Category Archives: Travel

Asia 2017 Day 4

Pohutu Geyser

Pohutu Geyser by Carl Lindberg

It was an excellent day. It started off a little slow. I got up early and spent some time trying to figure out why my cell phone would not let me utilize the Wi-Fi connections I tried to log into. Eventually, I figured out that Skype was the culprit. As soon as I removed it my problem was no more. By that time I was ready for a shower and a nap. I had gotten up too early.

Once I got going and got my body moving at a normal pace I went to the Rotorua, New Zealand Tourist Information Center and got some really good advice on what to see and do in Rotorua. Rotorua happens to be one of the world’s most significant areas for geothermal activity. The Waimangu Geyser, which is currently dormant, is generally regarded as the most significant geyser in recorded history. Some of its blasts were recorded to have went as high as 1,500 feet. The Waimangu Geyser is less than 20 miles form Rotorua. Two other currently active geysers,  Lady Knox Geyser and the Pohutu Geyser are rated as world class geysers and are very close to Rotorua. The Lady Knox Geyser is within 20 miles of Rotorua and the Pohutu Geyser is within walking distance of downtown Rotorua. Most people opt for the tour package at Whakarewarewa, the #1 tourist attraction in Rotorua and the location of the the Pohutu Geyser. I opted for a stroll in Kuirau Park, a local public geothermal park located about 100 yards from where I was staying. That made it really easy to get there and get back. The cost was also really good. It was free. I got lots of pictures and some videos. The whole experience perked my interest in geothermal activity.

Rotorua Sat Market

Rotorua Sat Market

The highlight of the day, however, may have been the serendipitous encounter with the local Saturday market at the park. I simply stumbled across it where exploring Kuirau Park. It was obvious that it was one of those events that happened to be a regularly scheduled event. There were hundreds of people there and, after scoping out some of the food vendors, I understood why. It was more of a food fair and an art-and-crafts event than a simple Saturday flea market, although there were vendors selling who-knows-what for professional looking setups to locals spreading out their wares on blankets. I had a good time checking out the activity.

Google Voice

Okay, I did it. I was able to use Google Voice to call a number on my cell phone using Wi-Fi. I love my new phone, the Honor 5X. It’s terrific. But, it does not have built-in support for Wi-Fi calling. That means that I need a third-party app to do the calling for me when I’m outside of the U.S. and don’t want to spend money on each phone call, sometimes to the tune of ridiculousness. I installed the Skype app on my phone and it crashed all my Wi-Fi. Whenever I would try to use a Wi-Fi connection and it told me I connected it wouldn’t actually do any sending or receiving of any data as long as I had Skype installed. I tried connecting at several places and then tried to use several different apps to access the Internet and the results were the same – I got a connection message but no data movement. I kept beating my head against the wall trying to figure out what had happened until I realized that the problem had only begun happening since I installed Skype on my cell phone. Once I uninstalled Skype the problem went away. Thank God.

So, what to do? I wanted to make Wi-Fi calls from my cell phone. Skype worked fine on my laptop but I didn’t want to drag out my laptop every time I wanted to make a Wi-Fi call. I decided to try Google voice. I set up an account. I logged in. Then I had to figure out how to make a call. It worked the first time I tried. Sweet. Now that I know what to do I’m going to keep using it to increase my skill level. Don’t be surprised if I call you.

Asia 2017 Day 3

Bus to Rotorua

Bus to Rotorua

This is the bus that I took to Rotorua. It was about a 6 hour trip through the countryside with stops in several towns. I took the bus to move on out of Auckland. Rotorua was the next stop on my itinerary. The bus was comfy but the driver was kind of a jerk. He got onto some guy for bringing a sandwich on the bus and when I asked him a question he said “Can’t you see that I’m busy?” I wanted to retort that I could but wondered why he thought that anything he was doing was more important than providing customer service. Luckily, I only paid $1 AUD (about 70 cents) for the trip.

Rotorua McDonalds

This is the McDonald’s I stopped at to work on some Wi-Fi issues I was having. I’ve found that food is more expensive in New Zealand than in the U.S. That applies to Micky D as well. While I didn’t get my Wi-Fi issues solved I did find that I could get a Senior Coffee in New Zealand just like I did in the U.S. and, what’s even better, it was free at this McDonald’s. I like free. I don’t know if a Senior Coffee is free at all McDonald’s in New Zealand but I’m going to try and find out.

PAKnSAVE

PAKnSAVE

This is the PAK’nSAVE I found across the street from the McDonald’s. I took the opportunity to get some instant coffee, some instant noodles, some chocolate and a cheap bottle of soda pop for dinner. Actually, the noodles and chocolate will last several days and the coffee will last me a couple of weeks. Little expenditures like this dramatically help me to control my costs even though they aren’t as satisfying nutritionally or psychologically as a meal at a nice restaurant.

American TV Outside of the U.S.

Chicago P.D.

Chicago P.D.

Sometimes I’m more than a little naive. Sometimes I almost feel like I’m stupid. I was going to say that I know I’m not but, I reconsidered and said to myself that, on occasion, I really do appear to be. All this self-doubt is because I wanted to watch a recent episode of Chicago P.D. and found that I couldn’t. When I went to NBC to watch the program they said “Sorry, this video is not available from your location.” Okay, I can buy that. I then went to Directv, my TV service provider, and told them I would like to stream Chicago P.D. and they also told me that I couldn’t, no matter how much I paid them every month. So now I’m thinking “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” like some kind of an addict going through withdrawal. Only, I’m not really an addict. I just want an hour of mindless dribble to pacify my need to escape the endless realities of my not being King of the World. Yes, I have the program recorded at home, but I won’t be there for a while. I can live without Chicago P.D. for a few weeks. But there’s no way that I can go without being able to fantasize about being Raymond Reddington for that long. I’m not asking much. I just want a small sliver of pleasure in my existence. Just an hour’s worth. I’ll watch the commercials. I’ll even promise to buy one or more of the products advertised. I just want to watch a little American TV. Is that so hard?

So what am I going to do? I guess it’s time for a VPN. I’m thinking I might try this one.

 

 

Electrical Plugs and Adapters

I’m currently doing planning for an 85 day trio to Asia. Along the way I’ll be visiting more than a few countries. While I’m there I plan on doing a little writing and a little posting to my blog. This means that I’m going to be needing to use a computer quite a bit and that implies that my computer, as well as my smartphone and lots of other gadgets, are going to need a charge. That means I’ll need to connect to the local power grid. That can be a problem as there are about 15 different types of electrical outlets in use in the world today and, sooner or later, I may find one that I do not have an adapter for. I know this because it’s happened before.

The problems caused by not being able to charge my electrical devices can be avoided by a little forethought. The first thing you have to think about is where you are going and what type of outlet will you find there. For a list of countries and the specific type of electrical plug that is needed in that country you might start here. This will get you started and, in many instances it will get you where you need to be. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a few adapters. They weigh very little, typically an ounce or less per adapter, so the weight is not a big problem. What can be a problem is that you can never be absolutely certain about the adapter type in use in certain parts of a country if the plug guide lists more than one type of outlet in a given location. At that point I suggest you get on the Internet or go to TripAdvisor and simply search for the term “electrical outlet” along with the name of the country. Usually, you won’t have any trouble finding out which type of outlet is actually in use in the majority of the country if there is more than one in use. I can also tell you that you will be able to find adapters for sale in virtually any country on Earth, it’s just that it may take you several hours of looking before you find one. Also, sometimes the location where you will be parking your head at night may have one available for you to borrow, or, if you’re staying at a place where a lot of your fellow countrymen are staying, you may be able to share or borrow one for a while. I carry an electrical extension cord with me that has multiple outlets on it so that I can share an outlet if I need to on an occasion. I even take it with me to my local public library when I’m going to be plugged into their system for longer periods of time.

The World’s Great Drives

I Googled “World’s Great Drives” to see what was out there.

What did I find? Absolutely no consensus. It seems there is a good deal of disagreement about what constitutes a great drive. For many, it’s altitude. Find a place where the air is thin and you’ll probably have some great views.There are some drives in the world that actually go over locations that are higher than 15,000 feet in elevation. Why is that significant? Because, as anyone that’s had training as a pilot knows, that’s when you need to start giving some serious consideration to putting your oxygen mask on. For others it’s switchbacks. There are even people who calculate the average number of seconds between turns of a certain number of degrees. For them, a great road is a road that minimizes the number of seconds between changes in directions of 90 degrees or more. How weird is that? For some people that most significant criteria is that the road needs to be closed for an extended period of time during the year. This is another criteria that is a function of elevation, only even more so. This is for really obscure roads that can only be driven certain times of the year due to significant snowfalls during the winter months.

Luckily, a lot of people think like I do. I want a road that’s scenic with ooohs and ahhhs happening as often as possible. I want little exclamations of delight from visual stimulation, not shrieks of terror from the fear of going over a cliff. I want a drive I can enjoy, not one that puts me on the edge of my seat.

Anyway, I did some reading. I compiled a list of articles and many of the drives they cited. In the end, what I wanted was a drive that had a name. Think Route 66, my favorite road, one that I’ve driven on thousands of times as it runs very close too my home and one that we Americans affectionately refer to as The Mother Road. I’ve created a list of Roads. The most significant ones have a Wikipedia entry and a boatload of images. If you were to ask me if I saw any blatant sins of omission I’d state that I’m really fond of the cornich roads of the French Riviera. You pick the ones you like. Enjoy.

ArticlesThe world’s 10 best drives – The TelegraphThe world’s most scenic drives – dangerousroads; The 10 best drives or roads in the world | ShortList MagazineThe 20 Greatest Driving Roads in the WorldWorld’s best road trips: The top 10 drives – Traveller.com.au10 Most Beautiful Drives In The World – 10 Most TodayTop 25 driving roads – World’s best driving experience | AvisThe world’s greatest road trips | Photo Gallery | Rough GuidesTop 10: most scenic drives in the world – the Luxury Travel ExpertWorld’s 10 ultimate drives | CNN Travel and 21 Roads You Have to Drive in Your Lifetime «TwistedSifter.

Roads (alphabetically): Amalfi Coast, Italy (Images); Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway (Images); Bealach-na-ba, Scotland; Pacific Coast Highway, USA (Images); Carretera de Sa Calobra, Spain; Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland; Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa; Col du Chaussy, France; Col de Turini, Italy; Combe Laval, France; Deals Gap, Tennessee, USA; Death Valley: Las Vegas to Mammoth, US;  Chapman’s Peak Drive, South Africa (Images); Conor Pass, Ireland; Estrada Nacional 222, Portugal; Friendship Highway, Tibet; Furka Pass, Switzerland; Garden Route, South Africa; Glacier Point, USA; Going-to-the-sun Road, USA; Great Alpine Road, Australia; Great Ocean Road, Australia (Images); Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria; Guoliang Tunnel Road, China; Hana Highway, USA (Images); Highway 163, Arizona and Utah, US; Icefields Parkway, Canada; Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, UAE; Khardung Pass, India; Lysebotn Road, Norway (Images); Milford Road, New Zealand (Images); Million Dollar Highway, USA; Mount Barrow Road, Tasmania; North Coast 500, Scotland; Overseas Highway, USA (Images); Over-Water Highway, China; Port Jackson Road, New Zealand; Queen Charlotte Drive, New Zealand; Ring Road, Iceland (Images); Rohtang Pass, India; Route 66, USA (Images); Route de Napoleon, France; Route de Presles, France; Ruta 40, Argentina (Images); Ruta CH-265, Chile; Ruta de los Volcanes, Spain; Snaefell Mountain Road, Isle of Man; Southern Alps, New Zealand; Stelvio Pass, Italy (Images); Strada della Forra, Italy; Suhua Highway, Taiwan;  Tianmen Mountain Road, China; Touge Roads of Mount Fuji, Japan; Transfagarasan, Romania (Images); Trollstigen (‘Trolls Path’), Norway; White Rim Trail, Utah, USA; Wild Snowdonia, Wales; Yukon Golden Circle, North America;

Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is described as one of the World’s Great Drives.There are some web pages devoted to the drive and the two best ones I found were the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia – Visit Victoria and the 1 Day Great Ocean Road & 12 Apostles Tour $96.

The most prominent landmark on the road is The Twelve Apostles. There are many others. My map of the drive is located here.

The Great Ocean Walk parallels the Great Ocean Road. It’s a walk of 65 miles. There is a documentary about the walk. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can see it for free.

Sydney Strategies

Lonely Planet Australia (Travel Guide) is available on Kindle Unlimited.

Sydney is expensive. At least relative to lot of destinations that I will be seeing on this trip. The two main cost factors are lodging and transportation.

Airport to Sydney (and back): Viator transfers - $12.32: quick, easy-peasy. TripAdvisor has an excellent write-up on getting to/from Sydney/Airport -  as cheap as $5. “Route 400 eastbound (Destination ‘Bondi Junction’) – Alight at Mascot Station for a train to the city (8 minute train, $2.36-3.38). Bus is 5min/$2.10 (from Domestic) and 19min/$3.50 from International.” AUD?

Australia Tourism  +61293601111 – not the most helpful. Sydney Tourism +611800067676 – not the most helpful.

Transportation: Sydney has no subway. The tourism office tells me that bus service in the Sydney Central Business District is very bad due to construction. They say the Sydney Circle Line works best. It’s trains. The Opal Card visitor information webpage is located here. The webpage for planning a trip in Sydney is located here. My map for Sydney attractions is located here.

Attractions: See my excellent article on Australia’s Attractions. Other atttractions pages are Fodor’s, Frommer, Planetware, TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, and Wikitravel.

When I leave Sydney I’m heading for Canberra in a car. I’m going to head for the Great Ocean Road. Leaving Sydney I need to think about rest stops. There are websites with listings of rest stops and they are located here and here and here. After leaving Canberra I’m heading to the Great Ocean Road. 

New Zealand Strategies

Lonely Planet New Zealand (Travel Guide) is available with Kindle Unlimited.

Some good New Zealand Links: HistoryCIAHillmanUNESCOWikitravelAttractions (Google)Images (Google)Landmarks (Google)LPRGFodorFrommerTravel GuidesBackpackerHostelsWeatherBusAuto RentalCampingFerries and, of course, Food.

Arrive Auckland Wed  @ 8:50 AM by plane. 1 NZD = $0.719805 USD. Booked YHA Auckland City 18 Liverpool St, Cnr City Road and Liverpool Street. Leave Fri for Rotorua. Bus at 12:45. YHA Rotura.

Auckland TransportationAT HOP day pass ($10 for card / $18 NZD per day.). Skybus $18 NZD one-way. Get a HOP card. “For central Auckland bus 380 departs every 30 min daily 05:08-23:38 from both the Domestic and International terminals and takes about 20min to Papatoetoe Train Station (bus stop 6480) from where suburban trains connect to Britomart station in another 33 min (if the schedules meet up).” Auckland Journey Planner. Buy the HOP card at the Auckland i-SITE Visitor Information Centre Auckland, New Zealand · +64 9-365 9914 9 AM | Auckland i-SITE Visitor Information Centre – SKYCITY +64 9-365 9918 | Auckland i-SITE Visitor Information Centre – International Airport Terminal +64 9-365 9925 6:00 AM.

Auckland Attractions: See the map. Also see Auckland Things To Do and New Zealand Tourist Notes.

Rotorua: Hostel is booked. Go see some geothermal activity. Attractions are located here.

Wellington: Attractions map is here. Google attractions list. Airport flyer and regular service to airport.

Queenstown: Queenstown is a bit cool during February. It has an average high of 61 deagrees and an average low of 50 degrees. Viator Milford Sound.

Wonders by Longitude and Latitude

I’m interested in Wonders (great attractions of the world). It’s complicated. What’s a Wonder? One man’s Wonder is another man’s “Who Cares?” or at least so it seems. What trips-my-trigger may not trip yours. So, I’d like to put together a Wonders Database of my own. It has to include the Hillman Wonders and the UNESCO World Heritage List. Then I can start by adding some of the sights that are not in the first two lists but are in the following books: Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places to SeeDestinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing PlacesThe Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the WorldThe World’s Great Wonders: How They Were Made & Why They Are AmazingGreat Journeys: Travel the World’s Most Spectacular RoutesDrives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular TripsJourneys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest TripsFood Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe, and 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. I think you’re getting the picture by now of what I think a Wonder is.

So how does longitude and latitude fit in? Well, I’ve been some places and one of my biggest issues is what to see in the limited amount of time that I have. Sometimes, it’s just not enough to know what country a Wonder is in. Sometimes it’s really good to know what the longitude and latitude of a Wonder is so that I can pull it from a database for proximity reasons.

So, now I have a database created and I’ve started populating it. Now how do I pull stuff from it that is closest to my current position or a position that I think I will be at in the future? That’s really the key – help me plan my trips more efficiently. I have the MySQL files and I figured out a little query  - select wikiwndr, lat, lon, abs(40.7128 – lat) minlat, abs(-74.0059 – lon) minlon from wonders where lat > 0 and lon < 0 order by abs(40.7128 – lat) + abs(-74.7128 – lon) asc – that does what I need. Note that the coordinate above is for New York City and it seems to work really well. This post is really about me being able to start a reference library of books that deal with Wonders along with my initial research into pulling Wonders from my database by distance from a point.