Exploring the world

The last few months I have, as mentioned earlier, been researching travel options, itineraries, hotels, flights, first for destinations on one side of the Pacific, and then, with a change of heart, for destinations on the other side of the Pacific. I like to plan my travel myself, rather than blindly follow a travel package or route others design. (Hence my business, Travel Unpackaged!)

I’m not keen on tours either, though recognise that maybe, one day when we’re older, and in certain locations, we might have to succumb. Knowing our travel style, I know that we always require longer time in almost every destination than on standard routes. And we will often skip things others do because it is the “done thing” and put our efforts elsewhere. We don’t have kids, so can skip theme parks, thank goodness. But I do like to “see the sights” as there is a reason they are the “sights to see.” At the very least, they often sum up the history or the culture of the country you are visiting. But more than that, they are, generally, magnificent. I mean, would you go to London without visiting the Tower, Cambodia without seeing Angkor Wat, Norway without seeing a fjord, or Jordan without seeing Petra?

And food. We love experiencing the local food. If we can try street food, it is usually a real treat. Besides, food always tastes better al fresco, right? So we don’t want to be tied to the food of a hotel, a tour, or one resort.

So over these weeks, we’re visiting palaces and farmhouses, pagodas, temples and tombs, sites of wonderful grandeur, and of terrible tragedies. We’ll admire nature, on land and sea. We’ll be briefly isolated, and surrounded by throngs in one of the busiest places on earth. We’ll see remnants of ancient cultures, and experience ultra-modernity.

We’re visiting three countries, and of those two are new to me, but only one is new to my husband. It will be the first time we will visit somewhere he has been, but I have not. (There are only three countries in the world in that category.)

I’m not planning to blog* this trip. It’s not long enough to justify the time when I’m away, or the self-imposed pressure of blogging. I will be posting photos. Look for me on Instagram at travellingmali (note the two Ls in travelling). And when I get back, I promise to do a post or two on “What I did on my holiday.”


* I will, however, be blogging and checking in here. I’ve pre-scheduled a few posts, and will write others if I get the time.


  1. Hot Cross Buns
  2. Being able to sleep at night without being too hot
  3. The lovely, low light
  4. Not being afraid to let the sun in the house
  5. Hunting out my winter clothes
  6. Covering up
  7. Starting to think about warming, winter food
  8. Red wine replacing whites/roses
  9. The leaves on our oak tree starting to turn
  10. Not having to shave my legs or paint my toenails

Right Now

Reading: After months of reading very little in terms of books, I just finished Normal People by Sally Rooney, which I raced through in just a couple of days. Next, inspired by Lori’s review, and thanks to my library which bought an e-book copy only a week after I searched for it, I have started The Seed: Infertility is a Feminist Issue, by Alexandra Kimball. I’m looking forward to that.

Watching: Game of Thrones. Though I’m upset I will miss the last couple of episodes when we are away. I blame my husband for having an inconveniently placed birthday, though it is not really his fault! But also other favourites that have all been on again recently, like Killing Eve, Billions, Tin Star, Counterpart (the one where the worlds split in two).

Listening: To my Duolingo language app.

Following: The photos and tales from my sister-in-law and her family who have been visiting Japan.

Drinking: Tea. Lots of tea. Earl Grey when I’m cold, green tea for lunch, chamomile before bed, and every few days, other herbal and fruit teas to vary my liquid intake, when I’m sick of water.

Eating: Hot Cross Buns and Easter Eggs, and this weekend, for my father-in-law’s 90th birthday, slow roast lamb and a rich chocolate cake. So starting tomorrow, we’ll be able to get back to normal healthy eating.

Anticipating: Our trip next month, to two countries that are new to me, and one I haven’t visited since 1996. I’ll be excited once I get everything done here I need to do before I go!

Contemplating: What to do with relatively newfound freedom once we get back from our trip.

Loving: Autumn. More on that anon.

Still unashamedly copying Loribeth’s regular series every few months.

A fine Sunday morning

We went for a walk yesterday morning. After a few weeks when we had to endure, off and on, a lot of mist and rain, it was a delight to get out in the lovely autumn sunlight, enjoy the perennial contrast of the green trees against the brilliant blue of the sky, and take pleasure in the oranges and reds of the occasional deciduous trees before they lose their leaves completely.

We weren’t the only ones out getting some Vitamin D either. We walked past teams of girls playing soccer down at the all-weather sports ground, their watching parents and coaches no doubt also grateful for the fine day. We passed a man who, as I remarked to my husband, always looks like a hitman walking his wife’s lapdog. He didn’t move aside for me to pass, but looked straight at me with hostile eyes, forcing me onto the road. There were others out on the road too;  an elderly lady and her daughter, a former colleague of my husband’s who stopped his bike ride to walk the last hundred metres or so alongside his wife who was walking her little dog too, and two young girls on their scooters who stopped for an awkward conversation with two loud, confident, but much smaller boys.  And we weren’t the only couple out walking together, though we were moving at a rather faster pace than most, determined to boost our fitness for all those tourist days spent out on our feet in a few weeks.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning.

What’s in a name?

I’ll probably never do it, but every time a movie or TV show ends, I’m fascinated by the company names and always start imagining what I would call something. Wine labels too now have some wonderful names, for example.

In South Australia we visited the Bird in Hand winery, and enjoyed the Two in the Bush shiraz. I have some Arrogant Frog wines in our cupboard in the room next to me, and there are countless other wine labels with fun and fascinating names, none of which I can recall right now. I always thought if I became an interior designer, I could use the mali flower, and call it Jasmine Designs. I’d like to call something after the horrible name our road was given when I was at school. Swamp Road Film Productions, perhaps?  Or Suzy the Sheep Enterprises, after a memorable pet, Two-Room School after my primary school, or perhaps Tadpole Island Wines, after a little island in a stream behind our house where my sister and I used to play. 

Do you have any secret names for great productions tucked away, at the ready, for when opportunity knocks?

Sharing a special place

A friend (Amy) is currently on holiday in Thailand. We were AFS students together when we were 17 or so, and she has returned this time with her husband and her parents for the first time. I have been loving seeing her photographs on social media, and I share in her joy in sharing this place that is so special with the people she loves.

It made me remember hosting my parents in Thailand just ten years after I was a student there. We were living there as diplomats, and it was the first time my parents left New Zealand. Thailand would not have been their first choice as an overseas destination, but we were living there, they were temporarily homeless (having retired from the farm, they were waiting for their little retirement house to be built), and they actually had a little cash in their pockets to make the trip. They travelled later – to Europe, and a couple of times to tour different parts of Australia (they saw more of it than I have, despite our numerous trips) – but regularly said that their trip to Thailand was the one that stood out. Frankly, it blew their minds. Europe, Australia and America all feel familiar – people look like us, the food isn’t that different, and we are accustomed to seeing these countries on our screens and in our books. But Thailand – its sights, sounds, food, temple, people, language, and size – has no reference point in rural New Zealand where they spent their lives.

They came because I had spent a year there instead of finishing my last year of secondary school. They came too because a few years later, they hosted a young Thai exchange student, their fourth “daughter.” (My friend Amy did this several years ago too.) I remember walking with them out of the airport in Bangkok. My mother sniffed the foggy air, and looked at me in horror. “Do we have to breathe that?” she asked incredulously. My father looked around in fascination, and uttered a very 1960s comment. “The teeming millions of Asia,” he said, as he had probably never seen so many people in one place. These things are so familiar to me today, it’s good to remember their reactions.

They stayed for a month, and we took them around Bangkok (or rather my husband did, while I worked), and on excursions out of Bangkok, day-trips in our car, or a few weekends at the beach, and on a longer trip on a sleeper train, which they loved. (There’s a funny photo of them on the train here.) They were still young, newly retired, and adventurous. They explored the local streets and foods on the non-excursion days, got to know our maid, relaxed by and in the pool, met my Thai host family, went on adventures with their Thai AFS daughter, and did many things they never would have imagined. My father, who had always been very active (as a farmer he really had no choice), sat under a palm tree at the beach, feeling the soft, warm wind, and just relaxed. “This is just wonderful,” he said, looking around. It was certainly a far cry from the cold prevailing wind on the stony beach near the farm where he spent almost all of his life.

I remember coming home from work one day, and hearing of my mother’s trip to a market. She had visited it with my husband and father a few days earlier, but they had just walked through it, and didn’t give her time or space to explore, or shop. She was determined to go back, and insisted that day that she was going alone. My husband had nervously summoned a tuk-tuk, and gave the driver instructions of where to take her. Noisily it drove off, and he wondered if a) he’d ever see her again, and b) how he would explain that to me when I got home! There were no cellphones. She didn’t speak a word of Thai. She’d never taken a taxi in her life. But she had money, she had the address of our apartment with her, and she wasn’t scared. Of course, she made it home safely, much to the relief of my husband, who swears he lost a couple of months of his life from the stress.

I loved rediscovering Thailand through their eyes and ears and nose and tastebuds. I am equally sure Amy is enjoying doing this with her parents and her husband. And I know we both feel so lucky we’ve been able to do this with those we love.



It’s good to be alive

  • It’s been a weird couple of weeks. An elderly aunt (in-law) died, and we are on call to help and support her husband, who had only days before moved into the same rest home as his wife. They have no children, Chief Niece who has their POA is off on a well-deserved holiday, and so we are subbing in to help him as he adjusts to his new home and life without his wife of 59 years. It’s hard not to wonder who will help us if we get to the same advanced age.
  • A health scare was resolved quickly (and positively), then the good news was formalised in writing. Thank goodness for public health screening programmes.
  • Just two days after the relief of that, three cars on the motorway in torrential rain had an incident, and I got caught up in it. As a result, our car was written off by the insurance company. It had just turned 21, so it was time it left home anyway! It meant that we were carless in the coldest week of the year, which made shopping for cars a lot more difficult. I can’t quite work out if that is ironic or not, can you? Quick decisions are not usually our forte, but we signed up for something on Friday, just four days after the accident, and take delivery this week. Meanwhile, we were loaned a car so we are mobile once again, although I haven’t ventured out on the motorway behind the wheel just yet. After all that, I am feeling rather lucky to be alive, but not quite ready to tempt fate.
  • Daylight saving ended yesterday, so it’s almost dark at 6.30 pm which must mean summer is over.
  • Finally, all bookings have been made for our trip, and travel insurance has been purchased, so that is another huge relief. I’m working on the language of one of our three destinations, but will be able to say little more than “please show me that one,” although (here’s a hint) I might be able to read one of their alphabets. And I now have a phone that has enough storage to allow me to download Google Translate if necessary. It takes the pressure off learning a language, but also a little bit of the fun.