Land Border Crossings

Leaving Uzbekistan and entering Kyrgystan
Leaving Uzbekistan and entering Kyrgyzstan

In my opinion, crossing country borders by land is much more exciting than by air.  In the old days, air transportation is costly and limited in the choices, so overland travel is more common.  Nowadays with discount airlines and people having limited vacations, it is cheaper and less time consuming to just fly everywhere.  People can visit different countries by cruises too, especially to all the coastal cities and islands.

India - Nepal border
Hectic India – Nepal border

For me, going through the areas bordering countries is exciting and interesting, even though going through customs and immigration can be stressful.  It is interesting to think that just because of some arbitrary fence, wall or invisible line that is drawn up, people are separated in their way of living and are restricted in their freedom to move, even though they may come from similar backgrounds or environment.

Decided to cross into Zimbabwe to see that side of the Victoria Falls first. This is the Victoria Falls bridge.
Crossing the Victoria Falls Bridge to enter Zimbabwe from Zambia.

 Here is a summary of our land/ferry border crossings (73) so far:

Border Crossings   / Crossing Details /    Year
1 Canada USA, Surrey-Blaine (via Peace Arch crossing) 1971
2 USA Mexico, San Diego-Tijuana (via rental car) 1971
3 Canada USA, Surrey-Blaine (via Pacific crossing) 1975
4 Canada USA, Delta-Point Roberts (via highway) 1976
5 Canada USA, Fort Erie-Buffalo (via Peace Bridge) 1980
6 Canada USA, Niagara Falls-Niagara Falls (via Rainbow Br.) 1980
7 Canada USA, Windor-Detroit (via Ambassador Bridge) 1981
8 Canada USA, Waterton-Glacier (via boat across Lake) 1983 9 Canada USA, Rossland-Northport (via own car) 1983
10 Canada USA, Fort Frances-I Falls (via Fort Frances Bridge) 1985
11 Canada USA, Stewart-Hyder (via highway) 1988
12 Canada USA, Aldergrove-Linden (via Aldergrove crossing) 1991
13 Canada USA, Abbotsford-Sumas (via Sumas crossing) 1991
14 USA Mexico, Nogales-Nogales (via foot) 1992
15 USA Mexico, Catalina Island-Ensenada (via cruise ship) 1994
16 USA Bahamas, Fort Lauderdale-Freeport (via cruise ship) 1995
17 USA Canada, Bellingham-Vancouver (via cruise ship) 1998
18 Canada USA, Vancouver-Ketchikan (via cruise ship) 2001
19 USA US Virgin Is, Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas (via ship) 2001
20 Hong Kong China, Hong Kong-Shenzhen (via MTR & foot) 2006
21 Hong Kong China, Hong Kong-Macau (via ferry) 2006
22 Argentina Brazil, Puerto Iguazú-Foz do Iguaçu (via bridge) 2008
23 Brazil Paraguay, Foz do Iguaçu-Ciudad del Este (via bridge) 2008
24 Hong Kong Macau, Hong Kong-Macau (via ferry) 2009
25 Macau China, Macau-Zhuhai (via foot) 2009
26 China Hong Kong, Zhuhai-Hong Kong (via ferry) 2009
27 Czech Republic Slovakia, Prague-Bratislava (via train) 2009
28 Slovakia Hungary, Bratislava-Budapest (via train) 2009
29 Slovakia Austria, Bratislava-Vienna (via train) 2009
30 Germany Poland, Berlin-Szczecin (by train) 2009
31 India Nepal, Sunauli-Bhairawa (via highway) 2009
32 South Africa Namibia, Pofadder-Keetmanshoop (via road) 2010
33 Namibia Botswana, Buitepos-Mamuno (via road) 2010
34 Botswana Zambia Kasane-Kazungula (via pontoon ferry) 2010
35 Zambia Zimbabwe, Livingstone-Victoria falls (via bridge) 2010
36 Argentina Chile Calafate-Puerto Natales (via highway) 2011
37 Chile Argentina, Puerto Arenas-Ushuaia (via highway) 2011
38 China Tibet, Xining-Lhasa (via high speed train) 2011
39 China Nepal, Zhangmu-Koderi (via Sino-Nepal Bridge) 2011
40 Egypt Jordan, Taba-Aqaba (via ferry) 2012
41 Jordan Israel, Amman-Jerusalem (via shared taxi) 2012
42 Israel Palestine, Jerusalem-Bethlehem (via tour van) 2012
43 Norway Sweden, Oslo-Stockholm (via train) 2012
44 Sweden Estonia, Stockholm-Tallinn (via overnight ship) 2012
45 Estonia Finland, Tallinn-Helsinki (via fast ferry) 2012
46 Finland Russia, Helsinki-St. Petersburg (via overnight ship) 2012
47 Denmark Sweden, Copenhagen-Malmo (via train) 2012
48 USA Mexico, El Paso-Ciudad Juarez (by foot) 2013
49 Turkmenistan Uzbekistan,Turkmenabat-Bukhara(via truck)2013
50 Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan, Andijan-Osh (via overland truck) 2013
51 Portugal Spain, Faro-Seville (via bus) 2013
52 Spain Gibraltar, La Linea-Gibraltar (by foot) 2013
53 Spain Morocco, Tarifa-Tangier (by fast ferry) 2013
54 Romania Bulgaria, Bucharest-Sofia (by bus) 2014
55 Bulgaria Macedonia, Sofia-Skopje (by bus) 2014
56 Macedonia Kosovo, Skopje-Pristina (by bus) 2014
57 Macedonia Albania, Ohrid-Tirana (by bus) 2014
58 Albania Montenegro, Shkodra-Podgorica (private driver) 2014
59 Montenegro B & H, Herceg Novi-Trebinje (private driver) 2014
60 Bosnia & Herceg Croatia, Mostar-Dubrovnik (by bus) 2014
61 Croatia Serbia, Zagreb to Belgrade (by bus) 2014
62 Serbia Bulgaria, Nis to Sofia (by bus) 2014
63 UK Belgium, London to Brussels (via Eurostar) 2015
64 Belgium Luxembourg, Brussels to Luxembourg City (train) 2015
65 Ireland Northern Ireland, Newgrange to Belfast (rental car) 2015
66 Northern Ireland Ireland, Sligo to Ballina (rental car) 2015
67 Canada USA, Haines Junction to Haines (rental car) 2015
68 USA Canada, Skagway to Whitehorse (rental car) 2015
69 Austria Italy, Innsbruck to Brenner (train) 2015
70 Italy Austria, Bolzano to Feldkirch (rental car) 2015
71 Austria Liechtenstein, Feldkirch to Vaduz (rental car) 2015
72 Liechtenstein Switzerland, Vaduz to Lugano (rental car) 2015
73 Switzerland Italy, Lugano to Como (rental car) 2015

Going from Chile (Puerto Arenas) to Argentina (Ushuaia)
Going from Chile (Puerto Arenas) to Argentina (Ushuaia)
I took a sneak photo at the Friendship Bridge crossing (even though we were not supposed to)
Almost got into big trouble when I took this photo at the Friendship Bridge crossing from China to Nepal (even though that were big signs not to do so)

Flight Statistics from 1967 – 2016

Our one-hour Druk Air flight from Kathmandu to Paro
Our one-hour Druk Air flight from Kathmandu, Nepal to Paro, Bhutan

Ever since I started traveling frequently as part of my engineering career, I have kept track of all my flights taken, including adding back the few flights I took before my career started.  Flying was quite special back then in the early 1980’s, with meals on china plates, silver cutlery, wine and liquor served, even on domestic flights.  Who can remember great airlines like Canadian Pacific, Wardair, and Pan American Airlines?

I use an online program called OpenFlights.org, where one can enter the to/from destinations, airline names and plane model numbers, flight numbers, and even seat numbers if one wants to.  The program will calculate the distance flown and the duration of the flights.  And it gives a great summary and one can export to an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis.

After lunch at the Village, took the Cessna plane back to Ciudad Bolivar
Our Cessna flight from Canaima National Park to Ciudad Bolivar, Venezuela

So, here is the summary of all flights I have taken since coming to Canada from Hong Kong, with some interesting statistics at the bottom:

Year  /  Kilometers/ Duration/ Places Traveled To
2016 Total 14,264 20:48 UAE, Oman, Qatar
2015 Total 51,862 22:45 Wales, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland,                                                                     Northern Ireland, Yukon, Italy, Greece
2014 Total 58,213 29:00 Ecuador, Galapagos, Venezuela, Suriname,                   Trinidad, Guyana, Dominica, Barbados, Balkans (9 countries)
2013 Total 63,979 37:17 Iceland, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,                                                Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, UK, Spain, Portugal, Morocco
2012 Total 83,421 43:04 Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Norway, Sweden,                                                       Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Japan, Korea
2011 Total 90,256 48:59 Patagonia, Antarctica, Philippines, Borneo,                                 Brunei, Tibet, Bhutan, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar
2010 Total 60,979 32:03 South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia,                                                        Zimbabwe, Utah, Arizona, China, Hong Kong
2009 Total 61,958 34:19 Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy,                                                                       Germany, Poland, Turkey, India, Nepal
2008 Total 41,306 30:31 Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil,                                                                                                               Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan
2007 Total 45,243 32:59 London, Spain, New Zealand, Australia
2006 Total 20,406 26:30 Hong Kong, China
2004 Total 8,800 12:00 Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI
2003 Total 12,173 17:12 Toronto, Milwaukee
2002 Total 7,261 10:04 Montreal
2001 Total 8,157 11:10 Florida
2000 Total 1,363 2:42 Calgary
1999 Total 1,472 3:48 Seattle, Calgary
1998 Total 29,434 27:44 China, California
1997 Total 24,803 20:58 Hawaii, Cancun
1996 Total 8,771 12:56 Las Vegas, Dallas
1995 Total 14,688 20:20 Orlando, Bahamas
1994 Total 3,459 5:18 Los Angeles
1993 Total 6,298 8:52 Houston
1992 Total 16,539 20:07 Los Angeles, Tucson, Houston
1989 Total 6,896 9:36 Pittsburgh
1988 Total 5,827 9:16 Washington, Savannah
1986 Total 17,712 13:04 Winnipeg, Boston, Vancouver, Dallas
1985 Total 4,691 6:50 Charleston
1984 Total 15,187 19:58 London
1982 Total 8,650 11:48 Honolulu
1967 Total 10,187 13:14 Hong Kong to Vancouver

Grand Total 804,256 km traveled

Total flight air time duration of 47 days & 11:12

Total Distance Traveled = 20.19 times around the world

Total Distance Traveled = 2.104 times the distance to the moon

Total Flight Segments = 272

Busiest year of travel = 2011 with over 90,256 km traveled

Most Number of Flights in one year = 37 in 2014

Longest Flight = Vancouver to New Zealand at 11,354 km / 14:36

Number of Unique Airports = 50

Number of Unique Airlines = 63

Northernmost airport KEF (63.98°N 22.61°W) – Keflavik, Iceland

Southernmost USH (54.84°S 68.3°W) – Ushuaia, Argentina

Westernmost HNL (21.32°N 157.92°W) – Honolulu, USA

Easternmost AKL (37.01°S 174.79°E) – Auckland, New Zealand

Amazing Places: Ireland’s Scenic Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow, scenic mountain pass between MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain just outside Killarney National Park in Ireland’s County Kerry.  It is a spectacular 11 km serpentine road (paved), but the terrain that is passes through is more like a hiking trail (narrow and steep) than a road.   Every turn opens to another idyllic farm scene or dramatic mountain view.  One can travel through the Gap of Dunloe by car, bicycle, or horse & cart.P1100026_sm

“Jaunting cars” tours (horse and cart) is great way to step back in time to enjoy the trip for those who are not up to a longish walk or bicycling.  Killarney Horse and Carriage Tours has about 25 carts and operates seven days a week. They’re said to have the oldest jarvey (jaunting car operator) in Killarney, and the carts and horses are guided by men from local families, using a rotation system to determine who takes the next customers. They’ve used this “turn” system since the 1920s, passing it on through generations.P1100010_sm

After we drove through the Gap, we came up to “Ladies View”, which is the panoramic view that enchanted Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting in 1861.  One of the ladies was so taken with the sight of steep cliffs, ravines and clear lakes, she declared it “the finest view in all the realm.”  P1090998_sm

On the descent from the mountain pass, we pass through Black Valley, so named because the valley remained in the dark without electricity. It was not until 1976 that the homes in this valley were connected to the grid, making it the last outpost in Ireland!

Black Valley is a remote and untouched part of Ireland (even though it is only 22 km from Killarney).  It is so named because the valley remained in the dark so long without electricity.  It was not until 1976 that the homes in this valley were connected to the grid, making it the last outpost in Ireland!

 

 

Amazing Places: The Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan

I will start to post short write-ups about some of the amazing places that I have visited over my past trips.

This post is on the The Gates of Hell (also known as Darvaza Crater) located in the hot, expansive Karakum desert of central Turkmenistan.

The locals have dubbed the cavern "The Door to Hell"
The locals have dubbed the cavern “The Door to Hell”

The Gates of Hell were created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in.  Having punctured a pocket of methane gas, poisonous fumes began leaking at an alarming rate. To head off a potential environmental catastrophe, the Soviets set the hole alight. The crater hasn’t stopped burning since.

The diameter of the crater is 69 m, and its depth is 30 m.  Its glow can be seen for kilometers around.

I was here in June of 2013 on a 30-day Central Asia overland trip.  We camped overnight nearby.

View of the camp from the top of a small hill nearby
View of the camp from the top of a small hill nearby
To avoid poisonous gas discharge, they lit the gas and thought that the fire would burn all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today, after 42 years of burning continuously.
We can walk all around the crater, as close as we wanted.  There are no guard rails.
This was as close as I wanted to get. Any closer was too hot (and unsafe).
This was as close as I wanted to get. Any closer was too hot (and unsafe).

 

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

P1100879My travel friend recently sent me a link on a TED talk that was very interesting.  It is on “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” by Robert Waldinger.  Robert is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development where they had just completed the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, they tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and asking them all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.

So, what have they learned from the tens of thousands of pages of information that they have collected since 1938?  Well, the lessons aren’t about the wealth or the fame or the their success from working harder and harder. The conclusion from this 75-year study is: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. 

The study learned that there are three big lessons about relationships. The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills.  It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community, are happier, they are physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.  And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic.  People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.

The second big lesson that they learned is that it is not just the number of friends you have, and it is not whether or not you are in a committed relationship, but it is the quality of your close relationships that matters.  It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health.  For example, high-conflict marriages, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced.

The third big lesson that they learned about relationships is that good relationships do not just protect our bodies, but they protect our brains as well.  Being in a securely attached relationship to another person in our old age is protective.  When people feel they can really count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.  And those good relationships do not have to be smooth all the time.  Older couples can bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments did not take a toll on their memories.

So the message is that good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being.  The people  who are the happiest in retirement are the people who had actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates.

The TED talk closed with a quote from Mark Twain.  More than a century ago when he was looking back on his life, and Mark Twain wrote: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

As we move to our next chapter of our lives, we have to remember that the good life is built with good relationships.

Moving Head Office in early 2017

IMG_1959Our company announced late last year that our head office will be moving a few blocks to the new Metrotower III at the heart of Metrotown, from our current 30+ year old tower west of Metrotown.  Last week, employees had an opportunity to take a quick tour of the facilities.

The new office tower is a LEED-platinum building with all the modern amenities.   We will occupy the majority of the 29 floors while leasing the rest.

The exciting news for me personally is that this new head office will be literally a 2-minute walk from our current townhouse.  I can potentially see my office space from our living room window.  And the view of the office tower from the 27th floor where we had the tour was quite panoramic.

There is also discussions about a possible implementation of a phased retirement program, allowing eligible employees to work 3 days a week to transfer knowledge to younger employees.

With these two new developments in my work place, my retirement plans may change.

IMG_1973IMG_1978IMG_1966