I must have come to Pakistan from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) somehow, because I was born in Ceylon. However I don't remember that trip at all. Even whether it was by ship or by plane.
Growing up in Pakistan, I often traveled between Rawalpindi and Karachi by train. It was a 26 hour journey with many stops on the way. In summer it was quite hot and I liked to sit on the steps in the open carriage doorway to feel the wind in my face.
Kabul, Afghanistan used to be a "free port". That means that the government did not tax imported goods. We went a couple of times to Kabul to buy electronics, material for suits, fine china etc. It was a long, long bus journey through the famous Khyber Pass. This is the same Khyber Pass that cuts through the Himalayan mountains and Julius Caesar used it to invade India. Another attraction to go to Kabul was to see Indian movies, which were banned in Pakistan. Now, with VCRs in practically every home, Indian movies are freely available for rent (even though they are still banned).
Our whole family went to Sri Lanka together. We were there to celebrate my mom's birthday on December 25th, which we did in picturesque Kandy, up in the central mountains of Sri Lanka. We were there also for the New Year celebration, which is quite grand in Colombo. I remember we were at a very elegant hotel for the New Year's Eve ball, but I was too shy to dance. I still had fun watching other people dance and enjoying the splendid feast. They also had all kinds of raffle drawings and games.
My brothers left early, while I stayed behind with my parents and we stopped in Bombay, India, on the way back, for a week. We stayed with relatives in Andheri, a suburb of Bombay. At that time I was crazy about Indian movies and music. My mom and I saw 14 movies in that one week! I also had time to go see a famous Indian singer, Kishore Kumar, in concert.
A couple of friends of mine wanted to bring stuff back from Thailand to sell in Pakistan. Each person is allowed only a couple of bags of luggage. So they offered to pay for my trip to Thailand so that they could use my allowance of baggage to bring back more stuff. This worked out very well for me as I got my ticket, going from Pakistan to Thailand, via Colombo, Sri Lanka, where I stayed for 10 days. I was in Colombo for New Years' Eve. I went to a grand ball with my uncle and aunt. We sat a table with several other friends of my uncle and aunt. There I met Mona, a daughter of one of the Arab ambassadors. I danced with her and we became good friends. Later during my stay, she took me around Colombo.
Bangkok is great for shopping. However, it is very polluted. I was in Thailand for only a couple of days and didn't get a chance to see the beautiful parts away from Bangkok.
In October 1982 I migrated to the United States. I landed in New York and stayed with my mom's younger sister and her family for a week, before proceeding to Los Angeles.
After I completed a course in computer programming, in 1985, I was hired by EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and moved to Dallas.
A couple of my friends, Alice Cameron and Mary McManus, invited me to join them and Alice's friend Bob on a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico. Alice owned an RV. We took off from Houston, crossing the border at Laredo and driving across Mexico to reach Mazatlan, which is on the opposite side (south-west coast). Driving the RV was fun. We used the toll-way across Mexico for the majority of the way. The toll was very high (about $35, I think), but the road was excellent. We could easily drive the RV at 80 mph.
Driving through the mountains was very slow and seemed somewhat dangerous, especially since it was dark. But we made it.
Mazatlan is absolutely beautiful. The beaches are clean and the view from the surrounding hills is amazing.
I parasailed off of the beach. This was a bit frightening as I don't know how to swim and here I was, floating about 300 feet above the water. It was worth it. What a rush! It was so quiet up there and, of course, the view was magnificent.
Bob had a terminal sickness, however he was full of life and was a lot of fun to be with. He passed away soon after that trip.
Alice Cameron succumbed to breast cancer in February, 2001.
This was my first time to go back to Pakistan after I migrated to the states - after 12 long years! It was great to look up old school friends and neighbors and to eat all the wonderful foods. I arrived in Pakistan on December 4th, 1994. After celebrating my mom's birthday on December 25th, my mom, dad and I went to Sri Lanka. My mom's younger brother lives there. Her older brother passed away, but his kids still live in Sri Lanka. I always enjoy visiting my uncle and aunt in Sri Lanka.
New Year's celebration was fun in Colombo. I went with my cousin to a party at one of his friends' house. It was a huge house, complete with a wave swimming pool. They had a live band, too. Around midnight, we set off fireworks. My cousin was not feeling too good (he had the flu) so we didn't stay too long after midnight.
On this trip I really wanted to see historical Sri Lanka. My uncle took time off from his business to drive us to several key historical cities, including Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. My dad couldn't make this trip because he wasn't well. So it was my uncle, my aunt, my mom and myself. The whole trip took about 3 days. Sri Lanka has a very rich history.
I went to Venezuela for 10 days. A good friend of mine, Helen, was working there for EDS. I met Helen when I used to work at EDS and we stayed in touch after I left. I stayed in Caracas for all the 10 days, but we made many day trips. Gasoline is subsidized by the government in Venezuela and is (or at least it was) extremely cheap. We could fill up a 25 gallon tank for around $3! We took advantage of that by taking road trips to as far as we could go in a day. We'd just take the map and decide to go east or west or north etc. We'd drive as far as we could get in half a day and then head back, trying to get back a different way. We'd stop in little villages and scenic places along the way. It was a lot of fun.
While I was in Venezuela, the NBA finals took place. It was Houston Rockets against Orlando Magic. We went to a sports bar to watch the game. I couldn't believe the turnout and enthusiasm. There were a lot of Americans there, who were obviously interested, but there were a lot of Venezuelans taking active interest in the game. They were cheering for the Rockets because there was a Venezuelan on that team. I was cheering for the Rockets because they were a Texas team. *smile* The Rockets ended up winning.
I booked this trip with some travel agents in San Francisco. I never met them. I found them on the internet. They turned out to be $1,600 cheaper than the travel agent in Dallas and I got a better itinerary, too. It was all on different airlines and I was a bit worried whether the confirmed reservations will hold up. Everything went just fine.
I left Dallas on January 31st, flew to Los Angeles. From L.A., I flew 14 hours to Hong Kong. I stayed only one night in Hong Kong. It is a beautiful city, but it has a LOT OF PEOPLE. It seemed crowded everywhere I went.
From Hong Kong, I flew to Bangkok, Thailand. I was in Bangkok only for a few hours. I got out of the airport, flagged down a taxi to take me downtown and back. He said it would take about 2 hours. And it cost only $20! One of the things I noticed in Bangkok this time (this was my second time there) was the pollution. It was horrible. Most of the cops directing traffic and many of the motorcycle riders wore surgical masks to be able to breath. That is quite a shame, especially when you compare it to other parts of Thailand that are so beautiful and clean.
From Bangkok, I flew to Karachi, Pakistan. I changed flights there and flew onto Islamabad. After spending time with my parents in Islamabad, I went to Lahore to visit my brother, Rafiq, and his family. I was there in time for the annual kite flying day called Basant. We got on the roof of my brother's house and flew kites. The whole sky was filled with kites! I returned to Islamabad, visited with some old school buddies and, after a couple of days in Karachi, flew onto Colombo, Sri Lanka.
After spending about a week with my aunt, uncle and cousins in Sri Lanka, I flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A friend of my uncle in Sri Lanka is a pilot on Air Lanka (and he trains other pilots). He arranged for me to be able to ride in the cockpit from Colombo to Kuala Lumpur. Wow! What a thrill! The pilot explained the instruments to me and even showed some evasive movements to avoid a thunderstorm up ahead. He even let me videotape inside the cockpit.
In Kuala Lumpur, I met my friend Helen, with whom I had worked at EDS. She was there with EDS on assignment. She showed me around Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia. Malaysia is a beautiful country. Like Sri Lanka, it was good to see Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists getting along quite well.
From Kuala Lumpur, Helen and I drove down to Singapore and back. We stayed with another friend from EDS in Singapore. We spent one day at the theme park on Santosa Island, just off the main island of Singapore. The acquarium there was awesome. You could actually walk under it and see the fishes swim above you.
The Singapore zoo was quite impressive, too. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit it at night, when a lot of the nocturnal animals come out.
After getting back to Kuala Lumpur, I flew onto Honolulu, Hawaii. From Honolulu, I flew to Maui to visit friends who used to live in Grapevine, Texas. Lesley used to work at Fidelity Investments, where I met her. She and her husband, Steve, moved to Maui and bought a Mexican restaurant called Piniata's. I stayed with them for a few days and explored the island. One morning (very early morning) we drove up to the tip of the Haleakala Mountain to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning so we couldn't see the sunrise, but it was a spectacular view nevertheless. And quite cold, too.
The drive to Hanna, on the other side of the island was memorable. Not just for it's beauty, but because I threw up due to the winding road.
Lahaina is where all the tourists hang out. I went there for a day. Cute little town with interesting shops.
From Maui, I flew back to Honolulu, rented a car and drove all around the Oahu island. It is only 30 miles to cross the island. I stayed for one night at the Waikiki hotel, right on the beach. It was great to walk down the beach, look at the spectacular sunset and feel the cool breeze on your face.
From Hawaii, I flew onto San Francisco. I stayed for 4 days with my friend Kirindi, with whom I worked at EDS in Dallas. Kirindi had gotten me a bus pass and I used it to get all over the city while she worked. Later, in May 2000, I visited Kirindi again. This time she was living with her boy-friend David. David and Kirindi were very hospitable, even though they were extremely busy. It seems everybody is always very busy in California. That and the horrendous traffic will probably keep me away from ever thinking of moving to California.
From San Francisco, I headed back to Dallas. The whole trip took about two months.
I had never really done any camping except an occasional day of camping outside Moscow with the other students. And then, there were so many of us that I never really had any responsibility. I had wanted to go camping for a long time. Now the time was great. I had just come back from my world trip and I wasn't ready to go back to work. I found information on the internet about camping and camp sites. I decided to use KOA (Kampgrounds Of America) because they had all their camp sites listed on the internet, with pictures and features. I could pick out which ones allowed dogs as I was planning to take Brownie with me.
I arrived back from the world trip in May and left on my road/camping trip on June 9th, 1997. From Dallas, I headed to Arkansas and camped there for one night. The Arkansas parks are really beautiful. From Arkansas, I went through Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee into Kentucky. I camped out for one night in Nashville. They had a live band playing at the campgrounds. I put brownie in the tent and went to listen for about 30 minutes. It was raining and Brownie chewed through the tent and got out. I had to look for her all over the camp. I was totally soaked. When I got back to the tent, she had returned on her own. Females!! hahaha
In Kentucky, I visited the Mammoth Caves and Lincoln's birth place. Somewhere in Kentucky, I took a wrong turn and ended up on this dirt road leading to nowhere. It was starting to get dark and I was running low on gas. The map I had did not have roads I was on and I kept running into dead-ends. I decided to turn back the way I had come and finally found my way out of the maze. By this time it was dark and had also started to rain. I was lucky to find a gas station soon. It was too late to look for a camp site so I found a motel that allowed dogs and spent the night in a small town in Kentucky very near the border with Ohio.
The next day, I drove north through Columbus to Cleveland, Ohio. I stayed with my cousins in Cleveland for a couple days. We visited the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
From Cleveland, I continued north, past Eerie, Pennsylvania to a campsite near Rochester, New York., where I spent the night. At one place, while walking Brownie, I fell into a ditch and badly bruised or cracked a rib. It hurt pretty badly. I could not sleep all night because of the pain. The next day I made it to Boston, Massachusetts and stayed there with my friend Noelle for a few weeks while I recovered from my rib injury. It took almost two weeks before I could even turn onto my left side. After I was well, Noelle and I visited Vermont and Maine. For one week-end, we met up with my friends Mary and Alice (the same ones I went to Mexico with) and we went camping in western Massachusetts. Alice also had her niece and nephew with her. It was a lot of fun. We saw a huge bear come right up to our tents at night because the neighbors had left their food in a cooler outside their tent. We watched the bear grunting and getting the food out of the cooler and eating it.
The famous ship U.S.S. Constitution had been under restoration for years. On July 4th, we saw it sail for the first time in 116 years and even fire its cannons. That evening, we saw the fireworks from a party ship in the Boston Harbor.
Noelle and I also met with my friend Rick Blaquiere and his family for brunch in Rhode Island. Rick and I had worked together at EDS in Dallas.
We also met my friends Bret Brown and his wife Susan Slawson-Brown and her parents for dinner. Susan, Bret and I had also worked together at EDS in Dallas.
It was finally time to leave Boston and head back to Dallas
On they way back, coming south through Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York City and New Jersey, I stopped in the Amish country in Pennsylvania. I visited a museum that showed the Amish history and visited several cute shops. Near Lancaster, I went to see the Hershey's Chocolate factory.
In Virginia, I entered the Shenandoah Park, the gateway into the Blue Ridge Parkway, which extends 495 miles from Virginia, through North Carolina into Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Parkway ends into the Smoky Mountains. It is one of the most beautiful drives of scenery after scenery. Beautiful mountains, lush valleys and gorgeous lakes and waterfalls.
In Tennessee, I stopped in Gatlinburg and took a ride on the Aerial Tramway to Ober Gatlingburg ski resort. The views going up the mountain were spectacular.
On the way south to Chattanooga, Tennessee, I went through Pigeon Forge, where the amusement park Dollywood is located. I was not impressed by Pigeon Forge. It looked over-run with cheap-looking motels.
In Chattanooga, I visited the Ruby Falls. With its waterfalls, caves, & caverns, Ruby Falls is truly amazing. Located on beautiful Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ruby Falls is home to the world's highest underground waterfall.
Heading back to Texas, I stopped in Vicksburg, Mississippi. There are several casinos there, along the Mississippi river. While there, I also visited a Coca-Cola museum located at the site of the first bottling plant.
After about 5000+ miles and about 10 weeks I returned back to Texas in July.
After coming back from a 5 month work stay in London, I decided to take some time off from work and go on a road/camping trip.
So, I packed my Honda CRV and left Dallas on May 3rd.
My first stop was the Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo. It is the second deepest canyon after the Grand Canyon. I had been to the Grand Canyon and Palo Duro just doesn't have the impact of the Grand Canyon.
My next stop was Albuquerque, New Mexico. I camped out about 20 miles from the city. I stayed at the camp for 3 nights, taking a day trip to Santa Fe.
At Santa Fe, I went to 3 museums. The Governor's Palace Museum, The Fine Arts Museum and the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. At the Georgia O'Keefe museum they did not allow video taping, but I was able to sneak some shots while no one was looking. I also saw the St. Francis Cathedral at Santa Fe.
Outside Albuquerque, I took a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world's longest tramway ride. The view going up and at the top was beautiful.
From Albuquerque, I headed west to Arizona. I got off the freeway I-40 and took highway 60 to enjoy the scenery of the mountains.
I arrived in Phoenix the same day and stayed with my friend John for a couple of days. John and I became friends while working together at Fidelity Investments in Irving, Texas.
From Phoenix I drove down to Tucson and visited my friend Shahid. Shahid is from Pakistan and was one of the other students, who studied in Russia. We fondly remembered our days in the Soviet Union.
From Tucson, I headed west again, picking up Freeway I-8 to San Diego. At San Diego, I turn north, driving up along the pacific coast to Huntington Beach.
I stayed at my brother Bob's place for two weeks in Huntington Beach. After my dad passed away, Bob brought our mom back with him from Pakistan so she was there too. We celebrated Mother's Day by taking her out to an Indian restaurant for brunch. Among the other people there was my brother's ex-wife, Riitta, who brought my mom a beautiful plant and a Mother's Day balloon. It was good to see Riitta again as I hadn't seen her in years. Riitta is originally from Finland.
While I was staying in Huntington Beach, Bob arranged a trip to Laughlin and Las Vegas, Nevada. Bob, mom, myself and a relative, Noordin, left on Sunday and returned on Tuesday. We stayed in Laughlin and made a day trip to Las Vegas. Driving through Vegas was a nightmare. Las Vegas Boulevard was like a parking lot. Mom enjoyed all the lights, saw the volcano erupt at the Mirage and was thrilled by the Freemont Experience Light, Laser and Sound show downtown.
It was difficult to leave my mom, but I had to move on. From Huntington Beach, I drove north to Yosemite Park. On the way, I came across Lake Pyramid, about 100 miles from Los Angeles. It's a very beautiful lake and I have included a photo of it in the photo album.
I stayed at the Indian Flat camp in El Portal, just outside Yosemite Park. I stayed there for 5 days and made several trips into the park and the surrounding areas.
Yosemite Park is beautiful and I give credit to the people taking care of it. It is amazing that millions of people come to see it every year and it still has such a fresh and natural look. Fortunately, most of the people visiting Yosemite are considerate and love nature. They tend not to abuse the environment.
The best view of Yosemite Park, and one of the best views I have ever seen, is from Glacier Point. You get a truly panoramic view of the park from a very high point. Unfortunately, even my video, or the stills captured from it and placed on my web site, don't do justice to that view. Oh well, you'll just have to go there and see it for yourself.
I love waterfalls and Yosemite sure has some beautiful ones.
The mountains, the waterfalls, the meadows and the forests give you an idea of how beautiful this country is and what it must have been like before the cities were built.