Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

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Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

“To let life happen to you is irresponsible. To create your day is your divine right.”Ramtha

A great tour guide is one that creates an experience that you will remember. The best guides I’ve had have left me wanting to go back to the destination or have left me feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I have had many amazing tour guides but I picked ten in no particular order.

Ogus Kaya, Turkey

Ogus is such a warm, friendly and truly motivated guide. He is organized and punctual. We traveled for a few weeks in Turkey with him. He taught us a tremendous amount about the history and architecture. I was obsessed with the Mosque architecture of Sinan. We felt that he wanted us to love Turkey as much as he did and i think everyone did.

One of the highlights of the trip was the balloon ride over Cappodocia. I like my feet on the ground and was not going to do it. He finally said that he would go with me. He reminded me that he had two small children and one on the way. This balloon ride became one of my most cherished travel memories which I would never have done without him. ogus 51@yahoo.com

Petar Vlasik, Croatia

Petar was my first internet tour guide. After a land tour and small boat tour both cancelled, I decided to take my kids and plan a trip through Croatia by myself with Petar. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this without a husband. It was before Trip Advisor. He was recommended by Rick Steves  (so i knew he wasn’t a serial killer). Petar was smart, funny and so knowledgeable about his beautiful country.

We had a wonderful trip. Croatia is still one of my favorite countries for those who have not been there yet. I did not listen to him about hotels and I was sorry. I learned from Petar that a good tour guide always knows best and to trust my instincts about internet tour guides. http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com

Dvir Hollander, Jerusalem, Israel

Dvir’s knowledge, insight, humor, non judgmental world view and kindness made touring this amazing city with him a special experience. We met at lunchtime and we were hungry. When Dvir recognized that we were kindred spirits about food, he described himself as a “ friendly dictator” when it came to where we should eat.

If you are going to Jerusalem, I highly recommend hiring him – not just for the delicious food, but for how much you will learn and experience. He has the unique ability to figure out just what you want to do and then he casually adds in what he feels you are missing. The trip was perfect. Contact him at hollander2000@gmail.com.

Guide Gift Bangkok,Thailand

Gift was another guide that I found online before trip advisor. I read the reviews on her page and went with my gut. She is knowledgeable, kind, and fun to be with. I felt like I was seeing Bangkok and Ayuthetta with one of my friends.

She has her plan but is always ready to change if there is something you want to do. She also knows a very good place for Thai Massage. When you are in a part of the world that feels very different from yours, Gift can make it feel like home.
http://www.privatetourthailand.com)

  Do Sy Quy “Buffalo Joe”Hanoi, Viet Nam

My guide in Hanoi  was Mr. Do Sy Quy. He was my first guide in Viet Nam  and set the tone for an amazing experience. “Buffalo Joe” is kind, friendly, funny, intuitive and very knowledgeable about Hanoi and Viet Nam history.

I connected with him immediately and feel like I have a friend in Hanoi. i will always remember our drive to and from Ha Long Bay and everything we did –  especially the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace. http://www.incensetravel.com

Andres Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

i have had a few great guides in Argentina but I had to pick Andres Miguel because he is a tango dancer.  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food, shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He changed things around and went with what interested me.

The boat ride was an impromptu surprise as was eating at a family restaurant on Sunday for the best empanadas. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect Buenos Aires day.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar

Jose Villa, Cartagena,Colombia

The hot, sleepy city of Cartagena is such a special place and seeing it with Jose is the way to go. Being alone he let me tag along to teach English at their church and visit the music school his son Kevin attended..They were both knowledgeable and fun.

We saw the old city, beaches, markets, took a private boat to the islands, visited a fishing village, paddled a canoe through the mangrove tunnels and strolled the streets of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stayed an extra few days because I loved this city and felt so safe and taken care of. http://cartagenadestiny.com

Carolina Velasquez Obreque, Santiago, Chile

Carolina was our tour guide in Santiago and Valparaiso. She was funny, knowledgeable and organized. She came to us through Vaya Adventures. We spent a beautiful day with her exploring the Casablanca wine region between Valpo and Santiago.

The trip was seamless – except when I lost that paper that they give you at customs when you land. Apparently it’s very important in Chile. She went with me to get a new one before driving to Valpo which is why I am home and able to write this. I highly recommend spending some time in Chile with her. https://www.vayaadventures.com

Michai Bojanowski , Wroclaw, Poland

Michai is a wonderful guide who loves his country. With knowledge and humor, we spent a long day in Wroclaw exploring the beauty of the city. He incorporates the darkness of the past as we explore the Jewish quarter. He has such passion for passing on the truth.

Before lunch I saw a street art drawing of man looking out the window. I ask about it. He tells me it is Poland’s most famous poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz.

After lunch, he has brought copies of a beautiful poem that he thought would go with what he was speaking about.He made sure we learned a little extra. I love that.  michal.bojanowski@chidusz.com

Wayne Thomas, Aukland, New Zealand

I usually don’t write  about a half day group tour of a city but I learned and retained more information with Wayne Thomas of Bush and Beach Tours http://www.bushandbeach.co.nz/, then any day tour I have ever been on.

He has a way of passing on knowledge that is sometimes funny and sometimes personal  that makes you remember it.  This is a wonderful welcome tour of New Zealand. I highly recommend him.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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Looking For Buddha In Bangkok

“it is better to travel well than to arrive”.   Buddha

Looking for Buddha in Bangkok

Day 1. I didn’t see Buddha today among all the Golden Buddhas. He wasn’t at the most famous Emerald Buddha where all Buddhists go to worship. He wasn’t around the ancient Buddhist scriptures or at the giant leaning Buddha or the Grand Palace. I heard he was on the sky train but I missed him. I thought I saw him in the night market eating fried crickets on a stick. It turned out to be an old man with a beautiful smile. (it might have been gas- crickets are apparently better for the digestive system when eaten raw).  I didn’t see him  at Starbucks, nor was he having the most fabulous Thai  Massage.  I thought I saw him at the flower market among the beautiful orchids but it was just another Buddha wanna be.  He wasn’t having Pad Thai , Thai Coffee and Thai Mango at the restaurant on the river. He was not on any of the riverboats that I have been on today. I will look again tomorrow.

Day 2. No, not today.

Day 3. He wasn’t at the floating market.  Someone swore he ate lunch there everyday.  He wasn’t at the train market either.   The train runs through the market to Bangkok eight times a day. Eight times a day, they pack up and put out their food. The people help each other do it.  It is not very tranquil. No one seems to mind. They all have their shrines to him and they all smile. I think he has been there before.

Day 4. Buddha is not shopping at Siam Paragon Mall or MBK.  However, there is a monk on a cell phone and two other monks with shopping bags. I hope he is not begging for rice in the food court.   He is not at Best Quality Fakes either. Though, I’m sure he would know how to find them.

Day 5. The real Buddha is not at the old  capital city of Ayuthetta. There are many Buddha statues and many more decapitated ones. It is the ruined city that is  left after the Burmese ravaged the old capital.  it must have been quite beautiful when Buddha was there. I couldn’t see him when I was riding the elephant and I was pretty high up.

Day 6. He was not at Chatuchak  Weekend Market . If he was there on a weekend, I would never see him because it is one of the largest and most crowded  markets in the world. It covers over 27 acres and has more than two  hundred thousand visitors per day.    Surprisingly, He was not at  (BIA) Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives. It is the  most beautifully decorated space combining art and nature dedicated to Thai Buddhism. When I meditated there , I didn’t find   Buddha but I did find peace.

  As I rode to the airport I wondered where was he in this very Buddhist country? Was he in the faces of the children, the kindness of the people, the quiet dignity of the elephants, the beautiful orchids, the peace at the meditation center?  Was he there all the time?  Or, will I just have to look harder on my next visit?

Sa wat dii kha, fly safe

JAZ

My Top Ten Sunrises

“ Living on Earth may be expensive but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.”

My Top Ten Sunrises

Sunsets are easy.   You are usually awake and can make a  plan.  “Lets  have a drink and watch  the sun set over the Ocean, the River,  the Volcano, the Old City,  the Rainforest  etc.”  They are usually social.  Sunrises in my life  are fewer,   accidental and  sometimes seen alone. My goodbye to a city  is often at sunrise.  I  take a lot of early morning flights .

1. Machu Picchu, Peru   My plan was to meditate at sunrise on Machu Picchu.  By 4:30AM , the road into  Machu Picchu becomes Disneyland on a crowded Sunday. .   It wasn’t easy to find a quiet place .  Machu Picchu is in the clouds. The sunrise is cloudy and rainy most of the time.  Still, the eery light hitting Machu Picchu  in the morning  feels very spiritual.  We will never  know why  Machu Picchu was built and who lived there but we know that every morning they saw this same sunrise.

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2.  Mount Masada, Israel   When I was in college,  we climbed   Mount  Masada.  It was very hot and very dark. At the top,  there was  water and a ladle that everyone drank from (I know we didn’t have Aids then, but we did have germs!!) It is still the best water, I have ever tasted.  We sat down to watch the sunrise .  The guide told us the story of the Jews  surrounded  by the Roman army. We reflected on their choice to kill the women and children themselves before the Romans got up there.   It was a somber sunrise.

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3. Venice, Italy    My kids and I were taking a boat to the airport  in the dark as the sun quickly rose over Venice. The colors change with every light and shadow and it is truly the most beautiful city in the world .

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4. Havana, Cuba   Leaving Havana in darkness, thirteen years ago,  I was filled with a lot of emotions.  My daughter had performed at the Cuban Ballet Festival. We had no information going in and had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be one of  the most amazing experiences of our lives.  The dark streets were filled  with humanity going to work.    They were crowding the bus stops to get on the few running buses .    People were selling snacks.   The sun rose over  the busy streets and faded colors of the buildings. It sparkled off the water hitting the  Malecon ( sea wall) and shined on the old cars from the fifties.    I took an imprint in my memory because I knew when I came back and Fidel was gone it would be different.

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5. Barcelona, Spain   was the opposite experience.  It was summer and the city was crowded with tourists. As I drove to the airport at sunrise, the streets were filled with students and young people  who had been out all night, dressed in their club clothes. They were all  on Las Ramblas, trying to keep the evening going.

6. Perissa Beach (black sand), Santorini, Greece   I also had been out all night and now we were sitting on  the beach .  A large Pelican stood next to us, waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast, as the sun rose over the black sand beach.

7. Gamboa Rainforest, Panama   We came into the hotel at night and everything was very dark .  At sunrise,  I saw and heard the sounds of the  amazing rainforest for the first time.   The sunrise is nature’s alarm clock.  I got up every morning  to lie in my hammock and have a  coffee (best room coffee called Puro –I brought some home) and listen to the sunrise .

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8. Cervina, Italy    Sometimes a sunrise involves a decision.  I was seventeen and it was my first trip to Europe. I  had gotten up to ski from Cervina to Zermatt, Switzerland.  We had to bring our passports. (it was so WW2) As the light of day broke,   all we could see was the white of a  huge snowstorm.    I went shopping in Milan instead.  I can be flexible.

9. Bangkok Thailand   The sun rose just  as  we pulled up to Suvarnabhumi Airport.  There was no one  outside  except for two monks wearing saffron robes and sandals. They were leaning up again the modern steel and glass building of the airport. The sunrise reflected them in the glass.

10. Yufuin, Japan    It was our last morning and we wanted to use the onsen (mineral baths) . I was the only American in the ryokan (probably in the town)  I decided not to wear my kimono and just go in my pajamas and a jacket. It was outside and very cold.    To my surprise, the pre dawn bathhouse,  was filled with Japanese women in kimonos  or showering. It was 32F degrees and I just  couldn’t shower outside.  .I jumped in as the sun rose in the sky.  I made so many cultural mistakes that morning (including coffee before breakfast)   Luckily, the Japanese are  very polite.

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Brooklyn, NY    When I was growing up,   my favorite place to see the sunrise was to go to Kennedy Airport and watch the planes take off .  After the sunrise, we would have breakfast there.   I wondered when I would be a person, going to some exotic location on an early morning flight.

Fly Safe

JAZ

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