight from Bangkok to Mumbai. It is an experience like no other and your heart will go out to the "defeated" flight attendants at the end of the show. Also highly recommended is serious amounts of alcohol. It will help to numb the pain.

We only had 4 days in Dubai and we knew we were in for some trouble when we arrived at 10 p.m. and it was 40 degrees Celsius. Ouch! Somehow we did manage to fit a fair bit in despite the heat. During the days the temperature varied from 42 to 55 degrees Celsius. Perhaps summer was not the best time to visit!!!

Dubai is truly bewildering. The amount of oil money being funneled into building the new city is staggering. It must be one of the most aggressive building undertakings the world has ever seen and our pictures do not do it justice. One of our friends told us some crazy statistic that something like over 50% of the cranes in the world are currently stationed in Dubai. After being there and seeing it, I would believe that stat. Here is a picture of one small section under construction. Multiply this by about 25 and you'll have an understanding of how much construction is going on around the city.

They are essentially building a mega city like Shanghai, Hong Kong or Manhattan and all at once. Not a building here and a building there. Massive, massive structures going up everywhere you can see. They are even building the largest building in the world. Here is a picture of some of the more uniquely shaped buildings that are already standing.

The development of Dubai is really unique. Everything is being laid out in zones ...such as media city, investment park, sports city, internet city, etc. Of course there are also some outlandish projects such as the 3 palm developments and the world development. Yes, villages in the shape of palm trees are being built out on the ocean along various points of the shoreline of Dubai. The first to be completed will be the Palm at Jumeriah Beach which is slated for completion in 2008. We could see the construction and tried to drive out there to get a better look, but unfortunately only construction crews have access. Oh yes, and the world project...well they are building a village out in the ocean in the shape of the world naturally. Apparently Rod Stewart has already purchased England. Wade and I will have to look into Saskatchewan. Oh, and because the Arabs and the Jews aren't the best of friends, apparently Israel doesn't exist in this world! That certainly is one way of dealing with people you don't like.

Here is a view down the main financial district road. Many more buildings are slotted to be going up, but at least some of them are already standing.

And of course what is a trip to Dubai without seeing the only 7 star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab. Of course, Wade and I were dying to see the inside. Unlike other hotels around the world, you cannot just walk into the Burj. It is by appointment only. The "cheapest" appointment we could get was booking breakfast in the lobby. Even so, it cost us US$60 a person and as Wade commented "We didn't even get bacon!" (the Western food item Wade missed most on our travels). It was interesting to see the inside, although our access was restricted. As you can imagine, there was gold everywhere. We tried to walk around the property after breakfast and were kindly reminded that breakfast did not warrant us that privilege. So after a final look, we had the valet bring around our Honda Civic, while other people were parking Bentleys, and drove away realizing that some people just have a different life!

Here is a look at one of the nicer mosques in Dubai. The Jumeriah Mosque. We really wanted to attend morning prayer one day, but seemed to run out of time. It was interesting to hear the calls to prayer being broadcast from the various loudspeakers positioned around the city. We could even hear it from inside our hotel, although it was not for this particular Mosque.

One day we decided we ought to see the famous Gold Souk in the old part of Dubai. The concierge at our hotel told us it was a mere 20 minute walk and then a boat ride across Dubai creek. 1 hour and 10 minutes later, we arrived at the Gold Souk completely overheated and dehydrated. Other tourists arrived in taxis!!! Plus we had fared being yelled at by an Arab who was apparently very offended at us taking a picture as we made our way to the Gold Souk. Thus there are no pictures of the Gold Souk (we soon realized no one was taking pictures so it indeed must be considered rude). However, it was jewelry shop after jewelry shop and gold like you would imagine Egyptian Princesses would wear. Although it was apparently well priced, we abstained from purchasing. At this point, we were really more interested in water. Anyways, here is a picture of an alley way in the old part of Dubai (before we got yelled at for taking pictures).

Speaking of shopping, the malls in Dubai are crazy. Look out West Edmonton Mall. The latest mall in Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, has an indoor ski hill. Yes, complete with chairlift and artificial snow. We had to go see it, but we didn't ski. We felt it might be embarrassing to be shown up by the Arabs at a winter sport! Some of them were actually pretty good.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Arabian Princess

So, after 5 full months of travelling, both Wade and I are feeling a little grubby and hobo “ish”. As such, when we arrived in Dubai, Wade announced that he was going to go and get a hair cut. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to leave me the key for the hotel while I was in the internet shop and so I had to go hunt him down at the Barber’s. This is what I found when I walked in. Yes, my boy, sheepishly looking up at me while he is getting a pedicure! In these 5 months, I have not had my hair cut once, nor have I had a pedicure. I have now rightfully passed on my tiara to Wade and he has officially taken over the title of “Princess”. I think he has gotten a bit soft. Either that or he now thinks he’s a Sheikh.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mt. Fuji (Japan)

What would a trip to Japan be without seeing Mt. Fuji? Probably better than spending 2 ½ hours on a bus to get there, see nothing but clouds and then spending 2 ½ hours getting back. Yes, our last day around Tokyo was a bit of a bust. Seriously, we couldn’t even see the mountain...we literally had no idea where it was, that’s how cloudy and misty it was. So here is a picture of what we saw.

Here is a picture of what we should have seen.

And, finally our fortunes took a turn for the better and when we were flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong we got to see Mt. Fuji peaking through the clouds! What a sighting!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tokyo (Japan)

After a whirl wind tour of Kyoto, Hiroshima and the Japanese Alps, we had 5 days to explore Tokyo itself. Tokyo is the world's largest city with greater Tokyo's population estimated at 35 million people. That's more than all of the people in Canada! Even so, we didn't find that it had the big city mentality. People were always very courteous and extremely helpful and patient with us silly tourists.

Unfortunately, we had a few major disappointments. The Sony interactive showroom, which displays all of the latest gizmos and gadgets, as well as new technology in the works, was closed for renovations for the exact 5 days we were in Tokyo; the Sumo wrestlers were in hiatus after the end of their season; and we were unable to locate any Geishas (although there are apparently only 1,000 left in all of Japan). Lucky for us, we did find this Samurai Warrior!

We also managed to make a few other strange and unusual spottings. Although these may look like one of George Lucas's latest creations, it is actually the latest Toyota concept car. It's also the same vehicle and can change its shape back and forth depending on its driver's preference. Don't think it would survive well in Saskatchewan. I don't even think it would survive in Cayman! Still, pretty cool to look at.

We think this may be Bo Peep...although she seems to be missing her staff and sheep. Weird, yes, but not unusual. All sorts of dressed up ladies and men can be seen wondering the streets...even in the business district where this picture was taken. Although, the best exhibitions can be spotted on Friday and Saturday evenings. Wade got a slightly dirty look after taking this gal's picture! He has however, grown fond of the knee high stockings that all the ladies wear (even with their business suits) and purchased me four pairs. I hope that this fashion statement doesn’t make me look like a call girl at home!!

After leaving the Land of Oz, we went to the district of Shibuya. It is considered the young district of Tokyo given that all the trendy fashion designers, bars and restaurants can be found here. Oh, and you don't see anyone over the age of 35!

Japan is the largest consumer of fish in the world, so we felt it only fitting to visit a fish market one morning. It was a massive open air, bustling and smelly place and one had to be careful not to get run over by the many motorized carts whizzing around delivering fish from the stalls to the awaiting commercial purchasers parked outside. We meandered through the many narrow aisles looking at everything from tuna to octopus, urchin eggs to red caviar. And, some things we still have no idea as to what it was. Once our shoes were sufficiently covered in fish juices, we decided it was time to leave. Here is a picture of a tuna who’s seen happier days.

Naturally once you've left the fish market, it's time to hit the nearby local sushi bar, even if it is only 8:15 in the morning. Yes, we ate sushi for breakfast and surprisingly enough it was wonderful. Freshness seems to make all the difference in the world and I think we are now forever spoilt. I have never tasted raw tuna that melts in your mouth like this stuff did. Yummy, yummy. We managed to eat sushi 4 straight days in a row after this and discovered it is even better with sake!

Another strange phenomenon in Tokyo and Japan itself for that matter, is the vending machines. It must be the vending machine capital of the world and we were told some crazy statistic such as one vending machine for every 12 people. Wade of course was delighted to find out that you can purchase beer from the vending machines. Especially since there were multiple vending machines around our hotel. What he was not so impressed about was that when the shops close, so do the vending machines. Seriously, what is the point of having a vending machine if it’s not available after hours? Still haven’t figured that one out. It also took us a while to figure this one out. We went to this restaurant and tried to order food….only to discover that you do not order from the waitress, but rather the vending machine in the corner. It was really quite good for tourists as there were pictures beside each selection. We made our selection, paid the machine and it issued a coupon. We handed the coupons to our waitress and then she emerged from the kitchen with our steaming plates of food! Strange, yes, but I guess it does prevent dining and dashing!! Later, we found many more of these restaurants all over the city.

We were warned by many people that Tokyo is extremely expensive. Although we did find it very expensive, now being independent travelers and not having received a paycheque for nearly 6 months, we did manage to stay within budget. Well, until we went for coffee one day that is! Who would think that coffee in the subway could result in US $6 a cup, and a small cup I may add! I guess we should have guessed when we walked in and a sign featured in the coffee house said that all coffees were served in Astor cast bone china by Spode! I have to admit, it was a nice tea cup, but I think this finer moment was a little lost on Wade. Here is a picture of Wade trying to drink out of his teacup, complaining that he can’t even fit all of his fingers properly on the handle!

Lastly, here is a picture of a typical street in the suburbs of Tokyo.