Sunday, October 26, 2014

To SE Asia and China

For our next trip we fly to Bali, Indonesia on Jan 7, 2015. After making our way through Indonesia to Singapore and up the Malay Peninsula to northern Thailand, we fly to China for a March 21 family wedding in Shanghai. Then after 7 weeks in China including a trip north to the Great Wall we return to the US on May 6, spending a week in California visiting family before returning to Raleigh. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Long Journey Home

And we're back (home). Still waiting for our bags. They did not make the transition from Turkish Airlines to US Airways in Toronto. We barely made it ourselves. According to US Air online status, they are "processed for delivery" so we hope to unpack later today (12 JUN).

Toronto?  Yep. Our planned flights home: Skopje to Istanbul to Toronto to Charlotte to Raleigh. The first two segments on Turkish Airlines, the last two on US Air. However, the Toronto to Charlotte flight was diverted - euphemism for emergency landing? - to Pittsburgh with a possible a fuel gauge indicator light problem. Even though US Air flew in a replacement plane, we arrived in Charlotte too late to catch our connecting flight to Raleigh. So we spent the night on the carpet near Departures, taking the 7:39 AM flight to RDU.

Dawn comes early in Skopje in June, about 4:30 am so we had no trouble getting up at 6:10 for final packing. An easy 5 minute walk to the bus station. The airport bus arrived on time at 7:10 and we were at the airport at 7:40 with plenty of time to check-in for our 9:05 flight to Istanbul. At first glance, it was a very long line to check-in, but as normal in this part of the world, there were many more folks there to "see off" than to travel. So less than twenty minutes later we had a fist full of boarding passes, our bags were checked all the way to RDU, immigration and security were behind us, and we were at the gate awaiting our flight.

We liked Turkish Airlines. Check-in was easy and we did not have to arrive 2 hours before departure. The planes were new and the vegetarian meals tasty. And on the personal In-flight Entertainment, one can view the feed from the two cameras mounted on the front of the plane PiP, and watch tons of movies. We both thought Nebraska was poor and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty good. Not to mention that on the Istanbul to Toronto leg we had some incredible views of southern Greenland.

The transfer from Turkish Airlines to US Air at Person Airport in Toronto was not straight forward. As international transit passengers we expected a leisurely walk from our arrival gate to our departure gate but since the US Air gates and Turkish Air gates are in different terminals, we unexpectedly had to enter Canada, pass Customs, claim our bags and recheck them, and exit Canada. In addition, US Immigration and Customs takes place in Canada, not in Charlotte. The result: due to poor directions and  information along with a short layover, we made it on to the Charlotte bound flight but our bags did not.

A few more thoughts:  Without going into details, we are not happy with how US Airlines handled our diversion and sleepover. However George the baggage claim guy at RDU was super. Thanks! And thanks to the two men who let me borrow their mobile phones to update our airport pickup person - Thanks Joel! - on our delays.

REAL-TIME UPDATE: Just got a call from the folks who will deliver our bags in two hours. Woohoo!

Istanbul Ataturk Airport










Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hot Skopje

Skopje is hot, as in warm.  We are having our first days in the 80's F, thankfully only days.  I now look forward to going home and vegetating in AC.  All together we have had only a handful days in the 70s.

Because of the weather, for the first time we had to scale back our hiking ambitions at Lake Makta.  Calling Matka a lake is really short-selling it.  It is really a canyon, very scenic.  Deservedly popular on a Sunday, our return bus was 35 minutes late, mired in gridlock.

Skopje itself is very remarkable.  Its old Ottoman Quarter is the biggest and most authentic for our  whole of Balkan trip.  Compared to Skopje, Sarajevo seemed to have been the boondocks.

The controversy about Skopje is the new town that the city is feverishly building - called Skopje 2014

John: It's like Disney (not that we have been or ever plan to go).
Sun-Ling: This must be what Las Vegas looks like (not that we have been or ever plan to go).
Sun-Ling:  They think they are in China (where kitsch neo-classical architecture is much favored).
John: It's like all the building projects put together from 10 different Chinese cities.
John: Maybe Rome was like this.
Sun-Ling: Maybe ancient Athens, Delphi were like this.

Maybe Skopje can pull it off.  We wish them well.

The old bazaars are still atmospheric and active - Cafe Culture.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

At one point on a pedestrian bridge in the Ottoman Quarter Sun-Ling counted 8 minarets - there are many mosques. The mosque in this photo (Sultan Murad) has an old clock tower on its grounds.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

And there are several Orthodox churches in the Old Quarter.
Skopje, Macedonia

One of the old hans (inns) is now a restaurant and Islamic School for girls.
Skopje, Macedonia

Looking towards the Old Ottoman Quarter and its Bazaar.
Skopje, Macedonia

The Warrior (and friends).
Skopje, Macedonia

Alexander the Great! With fortuitous horse and carriage.


Matka Canyon walk. A hot but scenic 12 kms.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Looking back to the dam.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Clear waters near Vrelo Cave.
Skopje, Macedonia

This part of the trail was a bit of a leg trembler.
Skopje, Macedonia

Some new shopping venues and hotels in city center. 
Skopje, Macedonia

Buying tomatoes at Vero.
Skopje, Macedonia

Vero Mall.
Skopje, Macedonia

Lots of "stuff" for sale at JUMBO, a Greece-based chain.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

More than several pics of Skopje 2014 at night.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Street Performers Festival.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje, Macedonia

Sunset view from our hotel balcony.
Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje is also know for its brutalist (exposed concrete) architecture.
Skopje, Macedonia


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid in Macedonia had us mesmerized for four days. We landed a room with a balcony, kitchen and 270 degree lake view and found it hard to abandon our balcony other than to buy food and stroll the waterfront. Well we did see few nearby churches. But even when walking a few kilometers south on the promenade we found it hard not to just find a comfy spot, sit, and admire the lake.

We mentioned her ripe cherries and the owner of a nearby hotel said "eat all you want".
Ohrid, Macedonia

Another pic in the series "Sun-Ling is a Giant".
Ohrid, Macedonia

Setting up the Ancient Theater for the summer festival season.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Sunset Day 1.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Hello Kitty and Spiderman instant soup.
Ohrid, Macedonia

The outdoor fruit and vegetable market.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Our hotel is top center.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Some shots from our afternoon walk on the northern waterfront promenade and boardwalk.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid, Macedonia

Ohrid, Macedonia

St Jovan's.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Water and Sky.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Fortress Gate.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Old Town and New Town.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Dinner on the balcony: Shopska Salad and cold radlers.
Ohrid, Macedonia

Breakfast.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

The penthouse.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

A walk south.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Afternoon coffee.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Blogging.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Sunset.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Another walk south. Tour boat.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Beach.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Looking west to Albania.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

The Leaper.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia


From the balcony - also looking to Albania.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

This was some wedding shoot, complete with boat, musicians, steady-cam, and helicopter drone camera.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Evening beer.
Lake Ohrid - Ohrid, Macedonia

Bonus Video.