Thursday, August 31, 2006

Are You A 'Nervous' Traveler?

By 'nervous traveler' I don't mean a fear of flying or going to foreign places. No, I am talking about being nervous because of what's been happening around the world.

Scary things, that would make anyone think twice about packing up and heading out into possible dangers. Things like Avian (Bird) flu, terrorists, restrictive airport security measures, Mad Cow disease. These fears are indeed valid, and should give any rational person pause for thought.

I know they cross my mind, and often, and I travel a lot. I would travel more, money and time permitting. But there are a lot of places that I just don't feel comfortable traveling to. I won't list them, as everyone has their own list and I won't bore you with mine. But it breaks my heart to know that I may never see such places as the 'Cedars of Lebanon', or the Wailing Wall, or Port-Au-Prince or . . . The list seems to get longer with every update from CNN.

So I will be selective about where I travel, and consider what is currently happening before I book any tickets or hotels. And I think this is a good time to go back to Chile, and Argentina and Uruguay.

I know I was there less than a year ago, but what struck me then sticks in my mind: For the first time in many a trip, I relaxed. I could drink the water, I didn't have to worry about possible pandemics, the people were most friendly, no hurricanes or typhoons, the exchange rate was most favorable and all was calm among the populace.

Since I first visited in the South American Springtime, this time I am going in Fall -- March, I think. At that time of year, I will be heartily sick of Canada's winter weather.

So for goodness' sake, Chile et al: Please don't change anything until after I have come and gone!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Prime Grizzly Bear Time In British Columbia!

When the Fall salmon run starts, hungry grizzlies do something they've waited for all year :: Come down to the shores to feed! After living on sedge grasses, the huge bears are more than ready for a feast of fatty salmon. After all, they need to pack on the pounds for the long, cold winter.

September is when the salmon 'run' (well, they don't actually 'run', but they swim very fast!) from the open Pacific back to the rivers and streams where they first hatched several years ago.
It's a bittersweet homecoming -- once the salmon lay their eggs, they die.

This rich tapestry of life is the focus of boat tours that operate from Telegraph Cove, on B.C.'s Vancouver Island (That's in Canada, in case you were wondering). A limited number of tour operators are allowed to head for Knight Inlet, on the B.C. mainland, where visitors can watch grizzlies dine at fairly close range. Bear watchers quietly come ashore, then tiptoe up forest paths to the viewing platforms.

For more pictures of grizzlies and black bears, see Snapshot Journeys :: Telegraph Cove, B.C.

As for the salmon, journeying so far just to be eaten: Well, if their time is up, they may as well be sustenance for a bear.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival 2006 :: Hong Kong

The annual Mid Autumn Festival, celebrated across China, usually runs over three days each Fall. It's a movable feast, in the spirit of North American Thanksgiving but without the turkey. Also called the Mid Autumn Moon Festival and the Mid Autumn Lantern Festival, it begins on the 15th day of the 8th moon in the Chinese calendar, when the moon is full. Translated to western calendars, it's Thursday, October 5, 2006.

If you're traveling to Hong Kong around this time, head to Victoria Park where dozens of lanterns -- some quite large and elaborate, others small and personal -- and special food stalls, and arts and crafts workshops are set up. There'll be a Fire Dragon Parade, too.

If you're Kowloon side (Tsim Sha Tsui), head for the promenade to watch the harbour lights or to Park Lane Shopper’s Boulevard for lantern displays.

To get a glimpse of what it's like, I posted some photos of the park, albeit in daytime, and of lanterns and flags decorating the streets on my Hong Kong page at

Expect to be offered moon cakes -- you'll love them or not, much like Christmas cake in the West. Sure, it's a busy travel time, but, like New York city, it's always busy in Hong Kong. That's half the fun!

If you're planning to be in the Toronto (Canada) area from now to October 1, check out the Chinese Lantern Festival at Ontario Place. And also on now until Labour Day is the Canadian National Exhibition. All three attractions are within walking distance from each other on Toronto's waterfront.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Australia Bound? Watch Those Stingers!

Time to start planning your trip if you are traveling to Australia. It's coming to the end of winter there now. If Far North Queensland and its fabulous beaches, and the Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation, and Cairns is on your itinerary, then there's something you should know. Don't assume you can go swimming whenever you want.

Sure, it's tropical year round. But (this is a big but) from November to May, it's Stinger Season! Marine stingers -- Chironex Box Jellyfish and the Irukandji -- are classed as dangerous tropical jellyfish, known as marine stingers, and if their tentacles brush against your skin, apparently you opt for death as preferable to the pain.

Many beaches set up stinger enclosures (blue tubes holding underwater nets, photo) that help keep out stingers, but there are so many beaches along the way. Private, isolated beaches along the highways, where you'd love to stop and picnic or swim. Don't. Unless it's not stinger season, in which case, you're all right, mate!

My story about my own disappointment with not being able to go swimming at will in Queensland is posted at Have a look to find out what panithose and stingers have in common!

Airline Carry-On Allowable Items

Update January 5 2010
See Air Canada new rules if flying to USA.
ps I'm not :-)


 Since security guidelines as to which items are allowed as carry-on in hand baggage vary according to airline, airport, country etc. and change daily, it's impossible to post a comprehensible list.

Generally, prescription medications and many OTC (over the counter) drugs are allowed, as are cell phones, laptops and cameras, which are hand checked by security.

To be sure you have the most current information according to your carrier and itinerary, check with your airline etc the day before travel, and pack gels and lotions inside a plastic zip bag in your checked luggage.

I've posted my general travel packing tips at Snapshot Journeys What-to-Pack.


Note :: See also More on Allowable Carry-ons (Sept 25/06)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jaggery :: Sweetener in Sri Lanka

As we entered the lobby at the Kandyan Resort in Kandy Sri Lanka, we were presented with herbal tea served in a china cup with saucer. On the saucer was a tiny silver spoon and a small, tan color cube about half the volume of a standard sugar cube.

As it was served with tea, we assumed it was brown sugar. Only later did we learn that it is a very special sugar, with its own name: Jaggery. It's an unrefined sugar that's common in India, too. It's made from the sap of palm trees, and sometimes sugar cane.

Back home in Mississauga, I found blocks of jaggery at an Indian grocery. It makes a change from the usual sugar cubes. Try it out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

D'OH! Moments in Travel

The first time I was in Bangkok, I'd arrived at noon, half a day late. Since I'd missed that morning's scheduled city tour, the guide took me directly from the airport on a whirlwind tour of a gazillion temples. Still jet-lagged, I tried to beg off that evening's dinner and show, saying I really just wanted to go to the hotel, check in and get to bed.

"But there's a special show, and a special Thai food dinner," he said.

"Oh, I love Thai food!" I said. At home, I am always up for going to a Thai restaurant. Then it hit me."Ummm, I'm, ahhh, I'm in Thailand, aren't I?"

Told you I was jet-lagged. Likewise in Chile, at a seafood restaurant. What North Americans call 'Chilean Bass', in Chile, they call 'sea bass'. And what others call 'Canadian bacon', Canadians call 'back bacon'. Just so you know.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Going Bananas in Australia!

When friend Teena, now living in Sydney (see the story at Queensland), said in an email that bananas were priced at $14 Australian per kilo (almost $5 U.S./lb!), I thought it was a typo. But no, she insisted, that indeed IS the current price.

Apparently, this is all Larry's fault. He's the cyclone that wiped out the banana plantations when he hit Queensland last March. A C Nielsen has posted an article confirming the price:
Banana-gate: Aussies switch to grapes and apples as banana sales slide in the face of escalating prices

So if you're planning on a trip to Australia in the short term, expect to pay a lot for bananas in the peel. And in smoothies. The Sydney Morning Herald reported this week that at one smoothie bar, the price for two smoothies is $14 Australian.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

*Top 5 Reasons to Pack Light* Now Top 6 Reasons

For some years now, I have espoused packing light for travel, and posted the following on my site Snapshot Journeys (What to Pack).

*You will look like a seasoned traveler, not a tourist.
*Bellboys do not enjoy lugging heavy suitcases. Really.
*It's embarrassing to have the airline slap a 'HEAVY' sticker on your luggage.
*You should be able to carry your bag up five flights of stairs yourself. Or onto a plane, a bus, a subway.
*You can stow your luggage in the overhead bin and eliminate the wait at the baggage carousel.

In light of the current state of heightened airport security, and scenes of security guards ripping through luggage in the middle of the terminal, I am adding a sixth reason, and giving it the top spot:

*Fewer items in your suitcase mean less work for airport security and less work for you to repack.

Let's hope this gets sorted soonest. It's a mess for everyone, everywhere, and another example of how the few can hold hostage the many.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dragon Boats In Toronto! And Wakestock!

Last weekend, Caribana brought thousands of visitors to Toronto. This weekend, 100,000 people are expected to come for Dragon Boat races. That's the easy way to say it. The full name is a mouthful: The 2006 International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew World Championships. There are a hundred boat teams registered, including one from Queensland, Australia!

Opening ceremony and parade are tomorrow, August 10th; Closing ceremony is August 13. Racing takes place August 10-13 on the brand new watercourse on Lake Ontario. Have a look at aerial photos at 2006 Toronto.

Wakestock -- A festival of wakeboarding, music and street parties with beer -- is also on this same weekend, and at very nearly the same venue. Geared to the under-40 crowd (under 30, most likely), Wakestock pays homage to the original Woodstock festival.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Going to Hong Kong? Bonus Deal!

If you are thinking of going to Hong Kong this fall, check Cathay Pacific's web site for good fares (it's one of the best airline sites I've used) for special bonus air miles. (Bonuses and dates vary by country; choose your country and language).

I won't be going to Asia as I was there in April (see my blog in April from Hong Kong).

October 1 is the National Day holiday in China, and the Mid Autumn Festival 2006 is October 5. This means much of China will be heavily traveled over this week, so plan your trip around these dates if possible. I was there twice during these holidays, and the airports and hotels are jammed.

Lord Simcoe postscript

To anyone looking for Lord Simcoe information, I do apologize for mentioning only that our August holiday Monday is named in his honor, but not why.

Lord Simcoe is credited with initiating road building, including the 'longest street in the world' -- Toronto's Yonge Street -- and setting in motion an act to effectively abolish slavery in Canada. That he also "served briefly as governor of St. Domingo (now Haiti)" I did not know until today.

Cheers! Karen

Friday, August 04, 2006

How I Got Googled by my Pantihose!

I had a visitor to my site, a visitor who had googled for -- Jurassic park cane replica -- (the -- are mine, just to show the phrase they used). There were no " (quote marks). And my site shows as No 4, at least in the google datacenter they accessed.

They were shown the link for a page for my story of Far North Queensland (Australia). Sure enough, I do mention 'cane' but in the context of 'cane toads' (vile invaders to Australia). And shortly thereafter make a reference to Jurassic Park (talking about cassowaries - other vile creatures but that's my personal take on them) and a replica of a crocodile.

This same story generates hits on google when someone searches for pantihose. Just the one word. Not sure why so many people search for pantihose, though. Don't want to speculate either. That's their business. I am glad my site doesn't come up till the 6th or 7th page of results, as the first 5 pages are pretty weird sites.

Ditto for the words: dominican republic escorts

Sometimes I feel like a closet pornographer.

Caribana Weekend In Toronto!

Midsummer in Toronto, the August long weekend, when those who have cottages on a lake (or know someone who does) are heading out of town. Each province in Canada celebrates the weekend, but with a different theme or reason. Here in Ontario, it's Lord Simcoe Day, though if you offered a dollar to everyone who knew who Lord Simcoe was, you'd not break the bank.

But as the natives are heading for the hills, so to speak, they're being replaced just as fast by hordes of visitors from other parts of Canada, and many more from the USA. They're all descending on the city for three days of Caribana, the largest Caribbean festival in North America (if not the world!). The big parade is Saturday (tomorrow). It's so big, it takes all day to watch it pass.

The music is the thing, and the costumes! And the partying! I found some photos of the costumes etc. online at Caribbean African TV if you want to have a look.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hot and Humid Toronto

Another day of horribly hot weather, not just here, but over much of eastern North America. On the commercial breaks for Rock Star Supernova, the TV weather guy comes on forecasting 'doom and gloom' within half an hour -- possible tornados, hail and generally high winds and rain. The clouds this afternoon made some amazing formations -- took a few photos (film). I'd better unplug the iBook -- ttyl.

Oh! About who the guys sent home tonight on Supernova -- better not say. (Not who *I'd* have sent home, but what do I know?)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Travel Guides Are NOT Always Right

Reading a guidebook about Canada's North last night (I have no life), I glanced at the handy little map included there to get my bearings. North of Hudson's Bay -- a great big honking bay of water clearly visible on any globe as the large blue frying pan shape in the top middle-- there's a very large island named Baffin Island. Well, not on this guy's map. He'd named it 'Ellesmere Island', which is a fine island to be sure, but it can't hold a candle to Baffin Island.

It made me think of another guidebook for Ethiopia that badly let me down. Near Bahir Dar, in the Ethiopian Highlands, there's a grand waterfalls called Blue Nile Falls. It looked so wonderful in the guidebook photo, I could hardly wait to see it. (I wrote about this trip on Though the guidebook had been revised and republished just the year before my trip, the water to the falls had been 'turned off' 4 years before that!

Guidebooks can't ever hope to be truly up to date, but honestly! Four years? I wouldn't mind so much, but we'd driven for half an hour, then climbed for 45 minutes in the heat and at altitude only to see a trickle across a valley.