Laura Sholtz


Laura Sholtz


Former TravelPod Member: laura421

Joined: December 21st, 2011

From: lives in Thailand
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Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan April 2nd 2019

Everyone with whom I spoke said how lovely Almaty is. It is pretty, and has many parks throughout, but it is also a rapidly growing modern city complete with traffic jams morning and evening. It seems many people want to live there; there is a feeling of freedom and laissez-faire. No visa is needed to enter Kazakhstan, which was refreshing especially after the difficulty of even getting a visa to Turkmenistan, and also after our trials trying to get our whole group into Uzbekistan. Except for the long delay at the Tashkent airport (no reason given), we simply walked into Almaty after deboarding the plane, and met our van and newest local guide. One of the reasons I enjoy being here so much is our lovely young guide, Dina, who is effervescent and funny, who, on ... read more

Asia » Uzbekistan » Samarkand March 30th 2019

It is already our last day in Samarkand. I was hoping to step into a desert scene, complete with camel caravans, colorfully wrapped traders, and a bustling marketplace. We found two out of three. Mostly what Samarkand is today is a large and vibrantly modern city. The population in these cities in Uzbekistan is slowly growing; as it was in Turkmenistan, new construction is everywhere. So many cars, fine restaurants, young students, beautiful city parks with fresh green grass and flowering trees can be seen, but also old blocklike USSR buildings dot the streets; all this is Samarkand today. But one can also see domes, mosques, tombs, mausoleums and minarets in Samarkand; it is an ancient city that, like Bukhara, was totally destroyed by Genghis Khan in the 13th century, and rebuilt to become the capital ... read more

Asia » Uzbekistan » Bukhara March 28th 2019

Yesterday we rode our second bullet train, this time from Bukhara to legendary Samarkand. One and a half hours on the train was far preferable to six hours riding in a bus (which is what our luggage did). We passed from desert to fertile lands, seeing acres of fruit trees recently planted and starting to grow. One of the nicest surprises I have found in this part of the world is a blossoming springtime. Expecting mostly desert and seeing flowering apple and cherry trees is an unforeseen delight. But we are still in the northern hemisphere, so spring should have been expected; I had just forgotten about it living in early springtime's frozen white country of northern Maine where we won't find blossoms until May. Seeing a lovely spring here now is a wonderful treat! Several ... read more

Asia » Uzbekistan » Bukhara March 24th 2019

Riding six hours in a new bullet train from Khiva to near Bukhara was an experience. The cars were new, the wide and comfortable assigned seats were new, but the bathroom in car #2 was as smelly as any poorly kept outhouse. Our tour director, Anait, cleverly circumvented part of the potential problem of boredom leading to complaints by offering us "morning coffee": paper coffee cups filled with vodka and juice, heavy on the vodka. It certainly mellowed people, and predictably led to many of us falling asleep for a long morning's nap. Still, a few of us were ready to deboard much earlier than the train trip's end. Watching the desert as we rode along was the first time I felt we were in Silk Road countries; that train route truly follows the Great Silk ... read more

Asia » Turkmenistan » Ashgabat March 21st 2019

Getting to Turkmenistan is not easy if one lives in the US. Nor is it guaranteed anyone will get a visa, but luckily, after several days of worrying, my passport arrived back, complete with the required visa. It took two full days to get to Turkmenistan, but I am glad I came. Flying from Boston to the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul only took nine and a half hours, but there I had a layover of almost six hours, a lengthy amount of time to have to spend in any airport. But to backtrack a bit, Bill drove me the two hours from our home to Portland, Maine, where we had a sumptuous and sustaining lunch together before heading off to the Concord Trailways bus station where one can take a bus directly to any terminal at ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Costa Rica January 21st 2019

It is pouring outside this morning, but we are in the rainforest, so even though this part of La Fortuna in Costa Rica is fairly heavily built up because of its being close to Arenal Volcano National Park, we are still in the rainforest and can expect such drenching rains. While we have stayed in many luxurious and beautiful lodges and hotels on this trip so far, this lodge is not my favorite; the rooms are dark and very cold, and in my first room, tucked back underneath the upper level rooms, my windows didn't even open, adding to the oppressive feeling of being enclosed in a cold tomb. Hearing my dismay while I stood in the open doorway trying to let some warm air and light come in, Esteban, our very young but most excellent ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Guatemala January 14th 2019

Yesterday was really our last day in Guatemala, spending most of it exploring and learning about Tikal. Our excellent guide, Ivania, has led us through five days here in Guatemala, visiting the top three places tourists generally go: Antigua, Lake Atitlan, and, finally for us, Tikal. Having only five days in this country we didn't have enough time in Antigua, as our whole little group of six on this OAT pretrip all chose to spend one of the two days scheduled for Antigua travelling to and playing on and near Lake Atitlan. But all three main tourist spots are gorgeous places, very much worth visiting. In this short time I have enjoyed Guatemala very much! We are an interesting group, two couples and two solo travellers. I am one of the singles, and Yasmin is the ... read more

Asia » India » Kerala November 23rd 2018

Today is the day after Thanksgiving. We taught Dennis, our program director, about this US holiday, and he thought it was good to have a special day for offering a general thanks, but to whom? For what, exactly? People from India do not understand what Thanksgiving means for most, or many, Americans, but then we do not understand many of their holidays either. One thoughtless woman toasted, "Happy turkey day!" which demeans this lovely holiday completely. Gratitude should be the main theme, the focus of this day. This is our second day on the Spice Luxury Cruises houseboats. There are three boats reserved for our group: the Tamarind, the Pepper, and the Fennel. The boats are all built similarly, made of bamboo, and all have thatched roofs. The Tamarind has four rooms, the Pepper has two, ... read more

Asia » India November 17th 2018

We have been following news of the nearby cyclone for several days, continuing travelling not too far from its changing path, wondering if our little group would be detoured to keep out of harm's way. Other than our windy and slightly wet lunch in Mahabalipuram, and seeing the ocean with its angry waves, we have been very lucky with our travel timing. Yesterday afternoon our group arrived safely in Thanjavur, where the cyclone had hit between midnight and 4AM this morning. The hotel was open, running by generators, but trees and power lines were down, limbs and whole trees broken off and lying across roads, power lines hanging lower than a person's waist. The city was a mess; everything was closed except for our hotel. At the last count I heard eighteen people had already been ... read more

Asia » India November 15th 2018

There is a cyclone boiling in this part of the world, but so far we have escaped its ravages and rains. This morning here in Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram we heard that it had moved further south, and would reach landfall later on this afternoon. Here the weather is beautiful, not too hot yet, and with specks of blue sky scattered here and there. Early this morning four of us walked to the beach in hopes of seeing sunrise, but the clouds disrupted our viewing. But walking barefoot along the sand was gorgeous nonetheless! I love to swim in the ocean and lakes, but here, with the cyclone's being so near, our ocean is a hungry and angry one, a beast that would easily capture a swimmer and never let her go. Today we had to ... read more

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