Archive for September, 2010

Well, gollllly, Andy, it’s been a great 50 years

September 30, 2010

The all-American classic “The Andy Griffith Show” made its debut on Oct. 3, 1960, and went on to become one of the most enduring (in our hearts) sitcoms in television history. The fictional setting of Mayberry, North Carolina, was inspired by the real town of Mount Airy, where star Andy Griffith grew up. We visited the mini-Mayberry last year. Griffith, 84, now lives in Manteo, on the coast, and has become a spokesman for all things Democratic. Go Andy! We here in NC love our Sheriff Taylor, and here are some photos to prove it.

Diane kisses Opie (played by Ron Howard), son of sheriff Taylor (on left). The statues are in the NC capital of Raleigh.

Classic Ford Galaxie squad car cruises Main Street in Mount Airy

On left, the Snappy Lunch, credited as the only existing local business mentioned on the TV show; on right, Barney Fife, on duty 24 hours a day

Floyd's owner, Russell Hiatt, stays busy cutting the hair of locals and tourists

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‘Green Book’ was bible for black travelers

September 26, 2010

Sometimes you read about an injustice that you didn’t know about and it just hits you, like, wow, how could that be? I never thought about racism in regards to travel. Duh.

And, sure, I know that race issues in America are far from settled, but thank god there’s no longer a need for “The Green Book.” I read about the travel guide in the New York Times last month. The Green Book was a guide for African-American travelers, listing places they’d be welcome at, from restaurants, to gas stations, to lodging. It was published from 1936 to 1964. (I recall such gay-friendly guides in the 1980s.)

The Green Book, officially “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was started by a postman, Victor Green, and was unofficially distributed at Esso gas stations and other spots. Apparently Esso was the only station to regularly welcome blacks. Can you imagine traveling and not knowing if you’d be allowed to stop for gas? Or food? Or to use the restroom?

Calvin Alexander Ramsey

The Atlanta writer Calvin Alexander Ramsey is bringing the book to light. He’s written a lovely children’s book called “Ruth and the Green Book” (Carolrhoda Books, $16.95 — a perfect gift!), staged a play about the book in DC earlier this month, and he‘s reportedly making a documentary about it.

The Times story said this: “Until he met a friend’s elderly father-in-law at a funeral … Calvin Alexander Ramsey had never heard of the guide. But he knew firsthand the reason it existed. During his family trips between Roxboro, N.C., (near us here in Durham) and Baltimore, “we packed a big lunch so my parents didn’t have to worry about having to stop somewhere that might not serve us,” recalled Mr. Ramsey, who is now 60.

To that I say, wow. And thank you, Mr. Ramsey, for spreading the word, for reminding us of the pain, the fear, and how it wasn’t all that long ago that Americans of a certain color couldn’t travel freely in America. 

What SUP with this water sport?

September 17, 2010

Man with dog SUPs on the intracoastal waterway near Indian Rocks Beach

OK, so I didn’t know this until recently, but maybe you do. SUP, or stand-up paddle surfing (sometimes called stand-up paddle boarding), is all the rage, from West Coast to East, and beyond.

During two recent visits to Indian Rocks Beach, on the West Coast of Florida, we saw SUP’ers. And I just learned that a friend there is dying to get a board. I hope she does, so maybe she’ll let me try it out. She says that with the right board, I’ll be able to stand up on it and paddle. During my two attempts to stand on a surfboard back when I was younger (though not necessarily stronger), I failed miserably, so I’m not convinced.

According to the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, SUP comes from Hawaii, where it’s called hoe he’e nalu, an ancient form of surfing. Stand-up paddling gives paddlers a major “core” workout (move over, Pilates) while also working every muscle in your body. Yikes! It’s a tame sport, unless you do it in the waves.

Stand-up paddler in the Gulf of Mexico after a colorful sunset

SUP’ing is becoming popular at water resorts and surfing areas around the world, thanks in huge part to celebrities trying out the sport. (If only I’d been reading “Us” I would have known this earlier.) Like who? Well, Jennifer Aniston for one, and isn’t that all the American public needs to know?

In July, we saw a  stand-up paddler out in the Gulf. And last week, while we were kayaking in the intracoastal waterway between Indian Rocks and Belleair, we came upon a man SUP’ing with his dog! Too cute. We were happy to see the canine wearing a PFD. We assume he knows how to doggie paddle as well.

Borobudur Temple blends history, religion, art

September 12, 2010

Inside each bell-shaped stupa on top of the Borubudur temple is a Buddha statue

Continuing our “Eat Pray Love“-inspired trilogy from Indonesia, here’s the final installment. I wrote this short piece on the Borobudur Temple for the Boston Globe in 2005.

By Diane Daniel

One of the largest Buddhist structures in the world is in the largest Muslim country — Indonesia. Borobudur Temple on the island of Java is a colossal world wonder.

The temple was built between AD 750-850 with more than 2 million blocks of stone carried by hand from the Progo River to the building site on a small hill. Seen from the air, it looks like one giant stupa, the dome-shaped Buddhist structures used to house relics and commemorate significant facts and events.

The Buddhist Borobudur Temple is a colossal world wonder

Borobudur houses an amazing 1,460 individual narrative reliefs and 1,212 decorative ones, all ornately and intricately carved. They tell a series of 11 stories, or Buddhist doctrines. To follow a story from beginning to end, one must walk a complete circle around the three levels, or spiritual worlds, of the temples. At the top, which signifies nirvana, are 72 bell-shaped stupas, each covering a statue of a seated Buddha. Most are now missing their heads and limbs after centuries of wear and pillage.

Visitors reach their arms through the diamond-shaped openings in the stupa for the one Buddha statue that is supposed to bring good luck when touched.

Diane and Wessel with students who pleaded to speak English and snap a photo

The temple is Indonesia’s most popular tourist attraction, but because it’s a bit out of the way, it attracts more natives than foreigners. We were among a handful of Westerners on a day when dozens of Indonesian students were there on a class outing that included an assignment to get information from a foreigner. We obliged many by answering basic questions (Where are you from? Where are you going next?) and having our photos taken, usually with giggling students joining in.

If, like many visitors to this country, you are going only to Bali, one island over to the east, there are day trips by air to the famed temple. You can do the same from the capital of Jakarta, in west Java. My husband and I decided to take the train from Jakarta in order to see the countryside and mingle with the locals. Though the seven-hour ride on the “eksekutif” train (a phonetic version of “executive”) turned to nine, it was worth it for the sights and interactions.

The temple is Indonesia's most-visited tourist attraction, as it should be

The train station and airport are in Yogyakarta, a crowded city full of vendors and all sorts of human and motor-powered transportation. We found a “taksi” to take us on the hourlong ride to Borobudur village for $10.

We had booked a room at Manohara Hotel, the only lodging inside the archeological park. The rooms ($40) were scruffy, but the grounds were lovely, and the proximity to the temple unbeatable. The room rate includes an audiovisual show about the temple (highly recommended) and admission ($10). You can also hire an English-speaking guide for $5.

One of the temple's 504 Buddha statues

From the film, we learned that the reliefs tell parables of good and evil, but more amazing were the stories of the temple’s renovation. The temple was abandoned almost as soon as it was built, as Buddhism declined in Indonesia. Only in 1815 was it rediscovered under layers of volcanic ash. The Dutch, during their rule in the 20th century, did some restoration, but the temple became waterlogged and unstable.

Finally, between 1973 and 1983, a global restoration project financed the addition of supports, securing of the stones with cement, installing a much-needed lightning conductor, and cleaning much of the stone. Before-and-after photographs in the temple museum show the transformation from decay to splendor. 

A host of hellos from Lombok, Indonesia

September 6, 2010

Farmer carries bamboo sticks (perhaps for irrigation?) through rice field

For all you folks fascinated with Bali after seeing “Eat Pray Love,” do consider visiting its next-door neighbor, the island of Lombok, a short and relatively inexpensive plane ride away. It’s quite different and equally fascinating. Here’s a piece I wrote on Lombok for the Boston Globe in 2005.

By Diane Daniel

“Whatever you do, keep the bathroom door open and don’t look behind it,” my husband warned. “And don’t ask me to explain.”

“Why not?” I said.

“I’ll tell you after we check out. Just trust me,” he said.

He knows my “ick” threshold is low for insects and creatures dead or alive, so I dutifully obliged by steering clear of the mystery behind the door.

Blue-green crater lake on Mount Rinjani as seen from the crater's rim at 8,658 feet

We were staying at Pondok Senaru, in the village of Senaru on Lombok, one of Indonesia’s 13,000 islands, 6,000 of which are inhabited. Senaru is one of two main gateways (Sembulan Lawang being the other) to Mount Rinjani, at 12,224 feet, the second highest mountain in the country. We would climb much of it the next day, and what our lodging lacked inside it made up for outside with stunning views of rice fields, waterfalls, and mountains.

Our large bathroom had other “ick” factors: no sink or warm water, a dirty floor, and large, unidentifiable insects flying around the ceiling.

“I miss the Oberoi,” I whined.

Ah, The Oberoi, Lombok.

Infinity pool at the 5-star Oberoi hotel

Two nights earlier, we had arrived at the island’s most luxurious and remote resort hotel, in Mataram, on the west coast. We had come from Bali, only 20 minutes by air. Lombok, about 50 miles end to end and side to side, with 2.4 million residents, was a welcome change from its more touristy neighbor. The local people, called Sasaks, say the island resembles the Bali of 25 years ago: a relatively quiet land of beaches, mountains, rain forests, and rice fields.

Typically, we are the mid-range-hotel type, three stars out of five, only partly because we’re budget-minded. We don’t appreciate an excess of riches, especially in a developing country still reeling from an economic crisis in 1997, tourism-directed bombings in 2002 and 2005, and devastation left by the December tsunami, which occurred nearly 2,000 miles west of Lombok.

On the other hand, pumping money into the local economy is a good thing.

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