Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Is This Real?


We are in a tiny ancient car, zig-zagging slowly on the best parts of the road, almost stopping to cross potholes. The only light, coming from our head beams, illuminates towering gnarled trees. The air is heavy with a sweet smell. 

Tenga sua (ten-gah sue-ah) in Madagascar! Welcome in Madagascar.

We had one of the most pleasant flights, with large chairs and free leg space, a really tasty meal (with a choice of beer, wine and martini) and stewardesses who had a genuine smile. Ioan and myself are to be blamed for coming to this part of the world. He doesn’t remember why, maybe because of the Madagascar movies, but I wanted to see this “flora and fauna” gem. 

The Eighth Continent

Believe it or not, but some people don't know where Madagascar is. Most people don't know that it is truly special and nobody actually knows how special it is. There are isolated areas where no scientist has ever made it and they think that there are plenty of undiscovered species. Madagascar broke away from the corner of East Africa some 160 million years ago and, that I really like, some 80 million years ago, the eastern part of Madagascar broke off to become the future... India. Isolated, the island took its own evolutionary course and subsequently 70% of its plants and 90% of its animals are endemic. Madagascar alone accounts for 5% of the number of species known to man. There are 71 species of lemurs, some mammals similar to monkeys yet different, still distant cousins of ours. Humans only arrived 2000 years ago and did their usual share of damage, but there is still a lot left. They came from different corners of the Indian Ocean and melted into a unique culture. The language has the closest relative on the island of Borneo. For all the above reasons, Madagascar is often considered the eighth continent, a world in itself that doesn't resemble anything else on Earth. Ioan wanted to come here, probably inspired by the animated movie, but he did a decent share of studying and preparing this segment. We were all on board and made this an important part of our trip.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kruger National Park

We were forced by airline schedules to break our trip to South Africa in two parts, one week first, before our flight to Madagascar and the second stretch for four weeks when we return. The first week was dedicated to a trip East to Kruger National Park, the jewel of South Africa and "one of the best safari" in the whole of Africa.
Noi6 Around the World

For ever it will remain a mystery of this trip: who and when

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Different Kind of Zoo

I’ve never seen this kind of zoo. It is totally different from beginning to end. I knew zoos are expensive, but this one beats them all with a hundred dollars per day. 
When you go to the zoo, you can pick up a map and see where the animals that you want to see are. Not here, no! If you want a map, you have to buy it. On it there are two kinds of roads (sealed and dirt), gates (that close sharply at 5.30 pm), picnic areas and camps (because you can sleep if you want). But there is no sign for where to see the different animals. Here, we have to FIND them! The animals are free to move wherever they want. It’s us who are fenced in our car. In a way it’s really easy, we just have to drive and keep our eyes peeled for any kind of movement. But at 50 km/h everything moves! What was that? Stop the car! Oooooh, impala... Look at her, how cute she is with her big eyes, and see, she has dark lines on her face, and her ears... lined with black, and oh, do you see she has a coat in three colors, and look at the horns of that buck, they go with the lines on his buttocks, and they have black cuffs above their ankles, and see those two, are licking their necks, taking turns. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Saudi encounter

"Where do we fly from here? I don't want to fly anymore today! I'm tired!" This is Ileana, a typical commentary. We left our hotel 30 hours ago, 1 hour in traffic, 3 hours in one airport, 8 hours from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, then 11 hours in the airport and then another seven flying to Johannesburg. The airport just came into view and Ileana is a little bit tired. We start to laugh, no more flying - for almost a week.

Technically, someone could argue that we did not go to Saudi Arabia,

Sunday, June 17, 2012



At the Saudi Arabia Airlines we’re greeted by a stewardess. We check in and we get our two sets of tickets: one for Jeddah and the other from there to Johannesburg. They have a thick, red, continuous line at the top part. We pass security and board the plane. It is a Boeing 737-800, huge, but still, my long feet are not comfortable. The plane’s personnel is very efficient, goes through the motions of air masks and inflating vests rapidly. We are announced that they are going to say a prayer for a safe trip and the two women across the isle closed their eyes, raised their hands on the sides, palms facing up and murmured the words in the same time with the pilot. There was an energy around that didn’t include me... The prayer was not repeated in English.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kuala Lumpur


It seemed odd to have to take the train from the bus station to get in the city, but this was the reality. We were 40 km away from the capital of Malaysia. Mihai managed to choose between the three different kind of networks, buy tickets and get us on the right platform. Then we just walked around with our heavy backpacks trying to find the needle in the haystack. We thought it would be easy to find the address, but there was no map... We chose a corner, stayed put with the bags and left Mihai to wander around. After half an hour of walking round and round, he found the hotel. It was there all along!
A multileveled guesthouse, with shared bathrooms and plenty of stairs, it offered us a quiet family room. During the day, it gave a wonderful feeling that it was just for us. Come night time and it suddenly became alive, people eating in the kitchen, smoking and listening to music loudly on their phones. Fortunately for us, around midnight they would go to sleep. We would be awakened by “Jar of hearts” by Christina Perry played continuously, until we were sick of it. Still, we didn’t move; it had good internet, and that’s a rarity.
Our main raison d’etre here was to obtain visas for South Africa. Mihai looked over the requirements before leaving and decided to obtain them from Singapore or Malaysia. Trying to fill out the papers on internet, he read: apply in the native country or country of residence. This was not possible for us. He tried his luck in Singapore, but got a categorical refusal. Now we tried it again in Kuala Lumpur.

Wonderful Malaysia

Like many countries, Malaysia is trying to promote tourism and in the process is using various slogans. Wonderful Malaysia. Malaysia, truly Asia. Amazing Malaysia. Occasionally slogans have some truth in them. For us Malaysia has been wonderful.

Malaysia is wonderful

We've been in the country enough times that we

A Whiz Through Malaysia


Please get ready to hop into a vehicle that will whiz you through most everything we did in Malaysia at record speed. Please keep hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times, and make sure to close your eyes if you start getting dizzy.

…  ready?

Monday, June 11, 2012



Selamat datang! (seh-lah-mat dah-tong) Welcome to Malaysia!
It is a cloudy day and we’re looking for our bus to Melaka. The bus station is huge with at least 100 different parking spots for different buses. Inside there are food courts, bazaars and people, moving in all directions. We board our bus toward Melaka and nap almost all the way. Why are we here? Melaka is a World Heritage Site and we don’t need to be in Kuala Lumpur until Monday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Best Country In the World

Welcome to Singapore
There might be exceptions, maybe one in a million years, maybe more, but as a general rule all politicians are bad. They are corrupt, they think they are smart when they are not, they think they have power when they don't, they think they are doing something important and historical when they just blunder chances and mess up good things. The big name freedom fighters or liberators invariably fail when they get in power. The occasional decent politician makes things even worse because he propagates the illusion that there is "hope". For newly established democracies they sell the political American model,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Singapore and Writers


In August 2011, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. Like November, the goal is to write 50,000 words of novel in a month. The idea had come all of a sudden, and I couldn't wait to write it. About midway through, I found another writer whose story looked interesting. I PMed her to tell her so, and as we were talking, I think I whined a bit about my word count (always an important consideration, though in 8 events I've never lost once).

"Oh, there's a writing group I help run. It's on TinyChat, if you want to join in."

Lion City


Hello Singapore!
Orchids! Real, live, colorful, plentiful, perfect orchids! In the airport! It seems an extravagant gesture, but this is a special country. It is an island, with no water, no resources, and yet, they have more than enough for everybody. 

My curiosity is aroused: will it correspond to my image, formed through years of homeschooling books? Through them I learned about their love for gardens and flowers, about the economy of water (which they import from Malaysia, not to waste it and recycle it), about their serious fire drills. 

Our hotel is in Little India, a colorful neighborhood. The townhouses are painted in contrasting colors, the shops sell in close vicinity food, spare-parts, fabrics for saree, herbal remedies. In the middle of the street, behind a truck, a man seated on the tarmac is eating his lunch with his right hand, from a take away. It looks like India, but it is not. There are no cows and no garbage. It brings back memories, the nice ones at least. The people here still talk while moving their heads and I am happy to polish mine.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Botanical Garden of Singapore


We should have left two hours ago, but we were sleepy. Though it is just nine o’clock it is already hot and muggy. At the Botanical Garden we choose a way to cross it and walk pass a mahogany tree protected by a lightning protection system, a lake with white swans, the bonsai exhibit, to arrive at the gem: the orchids. 
What are orchids? Symbiotic plants, they need a fungus to help with gathering the water. They have three sepals and three petals (one different from the other, called labellum=lip), one stigma and stamina. They live mostly in the tropical areas, but you can find them where is cold, in Patagonia (a region across South America) or close to Antarctica. They are used in food or perfume industry (vanilla), in traditional medicine, grown by inveterate botanists for their diversity, or for their beautiful flowers. 
The alley takes us along flowerbeds in which clumps of orchids show their colorful heads.

Some have names, some don’t. 

Some are named after V.I.P. others are not. 

Some are by themselves, some are grouped in contrasting colors. 

Some are in the sun, some are shaded. 

Here are some pictures of some of the flowers.

Maybe you will enjoy some. 

Vanda Miss Joaqim was elected national flower for its' beauty,  resilience and year-round blooming quality.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And Some Other Parts of Bali


Blue waves at Gili Meno

The quality of the beach ranges from stony shore, but great waves at Uluwatu (Ooloo-wahtoo), to sandy but with corals at Gili Meno,

The Indonesian Omnibus


Growly Dog Attacks

Our first impression of Bali is hot, humid, and pressing. We're back in the tropical heat of the equator. In a way, finally! In another way, it's very, very hot.

We take a taxi to the house we rented. It takes a while to figure out if we're actually in the right spot, and when we do realize we're in the correct location, and try to find the house by going through the complex, two growly dogs bark at Dad and me. Loudly. Right at our feet.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Romance For Ever

Bali. The paradise on Earth. The most fantastic travel destination anyone can imagine. Impossible green rice terraces, misty volcanoes, surf beaches, thousand-year old temples, magical sunsets, fabulous food, friendly locals, unique cultural experiences. Romance for ever. I get a question on Facebook: "Is it really beautiful over there?"

My answer: "it's OK."