Navigating through the hectic crowd, Diane and I headed for the AeroGal airline counter, eagerly anticipating the next five days of our Expat Destination Research Vacation. Fresh off an incredible three-day, four night expedition to Sacha Lodge, an amazing rainforest lodge in Ecuador’s Amazonian region, we spent one quick night in Quito and continued the journey. Leaving the expat research in Cuenca for later in the trip, we splurged on the Ocean Spray, the newest 16 passenger luxury catamaran in the Galapagos Islands but chose the shortest trip available, a five night journey. Traversing six different islands including a long overnight cruise to Genovesa Island, so distant that hardly any tours go there, it’s home to some of the oddest wildlife ever and was worth the choppy ride that caused most of us to forego a lobster and shrimp dinner due to acute sea-sickness.
Although Malaysia is our destination in 2015 as soon as my 50th birthday rings in an opportunity to file our MM2H visa, my layoff was unforeseen and South America was still high on the list of possible early retirement destinations. Although pricey, missing the Galapagos Islands while visiting Ecuador is akin to ordering lasagna in a Chinese restaurant. (dumb). Although it’s possible to arrange lodging on the largest island and try day-tripping, budget options are not the way to go. Justifying the phrase, “you get what you pay for”, an overnight excursion on a ship is the best way to enjoy the amazing array of incredible sights and many different types of cruises are available from five to sixteen nights on a variety of vessels.
Anticipation was high as we awoke on the third day of the South American leg of our annual Expat Research Destination Vacation. Planning only a single day of sightseeing in Quito, we left the jackets and long sleeve shirts behind and headed for a totally different climatic zone. Realizing Ecuador’s boundaries include a large chunk of untouched Amazonian jungle, we jumped at the chance to experience our third different rainforest adventure. Freshly embedded memories of Borneo’s jungle excursion remained strong and having already visited Costa Rica in 2002, that leaves Madagascar as the only rainforest we have yet to explore. Probably too far and expensive for early retirees in Malaysia, we’ll settle for orangutans over lemurs.
Sunset at Sacha Lodge
Understanding human encroachment remains the biggest threat to the world’s rainforests, there’s a handful of lodges that personify sustainable ecotourism at its best. Not to be missed, Sacha Lodge, in Ecuador’s Napo Valley Region fits the bill. Located on a pristine piece of privately owned land and bordering Yasuni National Park, one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, the lodge is accessible only by navigating the Napo River for 50 miles, hiking inland on an often muddy boardwalk and crossing a scenic lake. Beginning the journey in Quito, Diane and I boarded a 25 minute flight over snow-covered peaks to the small town of Coca where guides met us for the start of a 4 day, 3 night adventure that exceeded our expectations.
Encountering a heavy bout of turbulence, Diane and I fastened our seat belts and sat peacefully as we watched other passengers meandering about the cabin. After 13 years in a post 9/11 world, all Americans understand that full compliance with any instructions by flight attendants and crew members is mandatory, not optional. Oddly enough, not only did nobody listen, several passengers seated in first class wandered back and started conversations with friends seated elsewhere. Realizing Ecuadorians are not Asians, we found it a bit unnerving that an American based airline would allow total disregard for Federal safety rules once out of U.S, airspace.
Nazca Boobies on Genovesa Island in The Galapagos chain
Travelling in November, a relatively empty season for tourism, Diane and I were adventuring to Qutio for the South American leg of our annual Expat Destination Research vacation. Having already gained positive impressions from two trips to Southeast Asia where we engaged in excellent adventures like trekking to a village of Hill people and spending quality time with orangutans, we decided to investigate the reasons behind the hoopla of the hottest expat destination according to Forbes and International Living. Although the mostly local passengers on the plane provided an interesting first impression, all negativity quickly faded after landing. Blessed with mountains, rain forest, beautiful beaches and The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is one of only a few expat havens with so much to offer in one small country. Continue reading →
Realizing flexibility and open-mindedness is the key to a successful overseas expat adventure, Diane and I began recalling some interesting albeit odd occurrences we experienced in Thailand. Having just learned about new rules on income verification for all MM2H applicants (the Malaysian Social Visit Pass), I recently posted about concerns for American applicants due to strict privacy rules prohibiting disclosure of certain financial information. Deciding to rehash Thailand as a real possibility should the Malaysian government reject our application, we reflected on some sights and sounds that proved interesting.
Although paltry compared to our adventures trekking to a Hill Tribe village or spending the day as an elephant owner, the fish massages scattered throughout the country stand out. Strolling through Bangkok searching for a Thai Massage, a local suggested we head down a side street but instead of a petite Thai masseuse we found several small studios with fish tanks, towels and shopkeepers poised outside waiting for the next tourist. Unfamiliar with this bizarre practice, we figured it couldn’t be any worse than eating bugs for the first time so we pulled out a few Thai Bhat and gave it a shot.
Although blogging is not exactly the same as print media, all wanna-be journalists, writers, authors and poets still enjoy seeing their work posted somewhere besides their own blog. Having completed my first request for a guest post, the nice folks at Retirement and Good Living published my article today. Compiling a series of reasons we’ve chosen Malaysia for our early retirement, the article summarizes one of the most commonly asked questions we face from friends, relatives and bloggers.
Yay; my first internet guest post
Covering a bit more ground than most posts, I’ve included a list of some other countries we considered and why we ruled them out. Sharing a bit about our transition process, it gave me an opportunity to speak about multiple items at one time. Aged much less than a fine wine, my blog is still less than a month old so the article gave me a chance to share information I haven’t gotten around to posting yet. Thanks once again to Simone for finding me and her timely processing time from email to publication.
As promised, I’m now returning to my Liebster Award Post. ETA is Friday. Having already missed Game 5 of The World Series in favor of starting the post, I refuse to miss Game Seven and I only have four hours left until the first pitch so Ciao Bella for now !!