Bit by bit...Piece by piece...Getting it all together...3 days and counting...


Flowers blooming in pond in front yard of the villa.
It's surprising how easily I'm getting through my share of the packing this time considering my extra caution in avoiding bending over.  Sure, there are certain aspects of pulling it all together that are tricky right now when I've always been the one to gather all the odds and ends we've placed throughout  the vacation home.

Tom handles all the cords, electronics, emptying, washing and drying the ice cube trays and packing his clothing, while I usually gather and pack the toiletries, shoes and the few kitchen items (place mats, a few dish towels, measuring cup and spoons, turner and peeler).

This style of house in Phuket could be anywhere in the world, including the US.
Slowly, over the past few days, I've gathered what we won't need to use with only two meals left to prepare.  On Wednesday evening, we'll pack the remainder and be ready to walk out the door at 7 am on Thursday morning (its Monday here now) when the driver arrives to take us to the airport.

With my clothes packed except for what I'll wear over the next few days, I'm beginning to have peace of mind knowing its under control.  Over this past year I've been able to get the packing down to less than an hour (prior to the injury) but now it's proven to be a cautious step by step process in a determined attempt to avoid further injury.

If I had to leave the entire process up to Tom, he's do it without question.  But, the time has come for me to be a little more active.  What better a time than to do it now when soon we'll be walking long distances in the airports in Phuket, Singapore (a long layover) and Denpasar.

Driving on the highway to the market.
I'm thrilled we're staying overnight in Denpasar, Bali (the capital city) at the same hotel close to the airport we used on the prior trip to Bali before embarking the following day for the grocery shopping and the four to five hour harrowing drive to Sumbersari.

Our driver Butu, will arrive at the hotel at 10 am Friday to take us to the supermarket (the grocery list is already on the phone app) and then commence on the dreaded trafficked drive to the villa.

Salons, spas and nail studios are popular in Phuket.
For my comfort Butu will be bringing a pillow from the villa.  Also, he'll drive Egon's (the villa owner) comfortable newer air con van. These two facts help immensely.

Now as I speak into my laptop using speech recognition, Tom is watching the Minnesota Viking pre-season game in the living room using the NFL GamePass app with the HDMI cord.  He doesn't yell or make a peep when watching the game so I have no idea how its going.  He's always been a quiet observer, considering his propensity to lively conversation.

Yesterday, we both researched online to find him a replacement smart phone.  He'd considered a Kindle device but after reading many reviews, it didn't appear that any of the available models would be meet his criteria. 



This view although cloudy on many days always takes our breath away.
He didn't like the idea of the larger sized reader although insisted on having a good Wi-Fi connection on such a device.  After reading dozens of reviews we discovered that Kindle devices can be data hogs with lots of uploads transpiring in the background at all times in an attempt to get the user to buy, buy, buy. 

With the reality that at times we're paying for data (metered or on a SIM card using device) that made no sense at all.  A new smart phone was the best decision.  Also, he didn't want to add to our overall weight by purchasing a larger device.

Tom doesn't relish the idea of learning how to use new and different devices, software and operating systems.  For me, its the opposite.  I love new technology.  Based on this fact alone, it made sense for him to purchase the identical phone, Blu Win HD Lite; ideal for reading books, email, surfing the web and use as a factory unlocked cellphone. 

The elaborate sign at the entrance to the Muay Thai Kickboxing facility down the road from us.  Many nights we can hear the activity.
The price was under US $100, THB $3466 for the smart phone including tax with free shipping (to our mailing service), not bad for an unlocked phone when unlocked phones were close to US $1000, THB $34,660 when we first started traveling.

This item along with the many other items we described in yesterday's post will arrive with our shipment in Bali sometime in the next month. (We've yet to place the shipment request).

As its turns out we won't need another trip to the grocery store.  We have enough food on hand for tonight's, Tuesday's and Wednesday's meals.  The only outings necessary before Thursday's departure is a haircut for Tom and a quick trip to the pharmacy for a few items, both on tomorrow's agenda. 

We hope that whatever you tackle today brings you considerable pleasure, whether its reading a good book, watching a favorite TV series, preparing a great meal or out on an exciting adventure.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 29, 2015:
Seagull in flight in during our visit to the Great Barrier Reef.  For more photos, please click here.
 

Equipment failure...Shopping for upcoming shipment to Bali...


A variety shop along the highway.
Tom's smart phone died last night.  Not the battery but the phone itself.  Kaput. Today, I'll contact Microsoft for a possible fix but the message on the screen appears to indicate it's all over.  Its almost two years old and although he only uses it for reading, its been an important device for him.

We tried installing my good battery which didn't help and we were unable to bring up the home screen to reset the phone.  This occurred last night, after coincidentally, we ordered a new battery for it yesterday, thinking that's all it needed before it went belly-up. 


This is the Palm Breeze apartment rentals.  For prices and information, please click here considering that THB (Thai Baht) $1000 is equal to US $28.85.  To calculate various currency denominations, click here.
Once the error message appeared on the screen, long after placing the battery order and it had already been shipped, we decided a new phone may be on the agenda or, perhaps a Kindle Fire device which we'll order online.

The new battery will work in my phone so it won't be a total loss that we ordered it.  It will be good to have a backup battery we can keep charged for travel days and also so I don't run out of juice in the middle of the night when I'm online for hours when having trouble sleeping.

Restaurants are abundant serving popular local foods.
Over these past few weeks we've been in the process of ordering much needed supplies which we'll have shipped to us in Bali in the upcoming month.  We purchase most items using Amazon Prime with the link on our website receiving free shipping on most items sent to the US.

Our mailing service in Nevada receives all of the purchases, removes all the boxes and packing materials and ships everything to us in one big box.  We usually request a three day shipping option, receiving the package within a week even in even the most remote areas of the world. 

Many signs indicate rooms for rent. There are many affordable places to live in Phuket.  Many young travelers come here for water sports and adventure.
The cost of shipping is high, often hundreds of dollars but what can we do when none of the items we purchase can be found or shipped locally based on the countries we visit?

What do we buy that can't wait until we arrive in the US in nine months?  We include such items as: Crystal Light Ice Tea; water shoes and underwear for Tom; a special travel sized neck pillow for me; sleep tee shirts and two swimsuits for me; a few vitamins (probiotics and B6 for Tom for kidney stone prevention) and so on.  Today, we'll add the reading device for Tom to include in this upcoming shipment to Bali.

Certain days, the traffic is light on the highway and others its bumper to bumper.
Ordering supplies such as these are a reality of our lives of travel.  Beside the shipping costs, we'll have to "negotiate" with customs in Bali over how much we'll be required to pay in custom fees.  Generally, we've been able to keep these costs relatively low.

Our readers and family members occasionally send us links on how to "pack lighter."  We appreciate their good intentions.  But, traveling with literally every physical item we own, is an entirely different scenario than a traveler packing for a trip. 

A variety of businesses line the highway with many laundry services as shown on the right.
We need the third checked bag to contain items such as the above including all of our shoes (with only four pairs each), although clothing goes into our individual suitcases with electronics packed into Tom's laptop backpack. 

Surely, we'll have to toss some old clothes to make room for the new items which by the time we leave Bali won't be a problem.  Wearing the same items over and over does result in wear and tear, although we're often surprised on the durability of some of our tee shirts and shorts.

We continue to see family, friends and readers enjoying time at the Minnesota State Fair, posting photos on Facebook.  Thanks to everyone for sharing their photos.  We're happy to see you're having a good time at the "Great Minnesota Get Together!"  Tom didn't like the traffic.  I didn't eat the food. 

Have a fabulous last weekend in August!
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Photo from one year ago today, August 28, 2015:

At the Great Barrier Reef, this semi-submersible had seats for 20.  As shown, it was packed as tight as sardines, not good for those who may be claustrophobic. For more photos, please click here.
 
 

The prospect of a scary change in plans?...Five days and counting...Photos at a premium...


Chalong Bay in Phuket.
While living in most locations when we get low on photos its not a problem.  We jump in the rental car for a drive searching for interesting scenes to capture.  If we don't have a rental car and are using a driver, we get out often enough each week to get all the photos we need for the posts.

Now, down to five days until departure, with my ongoing recovery process and the less-than-stellar rental car, I've had little desire to get out to take photos.  With the blurry film on the windows it requires I get out of the low seat in the car to avoid taking photos through the glass which in itself in my current condition feels like an athletic event.

If you've ever owned or gone for a ride in a Corvette, it kind of feels like the same thing...not necessary the right vehicle for getting it and out of when suffering from a spinal condition.  Under normal circumstances, this would be less of a challenge.

Its not as if I can't get in and out of the less-than-stellar rental car.  Its that I don't want to re-injure myself subsequently staring the healing process all over again.

Boats stored at the shore as opposed to a marina.
Only days away from a full three months of recovering, I've only spent half of this period over these past almost six weeks in Phuket actually "working on" getting better, I've finally begun to turn the corner.  

On many occasions over these past weeks, I'd mentioned improvement in our posts although it was in such small increments it was barely noticeable.  Frustration easily set in when I'd awaken each day only to find the pain was basically still the same.

A few times, as recently as in the past two weeks, we considered a visit to a hospital. After reading many negative online reviews about local medical care, we decided against it.  Instead, we made a plan that if I didn't improve close to our scheduled time to leave Phuket, we might head directly to Sydney and drop out of our airfare and booking for Bali. 

As we seriously considered such a plan we had to accept the reality that we'd lose rent for the two month booking in Bali (on such short notice) and also the non-refundable airfare.  This change would ultimately cost us thousands of dollars.  Tom, as worried as he's been about me, never flinched over this prospect while I cringed over the prospect.

Yard of a house in the neighborhood with motorbikes and clothes drying on a line.
As soon as this possibility came to light, I decided I had to do something different to escalate the healing process to ensure we could continue with our future plans. 

I began reading volumes of books on the topic of healing compression fractures, speeding recovery for back, neck and spinal injuries and came to a few new conclusions:

1.  Started a light exercise program...very light and gentle following recommendations in a great book I read.
2.  Changed the pillow I was sleeping on from flat to slightly fuller, creating an indentation for my head.
3.  Changed from using mostly ice to using mostly heat on and off throughout the day and evening. (Using a microwaveable gel pack).  At bedtime I positioned an ice pack close to my spine using a rolled towel to hold it in place while lying on my side.
4.  Have Tom massage pressure points on my back twice a day.
5.  Only lie down for 10 minutes at a time instead of longer periods during the day.  Spend more time standing and walking around the house.
6.  No bending at all, which seems to be the most harmful at this point.
7.  Sleep with a medium sized pillow between evenly placed bent legs, again lying on my side.
8.  Focus on having perfect posture when walking and sitting.
9.  Using the speech recognition software for better ergonomics when typing.

With only five days until departure I can definitely say I've improved by no less than 75% in these past weeks, no longer feeling as if we must change our plans to get me to a major accredited hospital.

Oh, maybe it was "safari luck" and the implementation of the above changes or a combination of both.  That's the thing about medical care, when one begins implementing multiple modalities, its difficult to determine which measures most contributed to the improvement.

The mix of the old and the new is commonly found in Phuket.
I'll continue with all of the above even after we arrive in Bali.  With no required cooking, cleaning , laundry or tidying necessary with the daily household staff, I'll spend more time focusing on continuing to improve on this remaining 25%.

By far, these past three months have been the most challenging since we began our travels on October 31, 2012.  Surely many of our readers can look back over the past four years to recall periods of time when life wasn't exactly as you might have liked it to be.

Tom comments about how I overall maintained a good attitude through this. Each day I've struggled to stay optimistic. I was scared to death, to be honest, scared our travels were over, scared our lives would have to change to accommodate my limited range of motion, my ability to walk long distances and my overall interest in getting out.

Yesterday, I packed my single clothing suitcase which in doing so gave me hope, leaving out clothing for the next few days.  I sat on the bed folding everything and then standing straight I placed them into my open bag which is situated on a tall luggage rack.  The rest will be easy. 

This simple act added to my optimism removing a sense of dread I had about packing.  Tom would happily have packed for me but I needed to know I could do it.

Many homes are raised above ground in the event of flooding.
As we continue over these next few days, we apologize for the lack of interesting photos.  Its the way it is for now.  And, once we arrive in Bali, we may be posting similar photos to those we'd taken during our last stay, although all photos we'll share in future posts will be new. 

Halfway through our second round in Bali we plan to stay in a hotel in Lovina for five days to complete the every-other-day-three-step required visa extension process.  During that mini vacation/holiday, we'll explore taking many photos we'll excitedly share in posts to come. 

Once we leave Bali at the end of October for the 33 night cruise to circumvent Australia, we'll have many months of exciting cruises and tours, along with the stay in Tasmania at two separate locations for six weeks each and a 40 night stay in the exquisite city of Sydney.

So, loyal readers...on we go to continue in our world travels with a renewed hope for the future, as always striving for good health as we share all of our steps along the way.

Have a healthful, productive day!
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Photo from one year ago today, August 27, 2015:
The colorful views around us was only a small section of the Great Barrier Reef which we visited by boat one year ago today.  For more photos, please click here.


Earthquakes and after shocks in Italy...Heartbreaking loss of life...Our own earthquake memories from the mountains in Italy...



BBC news photo of earthquake rubble as rescuers search for victims from this week's 6.2 earthquake.  See details below.
Some of our readers may assume we're so far away from civilization at times that we don't hear what happening in other parts of the world.  Without a TV in many locations, we're still easily aware of world news by online announcements we receive and when reading online news and watching videos each day.

In most cases, we're aware of news as readily as those in the more populated regions of the world with news available 24/7.  The Internet also provided live video news feeds and broadcasts from around the world.  Many who only watch news on TV may have never utilized online news. 

Its as detailed and up-to-date as any broadcast news, keeping us well informed. However, local news feeds here in Phuket are behind some of the international reporting services throughout the world, as we've seen with the recent bombings.
The 300 year old building we lived in during three months in Boveglio is near the clock tower in the top right in this photo.  Certainly, none of these homes were earthquake proofed.
We were shocked and saddened to hear of the earthquakes in Italy that occurred on Wednesday (Thursday here) reported again this morning on BBC news, a source we often use:

"The 6.2-magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Wednesday, 100km (65 miles) north-east of Rome in mountainous central Italy.

The worst affected towns - Amatrice, Arquata, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto - are usually sparsely populated but have been swelled by tourists visiting for summer, making estimates for the precise number missing difficult.

More than 200 people died in Amatrice alone, Ansa news agency reported."

View from the living room window of other historic homes where we lived in Boveglio, Italy in summer of 2013 where, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake without significant damage.
For today's ongoing story of the earthquakes and after shocks in Italy including photos and videos, please click here.

We send our heartfelt sympathy and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors and tourists for those who lost their lives, for the rescue and healing of those injured and, for those hundreds, if not thousands of citizens who lost their homes, their livelihood and their sense of history and heritage as many historic buildings crumbled to the ground. 

Also, we pray for safety for the many rescuers who risk their own lives in the process.  Many have traveled from around the globe to assist local rescue services.

In summer of 2013, we lived in a very similar village in Italy, in Boveglio, high in the mountains of Tuscany in a 300 year old stone house as shown in a few of today's photos.


A short walk in the neighborhood where every building was old and most likely not earthquake proof.
Only four days after we arrived in Boveglio, Italy, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake in the region described as following on our site with seismology statistics we'd discovered at the time.  Please click here for details.

For our story of the experience, please click here for our post of June 21, 2013.  For Tom, it was the first time he'd felt an earthquake as described in that post:

"Halfway through writing our blog today, we experienced a 5.2 earthquake as we sat on the veranda.  Having grown up in southern California, this was a familiar sensation for me although  it was Tom's first experience.  We reminded ourselves as we ran for cover, that we are in an over 300 year old stone house, most likely the safest place to be.  Wow!  The adventures never cease to amaze us!"

Little did we realize at the time that the 300 year old building didn't provide us with a safe place to be during an earthquake as described in the above BBC news story.  Apparently, many of the historic buildings provided no safety for the residents and tourists of the above listed villages devastated in this week's 6.2 quake. 

Apparently, many are angry and frustrated that building codes didn't require "earthquake proofing" of the old buildings.  Sadly, for many of the owners, had such requirements been imposed by regulatory agencies, they'd have been unable to afford the costly upgrades.


It was required we walk up this steep set of stone steps to gain access to the living quarters of the 300 year old stone house in which we lived for three months.  To hang laundry we had to maneuver these steps to the ledge shown on the left to get on the veranda, a very tricky and dangerous proposition.  Can you imagine trying to escape during an earthquake?  Most likely, many of those trapped under rubble were faced with similar scenarios.
This is sad news.  Should one wonder if further investigation isn't necessary when staying for long periods in historic buildings or in living in high risk areas where crime is rampant or with a high risk of many types of natural disasters?

Good grief, we could go nuts trying to avoid what appears to be transpiring throughout the world.  No place on the planet is exempt from some sort of risk or another.  Undoubtedly, risks may be higher in certain areas which we attempt to avoid.  But many seemingly safe regions present their own versions of risk.

We can only continue to book venues and locations considering many aspects of safety.  Honestly, other than avoiding high risk areas of civil and political unrest, we continue on researching our next leg of our itinerary. 

At this point, booked to March 18, 2018, we've decided to wait to add on to our itinerary until we arrive in Tasmania in December, 2016.   While there for three months, we'll have a good Wi-Fi signal and be able to concentrate on the future.  It is during this research period that we'll have an opportunity to study a variety of risks for each new location.


From the road below in the mountainous area we took this photo of neighboring houses.
As an aside: 
As we prepare today's post, for the sake of our Minnesota readers, Tom is listening to Garage Logic on KSTP 1500 radio, broadcasting from the Minnesota State Fair which opened yesterday.  Over the remaining five days in Phuket with a good Wi-Fi signal, we'll be listening to the two hour show (which is on live weekdays only but can be listened to at any time via saved podcasts on the website) including another few hours of Sports Talk.

For our readers who aren't able to attend their local state fairs, most states and counties broadcast information and stories on similar radio shows that can be found online and listened to via a podcast.  If you need help finding such a broadcast for your state fair, please write to us and we'll try to help you find the link.

Enjoy the day and be well.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 26, 2015:
We were shocked to see the reasonable price on this exquisite flower arrangement at only AUD $20, USD $14.20 at the famers market in Cairns, Australia.  For more photos, please click here. 


Two more bombings in Thailand..."I'm not a celebrity but get me outta here!"...Seven days and counting...


Elaborate exterior of oceanfront property.
Yesterday, there were two more bombings in Thailand.  Click on the following link for details.  When I read this article this morning I was reminded of a TV show called, "I'm a celebrity get me out a here" and although we're certainly not celebrities we're kind of looking forward to "getting outta here."

Much of the loss of life has been local people, not the intended tourists in many cases.  In addition to the horrific loss of life and injuries, these incidents have a deleterious effect on tourism, preventing many tourists staying away entirely or ending their vacations/holidays earlier than planned.  The locals pay the price when their many small businesses suffer under these circumstances.  .
 
That's not to say that Bali is exempt from bombings and a variety of terrorist-type attacks.  And yet as we speak people are being murdered as a result of heinous radical behavior all over the world including in our own USA.

Gated oceanfront property.
We won't elaborate over this topic today since we covered it in detail over these past week.  Most of us have access to news from a wide array of media outlets that keeps us informed, biased or not, as to what horrific events are transpiring throughout the world.  Its heart wrenching.
 
One week from today will be heading to Phuket International Airport for 10:15 am flight including one layover to return to the capital city of Denpasar to the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali. We'll spend one night in a hotel in Kutu before we commence, the next day, on the four or five hour harrowing drive. 


We weren't certain of the purpose of this trellis or the plastic bag (sometime used to "catch" grasshoppers or crickets) when it appeared mostly weeds were growing beneath it.
Before we head out from Denpasar we'll stop at the Carrefore Market to purchase food items that are unavailable anywhere close to the villa in Sumbersari.  At all costs we want to avoid having to return to Denpasar for another long drive during our upcoming two month stint in Bali prior to returning to Australia for a number of cruises, vacation home stays and more.

Between October 31, 2016 and April 22, 2017, we have four cruises booked around Australia, the fourth of which sails from Sydney to Seattle.  It's hard to believe this is coming up after spending 23 months in the South Pacific having satisfied our curiosity and our interest as to what this part of the world has to offer.

Travelers could easily spend a lifetime exploring many more islands and considerably more of the continent of Australia.  We have no delusions that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg.  With visa restrictions allowing us entry into Australia for a continuous period of three months we're disappointed we never made it to the Outback.

The exterior of many homes are adorned with elaborate decorations, doors and artwork.
We'd investigated the possibility of renting a caravan/motorhome but found the cost prohibitive and the time constraint restrictive.  Although the concept of renting a caravan/motorhome has some appeal for the future when we'll for the US,  at this point doing so is not a priority.

With only a week until our departure from Thailand we've begun to think about our final meals, packing and preparations for our departure.  As always, on the last day, we'll be posting the final expenses for the six weeks we'll have spent in Phuket, Thailand.

The expenses will be considerably less than our usual expenses based on the fact that we haven't done much while we're here do my current condition;  no restaurants, no tours and few tourist venues. The low cost of the less-than-stellar rental car will be included. Overall, the car has served us well.

Many residential streets are narrow with room for only one car to pass without a bit of maneuvering.
I wish I could say we'll be heading out to take more interesting photos but right now, it's simply not on the agenda in light of recent attacks in tourist areas.  We have enough new photos yet to share over this next week and with only one more quick trip to the market we've already begun the process of winding down.

Thanks to all of our loyal readers for sticking with us during this quiet time.  Hopefully, as I continue to improve we'll be able to share more interesting photos and events in our lives.  Much more excitement will begin on October 31st when we board Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas for the 33 day cruise circumventing the Australian continent. 

We're very excited about this cruise and being back aboard ship.  This will be quite a test for us to see how we feel about long cruises.  The longest cruise we've experience to date was the 18 days from Honolulu, Hawaii to Sydney Australia in June 2015. 

Entrance to apartment building under constriction.
Tom says, "One of those days was only two hours long when we crossed the international dateline making that cruise only 17 days."  The cruise line unfairly referred to it as an 18 day cruise.  Hummm...

Returning to the US in eight months, we'll recover the lost day for a 24 day (or will be two hours of the 25th day?).  Confusing.  We'll report back on that as it occurs.

May your day be filled with wonderful surprises that make you smile.
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Photo from one year ago today, August 24, 2015:
Fresh greens appeared to be a little higher priced than the grocery stores at the farmer's market in Cairns.  For more photos, please click here.