Temples of Angkor

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Picture this – blue skies, sun shining brightly overhead, slight breeze, temperature 35C (feels like 40C, 55% humidity), skin glistening & two crazy Canucks are trodding through the lush green jungles & climbing multiple stairs in the ancient ruins & temples of Angkor! There are literally hundreds & two exhausting days were spent examining the most famous, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon& Ta Prohm (where several of the Lara Croft/Tomb Raider’s movies were filmed) & the other multiple temples that were built around 12th century & YES, they are absolutely fabulous.image

Angkor means heaven on earth & abode of ancient gods. The temple complex is enormous, designated as the 8th Wonder of the World & has put Cambodia on the map as the temple capital of Asia. Once the political, religious & social center of the Khmer empire, at it’s zenith, boasted a population of 1 million. Unfortunately many have crumbled due to the shear forces of nature as the jungle tries to reclaim itself. Huge century old trees, grow up through the ruins & embrace the moss covered walls. Creeping plants & shrubs sprout from the roofs & many corridors are impassible. The Cambodian government, with assistance from other countries, has been working at restoration for years & by the number of temples that pepper the landscape, work will continue on for infinity. Interestingly, the temples are a fusion of Buddhism & Hinduism with many of the sandstone carving depicting god-kings, apsaras (celestial nymphs), snakes & soldiers in war battles to name a few. Some, in less obscure areas & protected from the elements, are remarkably well preserved.image

The town of Siem Reap is about 12K from the temples & is totally sustained by the tourists who come to visit. Markets, stores, tuk-tuks, restaurants, street vendors, massage salons & tanks with fish that nibble away at the dead skin on your feet are going concerns in the evening as the town explodes with visitors. Everyone from age 4 to 94 is selling something (for a dollar) & it can be overwhelming at times. Our hotel was located slightly out of town, but the complimentary tuk-tuk service made our trips to the old quarter quite enjoyable. The other thing we quite appreciated was the lovely hotel pool & how refreshing it was after the unrelenting heat (not a complaint) each day.imageimage

Hate to admit it, but we are “templed out” & as I write this we are on the bus heading to Bangkok where we plan to take the overnight train to Chaing Mai in northern Thailand. This will be yet another mode of transportation we wanted to experience & by the accounts on the various forums we have read it is apparently quite acceptable, but we’ve heard that before & time will tell!image

Bestowing blessings.
Having blessings bestowed in the temple.

Fast forward, getting to Bangkok proved interesting as we had read lots of horror stories about the Cambodian/Thailand border land crossing & weren’t sure how things would work out. Trying to figured out what bus to take was the first challenge & we finally found out about a “direct bus” just the evening before from one of the night clerks at our hotel. The bus from Siem Reap to the Thai border took about 2-hours; we then had to get off the bus, get checked out through Cambodian customs & walk over the border to the Thai immigration.

Crossing the Thai border on foot.
Crossing the Thai border on foot.

The bus preceded us with our backpacks that we picked up once we crossed over. From there our packs were scanned (no drugs!) & then on to Thai immigration that took about an hour. Back in the bus, we arrived in Bangkok 5-hours later & took a cab to the train station. Unfortunately the cab driver had no idea where the main station was, didn’t speak English, so Bob had him stop a couple of times for directions (meter running) & despite driving right into a demonstration roadblock with soldiers, we finally  made the train just in time. Now we know what it feels like to be in the Amazing Race! We are on the sleeper train now, lower berth heading to Chaing Mai, arrival time 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. WHEW what a day!!!!

On the night train to Chaing Mai, Thailand.
On the night train to Chaing Mai, Thailand.

The Pearl of Asia

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Another mode of travel for the list.

Phnom Phen is a city of contrasts, extreme poverty vs. the opulence of ornately decorated golden temples. Arriving by boat, we were swarmed by tuk-tuk drivers looking to some score business with incoming tourists for a day or two. Owning your own tuk-tuk is a prime entrepreneurial business for many men (never once saw a female driver) & there are literally thousands. One such person who vied for our business was ‘Sinal’. He seemed honest & sincere so we contracted him to the drive us to our hotel & for the various sites we wanted to tour during our time here. It proved a very good choice!

Monks!
Monks! Sitting by the Mekong.
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Morning prayers & alms.

image The beautiful riverside boardwalk extends from the boat arrival for a couple of kilometres & we enjoyed strolling the area each evening. Restaurants & the night market make navigation a chore as the traffic quadruples. Nearby, the King’s palace is nothing short of opulent & only foot traffic is allowed on the streets surrounding it. Motifs on the walls surrounding the numerous monk monasteries (yes more monks!) are intricate & depict stories of various goddesses. Monks are seen throughout the city at any given time & each morning they go from business to business collecting alms & bestowing blessings.

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The Rules!

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are about 15K from the city & one site of the genocide of the Cambodian people by Pol Pots regime in the mid-70’s. On April 17,1975, teenage soldiers of the Khmer Rouge forced the city dwellers to leave their homes & march to the remote countryside to work rice farms in slavery-like conditions. Those who opposed (or not) Pol Pot or were considered educated or intellectuals, e.g. professors, physicians, monks & even those who were left-handed or wore glasses, were imprisoned in the former Tuol Sleng primary & Tuol Svay secondary school, or what has become known as S-21. The intention was to get to ‘year zero’ & start over with no class structure; people were expected to just farm the land. There was no commerce, no education, no worship of family or ancestors.

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Skulls in the Stupa Memorial.
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Prison cells.

The prison is made up of 4 buildings, 3 stories high & housed up to 20,000 people who were detained for 2-4 months before transferred to Choeung Ek to be killed. Here they were interrogated, tortured & killed after being made to confess to crimes they never committed. Each prisoner who passed through S-21 was meticulously documented & photographed their faces hauntingly starred back at us as we viewed the exhibit. Wandering through the now peaceful orchards where the Killing Fields are located, it is hard to imagine what was going through the people’s mind when they arrived here. This site is just one of 300 fields throughout the county where an estimated 3 million people were killed in just over 3-years. The main & cheapest method of killing was to line the people up by open trenches & use blunt force to the head. The victim would fall into the pit & the bodies sprayed by DDT in order to eliminate the smell & suffocate those who were still alive. One mass grave unearthed over 450 bodies. The other very gruesome & very

One of the mass grave sites.

disturbing sight we saw was the ‘killing tree’, where babies were snatched from their mother, swung by the ankles, heads smashed against the tree & then thrown into a mass grave with their mother. So hard to believe all these atrocities happened just 40 years ago; when putting it into perspective, I was graduating from nursing around the same time the Khmer marched into the city. Quite the history lesson to say the least! A memorial Stupa erected at the site holds more than 800 skulls & fragments of victims clothing. Many of the buildings were destroyed by the

Bone & clothing fragments.
Bone & clothing fragments.

Khumer when the Vietnamese overpowered them, taking control. Even to this day, after a big rainfall, bone fragments, teeth & bits of clothing rise to the surface & are collected by the people working there. The audiotape we were provided during our tour had several ‘survivor’ accounts & are strong, poignant stories that left us wondering & how anyone could ever escape the mental aftermath.

One of the killing fields.
Stupa Memorial.
Stupa Memorial.

The Mighty Mekong

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Dragon fruit

Described as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is the longest river, divided into 9 tributaries. Not especially clean looking, we witnessed the locals washing clothes, bathing & even brushing their teeth by the somewhat garbage strewn riverside. The rich soil surrounding the delta gives way to vast & beautiful lime green rice fields, as far as the eye can see, that produce 3 harvests a year. Riverbanks are dotted with coconut palms, colourful flowers & stilted houses. Orchards of banana, mango, papaya, dragon fruit & pineapple provide the produce available in the local markets. This area is considered rural, but is imagedensely populated & farmed extensively.

Leaving Saigon, we bused our way to the upper Mekong river, first stopping at My Tho for our first cruise in one of the many canals in a hand rowed sampan. We immediately bonded with 3 fellow Canadians from the Vancouver area & enjoyed each other’s company over the next 48-hours. Vivian, Elaine & Bill were doing the 2-day/1-night tour of the Mekong & were returning to Saigon to continue their travels to central & North Vietnam. We on the other hand opted for the 3-day/2-night on our way to Cambodia. Always great to chat with folks who have been where you are heading & we traded travel tips. The quiet, warm, gentle breezes were a welcome respite from the hustle & bustle we had encountered the past several days. Stopping for lunch, locals entertained our group with southern Vietnamese folk music. We also had the opportunity to watch coconut candy being made, from boiling the coconut & palm oil to the end stage of hand wrapping the individual tasty morsels.

After a day of cruising & seeing the various sites along the way (more Buddhas & temples) we were delivered to our hotel in Can Tho. Included in the tour, it is considered a 1-star, very basic, but clean. Trying to find something for dinner posed an interesting adventure as well after a long day. After reviewing the menu we decided we really weren’t up to rat, ostrich, snake, etc. & settled for a bowl of Phu Ga (chicken soup), one of our staples & have become quite the connoisseurs. Next day we were up at 6 a.m. & back on the river by 7, but we don’t mind, cuz “we love the smell of the delta in the morning”! imageimageThis area is known for its floating markets, with the locals rowing their sampans up the side of the tourist boats & selling everything from soup to nuts.

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Cooking the batter
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Drying the vermicelli discs
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Cutting the vermicelli

More cruising & a stop at a local vermicelli business, gave us a whole new perspective on those yummy noodles we have slurped up on our way through Vietnam. Rice flour, tapioca & water are mixed together to form a thin batter. This batter is scooped onto a big round drum looking affair with the heat provided by burning rice husks. The concoction is steamed until congealed, looking similar to a giant rice paper wrapper. From there it is removed, placed on bamboo/straw racks & dried in the sun for about 4-hours. Once dried, each large disk is hand fed through a cutting machine, with the person on the other side gathering & bagging the noodles. One kilo sells for 20,000 dong or $1.00 US & feeds around 12 people!

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Rice fields
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Eucalyptus trees on the Mekong

After what seemed like a full day, we bade farewell to our new friends, boarded a different bus (much nicer-sorry guys) & headed off to continue on with our portion of the tour through the countryside. Our final cruise of the day took us through eucalyptus lined canals as the sun was slowing setting. A tranquil & serene way to end the day.

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Basa, Tilapia & Snapper
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Floating fish farm
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Preparing the fish feed

After an overnight in Chau Doc, this time staying at a -1 star hotel (not sure how ‘basic’ you can get) we were on the river again before 7 a.m. making our way to floating fish farms. Quite an expensive & involved operation for the fish farmer, we watched as family workers churned out vats of brownish fish feed, made up of seaweed, sea fish, rice flour & water that was dried & made into to pellets. The fish are purchased small & raised on the farm for 6-months & can number well over 120,000. Each morning a diver goes below the house, into the fish pen in & removes any dead fish. Up to 20,000 fish can be lost over the growing season. Apparently during the dry season, the farms are floated into deeper waters to sustain the required water level of the fish. Next time you purchase some red snapper, tilapia or Basa (aka catfish-this one’s for you Brenda) from Costco or wherever, chances are Bob & I fed the critters you are eating. image

Next up was a brief stop at a Cham ethnic minority weaving village which I found quite interesting as a former weaver. The Vietnamese have a great saying we have heard throughout our travels in their county, “same, same, but different”, which pretty much sums up the loom we saw in action this morning.

Today we made our way up the Mekong to Phnom Phen, Cambodia by fast boat, about a 5-hour trip including passing through customs & obtaining a Cambodian visa.

We bid farewell to beautiful Vietnam, the lovely people & ever changing lush countryside. These people have been through so much & so many continue to have so little. A very humbling, enriching experience that we will treasure the remainder of our lives.

Miss Saigon

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Tet promenade HCMC

Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, with a population of approximately 8 million, is a city that never sleeps. The city was renamed in 1975 to honour “Uncle Ho” a name the people have fondly bestowed on Ho Chi Minh, the revered communist military leader & Prime Minister. Although many businesses were closed for Tet, the throngs of people, cars, scooters, buses, cyclos were non-stop & traffic much more aggressive than previously experienced. We have become quite good a jay-walking & the interesting thing is, despite the crazy traffic, we have yet to experience any road rage.image

The primary tourist area, known as District 1 or the backpacker district, was quite walkable to the various tourist sites of interest. The War Remnants Museum was probably one of the most interesting, brutal & heartbreaking venues we visited. Several American military relics are on display, as were various displays of POW confinement, i.e. barbed wire tiger cages & Vietcong methods of torture – gruesome! One room, appropriately painted orange, showed the aftermath of Agent Orange. Not one to be easily moved to tears, I left the display sobbing after seeing the atrocities chemical warfare has had on the people & the resulting serious birth defects that continue to occur. The Reunification or imageIndependence Palace, once residence of the President of the Republic of Vietnam, still has the tanks the liberation troops used to crash through palace main gates in April 1975 forcing the surrender of South to North Vietnam.

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Into the rabbit hole!
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Camouflage time!

The Cu Chi Underground Tunnels were another must see area on our list. About 70K outside of HCMC (2-hour bus ride) these tunnels are an intricate network over 250K & were built over a period of 17 years by the Cu Chi people as part of the anti-American resistance. Bordering on the Saigon river, the Vietcong farmed by day & built the tunnels & fought at night. This was apparently very confusing to the Americans as they didn’t know who the enemy was. Quite ingenious, they repurposed material from the bombs to make booby traps that were deadly to the unsuspecting soldiers.

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One of the larger tunnels.
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Booby trap-ground level

Used by military strategists, the tunnels also served as a place of eating & accommodation with many living underground in cramped spaces for years. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I volunteered to be first down one of the ‘rabbit’ holes. These openings are throughout the jungle & were used by the Vietcong to pop up & wage guerrilla warfare. We all had an opportunity to experience the tunnels later the day & believe me it was squatting or crawling only, in the pitch dark, to navigate through. Certainly not for the claustrophobic!imageimage

Nighttime in HCMC brings out people of all ages to stroll through the streets, stop for a cold one & meet fellow travellers. We ran into Lesley & Marlow again & had a great reunion swapping recent travel experiences. They are a day behind us in travel, so we will no doubt meet up again in Cambodia. Today we are on our way to the Mekong Delta & plan to spend 3 days & 2 nights exploring the various rivers, floating markets & way of life of the people who inhabit this region.

Happy Tet 2014 ! Chuc Mung Nam Moi !

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Traditional dress

Tet Nguyen Dan, literally means “Feast of the First Morning” & is the most important holiday in Vietnam celebrating the coming of spring. This is a time for cleaning & painting houses to welcome the new year. Many businesses have closed in order for family & friends to visit each other & travel within the country has exploded.

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Kumkuat trees

Falling on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar (this year January 31st) celebrations continue for a week. We have witnessed the decorating & frantic preparations since our arrival in Vietnam. We were in Dalat on Tet New Year’s Eve & the townspeople gathered in the city center for fireworks at midnight & played gongs throughout the night. The belief is that the loud noises will get rid of bad luck. Children are given red envelopes with money for good luck and good behaviour.image We kept seeing this little square packages of green leaves & found out that it is one of the traditional Vietnamese dishes, called Banh Chung (sticky rice, pork & bean dumpling wrapped in a banana leaf). We had the opportunity to sample the dumpling & found it  rather tasteless, not sure what the big draw is. Hat Dua (roasted watermelon seed), Dua Hanh (pickled onion) and Mut (dried sweetened fruit) are abound in the markets & area special treats during this time.image

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Vietnamese also use many kinds of flowers and plants to decorate their house & we saw literally thousands of huge pots of yellow chrysanthemums, marigolds & beautiful orchids in a rainbow of colours everywhere. Huge pots of kumquat & peach trees were skillfully balanced on the back of scooters. Tonight we are in Ho Chin Min city & the place is party central! Such a festive time & so wonderful that we have the opportunity to experience Tet first-hand.

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Happy Tet 2014 ! Chuc Mung Nam Moi !

The Monk Stalker

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Monks!
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Bob with little monk-in-training.

It’s official, I am a self-professed monk stalker! We have visited several temples in the past couple of days & have come across several monks of various ages & gender. The first were at the Long Son Pagoda.

imageThis temple, founded in the 19th century, is the headquarters of the Buddhist Association in Khánh Hòa province. Climbing over 150 steps from the Long Son Pagoda, the Hai Duc Pagoda sits along the crest of the hill, where there is a large white concrete statue of Gautama or sitting Budda & anotherimage large reclining statue called appropriately, sleeping Budda. The area serves as a vantage point looking over the city & the former statue is a major landmark. This guy is huge; from the ground up, he is 24 m high with the base 21 m wide. The temple grounds include lush gardens & roofs decorated with dragon mosaics which are built from glass and ceramic tiles. The main ceremonial hall is adorned with modern interpretations of classical motifs. The nasal hairs of the dragons are wrapped around the pillars on either side of the main altar.image

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Little monks

We continued on with our self-directed walking tour of Nha Trang & found some other temples, which interestingly had no other tourists. One had several very young boys, perhaps orphans taken in? They were very friendly but didn’t speak English so we weren’t able to get their story. Regardless they invited us to join them for lunch, which we graciously declined.

Next up was the Po Nagar Cham Towers, built between the 7th & 12th centuries was used by imageHindus for worship. Originally there were 7 or 8 towers with 4 remaining today. Again we did some hill climbing to reach the site only to be rewarded with a magnificent view of the harbour & city below. Cham, the ethnic Chinese & Vietnamese Buddhists still come to Po Nagar to pray & make offerings. imageNha Tho Nui Cathedral serves the surprisingly large Roman Catholic population. While it might not have the majesty of its European counterparts, it nonetheless dominates the hill in the center of Nha Trang & features quite beautiful stained glass windows & statues of various saints along the walkway leading to the church.

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Cardiac ER
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Nursing School – Nha Trang General Hospital

imageHaving walked what seemed like 20K we came across the Nha Trang General Hospital. Curious to see what the healthcare system was like we entered the hospital & were approached by a woman. When I explained I was nurse in Canada & interested in the hospital, she lead us to a room where a man appeared to be giving orders to a couple of nurses. He told me quite sternly to sit, several times, so I obediently slid into a chair waiting for him to finish his business. It turned out he was the head of Cardiology & gave us a brief tour. Some things never change, regardless of the country you live in, the waiting rooms were overflowing.

Sun, Surf & Sand

imageNha Trang is one of the most important tourist hubs of Vietnam, thanks to its’ year long mild temperatures, beautiful beaches with fine, clean sand & the clear green waters of the South China Sea. Tran Phu Street, with it’s long seaside boardwalk, is referred to as the Pacific Coast Highway of Vietnam. With the many huge hotels that line the board walk it’s hard to believe this is Vietnam & could be anywhere in the world.

On arrival (about 7 a.m.) we quickly found our hotel & since it was too early to check in, we stored our packs & headed off to find some breakfast & walk the beach. There is a huge Russia influence here with all the signs predominantly written in Russian. The vibe of this city is much different from the north, much more metropolitan & less culturally sensitive.image

We got the lay of the land & planned our next three days. First up was booking a day at the Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud baths. This is just outside of the city & overlooks the beautiful mountains that surround the area. The salty mineral imagewater & smooth mud from rocks & volcanic ash is apparently taken from 100m deep underground thus ensuring absolute sanitation. The claim is that the mineral water penetrates the skin, depositing sodium & some other micro-elements that clean & rejuvenate the body.  Other claimed attributes include increasing the immune system, has anti-flammory qualities, decreases arthritis, muscular fatigue & diseases of the cardiac & nervous system. That pretty much covered us! We opted for a private vs. communal tub & got down & dirty. After a 30 minute warm mud soak, we headed to a car wash like shower & then another soak in a  heart-shaped mineral hot tub. imageFrom there we were directed to hot & cold mineral swimming pools, waterfalls & outdoor lounge area.This resort like atmosphere wasn’t too shabby & a great way to de-stress after our long bus ride, all for the grand cost  of $17.00 each for the day, including transportation & bottled water. I just love getting a good deal!!!image

Sleeper bus – NOT!!!

Next stop on the HCM trail is Nha Trang & since we decided we had to experience the overnight or sleeper form of transportation at least once in a lifetime, we boarded the bus at 6 pm in Hoi An for the 12-hour trip to Nha Trang. The bus has 2 levels with 3 rows across of reclining seats & is actually pretty comfortable.
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With the typical horn blowing, telephones ringing & loud talking of the bus attendants (I use that term loosely) I’m not quite sure how much sleep we will get. Bob has an upper seat & I eventually scored the lower level since I had air blowing directly on me, despite stuffing paper into the air vents.

On the positive side (oops, just had a foot in my face from someone climbing  down from the upper berth) it gives me some time to get caught up with my blog. Again a very economical way to travel the 550K at a cost of $11.00 each (step up in the world guys). Entertainment started off with Tom & Jerry cartoons, go figure in a bus filled with adults! While the Vietnamese women are very soft spoken, the men have not grasped the concept of using indoor voices! I couldn’t believe it either when the driver lite up a cigarette, one of many during the trip. Another thing noted is that some people just have no problem sleeping & the guy on the upper berth snored the night away. Glad someone had a good sleep!

imageDaylight is upon us & it is just after 6:30 am. The bus is rousing & after a night of horn blowing we have arrived in Nha Trang, this country’s third largest city known for it’s beautiful beaches.  It is so different from the other places we have visited thus far & with the big hotels lining the beach it could be any big resort town in the world. The plan is to stay here for the next three days.

Graceful, Historic Hoi An

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January 19 – 25

Hoi An, a preserved old historic town & designated UNESCO World Heritage site, is in the central part of Vietnam. The city’s architecture reflects the influences & history as a busy trading port that was once the heart of the spice & silk trade. Situated between China & the imagesea route to India, the Chinese & Japanese settled in Hoi An making it a thriving riverside town for hundreds of years.image The most famous landmark is the Japanese or Temple bridge. The bridge is dedicated to the god of the north who controls the weather & also to Kashima, the Japanese thunder god who has the power to quell Nazuma, the earthquake Catfish Monster whose tail is in India & head in Japan. Superstitions  abound, the many wooden boats on the Thu Bon river that runs through the town all have a pair of eyes painted on the bow in black & white, omens to protect the fishermen.

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This town boasts well over 200 tailors, shoemakers, many art galleries & great food.  This is THE place to have made-to-measure clothes or shoes made in a matter of hours. Just bring in a picture or pick a design from the floor models & your wish is their desire! Needless to say I felt like a kid in a candy store & yes we both splurged on some new made tailor made duds that are now on on their way to Canada.

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Nightfall transcends the town into a silk lantern wonderland with hundreds strung across the streets & off almost tree. Old women & children peddle small floating candles that float along the river walkway. The riot of colours is breathtaking & magical.

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A must see site about an hour out of town is the My Son Holyland, one of the most significant archeological sites in Vietnam. Once home to the Champa people, this sacred site has many temples, with Cambodian, Indian & Chinese influences &were once the country’s chief place of worship. Unfortunately many were severely damages or destroyed in the ‘American’ war (as referenced by the Vietnamese people). The remnants of war can also be seen in the pocked marked landscape, a result of the US missiles. The vegetation is very thick & we couldn’t help but reflect on the horrific jungle conditions the soldiers had to contend with.

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Hoi An is a must see spot on the Ho Chi Min Trail & we were constantly running into people we had met previously, including Marlow & Lesley, the couple from Saskatoon. Through email we were able to arrange to meet for dinner on their first night & our last night in Hoi An. The laid back pace prompted us to stay an extra day. We loved this town, it’s gentle people & beautiful scenery, but it was time to move on & we when we left a little piece of our heart was left behind

Planes, buses & scooters, oh my!

Sunday, January 19th

Our last evening in Hanoi was spent strolling through the night markets & around Hoan Kiem Lake, the liquid heart of the city. Preparations were frantically underway to light up & beautify the city for Tet or Vietnamese New Year. This is celebrated on the first of the lunar year & this year it falls on January 31st.image Upon returning to our hotel, after the evening out, we were greeted by the night staff who produced a birthday cake & beer. You can imagine our surprise & delight at this thoughtful gesture. They had noticed Bob’s birth date on his passport (all hotels require guests to provide their passport on check-in) & ordered a decorated cake to surprise him. Despite the fact that is was around midnight & we tired after our long return trip from Halong Bay, we popped open the Heinekens, cut the cake & had a little party in the lobby. Special thanks to Quan, Xieu & the rest of the gang at the Indochina Hotel!

Hanoi night marketNext morning we headed to the airport for the 1-hour flight to Da Nang. Upon landing we decided to take the local bus to Hoi An, figured out which way to go & walked just over 1K to the bus stop. Cost was $2.50 each (vs $15.00 for a taxi) & experience priceless! (Right now we know our good friend Rob is shaking his head). We obviously stood out & I kept thinking to myself we must look really odd as they kept staring at us-guess they don’t’ get many vintage flashpacker’s on the milk run! They are quite organized with two ‘bus packers’ pushing oncoming passengers to their seats, collecting fares & stowed the various packages, all with the bus barely stopping.

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We finally arrived in Hoi An & were dropped off at the local bus terminal. We were off-loaded & had NO idea where we where, or whether to turn left or right.  There were no taxis to be seen, no one spoke English & we had a bunch of sketchy looking guys swarming us offering to take us into town.  We decided to regroup & headed to a local stall for a beer to figure things out.  The man with me in the picture, Mr. Tran, came over & we started to talk as best as possible.  In the end we figured he was a pretty good guy, promised me he would take it easy, and ended up hopping on the back of both his & his partners scooters for the 6K ride to our Homestay, similar a B&B.  He was a man of his word & needless to say we arrived safe & sound.