March 5, 2005
San Diego, CA

My Favorite Place
By Lois Joy

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

Every profession has its FAQs. For travelers, the common question is “What is your favorite place?” This question is, of course, impossible to answer.

Every year, I look back on our previous year’s travels, anticipating the question anew. I fruitlessly search my memory bank for answers. 2004. I think about the teeming masses of Sri Lanka— striking, regal Indian women in bold saris, determined men in crisp shirts defying the steaming climate, the diesel-polluted streets clogged with tuk-tuks, taxis, bicyclists, and even the occasional working elephant. How can I compare that with the natural wonders of the vast, almost empty lands of awesome Australia? Could I give a higher mark to the majestic Rock the aborigines call Uluru—rising red in the magnificent pale light of dawn—than I would give to the brooding widow’s peak of Mount Kota Kinabalu, gray rock and green pines against a stark blue sky, the symbol of Borneo, ‘the land beneath the clouds.’ Were the salt water crocs and ubiquitous kangaroos of Australia more exciting than the orangutans in the Sepiloc preserve of Borneo or the baby elephants in the orphanage in Sri Lanka? And how about the winsome spring wildflowers of Perth, acres and acres stretching on to infinity? Are they any less valuable than the lone bloom, over two feet wide, of the rare Rafflesia, a single bloom that takes nine months to mature?

Even my husband Gunter, a connoisseur of Asian flight attendants, would be pressed to choose his favorite: was he impressed by the graciousness and delicacy and of the long-legged, slit-skirted attendants of Malaysian Airlines; the warmth and attentiveness of the shorter, sari’d women of Sri Lankan Airlines; or the perkiness and sophistication of the attendants of United Arab Emirate Airlines—their maroon berets set at a rakish angle, their exquisite amber veils falling to one side and underneath their coal black eyes and luscious red mouths, then expertly pinned to the shoulders of their all-business navy blazers?

This year, I discovered that I was struggling with this ‘favorite place’ question because I had been approaching it all wrong. There is a simple and obvious answer for this cruiser afflicted by wanderlust: my favorite place is always the place I haven’t yet been. I will carry the memories of these beautiful places of yesteryear close to my heart, but I must voyage onward.

So today, my favorite place is Thailand. Yes, I’m immersed in the Cruising Guide to Southeast Asia, comparing what I want to do with what I can do. I am dutifully researching the wind and weather limitations in Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes.
But I’m dreaming about Thailand. My visions go beyond pearly white beaches fringed with coconut palms, spectacular sea life, and lush primary forests. I see multi-tiered rooftops and soaring pointed towers, gilded with gold lacquer and mother-of-pearl. I feel the slow swaying of graceful Thai dancers. I hear the plucking, sucking, blowing and tapping of instruments to a new diatonic musical scale, foreign to my ears. When I wake up, my curiosity is piqued. What will it be like to be enveloped by this land—the meeting place of the two great cultures of Asia: Chinese and Indian? Will my next favorite place live up to its slogan: ‘The Land of Smiles?’ Can I learn enough from these people to gain their highest compliment: to be described as the jai yen (cool heart) —always appearing calm and in control, no matter what the circumstances? The questions are why I go.

Our Plans for 2005:

After leaving Mackay’s Boatyard, where Pacific Bliss is now docked, we’ll be sailing through the Whitsundays, then on to Cairns, where the Great Barrier Reef is close to Australia’s eastern seaboard. From there we sail to Port Douglas and Cooktown, up and around the York Peninsula to Thursday Island, through the Torres Strait that separates northern Australia from Papua New Guinea. From there, we cross the Gulf of Carpentaria, to the Gove Yacht Club, where we will participate in their main event of the year: the Over the Top Rally. We’ll stop at the end of each day on aboriginal lands of the Northern Territories, accessible only via special permitting. In Darwin, we hope to have enough free time to explore Kakadu National Park, that is, if Pacific Bliss is not in need of repairs. Then we join the Darwin-to-Bali Rally sponsored by the Darwin Sailing Club, followed by R&R at Bali Marina in Benoa Harbor. From Indonesia, our voyage will take us to Malaysia’s Langkawi Island, which we will use as a home base prior to sailing to Phuket, Thailand. All this will comprise our Voyage 5.

Do keep your e-mails coming. We enjoy hearing from each of you. We appreciate your support for our adventure as well as your prayers for our safety.

Links for this story:

Mackay’s Boatyard
Gove Yacht Club
Darwin Sailing Club
Bali Marina
Voyage 5




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