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Just 5 nights on this chartered boat sailing from Luxor to Aswan. Offshore excursions included. Unli food and unli drinks. Good for only 16 pax. Good food, and even better service. What a treat! This is most certainly my kind of holiday.

The engine makes life comfortable for all 16 of us. Well-appointed, air-conditioned rooms. Hot coffee & tea. Cold bevs and hot meals. Good music and adequate lighting. A tugboat pulls us across the River Nile and the splash we make as we glide through the Nile is a symphony we’d likely miss once we get off. How nice to wake up to catch sunrise and enjoy wine or beer as we wait for sunset. A few hours in the morn and another after lunch make up our offshore excursions. Just enough activities for each day. Even more time to enjoy each other’s company on the boat.

Captain is a kindly 56 year old Egyptian who has a younger brother also working on the boat. We don’t know what the younger Ibrahim does but we all remember him as the young lad with good dance moves when we feel like turning after-dinner sessions into dancing parties. The Chefs cook up real good meals and have good dancing feet too! Same goes for Mandouh who is forever charming us with his stories on his 7 year old twins and always beat us with his keen sense of anticipation of what we need. A vodka here, some toast, more desserts, another glass of wine. To feel spoiled and pampered is an understatement. These men made us feel so comfortable and truly took good care of us.

This isn’t my first time cruising the Nile. Back in ‘96, we sailed on a bigger boat M/S Oberoi from Aswan to Luxor . Meals and service excellent but nothing beats having the boat all to yourselves. Besides, it wasn’t an open bar back then. Our Tour Guide sailed with us too and Mahmoud is a gem of a guide. He doesn’t mind us calling him “Superman”, by the way. His spiel had just the right amount of information laced with just enough excitement to keep us interested. Never too much info to douse our interest or give us indigestion over too much historical facts. This guy knows his stuff.

Over the 6 days and 5 nights cruising the Nile, Mahmoud’s itinerary covered the same spots I’ve visited 24 years ago, plus a couple more which I particularly enjoyed. El Kab and the Sandstone Quarry of Gebel Al Sisila are worthy sites to visit along the Nile. I am including the link to our boat’s website for those who are planning to do a River Nile Cruise. We still have 2 nights to go on this riverboat cruise but this comes with our recommendation. We are that confident it can only get better! (https://www.divenewswire.com/aggressor-announces-new-brand-aggressor-river-cruises-with-the-nile-queen/)


Some mornings are just better. Woke up early to ride a hot air balloon in Luxor, Egypt. Was it worth feeling deprived of all those zzzz’s?

We arrived early enough to watch how the balloons are made ready for the one-hour sunrise ride over the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, Temple of Hatshepsut and the rest of the necropolis.

Rising and getting ready to leave at 4am took a lot of effort. Our Nile Cruise riverboat packed a breakfast and snack bag for all 16 of us. But breakfast without a proper coffee just doesn’t make the cut. And the “take-off” area isn’t your regular terminal. Nor is it your typical departure lounge. I literally climbed up the basket (and with much effort and deliberate moves, climbed out) to make sure the hot air balloon does not rise up without me. Oh btw, the captain handed out “certificates” after the ride, which I was careful to discreetly decline. No need for any certificates. Whatever for? Besides, it just adds to the waste — not exactly environment-friendly. 🤪

Our Egyptian Captain piloted very gently and for a while, our basket was held steady real low such that we could actually and easily make out the Temple of Hatshepsut from a distance, and some Egyptian Bazaar down under the balloon. As the sun rose, the mountains, the palms, roads, farm animals, the River Nile and some green patches across the fields emerged more clearly.

Surely, this morning wasn’t wasted. 😊👌😘👍

Alexandria


This is my first time in Alexandria, Egypt. Of course I was excited to visit this port city facing the Mediterranean Sea. Once home to that famous library and lighthouse which counted among the 7 wonders of the Ancient World, it would take a lot of imagination to remember this 2nd biggest city in Egypt as having once been the most prosperous city in the world. The corniche must have spanned a good 10 miles from the Montaza Gardens to the former site of the Lighthouse where the present-day Citadel of Qaitbay now stands. Like Cairo, traffic along the avenue lining the waterfront promenade was horrendous. Our bus ran the length of the main road passing many apartment buildings, hotels, and commercial buildings which look like they’ve all seen better times. Some look unfinished, even war-torn or bombed out. And one would have even thought this is prime real estate property with that seafront view. We likewise weaved around side streets in the old part of town — markets, souqs and again, dilapidated, neglected buildings that seem to have been abandoned midway through construction. A pity. I imagined it could have looked even better than Miami’s Art Deco district or maybe like Nice in France.

Took us 3 hours driving North from Cairo to Alex, as locals call it. Our first 3 stops were at Pompey’s Pillar and the Temple of Serapium, the catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa and the Montaza Palace. The Temple is all rubble, holes and trenches now but the triumphal column dedicated to Diocletian stands proud in solid granite . Then there’s the Catacombs which date back to the 2nd century AD which exemplify a mix of Roman, Egyptian and Greek styles and where the chambers were both used as tombs and feasting chambers for the living visiting their dead. Having seen all these antiquities, it was quite refreshing to visit the Montaza Palace and its well-manicured gardens. It’s like a park complex where the neatly-designed and well-maintained palace grounds contrast against the filth and chaotic streets and alleys of Old Town Alexandria.

I have to confess I was a tad disappointed. Or maybe I prepped myself to be disappointed because I expected much. With its geography and historical significance, I felt that this city in Northern and Coastal Egypt could have maxed out its potentials and emerged even prettier than the country’s capital. Something is just wrong somewhere. But then again, perhaps an overnight stay here does not do justice nor allow much opportunity to truly appreciate the place. Nonetheless, I like the Citadel of Qait Bay. We were charmed by the locals too — mostly young students eager to have their photos with us. Well, sometimes it’s NOT the place nor destination, but the locals you meet. So there. All’s well 😘

Revisiting Cairo


I am on “review mode” and now appreciate the true value of digicams. Photographs from 1996 were sparse and scarce. Back then, you take your shots and wait till your film gets developed; these days, you take nearly unlimited shots and review to weed out the bad shots. How very neat! I am amused by my 1996 shots now that I can compare them against snaps from this 2nd visit of the capital of Egypt.

It was a challenge to find the exact same spot. The Sphinx — that mythical figure with a human head and the body of a lion — strikes a majestic image, almost like an apparition, in the middle of the Giza plateau. I had a favorite photo snapped there back in 1996 and I felt compelled to have another photo in the same spot. I saw the rock boulder I sat on but there is this big sign that says “No climbing” so I stood right by the edge where a rope or chain kept tourists off. Best I could do. And in one photo (below), I had another friend “replace” an old friend and travel companion. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d have this 2nd chance to visit this land of the pyramids. .

When we paid a visit to the Cairo Museum, I was reminded of a tragedy which struck one of the tour buses we convoyed with while crossing the border from Israel to Egypt. That bus had 16 or 18 casualties resulting from a terrorist bomb. Most tourists were Greek or German. This time, an alarm set off for a good 2 minutes or so while we were inside the Museum. My instinct made me search for the nearest exit while praying for safety. Turned out it was a false alarm. Phew!

Outside of the pyramid complex, Cairo boasts of a few more worthy sites to visit: the Saladin Citadel, the mosque of Muhammad Ali within it, the Bazaar, the Solar Boat Museum. I have not been to the Boat Museum in my earlier trip. But the Citadel and the Mosque, as well as the Bazaar, are exactly as I remember them. I wondered how nearly nothing has changed. Street photography can be quite a challenge but could be very rewarding, with perfectly-timed snaps. I wasn’t that quick with my fingers but am happy with these snaps in my memory keeper.

More snaps below from Saqqara and the busier streets of Cairo. WiFi has been spotty here and we’ve been moving, but will try to post as often to keep you updated.

Egyptian Cotton, anyone?

The Sphinx and Moí


It has been 24 years since I visited Egypt. At the time, I was on a 38-day holiday and the last leg involved a border-crossing from Israel into Egypt and a Nile Cruise aboard a luxurious M/S Oberoi Riverboat. Awesome land of the Pharaohs — that, despite the chaos, noise and dust! I swear my heart skipped a beat the first time I set my eyes on these ancient wonders, let alone when I entered one of the pyramids feeling like an explorer. The sheer size of these monuments and ancient wonders is beyond imagination and I wasn’t sure how I’d feel going through the same experience 24 years since 1996.

Fast forward 2020. Climate change and Covid-2019 looms in the horizon. But we remain unfazed. We arrived in the evening in Cairo, eager to rest our tired bods following a long flight. The next whole day gets a good start with the Great Pyramids of Giza. And let me warn you, they’re not called GREAT for nothing. Standing at the edges of the Western Desert a few miles west of the Nile, this necropolis is this country’s iconic landmarks along with the Sphinx which lies east of the entire complex. Imagine Egypt without the pyramids is like thinking of Macchu Picchu without the citadel atop the mountain. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt surely knew how best they can be remembered long after they’re dead. The largest (in Giza) and the oldest pyramid (in Saqqara) are the most visited ones but every visitor can’t resist being impressed even with smaller, satellite pyramids found in the sandy fields of Giza and Memphis. The “mastabas” for lesser royals add more charm to the entire necropolis.

Tourism absolutely thrives in Egypt. And every child must have gone through that phase wishing to be an archaeologist, or maybe even an Egyptologist studying and exploring these ancient wonders. Such an inheritance for this African country! And those camel touts must be doing brisk business too. Thank you Kings Khafre, Khufu and Menkaure. Your legacy lives on.

History comes alive in the evening’s Light and Sound Show. Some of my travel buddies braved the cold and sat, stared and listened in the open area as the sound and lighting system did its job. What a perfect way to cap the day!


It’s been 9 weeks. And before then, around 4 weeks of clinic visits and lab procedures. I haven’t had 13 slow and easy weeks in the last few years. A quick check of my busy travel calendar the last few years confirm this. And you know what? If you’ve been under “house arrest” for a considerable time, the first day out heightens all your senses to appreciate the air you breathe, the noise you hear or perhaps the lack of it, the temps that make you sweat or the breeze that cools your skin. The Harbour Square within the CCP Complex is a favorite spot within the metropolis. Antipolo too but it’s too far out and the traffic going there is near-unbearable. So between the waters and the mountains, I longed to instead count the yachts bobbing up and down in the bay.

There are still a few days before the year is over but Bali was def the last trip in 2019. Thoroughly enjoyed with the family despite the intermittent chest pains, which I assumed must have been acid reflux. My guardian angels must have worked overtime to bring me home safely and guided a family doctor to remind me to see my cardiologist instead of a gastro-enterologist. I did, and then had medical attention in the nick of time. After more tests pre- and post-stenting, my cardiologist declared I’m good to travel again. Yey! Two trips lined up for next year, and now working on a possible 3rd and 4th. I am so happy. And thankful for the trips made in the year 2019 without mishap. I still cringe at the thought that any one of these trips could have turned really nasty. I am thankful as I remember.

Same group on 2 separate trips to Brunei and Malaysia

Ticked off a few squad goals including this Hokkaido in Winter!

A third of the fambam in London.

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/21/touchdown-london/

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/23/one-in-a-million-stonehenge/

Cardiff Castle in Wales

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/24/from-london-to-london-2019/

Amsterdam, Volendam, Marken, Giethorn , Zaans Schans, Delfth and The Hague

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/05/25/its-been-awhile-amsterdam/

Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/01/touchdown-brussels/

The Cotswolds

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/06/16/the-cotswolds/

Off to Graz, Ljubljana, Trieste and Istrian Peninsula (Croatia

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/08/18/road-trip-through-austria-slovenia-italy-croatia/

A family trip to Bali, Indonesia

https://lifeisacelebration.blog/2019/09/05/bali-highs-💕🏖😍🎶🧜🏻

So what’s in the drawing boards this coming 2020? Well, there’s a booked Nile cruise in Egypt, and the South American adventure should soon be firmed up, plus there’s that wedding later in the year in Barcelona. Same travel buddies…. unless of course we start growing tired of each other 🙄. We have yet to plan for that trip to Europe with my soon-to-graduate #aponimamu. And another adventure with my soon-to-retire dear friends. We’ll see. Meanwhile, let’s have a truly Merry Christmas in our hearts and a Prosperous, Harmonious New Year ahead.


There is much to celebrate and birthdays are perfect excuses. We celebrate the gift of life, and we remind ourselves that truly, gratitude resides in the heart. And so, we stop counting the candles on the cake and instead give thanks for the multitude of blessings. On my 60th birthday, I celebrated by gathering my family for a weeklong trip to South Korea. To this day, we tag it as our best-ever family trip. Everything went right on that trip. Everyone in good spirit. When we returned, I decided to throw an impromptu party with family and a few friends from college days. You bet we all felt like the teenagers we were when we first met and lived together in a dorm.

Seoul, South Korea. 2013.

Hotel Celeste. 60th Birthday

It has been a blur since. Having turned 60, I went full-ON with my travel adventures. I remember celebrating a birthday in India. Then another in Madrid after a nearly 2-week trip around Morocco which included spending a night in a bivouac in the Sahara. Back home, we didn’t miss getting together again for a birthday weekend in beautiful Balesin Island. At 64, I struck a dream destination off my bucket list. Macchu Picchu thrilled me no end, and no racing heartbeat could stop me from enjoying this heritage site.

India. 2014.

Casa Botin. Madrid. 2015.

Balesin Island. Quezon.

Macchu Picchu. 2017.

Turning 65, it would have been a good idea to hold a party but my Sydney-based sister and brother-in-law were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary so off I went Down Under for a birthday and golden wedding anniversary celebration. My friends based in California lost no time to join me and we had a blast. I’m not really into big parties anyway, and celebrating with family and friends “on a trip” is really my idea of a birthday celebration.

Sydney. 2018.

There are many ways to celebrate birthdays. You can plan all you want but sometimes the best plans come unhinged. Not because they were necessary spoilers, but more so because they couldn’t be postponed any longer. The last 5 years or so breezed by, packing many unique adventures. As I kept still the last so many weeks, I found time to pull apart many such recent memories threatening to get blurred with the passing of time. Some weight attaches to each — some light, others heavy with meaning. By no design, the ones that stick out are those that one cannot explain. Forever grateful for such unexplained, intuitive wisdom. Guided. And guarded. One tries not to overthink while slowing down to appreciate life and becoming more aware of one’s mortality. Not much else to say but “Thank You”. I need not understand every single thing. Thank You.

In The Nick Of Time


Only You can time it so perfectly
One-week off schedule with my doc sickly
Then there’s the Lab needing repair
And a switch of hospitals without delay.

Through all that I depended on Your mercy
I wanted to cry, with the growing anxiety
Helplessness setting in, my head spinning
With each setback, with every mishap.

I was afraid, and You know it
I wasn’t used to feeling helpless and weak
With that last fainting spell, I knew
As morbid thoughts crossed my mind.

But at a certain point, You took over
Mishaps behind me, it flowed so easily
Happy with my doctor and the medical crew
Each so kindly, not one was grumpy.

In the nick of time, I heard quite clearly
The sedation didn’t cloud that perception
I shed tears when I heard my doctor murmur
We got it, just as that artery shut with a purr.

I still cringe over what could have been
Could have been nasty, yet You allowed me
Those solitary walks on the Camino
Traveling solo with much gusto.

You know what lies in the recesses of my heart
Waiting for You to restore me back, my Lord
Not just the body, but more in mind and spirit
As I tread a path in this Camino called Life.

BEYOND STEPS with EJ


Life after 60. Have you planned for it?

When I was way younger, I planned on an early retirement. Like age 45. I was off by just a couple of years. I still don’t feel old but in the next so many years, I plan to embrace senior living with a determined zest for living. And BEYOND STEPS makes me hopeful and excited over this prospect. How? First off, there’s this awesome mentor we simply call EJ. She’d put to shame any younger fitness instructor with her energy. She sings, she dances, she mentors, she encourages, she makes us all feel as awesome!

Our journey from 2 left-feet, awkward, fumbling seniors to last night’s performance was loaded with many fun sessions. Check the video link above. The recital is made more memorable by newly-fostered friendships and a shared enthusiasm and excitement over what we, as a group, can muster and master. All thanks to EJ whose energy and talent radiate and compel us all to give our own uninhibited best!

Beyond Steps is not like any other fitness class. While it is essential to improve physical stamina, BS is really more into cognitive somatic fitness. From EJ herself:

As we mature we suffer a downturn physically and mentally.

Participants, especially Seniors who routinely partake in Physical & Cognitive combined exercises CAN REVERSE the signs of declining years in both brain and body.

Some may refer to it as “cerebral dancing” or simply, “brain gymnastics“. Whatever it’s called, we like how our brain faculties and body movements are stimulated to act in sync. With both body and mind engaged, we responded as our sensei constantly challenged us.

Here’s more from EJ:

“Body and mental stimuli sets the balance for the individual to function daily with ease, comfort and gratification.

 

Beyond Steps change arm-patterns, footwork formations, speed and rhythms to keep participants to encompass a constant learning process by recalling the routines under the pressure of time without cues from EJ the instructor.”

 

EJ was quick to point out that:

These extra challenges account for the noticeable difference in balance & self-esteem displayed by participants in the group.

 

1.  Beyond Steps primarily developed new Mind and Body fitness and wellness  program maximising anti-aging effects on the brain and body.

2.  Beyond Steps combine the aspects of physical activities and mental activities through music and mindfulness.

3.  Beyond Steps syllabus takes into account that- 

ageing memory reacts strongly to physical activities when listening to music, sounds, melodies, rhythms and movement.

4.  Beyond Steps continually sets new, interesting, stimulating challenges for the mind & for the body. 

 

The KEY to a more independent healthy life means going through this regimen with commitment & regularity.”

Done with our recital (ahem), we are now prepping for EJ’s classes to resume. Don’t miss this chance to join us in Sunshine Place at 56 Jupiter Street, Makati City. And go ahead and bring your friends too. Beyond Steps is one “party” you wouldn’t want to miss!

Care to know more about EJ and our “happy place”? Read on. 🤓

https://philippinesgraphic.net/beyond-steps-with-ej-villacorta-sunshine-place/

Lastly, don’t forget to like me on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Lifeisacelebration/


The last week-long family trip (to Korea) was when I turned 6-Oh. Bali was next choice and should have been scheduled last year when I turned 65 but I was out of the country then ticking off a dream trip. So here we are — the entire caboodle minus 1 😔 — finally having our highs in BALI.

We touched down on an early morning flight to Denpasar and was promptly whisked away to Seminyak to spend the rest of the day there. Potato Head Beach Club was planned as an entire day’s destination and activity and on hindsight, that worked out really well. A friend has just been here and we thought the young members of the family would enjoy the vibe here. And so we started our holiday in a beach (Seminyak) and ended the holiday week in another beach (Nusa Dua). In between, we managed to develop temple fatigue 😂🙄🤣

First Day in Seminyak

Taman Ayun and Ulun Danu

Selfie and Swing Shots in Bali

More Temples in Ubud

Kopi Luwak, anyone?

Marriott Vacation Club