Aug 31, 2010

Tiger Kingdom

Arriving in Chiang Mai is a little like arriving on I-Drive...there are tons of tourist things to do...whitewater rafting, elephant riding, cooking classes, massage classes, bungee jumping, biking, hiking and well it goes on forever and you can spend all your travel money here if you wish.
We decided to rent our own motorbike to save money and head over to Tiger Kingdom...
The roads were completely flooded due to heavy rains the night before so we had to detour and detour and our 20 minute ride ended up to be 90 minutes...but it was a beautiful ride.

the wonders of airplanes

We took the quick easy way to Thailand from two day boat trip, no death defying bus ride during rainy season.. It didn't save us money, but the one hour flight sure did save us time. The Lao Airline plane was tiny and there were very few passengers...however; from the video camera, the view looked as if we weren't even in the air...check it out.

Aug 29, 2010

khop chai lai lai Laos...last stop Luang Prabang

After our pseudo spring breaker time in Vien Viang, we journeyed by mini-bus to our final Laos destination, Luang Prabang. As one of Laos key trade hubs with China, the city is a bit more developed but not so much that we felt like our heart rates should ever rise above resting in true Laos style. 
The Ponthia guesthouse we stayed at gave us a relaxed view off our balconies in the morning as we coffee'd up to the sound of the rain and roosters. The afternoon gave way to some sun and on our first day and after walking a bit through the quiet town, we ran into some English friends who made the trip to Luang Prabang with us and decided that we should check out the scenic waterfalls about 45 minutes from the city off in the countryside.

The Traveler's Trail

I think one of the great things of traveling is the people you meet. The Traveler's Trail is what I call the "route.' The Lonely Planet really runs Southeast Asia travel. All people here use them as the bible, and really rely heavily on what they have to say. I think it is impossible for them to always be accurate...but we find them very inaccurate, especially when it comes to the prices of places to stay, food to eat and things to do...but it does give you guidelines of where to go and in what order...and everyone follows it.

Aug 27, 2010

tubing in Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is known for its party time tubing in the same way Daytona is known for Bike Week...everyone comes for a good time. Adam went ahead and played along.
For 50,000 kip which is about $6 you rent a huge intertube for the day, float down a river and stop at river side bars.
If only it were "just" that.

Vientiane Chillin

Laos folk are of the more relaxed nature which has been a nice
changeover from the chaotic sensory overload we experienced in Vietnam
and at times, Cambodia. Life just seems to ease on by and the city of
Vientiane was certainly a fair example of a place where we felt as
chilled as we have throughout our first 2 months, well, minus the 90
degree heat sending sunscreen and hair gel streaming into my eyes and
mouth. Actually though,  the rains that passed through on Sunday gave
us an opportunity to relax, catch up on sleep and of course, blogs and
pic uploading.  The fast and furious marathon on AXN made it seem
quite natural to spend the day watching movies in the air-con and
charge up for the next day.

Aug 23, 2010

Pakse, Laos

After an 8 hour bus ride on a double decker bus reeking of urine, we made it to Laos. We paid a little extra of course, for our visas to be processed and have entered the only land locked country in SE Asia, along with the most bombed country. From what we heard, Laos is relaxed…way relaxed. People spend the day filling up on Opium and BeerLao. Although we don’t intend to partake on the former.

Aug 21, 2010

Kratie Dolphins

With the two major Cambodia cities under our belts, Nicole and I were left with a day or so to make one more stop before heading north to Lao. After some lonely planet research we settled on the quiet town of Kratie about 8 and a half hours east. Kratie, which rests along the Mekong River is most well known by travelers as the spot to check out the endangered Irrawaddy freshwater Dolphins. In recent years, locals have guestimated the species population in Cambodia at less than 50 so the opportunity to catch a glimpse was worth the trip.

Aug 20, 2010

Temples of Angkor

Most of you know, I used to teach Geography. I spent three years teaching 6th grade geography. I taught about Asia and Africa…most of the information I taught came from text books that I then researched to find a bit more knowledge. I taught my kids to draw maps…always freehand…and about the cultures and wonderful places of the world. I remember teaching them about Cambodia and the huge Angkor Wat that stood. I always said it would be a dream to go and just the other day, Adam and I went, officially making one of my dreams come true.

We paid an entrance fee of $20 to see all of the temples, which in turn gave us an awesome badge with our pictures on them. We had hired a tuk tuk for the day to drive us around to the different temples. We first stopped at the Angkor Wat, which I thought was the only temple…but it wasn’t. It was however…huge…impressive…and so beautiful. You had to walk across a very long bridge that had been built. The Hindu temple was built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. The temple is somewhat of a HUGE national treasure…it is even on their flag! In the middle of the Vietnam War, Jackie O came to see the Angkor Wat, I guess it was her dream too. The temple is very symmetric and made out of Sandstone. The carvings on the walls and detail in every crevice…unbelievable!

After we visited the temple, we went to the Bayon which is a Buddhist temple made for King Jayavarman VII. It has over  216 different faces carved into the temple which they say had something to do with his “ego.”

Baphoun was under construction, it was completely taken apart for restoration purposes and began to be put back together, but during the civil war, all of the construction stopped. This caused a huge delay on putting it back together. Now, if you look closely parts of the walls are definitely not put back in the same spot because all of the carvings do not match.

Even though it had been my dream to see the Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom was incredible! This is the kind of temple that you only see in movies. It was made out of the same sandstone but the neatest part of the temple were the trees that grew all throughout. The trees look like they have been here since the creation of the temple, but grew throughout, in and around the walls and statues. They roots seeped into the cracks of the walls and if the conservation teams remove the trees, the temple will crumble, but if the trees remain, when they die, they shrink and the temple walls crumble anyway…so the poor temple, will one day completely fall.

There were many more temples to see, but the day was so hot, and after 7 hours, and almost 700 pictures, we were pooped. Along the way, we met a fantastic family from London. We spent a few hours walking along with the mother, father and two daughters. They were fun, and entertaining. We hope to see them again when we take that part of our trip in a few months!
All and all, I can’t believe even today, that I walked through the doors of the Angkor Wat. I will never forget that day, and if any of my students remember me telling them how big it was…it really was that big! 
PS. I suggest when the link on our page eventually works for Siem Reap (when all the pictures are loaded, spend some time to go through the 700 so you can see all of the wonders of Angkor)

Rollercoaster....of emotions

We have been traveling through Asia now for more than a month and I have noticed a few changes in Adam and I. When we first got here, everything was so in your face…the people, the noises, the begging, the bargaining… now we have become more aware of what is going on. However, nothing and for that matter, no one prepared us mentally for what we would be encountering. I don’t know if that has something to do with the fact that most of the people we have met traveling for long periods of time are younger than us, have different backgrounds and/or experiences, but whatever it is, no one warned us.

Every few days either Adam or I have an emotional explosion that we are trying to figure out how to bypass…these are a few of the common bumps we face:
Materialism - we have what they don’t and we are internally still upset over things that are materialistically important  when  we wish they weren’t
Dishonesty – nothing has a set price and people think we are stupid, purposefully ripping us off a dollar here a dollar there without just the decency of being honest…honesty would have gotten you a better tip anyway.
Spending – daily we are spending spending spending and really none of the poor people who need the money really get much of what we spend. The bigger businesses just get bigger and the poorer…well…
Hunger – while we are eating our nice dinner that fills us up, 3 times a day, the people on the streets stare at us trying to sell us things for money when we k now how their tummys rumble.
Religion – everywhere we go we see temples, statues, buddhas, yet one man after the next is constantly doing shaddy business.
Smiles and shifty eyes– so many of the smiles we see come with $ signs attached…
Babies – because so much of the population here was wiped out in the 70’s, it seems like every girl over the age of 16 or so has an infant strapped to her side…it is a bit much to take.

But, with all of this said, I think the hardest part is the internal struggle Adam and I are having trying to figure out what to do with these experiences. It’s not like we are going to live in tree houses and donate everything we own for the rest of our lives to the people of SE Asia. Our lives are different, the standards and lifestyles we live are on a different level, it has to do with where we live, our dreams and our ambitions. However, I do believe that somewhere, within this trip will be our answer as to what we will do next. I feel that it has to be something more than what we do now though, seeing as though we are unemployed J but I think there has to be a way to open up other peoples eyes, to show them how other people in the world live (and are happy doing so) and find some way to educate others on other ways of life beyond the house, the car, the department store labels and the zip code.
One of the hardest things to swallow is the number of unemployed Americans who sit at home because they make more money off of unemployment then from working, when people here get no support from their government, work 16 hour days and just have enough to get by.
It seems sometimes here, that the simpler the life, the happier the life. Even if we were to give these people money, I don’t think they would know what to do with it. They have a house, a bike, food and family…just a different life style.
This thought process and experience has given Adam and I so much to talk about with each other and with other travelers we meet.

Mandatory Relaxation

Yesterday was the kind of a day that started out with a minor stump and turned into a day where we just relaxed…to catch up with our minds and emotions.
We were waiting for our Tuk Tuk driver to head to the temples and he ended up being an hour late. We decided that with all the eager drivers out there, we needn’t spend our money with him. So we drove into town, checked into our new place, The Old Market Hostel, and I took a much needed nap. Adam took a tuk tuk to the Royal Angkor Hospital to get his ear ache checked out. It turned out he had an ear infection and they gave him some meds. You should check out the youtube channel. There are amazing videos from the hospital. It was quite a beautiful, empty, structure that none of the locals can afford to attend.

When Adam got back, we went out into the town, found a woman to sew our patches onto our bags (we picked up flags from the countries we have visited and want them on our bags) had some lunch (Mexican!) and then had our feet ate by fish. Dr. Fish seems to be a new fad in America and in Korea, here it is on every corner. We both had to get used to it, bit for $3 you get 20 minutes and a free beer. I decided it was something I had to do more often…loved it! Then, I got a mani pedi $10 and Adam got an hour long massage $6. 

The day was perfect. We rested up and got ourselves ready for the adventures that awaited us at the Temples of Angkor.

Aug 15, 2010

Paradise Where?

We boarded a bus Saturday morning for a 7 hour ride to Siem Reap, which the driver told us we would arrive at 7 pm…leaving at 9 am we were a bit aggravated and unprepared, but whateva! There was a language mistake and really it was just 7 hours. But still, for some reason, no little child tried to sell me a book off the side of the road that morning so I was stuck with nothing to read and only my rubix cube and suduko to keep me busy (which I never solved, still had 3 out of place)
Anywhoo, we rode for hours and arrived at the bus terminal outside of the city when a tuk tuk driver basically stole us off the bus, got us to buy a $1 a person ticket to take us to our hotel. At this point, I showed the driver and his friend the name AND address of the hotel. “ok ok” they said. So, off we went. We came straight into the city of Siem Reap and after a good 5 minutes of trying to sell us on being our tuk tuk driver the next day, he stopped outside of his friends hotel. We told him that this was not our hotel and we had already paid. We needed the right one. Well he looked at me stupidly and once again I showed him the name and address. He and three other drivers all tried to figure it out. So, I walked over to a computer, pulled up and showed them the map where it was. He looked at it like he had never seen a map before and didn’t know where even the airport was in his small city (right.) So we drove along the river and he pointed out place after place all with different names than our hotel. I kept saying no.
Adam opened the ipod, found wireless and using google maps and GPS tried to direct the driver to the hotel (however google maps had the wrong address) It was at this point that I thought we had been had. That the hotel really didn’t exist and at $8 a night we were played. So, we stopped at the Hotel d’Ankgor which books for 300-1900 dollars a night and kindly went in begging for help. While Adam was inside with the hotel staff looking for a phone number for our hotel, I was sitting outside in the tuk tuk with our bags. The driver was starting to say all sorts of rude things like we were taking up his time. I told him that he should never have lied in the first place. If he didn’t know where it was, blah blah blah. He said well most foreigners say one thing but mean another (heard that before) So, Adam eventually came outside with the lady from the hotel and she gave them a piece of her mind…telling them how to get to the hotel. Then, the men wanted to charge us more money. I was like Hell NO! Our ticket says right on it, “bus station to hotel, $1 per person”
Yes, our hotel was really far out of town. We arrived at the Paradise Eco Resort. The driver never used the phone number and said he knew where it was. So I don’t know if all along it was just a ploy to get us to stay elsewhere. We said peace to him and checked into our little eco room. I am not sure what makes it eco, maybe it is all of the materials used for construction or the fact that there is no internet or tv. The place itself will be amazing. It is a great getaway from the city and right now, only 2 out of the 5 rooms are complete. One is a bungalow suite for $30 and one is a very small room for $8. There is a pool but only filled about 2 feet as well as 2 bars, a restaurant and their own personal silk weaver. The owner is French and works as a GM at a hotel but is building this too, he lives on premise in his own home…which I imagine is like the bungalow but 100% bigger. It will be fantastic when the hotel is finished but at the moment, it should be a bit less expensive and possibly they should hire a full time tuk tuk and include it in the price of the room.
We dropped our stuff in our tiny room which has a beautiful mural of the Angkor on it, and headed on a $3 tuk tuk ride into town. As we sat down for dinner at a local Khmer Kitchen restaurant, we discussed our housing situation for the next 3 nights. We did the math and for the same price that we would be paying for tuk tuks into the city, we could just book another room and lose our money at the Eco reserve.
Siem Reap is not very big. Its downtown area is like I Drive with tons of restaurants, markets and shops…their big attractions are the Angkors and there are tons of guest houses and Dr. Fish places for your feet (you can get a 2 hour massage for $6 then have fish eat your feet and a mani pedi for another $6…maybe a spa day is coming)
We booked our bus tickets out of Siem Reap for the 17th and then grabbed our tuk tuk back to the Eco. We spoke to the receptionist and since we are the only guests asked if we could combine our 3 nights stay into one and stay in the beautiful bungalow and then we will pack our things and move into the city for the remaining two nights. She said ok. 
We checked into the Old Market Hostel and will spend the next few days here.
So here we are, about to spend the day at the Angkor’s…the huge temples built for kings and gods…the 8th wonder of the world…my dream. I am so excited I can’t stand it! So, I am off to wake Ad up so we can begin our day exploring like Laura Croft! 
(sorry for the lack of pictures but someday when we have a strong internet connection we will upload)

Smile on Phnom Penh

We left off with a pretty epic time in DaLat as our finale in Vietnam which left us at the doorstep of our next land, Cambodia. We had a pretty swift trip that left from Saigon to the border where we added a new visa to the passport and entered en route to our first stop, Phnom Penh.
Now, I’m gonna be frank, up until about a year ago I really thought Cambodia was in Africa. I did! It sounded African to me. Anyway, I digress. My point is that I really had no clue what to find in Cambodia so this was going to be exciting since in a way it was kinda like a newly discovered asian country in my mind ;) 

After about an hours cruise past the border and a 5 minute ferry ride we arrived to the ever familiar tuk-tuk hounds but snuck away and walked to our lonely planet choice for the night, the Paragon.
I’ll skip the pleasantries and just get right to it. Our stay at the Paragon was cut short after a friendly cockroach took a stroll across Nicole as she lay on the bed in the room sending her whaling and screaming into the hallway wrapped in a towel yelling for me as I photographed from the balcony down the hall. Not gonna, I tried to get a picture but after she gave me the finger I deleted it, packed our stuff and asked for a new room at the reception.  The front desk kinda missed the point and asked us to pay an upcharge that they apparently  felt was appropriate given our unbelievable displeasure in large bug guest and so we kindly said “peace” and walked down the road to the Riverside Hotel that kindly set us up with a humans only room.
Now, the way fate would have it, the next morning after breakfast we were setup with a tuk-tuk driver named Sophet to haul us about the city….i’ll explain the fate part later I promise. The first stop was the US embassy to add pages to Nicole’s fantastically overstamped passport but were not able to do so at that time so our friendly  driver began our tour throughout the city streets to start the day.

The city streets of Phnom Penh weren’t quite as hectic as we experienced in some Vietnamese cities but there was sure no shortage of things to look at. While I had vigorously avoided the tuk-tuk onslaught to this point, I found that being in one offered us a very unique perspective on the city as we bobbed and weaved thought the streets and ducked into narrow alley ways. Our eyes were in a constant fast twitch mode trying to keep up with the people, motorbikes, storefronts, naked babies and architecture that whirled around us as we went about.
We made a loop around the independence monument and then over to the National Museum that like most national museums, housed some very impressive artwork and artifacts that nicely displayed the richness of the nations culture and religious beginnings.
While in the courtyard we met a group of orphans that had traveled 2 hours to the museum on a once a year excursion they take from the orphanage. Well, Nicole fell in love with them immediately and to brighten their day, she bought enough fish food for the lot of them for like a dollar. Initially I think they thought she was a prostitute with her western-baring shoulders but soon enough they got the idea and began to take some food and feed the fish.

Many of them were shoeless and obviously not used to many luxuries but for the moments they were feeding the fish they seemed as happy as any kids you would find anywhere else. It was great to see them smile and I swear if Nicole could have taken this guy on the road with us, she would have….and I might have let her ;)

Once out of the museum we headed to a less uplifting sight but one that is a very real and unforgettable time in this countries past that we both felt we needed to see to better understand. The Security Prison 21, better knows as S-21 was a high school that was taken over and converted into a prison that was used as a center for detention and torture by Pol Pots security forces between 1975-1978. This was not a good place. The outer walls of the buildings, chipped, dark and cold, echoed the hopelessness and utter horror that had taken place for those 3 years.
The buildings had remained as they were during the events which were very evident as the rusted beds with chains still sat in many of them. Other floors were a series of crude narrow brick cells with nothing inside but the chains that were fastened to the prisoners. The outside was barbed wire to keep anyone from thinking of committing suicide to escape.
Images of the 17,000 citizens that were detained and later killed adorned the rooms of the other buildings. Khmer Rouge leaders photographed each prisoner before and after torture as a form of record keeping.
After seeing S-21 we had seen enough misery and decided to stay away from the “killing fields” which was basically the extermination camp about 15km where the prisoners were killed.

To pick us back up we cruised past the royal palace (Nicoles shoulders kept us out of there) which was very impressive looking from what we could see. Then we took a cruise over the bridge to the new Diamond River City that is a newer project in Phnom Penh that began about a year ago and hopes to become an entertainment and new residential area in the city which will includes the cities only casino. The project is supposed to be completed in roughly 3 years and should offer a large amount of employment opportunity to local and add a much needed boost the local economy.
Then we headed for a bite to eat at a very cool place called “Friends”. The restaurant offers former street kids a way to get started in the hospitality industry and even houses them next door in a dormitory.  The workers learn from cooking instructors how to prepare food and work as part of a waitstaff to help give them a focus and direction towards a better life. The food was excellent and since our tuk-tuk driver had been so cool, we invited him along and paid for his lunch as a token of our appreciation for the education we were having as his tour guests.
After lunch we traveled to a more local scene along the riverbanks to catch a glimpse of what the areas outside any tourist influence were like and then to the side of town near the railroad tracks where our driver lived.  This was a side of the city that knocked us back into the realization that Cambodia is very much a poor country with a very large amount of poverty. The homes in many cases were very basic shacks and the people we saw in many cases looked in poor health and malnourished. It was very difficult for Nicole and I to walk through these areas and not think of how unfair it seemed that there could be such a stark difference in the way people live. Even in the city of Phnom Penh, the gap in class seems to be wealthy or very poor.
What was inspiring however was the reception we received in this city. If we could, Nicole and I wanted to be able to give something to everyone we saw but all we could offer was a kind hello and smile which was given right back every time. I swear I don’t think I have ever smiled at so many people and seen so many sincere smiles back at me. It was great to the point that it almost masked the fact that I was walking though a town that literally couldn’t afford anything but seemed happier and more content than half the world I know back home.
Our driver graciously offered us refuge at his home from the intense rains that moved in for a bit. Sophet’s place was nothing more than what we might consider a cement “cell” with some personal affects, a small tv, fan and rolled up pad to sleep on at night. He however was honored to have us there and proudly spoke to us about his past working experiences as a teacher and how he missed the opportunity to teach children but due to  government mishandlings of the educational system he was forced out of his job and into the tuk-tuk business. His rent is $14 a month and he explained that he has difficulty paying even that. He spoke about how difficult it was for the poor to find a way out of their current circumstances and so Nicole and I offered our assistance as best we could. We began to talk with Sophet about working on Cruise ship. Nicole explained to him that with his English speaking skills, work ethic and personality, he would be an excellent candidate. The light on this man’s face was priceless when we started to think of how this could help change his life. We told him to create an email and we would do the research and get someone in touch with him as soon as we could to start the process. For us, it felt as much an opportunity as it did for him. The idea that we could see someone who works so hard out of his current struggle and into a better life for him and his wife would be as a big a reward as I could imagine.
So, anyway, after we decided that the rain was not going to quit. Sophet lowered the plastic flaps on the tuk tuk and away we went as night fell back to the hotel. The rain as I said was not quitting and to be quite honest, it was f#$*king pouring! I’m talking flash flood kinda wetness that only seemed to get worse and as each road back to the hotel turned into a veritable canal, we kinda thought that the only way home would be a swim. Sophet however and the mighty tuk-tuk (seriously, the engine was underwater….i dunno how it kept going) powered through the waves and we eventually found a path back home.
It was a great day. And while it was our only full day in Phnom Penh until heading to Siem Reap, it was a memorable one made special with each beaming grin exchanged. Oh, right, that fate thing. So, it was really the cockroaches fault that the day happened at all. If he had walked under the bed, we never would have met Sophet and maybe not had the experience we did. So, the moral, next time you see a cockroach, lay down in front of it and let it walk over your chest. ;)
Thanks for reading, and smile more, its good for your soul. -adam 

PS. Pictures to come later (the internet is just too slow to upload them)

Aug 12, 2010

DaLat and closing thoughts on Vietnam....

We arrived in DaLat after a 4.5 hour bumpy bumpy bumpy I thought I was going to fall of the seat multiple times..oh and no air con and about 30 of us travelers piled in.
We booked a few nights at the pink hotel and villas which came very highly recommended. The owner and his family immediately led us to a table, grabbed a map, highlighted the sites and convinced us all (the four of us) to do a tour with them the following day.

So, after making arrangements we went for a walk, found some lunch and then went to see some local sights. We only made it to the market and to the Crazy House which was plenty for one day.

The crazy house was designed by a lady and built in 1990. It is used as a hotel and also as a tourist site. They are expanding it and the house won an award for being the 10th out of the 50th most weird houses in the world. We had dinner at the Art Cafe which consisted of ok pasta we so wanted pizza but just couldn't find it anywhere.

The next day, I can't keep track of days, I think it was Tuesday...we all met in the lobby for our day of touring the country side with Rot (our tour guide) and 20 other foreigners. Rot promised us the tour would be special and unlike any other experience we have had so far, so for $30. a person we were totally on board. It was Adam and my 3 year anniversary and what a great way to spend the day!

It was pouring rain as we climbed aboard our motorbike and followed Rot quickly out of the city and up into the highlands of Dalat. We drove for a good 45 minutes through flower greenhouses and small towns. The rain was misting and cold but it was surreal to be up and in our own little world.

We stopped at a cricket farm where the owner raises crickets and sells them to restaurants (yup! a delicacy) so, we cooked some up and had a try. Not so bad and if you dip them in enough Chili Sauce they taste like chili sauce and potatoes....kinda.

Then, we stopped at a local market where we were told that every morning the woman buys goods for the day. She is the only one who can do the bargaining the men are not allowed and if you purchase later in the day, the prices go down dramatically because they don't want to sell the food the next day. We saw all the fruits and veggies, but also the meat and the animal parts that they sell including the cow eyeballs! and also little doggies in cages for sale, but not for pets.
We stopped at a coffee plantation which seems to be the big hit here now in Vietnam. Rot said that they are the world's second largest exporter of coffee. We stopped at a mushroom farm where we could go in the dark and see them all growing on these hanging bags from the ceiling. We stopped at a huge waterfall and climbed down the slippery rocks to the bottom where we got even more soaked if it was at all possible and took some pictures. Adam's wedding ring also happened to flip off his finger and we had three of us down in the dark on our hands and knees searching...he can thank his lucky stars he found it. :)

We then went to a silk factory where we saw the process from start to finish. It was so fascinating. We have a  video where Rot tells you how it works. (check out the youtube channel)

We then headed to Rot's village. The rain had stopped and it was a nice afternoon ride. We went into a local lady's home and listened to her stories on child birth, marriage customs and the ghost family that lives in the village. She also is one of 4 women in the village who makes her own cotton. Our back she had a cotton tree and then showed us how she spins it on 3 different looms then dyes it from different natural substances then weaves it. I tried the loom but it was quite impossible to keep the cotton from ripping as we strung it.

We had lunch with Rot's family, played some crazy drinking games without the alcohol and then tried fruit. We tried so much fruit, all from their garden...Jack Fruit, Dragon Fruit, Persimmon, Custard  Apple, Rambutan, Mangosteen, Star Apple, Nasty smelling Durian Fruit, yummy Longan,  and Sapodilla.  Lunch was topped off with a helping of candied weasel poop, yup, we ate shit.

We had a nice long ride back to the hotel then spent the evening at a local restaurant and then a club with live singing where Rot used to work. It was one of those days that you know you will remember forever. The stories, smiles and natives where something out of a National Geographic. Although we really liked Sapa, this added something without the tourism pull, without the buy this lady buy from me that we had there. This was just a handful of foreigners hanging out with the locals and learning, witnessing from them their way of life.
Perfect day and beautiful city here in Dalat.

Ok, so real quick, since Nicole ever so nicely covered the days events I will give my final thoughts on the country of Vietnam as we march on into Cambodia. We leave Vietnam with a variety of thoughts, images and emotions all bundled up into one experience that we both truely enjoyed. As most Americans or just about anyone from my generation all over the world, the country of Vietnam is sanonomous with one thing, war. To be quite honest, growing up in the states, I was privy to not one mention of Vietnam that wasn't related to the war and so its all I knew. Coming here was another lesson in what the world is like when you see it unfiltered, without bias, without a political agenda in mind and without fear. Vietnam is a beautiful place and while I have deep sympathy for the brave men and women from all over the world (including Vietnam) that lost their lives or loved ones during what I consider a very dark time in not just my nations history, but the history of humanity, I leave Vietnam with a much more hopeful and peaceful image in my head of the country. Sorry, this is ending up to be not-so-quick anymore but I just had a decent cup of coffee and my lil cranium is crankin. The strongest and most poignant moments for me came in the sincere welcoming I received from the Vietnamese men and woman. The moment I told an elderly man that I was from the United States and saw his face explain to me with a kind smile that we may have a different past, but our future is at peace and one of friendship. There is a wonderful culture and energy to this country that needs to be experienced and appreciated for more than just its sad place in the history books and I hope that with our blogs we have been able to do that even a little bit for those who read.

Thanks as always for reading, we do Cambodia next!

-Nicole and Adam

Aug 9, 2010

the beauty of Mui Ne

We picked up a bus in Saigon for $4 a person from the Phuong Trang bus company. We climbed aboard at 4:30 pm..stuffed in the back with a bunch of locals and hit the road. At just after 10:30 pm we arrived at our hotel (door to door service) we snatched a bungalow at the Thai Hoa for $35 a night which had a bit of a stench but was right on the beach with a beautiful garden and pool.

We spent the next day lying on the beach then the pool, having a few beers, then the pool and the beach, dinner the beach and the pool. It was a perfect day of relaxing. It was an interesting site, first thing in the morning when all the local dogs, and cows went for strolls on the beach without anyone walking them...just a casual family walk that they seemed to do every morning.

Then in the afternoon all of the kite surfers came out to do their thing, the wind had picked up and Mui Ne is well known for this sport.
The next morning started out just about the same and around 1:30 pm our friends Marielle and Marieke showed up. We had dinner together and lounged some more.

We spent our third day in style. The four of us rented motorbikes and headed out for some fun! We went to the white sand dunes and drove along the coast, stopping for a swim in a deserted beach far from the city.

Then, we went to the famous red sand dunes, paid some kids some money and slid down them on plastic. The sand dunes reminded us of the sahara desert. They stretched on forever and where exhausting to climb up. The kids were adorable little sales men who took great pictures and video of our time with them.

We then headed back into town to find the Ferry Stream which we had misread and thought it was a spring. We walked and walked down the stream waiting for the spring only to be haggled by more young tour guides so we gave up and went back to the pool at our place.

Our evening ended with dinner and a sleep over since the hotel was overbooked and didn't have a room for the girls. So, the four of us piled in for some fun (Adam was also out of clean clothes and ended up sleeping in my silk pj shorts...which supplied some great jokes from the three of us and even more fun to share with you)
At dinner though, we had a very interesting moment...while we were eating dinner at the restaurant, a big Vietnamese family was celebrating the grandpa's birthday. They invited us over for a beer and we all shook hands and laughed through the language barrier. I was kind of dreading the question I knew was coming when finally the older man said, "where are you from." The two from Holland spoke up and then I said America. I immediately saw one person look to the other then to another and so on. It was so awkward and I almost felt a bit ashamed to say it. But, the moment lasted no more than a long 15 seconds. The old man shook our hands again, toasted and we all began to sing.
On our last day in Mui Ne it poured, all day. For me, it was perfect, I sat on our front porch and read all day. Ad was a little restless went for a run on the beach, but he too even read a bit...I know I know shocking (He is really into a James Patterson book and may even finish it before we head home)
We all went for dinner to a restaurant in town. We had tuna steaks and grouper and 2 bottles of wine, all of a total of $32 it was the perfect ending to our time in Mui Ne.

Check out the beautiful sights in the pics and videos.

This morning, we woke super early, packed up, ate a quick breakfast and headed out on a 5 hour ride...bumpy ride..extremely bumpy ride to Da Lat high up in the highlands of Vietnam.

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