Rocketry is the idea that we can take a missile and control it all the way to space… which is insane in itself, but you have to ask yourself, what kind of CRAZY things can we DO once we get OUT there?!

 

And when I looked into it, space scientists did not disappoint. Saturn is a crazy place. There’s a weird hexagon swirling at it’s North Pole, not to mention it’s got rings or something.

 

But it’s moon, Titan, has space scientists really excited. Titan is one of the closest Earth-like planets we can study; NASA describes it as a frozen version of Earth — only… not. Titan has a chemical rich atmosphere, and the surface is Earth-LIKE, with oceans, rivers, mountains and even rain! The thing is, the lakes and rivers and rain aren’t water — they’re ethane and methane.

 

This planet is so similar yet so alien, and so familiar that scientists believe they can send a probe equipped with a submarine. A SUBMARINE. The plan is to use a submarine powered by radioactive pellets (like Curiosity on Mars) to dive below the methane seas and explore the ocean, called Kraken Mare. This is some old school stuff, but not the old school

 

Another crazy idea from NASA, is HAVOC — the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept — alleviates all that. 450 kilometers above the surface of Venus, the gravity is similar to Earth, and daily radiation exposure on Venus is similar to Canada, whereas Mars’ exposure is more than Earth average. So why not live there?? The plan is to send robots and then humans who can permanently live above Venus in a helium-filled solar-powered airship.

 

Venus is ideal for human explorations as its closer to Earth than Mars, but it’s not as popular for exploration maybe because the combination of dense crushing atmosphere, heat and sulfuric acid rain.

 

These plans are just amazing.

They say the age of adventure is over, all roads have been traveled and all secrets have been uncovered.

I as a writer know this is not true. You have to blaze new trails and see new wonders or you become jaded and bored.

This is why I do not do my travel, as many do on the Internet. They surf the web in the comfort of their own homes and don’t even get their shoes dirty. They then think they understand the world.

This is why when I see something interesting in the news or yes, even on the net. I pack up my bags and head out to find out the truth for myself.

For example, I learned that for some reason Filipino’s who come to America do better and succeed better in business than many other minorities that come here.

So, in order to find out why this could be true I thought I would take a trip there and see what they were doing in the islands that we don’t do here in the States.

I was not expecting what I was to find or the things that were about to happen to me.

But, it changed the way I think about travel and how I do it now forever. Especially after the events, I experienced there.

Setting up to go was a breeze.

First, I contacted some business people down in Manila, which is the capital city of this island republic.

I was able to reach the head of one of the fast rising businesses I had heard about down there and they invited me down for a look-see.

I booked tickets with my usual travel agent Linda. She said it would be no problem to get me there in a day or so.

I thought this was a great idea, gave her my credit card info, and confirmed my tickets and I was set to travel in a couple of days.

I also took some precautions and got most of my money changed into travelers Checks and got a second wallet.

I also bought a pair of Dockers with deep pockets.

Things began to go south.

What I wasn’t aware of was that my flight would have a layover for the night in another city prior to making the trans-ocean hop.

To my dismay, I had a 12-hour stop over. So, I thought I would make the best of it and sleep in the airport.

Big mistake! I was uncomfortable and in the drafty air of the airport, I came down with something. I am still not sure what but I wasn’t feeling so hot by the time my connecting flight left for the Philippines.

The flight itself was pleasant enough but I wasn’t feeling well.

 

Arriving with a fever in the dark

When the plane landed at the Manila airport, I wasn’t myself and was feeling feverish.

It was night when we arrived and it was very dark outside the airport.

Instead of waiting for my hosts, I thought I would go to the hotel myself, as it was only a few miles away.

I flagged down a Jeepney, which is like and open back pickup truck that has two rows of facing benches and the driver is in an open cab.

Each Jeepney is distinctive and colorful as their owners.

I picked one with a lot of chrome and it could seat about eight comfortably.

Three men and a couple got in as well. We then set off.

Things go from bad to worse

I really wasn’t with it as well drove down the road.

We made a stop, the couple got off, and we continued. I lost track of the time. I slowly realized we were no longer in Manila and we were heading outside the city.

I was later to learn it was about 70 clicks in fact.

We entered another town or city. The Jeepney pulled off into a secluded area and stopped.

Now I began to wake to the fact that my trip had taken a wrong turn.

One of the three men produced a bolo, which is the tradition sugar cane knife used in its harvesting. It is a wicked looking knife and it the perfect intimidation or beheading tool.

I stayed seated as one I was not feeling so hot and two there were three men and at least one was armed.

He gestured at my camera, A Nikon F5; this was my main tool I used to record sights and color for my writing.

He meaning was clear. So without comment I passed it over. He next opened his hand in the universal gesture of “Give me your wallet.”

I reached into my Dockers and handed him my wallet. He seemed pleased and he smiled, as it had a couple of hundred dollars in small bills.

He smiled and gestured with the cane knife to the back of the Jeepney and I was being told to scram.

I made a move to take my carryon suitcase and he shook his head again smiling.

I took the hint and got out of the Jeepney, which then roared off with my wallet, suitcase, and camera.

I was in a strange country and a city of which I don’t even know the name. I also had a headache and fever.

But things could have been much worse.

My luck changed for the better.

I made my way into the city proper and discovered that I was in Angeles City, which is near the former Clarkton Air force base.

I was able to find a hotel called the Clarkton, obviously named after the former base.

I was able to get a hotel room with no problem as in my Dockers I had an inner pocket where I had secreted my passport, Travelers Checks, and my real wallet. You see I plan for trouble and it stood me in good stead.

I then spent the next two days getting over my fever and eating some of the best local food I’ve ever tasted.

The city was jumping as it is the home the the entertainment industry of the islands with numerous clubs and bars.

I bought a small portable camera and took pictures of everything and everyone.

The people were friendly and as I said, the food was great.

I was able to get a ride in one of the TUK TUK motorcycle taxis and was dropped off at a hotel in Makati, which is on the outskirts of Manila and close to the airport.

I found a local 7-11, which also doubled as a police station.

I changed some of my Travelers Checks to pesos and the hotel staff treated me like a king. I had a bodyguard assigned to me from hotel as I was informed I was a foreigner and there had been a rash of kidnappings. (You think!)

I smiled at this news. I however asked that I get the name of a club where I could get a beer, as 20 years previously, while in the Navy I had promised myself I would someday have a San Miguel beer (San Miguel is a popular beer)in the Philippines.

They sent a second bodyguard out with us, I had dinner and watched a dance show, and the owner of the club walked me back to my hotel as I let my bodyguards go home earlier in the evening.

I got back to my room and later on caught my plane for home cutting my trip short to do so. I never did meet up with my hosts. I cut my trip short. I had enough information for a book and I had a better understanding of the people than I ever would otherwise.

The islands are poor, people need cash from abroad, and they sell their labor abroad to bring in the money that the Philippines lacks.

The people are family oriented and family groups have cousins, aunts, uncles, and children galore.

They are probably the friendliest people on earth and the happiest.

So you see my being kidnapped was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me as I got to see the people in a way most travelers never experience. So, to me World Travel is for meeting people, eating the food, and the unexpected things that can happen

I wouldn’t be here today if not for the assistance I received and help that let me make it back home.

Would I go back the Philippines?

Yes, In fact I am thinking about retiring there. I love the food, beer, and the people.

Adventure is where you find it they say. I find it by the exploration of flea markets.

 

You say that isn’t real exploring. Exploring is traveling to far off lands and seeing exotic sights.

 

Right?

 

Well the flea markets I explore are in China and you might find anything in a flea market there.

 

From ancient artifacts, you have to register before you can take them out of the country home to a lava rock to scrub your back and feet.

 

I got into the habit by accident as I was told about a market that was in a riverbed in the Northern part of the vacation and port city of Qingdao.

 

It is only about an hour north of the center of the city by bus.

 

My friend a fellow teacher said you could buy anything there and I didn’t believe him.

 

He insisted and I went along for the ride, as it was a Saturday and a great day to get out into the sun.

 

Street Food and Some of the most amazing junk/treasures you’ll ever see.

We took the bus north and in a short time, we passed over a river (At least on the map I had.).

 

We alighted and we down a side street, which lead down into the empty riverbed. Along the way, I fell in love with 3 puppies that were being offered for sale. The Chinese now view dogs as pets and surrogates for their children who are away at college or abroad.

 

We stopped at a street vendor where we pigged out on the Chinese egg tarts which are little baked dough cups file with a sweet yellow egg cream.

 

We then made it to the flea market proper.

 

Wonders upon wonders and stuff I have no idea what it was for.

I saw a vintage WWII Japanese sword being offered up for sale, which I knew would be worth a good $1,000 dollars to a sword collector in the states. The tang was even signed. (This makes them more valuable)

 

My friend however was in a hurry, as he wanted to get some plants for his wife who was decorating their new apartment. So, I passed on a good deal.

 

We made it to the plant sales area. It seems whenever you go to a Chinese market of any kind everyone forms little groups based on the products they are selling.

 

The plants were near where you could buy fish, turtles, and birds.

 

The area around Qingdao is mountainous and bird hunters go up to catch many kinds of exotic (to us) birds. I saw magpies who spoke Chinese, Parakeets, and some cockatiels. I confess I am not bird expert, but it was a riot color and raucous sounds of squawking and the people dickering on price in Mandarin and the local dialects.

 

We finally made it to the plant section where my friend bought what his wife wanted. Some large Philodendron like plants, which I don’t know the name of. He arranged to have them delivered.

 

Here is an interesting side note. In China, they use an electrically powered 3-wheeled cart that has a seat for the rider like a motorcycle and a flatbed and is like a 3-wheeled pickup truck that they use to carry everything.

 

You see them going down the side of the highways as there is a lane set aside for scooters and bicycles. They usually are either blue or red and in 10 years in Asia, I’ve only seen the 2 colors.

 

If you go to the Philippines, the Jiminy/TUK TUK (local 3 wheel gas powered trikes that have room for passengers) is as individualistic as the owners with garish colors and chrome and lights.

 

Having taken care of that we explore the rest of the 2-kilometer long flea market.

 

Show and Clothing of colors, types, and sizes were in the center. Next came the meat, vegetables, and baked goods. Canopies were raised over most of this area forming pavilions where you wander up and down rows of various goods and edible products that are in a bewildering cornucopia of smells, colors, and textures.

 

We then got to my favorite part. The Miscellaneous section. This is where you can find anything from a Geiger counter to a laboratory sealed weight machine that looked like a large wooden and glass case with the sensitive mechanism inside.

 

I saw a plethora of American & British books in English some looked to be old and perhaps a booksellers dream come true.

 

But then we came to the hawkers selling every kind of invention you care to name. Water purifiers that run on centrifugal force, Cutters and graders that would make Ronco and Popeil envious.

 

Kitchen knives that cut like magic. Here is an entrepreneur’s paradise in products for American consumers.

 

I saw many that should be on infomercials and late night commercials or Home Shopping Network.

 

At the far end is the industrial section where anything from giant electrical motors transformers and other heavy-duty hardware is to be found. Drill bits and tools of all shapes and sizes.

 

Some that I think would take two men to lift.

 

Finally at the very edge was the junk. I fell in love with the various odds and ends you can find here. Memorabilia dating back to the 1920’s and earlier. Not just Chinese either. There were items of foreign make as well. Jewelry, decorations, all from the time before WWII.

 

A collector would have a field day in this part of the flea market.

 

 

 

Adventure and Exploration can be found in strange and far off places true but…

In far off and exotic places, you can find the excitement still in finding the mundane and common if you look hard enough. Going to one of the large open-air Chinese markets or flea markets is fun, which can be an adventure all in itself, and you can find some real bargains as well

 

Oh, What did I get?

 

A lava scrub stone that works better that soap, Some industrial strength magnets that are the most powerful I ever saw. I also bought some Bruce Lee tee shirts and other kungfu items.

 

But mostly I had a great time sampling the street food and taking in the sights that I’ll remember always.

 

And that is the reason I think we explore. We want to see new things and experience the tastes, sounds, and smells.

 

Something the Internet can’t give.

Welcome to my new website Around Globe. Thanks for checking it out and keep checking in as I add new content.

I’ll be discussing different ways of “exploring”. These days, you can travel around the globe from your computer chair.

Obviously that’s not nearly as exciting as going and doing it in person, but not everybody has the chance to go all over the world. If your computer is the only way you are going to be able to travel the world, then maybe you can do some of that traveling here.