Friday, March 24, 2006

Bali's Nyepi day -- Day of Silence --30 March 2006

As part of keeping track of holidays to avoid, I found this good explanation of Bali's Nyepi day at Bali News, Bali Hotels - Villas - Tour and Travel - Information Services: "Bali will celebrate Nyepi - Bali famous 'official day of silence' starting from 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 30, 2006 and ending 24 hours later on Friday, March 31st."

For tourists, this means:
"By sunrise on March 30th all will be required to take refuge in their hotels or homes before sunrise - there to remain until the following morning. Major hotels, with the permission of the Island's government, generally allow their guests full use of their various outlets with the understanding that guests will not venture outside the property's grounds. To ensure services to guests are not interrupted, special arrangements are made for the hotel's staff to stay overnight at their place of employment as normal traffic between their homes and place of employment is impossible on Nyepi day.

Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport is closed throughout the designated 24-hour period. Flight are allowed to transit the airport on Nyepi, but no passengers will be permitted to enter or leave the terminal area until the holy day has passed. Special exemptions, however, are made for technical and emergency landings, as well as medical evacuations."

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Japan's Golden Week 2006

A good time to avoid travel to Japan is during the annual Golden Week.

For 2006, "Travel activity is anticipated to peak on May 3 with people leaving the large urban centers and on May 7 in the opposite direction."

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Retiree Health Care Costs

A Fidelity Investments news release discusses health care costs in retirement:
Fidelity estimates that a 65-year old couple retiring today will need $200,000 to cover medical costs in retirement.

The retiree health care cost estimate is calculated annually by Fidelity Investments. The 2006 estimate rose 5.3 percent from the 2005 estimate of $190,000. Since Fidelity's initial estimate of $160,000 in 2002, the number has increased an average 5.8 percent per year.
It's also mentioned that most dental and long term care isn't included in this estimate.

In a related article, Fidelity says, in part:
US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 40% of people aged 65 or older have at least a 50% lifetime risk of entering a nursing home. The average stay is 2.4 years, and those with debilitating illnesses such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's could require full-time care for much longer. In 2004, the average daily rate for a private room in a nursing home was $192 or $70,080 annually, but costs vary significantly from state to state.
So, health care in one's later years is likely to be a significant cost. The other companion observation is that fewer companies are offering retiree health benefits. The Fidelity article says:
America is experiencing a double digit decline in the number of companies offering retiree health benefits to their employees

The Fidelity article uses as a source the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust 2005 Annual Employer Health Benefits Survey 9/14/2005. I didn't review the Kaiser report in fine detail, but I didn't see this observation in the report. The report transcript does say on page 4 that:
Since 2000 the percentage of firms offering coverage has fallen from 69% to 60%.
But the Kaiser report didn't differentiate, as far as I could tell, between regular employee and retiree health care benefits. A more careful reader might agree with the Fidelity interpretation.

  • a lot of post retirement income and savings will go to health care
  • long term care issues will affect 50% of the population
  • companies have been reducing or eliminating health care benefits for at least their retirees, if not both the regular work force as well as retirees.

Routeburn Classic [NZ] Adventure Run

Routeburn Classic run for no more than 225 runners on 13 May 2006. Listed as 38km.

Typically backpackers take 2.5 days/2 nights on the trail.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Trekking Northern Laos

Liz Price in the Malaysian Star writes: "We were in northern Laos, close to the Chinese and Myanmar borders. We had our base in the small town (or more accurately a large village) of Vieng Phoukha, on Route 3 in Luang Namtha province. ...

However Luang Namtha will soon open up to the world as China and Thailand are constructing a highway through the area.
We had entered Laos from Thailand. From Chiang Rai we went to the border town of Chiang Khong and took a ferry across the Mekong to Huay Xai [Houay Xai]. Immigration was a breeze as we got our visas on arrival.
At Vieng Phoukha [Vieng Phukha], we went to the Eco-Guides office to arrange a trek. This is the newest trekking area in Laos, and the Eco-Guides service is a community-based scheme that currently offers four treks that stop at various ethnic villages like the Akha, Hmong and Khmu. "

This appears to be the link for the eco guide service.
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