|Vietnam and Cambodia, Nov 2015
|A window in Tom's universe.
This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to
share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and
Tom Ballard Photography
As I write this message, it is early November 2015 and in a couple more days, I will leave
on my third big adventure this year!! I did a little test run in July to test my fitness. All was
good. So off I went to Scotland, and Turkey.. Traveled well on both, so!!!....
In January of this year, 2015, I started the year with plans to go to Vietnam on Feb 2, but
life changed that plan. I went in for a heart cath test early in the morning on Jan 13, thinking
I might need a stent, because on Jan 6, my ECHO stress test showed something not right..
While laying on my back in the cath lab, with a cath pumping dye in my heart, my Vietnam
trip went out the window, when my doctor told me I was not going anywhere for at least 90
days. I went almost directly from the cath test room to the surgery room. The doctor had
found a couple of serious blockages, one he called the Widow Maker... It had to be fixed
now!!!! I woke up that night in the ICU, with a new double by-pass in my chest.. Was quite a
shock!!! But, I survived it, and have pushed hard to get me back in shape and on the road
again!!! In early June, I think, I was given permission to start traveling again, with a 50
pound lifting limit!!! NO heavy suit cases!! Not a problem, I travel with a carry on and a
camera! So, in short order, I had three new trips arranged for the rest of this year!!! One of
them was the Vietnam/Cambodia trip I missed due to the heart surgery!!!! I have now
completed the Scotland and Turkey Adventures. Scotland Adventure, August 3-13, and the
Turkey Adventure Sept 2-15. I am now ready to do trip number three!!! This adventure will
be to Vietnam and Cambodia, November 10-24....!!! Should be great fun, according to
people who have already completed this adventure!
For my third adventure I will be going to the famous Vietnam and Cambodia!!!! I leave home
in the USA on Nov 10, and return Nov 24. I have to travel to Los Angles a day early, to
catch the morning flight on the 10th.
For my friends and family who wish to follow along, I am sitting up this page to help you do
just that.. I have tried this model for tracking before, it seemed to work, so I am continuing
to use it...
If everything works according to my plan, the following steps should let you share the trip
There are actually two parts to following me as I travel.. One is to watch my location via a
tracking map. To view the tracking map with my location, use the link below, "Travel
2015".... !!! Second is via my itinerary, which will be shared on this page.
1. While traveling, I will be carrying a SPOT satellite reciever/transmitter which will collect
GPS signals, calculate my position , then share my position on a web page, via the SPOT
network. For the techies in the group, the website for SPOT is www.findmespot.com.
2. I am sharing the daily itinerary that was provided to me by my travel company,
www.smartours.com . This is my seventh trip with this company. First trip was to China and
it was great, except for the guide and the food issues!.. I decided to try some more. Not all
have been as good as the China trip, but for what I get for my money, I keep going. The
worst of these trips has been some bad guides, and difficulty finding food!!!! But, the good
is the package deal. I get air from the USA, I get hotels, and I get ground transportation..
As long as I can get these, I can just turn my head on the other stuff.. Half of guides have
been good, the other half were just horrible.. Not consistent either way!!! FOOD!!! Too
many times, for lunch and dinner, the company just turns you loose and says go find
something to eat!!! In the USA, that might be OK, but not in places where they do not speak
English.... Breakfast has always been provided as a buffet meal, included with the hotel
room. This is pretty much the standard for hotels around the world. And, most of these
buffets are good!!! So, if you can get by on one good meal a day, you will survive!! I still
carry food bars with me, just in case!!! I have had to use them on several occasions!!! A
friend who has been to Vietnam, suggested I carry toilet paper with me!!! Guess there is a
shortage there.. Actually, they were teasing me about liking the BIDETS in Turkey!!! All of
our hotels in Turkey had bidet toilets.. The good ones were great, the cheap ones were a
To view the information I used to select this trip, check the Smartours link for this trip at:
Select "Itinerary" to see the advertised version of the itinerary..
3. By checking the Smartours map and looking at the itinerary, provided below, you should
have a fair idea of what I am doing at any given time.
4. I am not sure how the map will show the date and the time while I am gone, so, a quick
search of the internet will bring you up to date...My info says that Hanoi is 13 hours ahead
of Chicago, on the clock.. So noon on the 10th in Chicago is 1 AM on the 11th, in Hanoi...
So, for emails, etc, 9 AM in Vietnam will be 8 PM back home. I think I got that right!!!!!
For a map of my last seven days of travel, click this link: Travel 2015
Note: This trip officially starts and ends in Los Angles
Note... I will have limited ability to share images from the trip as it happens, but I plan to do
my usual trip report when I get back, so, watch for that later!!! .....
Note: The map will only
share the most current
seven days of information.
After a point has been on
the map for seven days, it
is then deleted.
You may have to adjust
the ZOOM to view the
map. Use the slider on the
left side to do this..
To check the date, time,
and GPS coords, for any
given MARKER on the
map, click on the little
balloon at the point, or
click the little "+" sign to
the left of the point, in the
list, called messages.
Also, in the message list,
you can click on the little
orange ball, and the
system will take you to
that MARKER, on the
Remember Mark Twain's Quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-
mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad,
wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating
in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
This site is BEST viewed in GOOGLE CHROME!!!!
If the map does not work well for you, or any other issues crop up that you need help with, please
contact me at email@example.com. I should have email service while traveling!
The shared images for this trip will be shared below, as I get them ready......
I want to put a heart note somewhere, so I will put it here, For something like 30 years,
I have been taking Statin Drugs, plus others, to avoid heart issues.. Did not work. In
June 2006, I had to have 2 stents. Then the doctor I had at that time added more Statins
and more preventive meds!!!! Plus I got instructions to eat well and exercise.. I ate well,
except for 2010, when I was on the road for nearly 10 months, but since then, I did the
drugs as prescribed, ate the veggies and protein I was supposed to eat, and I used
organic foods, as often as I could get them, meaning I bought most of my foods at Trader
Joe's, or Whole Foods, etc.. I did not exercise as much as some people say I should
have, but I did stay very active, with formal exercise included.. I was not a couch
potato!!!!!! The end result, the DRUGS and the ORGANIC FOOD did not work.... Using
all those preventive actions, I still ended up with a piece of my leg now in my heart, as a
double bypass.... And, my doctor wanted me to keep taking the drugs that DID NOT
WORK!!! I have spent months trying to find out why the preventive meds and foods did
not work.. Lots of suggestions, but most people who write about such things suggest that
STATINS are a waste of money, and can do more harm than good...!!!!!! I have
requested my heart doctor take me off any meds that are not now essential, to support
my repaired heart. He has not gotten the info back to me.. His office has called, but did
not leave the info I asked for, just said to call back and get the list of drugs I could drop. I
called back, but could not speak to the helper who had the info.. Guess they will get it to
November 10.. Leave Los Angeles and fly towards Shanghai
This is the official start day of the Vietnam- Cambodia Adventure.. I have arrived in Los Angles yesterday, so that
I would be ready for my early start here today. I think our flight does not leave until 1130, but we have to be there
3.5 ahead of that time, to get checked in, get through security, etc.. And, it does take a lot of that 3.5 hours to get
all this done!!! Also, today I will be doing the longest flight I can ever remember being on. The first flight today will
be 14 hours, then we change planes and fly another 4 hours. It is going to be hard going for the 24 hours!!! In
this set I share as many step by step images as I can. I started using our onboard navigation monitor to share our
progress, but somewhere around midnight, they turned it off, so that was the end of my knowing where we were
as time went by!!! I do show the path we took early in the flight, and the food, etc.. I thought it odd that we
actually flew north from LA until we were near Alaska, then we turned and headed west. I suppose we were trying
to avoid the jet stream or something... Somewhere on this day, they fed us dinner.. Was pretty good. It was one
of two meals we would get on this first flight. Also, on international flights, beer and wine are free, along with soft
drinks, etc... In the USA, just soft drinks are free. For people who may never take this trip, I add a lot of images
that I took through the plane window, just to share the feeling of flying.
And, for a last note, our travel company put us on China Eastern Airlines. It got us there and back, but it is a
difficult company to deal with. Getting help on anything is near impossible.. They do not even answer their
customer service line.
November 11... Arrive in Saigon and go to hotel
I am calling this Day 2 of our official trip, but it is day three for me.. That said, we were in the air when the 10th
changed to the 11th, I think.. On the first flight, we fly 14 hours. We land in Shanghai, we change planes, and we
fly another 4 hours to Saigon.. I was so out of it by the time I arrived that I could not spell my name, but I did
continue to take photos that I can share now. I show that we flew over snow covered mountains, etc, sometime
during the night, but have no idea where it was.. They shut the navigation channel down around midnight, and so
after that we did not have a clue as to our progress.. But, somewhere around 2 AM local time in Saigon, we
arrived. We met our main guide and our day guide. They escorted us to our hotel, and said good night. I got one
of the best rooms I have ever had. Was great.. I got moved in, set the alarm and crashed. We would have to get
up just a few hours later and start our tours.. So, our time in bed tonight will be nothing more than a nap!!!!
For what it is worth, Charles Lindbergh's famous flight took 33.5 hours to complete. He flew 3600 miles. We flew
14 hours and traveled 7000 miles. In the time it took him to complete his flight, we could have flown to Shanghai
and returned. I was too sleeping to walk by the time we finished our day. History tells us Lindbergh had gone 55
hours without sleep when he landed in Paris, May 21, 1927.
Part 1... First part of our day touring.
Today we are going to start with what I would call a city tour.. I start my day with images from my room, and they
show the early morning rush of motor scooters.. The number of scooters in the country numbers in the millions..
Most of us have never seen anything like it, and of course it is such a novel thing to me that I take massive
amounts of images of them. How they can get around without running over each other is still a mystery, but they
do, and they use scooters for everything.. And, what they do on them is just as amazing as anything else I saw
while on this trip. I will show a lot of scooter images. Watch closely, because each image has a reason for being
shared.. More comments on this later... In this set, the first of two, we go see the scooter parade, we go to a
church, and the post office across the street, we go by the place where the famous America Embassy used to be,
but has since been torn down, we go to the Ho Chi Minh Statue, near the famous Rex Hotel, we go to a market,
and then we are back on the road to see more scooters....
Part 2... Second part of out day included the famous tunnels and traps
In this set, we finally start getting into the real heart of this Vietnam adventure. We see a lot more scooters, and the
environment the people live in, plus, we stop out in the country somewhere and have lunch in a little place on an
island. Now we are starting to get a feel for the jungle, the mud, the soil, the river boats, etc. In this country, they
serve a lot of fish. I do not eat fish, so my guide had to work with the food people to bring a replacement for me..
They did chicken and veggies, which turned out very good... I can say these people know how to cook.. Most
everything I ate on this trip had good flavor.. Later I will talk about the beef I tried to eat. There is no tender beef in
Vietnam or Cambodia.
After our lunch, we got our first intro into what made this place famous in the war. We call it the Vietnam War, they
call it the American War. But, what we will see after lunch is the famous tunnels and traps. This one day made the
trip worthwhile. Until you see the tunnel system, and the traps, you cannot imagine what it was like to have been
here during the war. Truth is, we still could not imagine, but seeing the parts of the tunnels that were open to us,
being able to touch them, be in them, etc, made all the difference in the world. I climbed part way down into a
spider hole, until I was stopped by my chest size. I was too big to get in the entrance. But, I did get to crawl through
one of the first layer tunnels. You have to see it to understand. The tunnel system is still a mystery to me, even
with the tour, but seeing where it is and the jungle around the tunnels etc, helped me appreciate the issue much
better, then, there were the traps.. They were both simple and nasty, but very effective at doing their job. They
were not meant to kill, but to trap and hold, which brought attention from others, which made it easy for the enemy
to kill those trying to help. I hope the photos give a glimpse of what we saw. I had never seen photos of the traps
before. I could do a whole photo set on just the traps, but they walked us past them so fast I barely got the photos I
have. Then, there was the shooting range!! Who would have guessed!!! But, they have a shooting range near the
tunnels, and you can shoot many, if not all, of the guns used during the war. You pay for each bullet you want to
fire, and you can shoot as many as you want to pay for. I think the choices start with an AK47 and go up to the
After the tunnel visit, we do the drive home, and get to view more scooters.. They are just an amazing sight to
see.... And, trying to cross the street in that mess is out of this world.. But, I did it, in the dark!!! Did it twice.. Once
to get to the market for refreshment, and once to get back after my purchase in the market... I found that waving
your arms helps them see you and go around ya!!!! I walked across 6 lanes of traffic, and back, without getting run
over.. Who would have guessed!!!! They are experts at handling these things!!!
The shared images for this adventure will be at the bottom of this page!!!!
Part 1... Fly to Hue, visit a Pagoda, ride Dragon Boat on Perfume River
To be honest with you I am not sure what all we did this day, in terms of names and places we visited, etc. As many
times happens, our program does not match our tour. For various reasons the tours have to be changed a bit after the
program is written, but on this day I can assure you I watched one of the best sunrises I have seen in my life!! And, it
happened fast!!! Amazing how fast the sun rises above the horizon.. I took a lot of images from my room of the sun
rising, sharing only a few, but enough for you to appreciate how neat the whole event was... After breakfast, we were
back in the air and on our way to Hue, where we met our new day guide, Tien. I generally do not remember the day
guides names, but this one was so unique I could not forget her name. She met us dressed in traditional clothing and a
smile that was bigger than she was!!! I thought she was just a college kid, or younger!!! Turns out, she is 42 years old
and the mother of two. I think her hubby is a math and science teacher in their home town.
As usual, we did a drive through of the local homes and businesses, then ended at the Thien Mu Pagoda. Amazing
place.. Monks live here and take care of the place.. I always wondered where and how monks get money to live on.
Turns out they live off donations from the people, much like preachers and the like, do the USA.. Even the poorest of
the poor give part of their money to the monks, to carry on the worship tradition. I think it is believed that money given to
the monks for religious purposes, will provide the giver a better spiritual life here and hereafter..
Following the pagoda visit, we were loaded on Dragon Boats and treated to a trip on the Perfume River.. I did not smell
anything, good or bad, so I have no point of reference for the name!!!! But, it was a fun ride, and also relaxing... I think
some would describe it as cute! We took in the views, bought some refreshments, and just soaked in some more of the
experience. Then it was back on the bus and off to lunch. That is where Part 2 will start.
Part 2... Lunch, visit Forbidden Blue City, and rickshaw ride on Vietnam streets!!!!!!
In Part 1, we did enough to fill a day, but in truth we did it all before lunch!!! Now, it is lunch time and we
have stopped at a prearranged place for our feeding.. Not sure what all we ate, but I do show photos of it!!
Then, after a short bus ride, we arrive at what is called the Forbidden Blue City. I was not able to hear the
guide tell why it is named this way, because the company I travel with seems to refuse to use the Whisper
System to talk to us. This system allows all of us to hear our guide through headsets. Works great, but not
used by this company. Maybe some day they will catch up with the rest of the industry, but under protest.
The tour of the city was amazing. Again, I could not hear the guide, so I know almost nothing about the
place, but still it was cool just to see it.. Apparently during some past fighting, this place got shot up pretty
bad. There are still lots of bullet wounds in the pots, doors, walls, etc. Then after the city tour, we were met
at the exit by the rickshaw people. Our company had made arrangements for us to get a rickshaw ride from
this location, through the neighborhood, through the city streets and parks, then back to our hotel. Was an
awesome ride.. How we got back is a miracle I think, but we did. Truth is any travel on the streets in
Vietnam seems like a suicide mission to us, but our drivers were masters of the style, and got us back to our
hotel in great shape.. I just loved being at ground level in that mass of people, going in all directions!! Back
at our hotel, we were treated to an included dinner, which also included a birthday cake and singing for our
birthday boy, Sandy. Today was his birthday!! Now for the amusing part, for reasons unknown to me, I got
a room with three beds, a huge Jacuzzi tube and a urinal, no shower. Before retiring for the night, I wanted
to get my traditional shower, but there was no shower. So, I chose to try the huge tub. I filled it with enough
water to cover the jets, and then tried to start the action. No action. Only thing I could get to work a little
was a built in radio!!!! Nothing I tried would make the thing work.. I called downstairs for help. The front desk
said someone would be right up. They never showed. I ended up taking a bath with the hand held shower
head, while standing in the middle of the tub.... So, it looks good in the photos, but that is where it ends, the
rest of the story is downhill. Hope you enjoy the memories of this day.
Part 1... Hai Van Pass, Monkey Mountain, Danang, Cham Museum, Dragon Bridge
This morning we are on the move again. Today we are headed to Hoi An and the Hoi An Historic Hotel. In the first
part of the day we will drive though the country side, over Hai Van Pass, stop at a lobster farming area!! Not sure
about that, but there was some kind of sea food being raised where we stopped. After a bathroom and
refreshment break, we were on to Danang. Coming into town, we see Monkey Mountain, where our service
people installed some type of electronic gear that resembles mushrooms on top of the mountain.. I think the
reason for the name is that monkeys live on this mountain.. Below the mountain, and in front of it is, Danang and
the R and R place for soldiers, the famous China Beach. Our first stop is the Cham Museum. Also available for
photos was the Dragon Bridge across the road from the museum. After the museum tour, it will be time for lunch
and the afternoon tour.... That will be Part 2.
Part 2... China Beach, Marble Mountain, marble carvings, Silk sewing,
This is part 2 of our adventure this day. In this set we do lunch on China Beach, then go to a marble carving
factory for a tour. Being Sunday, the workers here are off and we do not get to see them work!!! Then we go to
Marble Mountain and go to the top. Some go up by elevator, then come down the stairs, others walked both
ways, and some rode the elevator both ways!!!! But, the marble carvings were just awesome and the mountain
was an attention getter. As I understand it, for awhile, Marble Mountain was used by the enemy for bad things. It
was hollow in places with holes in the top, where enemy soldiers hide and shot down US helicopters coming into
the area. I think I heard it said that some 19 choppers were shot down from this mountain. That should be fact
checked by interested parties!!! But, the sights to see on the mountain were neat.. As for the marble being
carved, it was brought in from mines that were miles away. They were not using the marble from this mountain,
as that would destroy their shrines, and the tourist value. From the mountain tour, we went to a silk and sewing
factory. We saw how silk worms are grown, and how the silk is harvested. Then we saw the weaving process,
plus some sewing action and some hand stitching. Though not allowed to photo the pictures, they were
AWESOME.. All hand stitched silk on a background. The effect was just amazing!!!!! After the tour it was on to
our hotel to settle in for the night. I do not remember what we did for dinner, if anything. I may have had a food
bar and called it a day.. But, I did get my laundry done, as I do most nights!!! By washing clothes each night, I
can use the same clothes for the whole trip!!! I do carry two extra changes of clothes, but do not use them unless
I have to.. OK, hope you enjoy out adventure this day!!!
November 16... Danang, Vegetable Market, Japanese Bridge, Shrine
Today we are doing a bit of local town touring... Walking tour it is called... Start with a big breakfast,
then bus to a drop point, and get started!!!
First we walk through what appears to be a mini-fast-food place for people who want to eat a quick
breakfast. This is attached to a market, so after the walk-through, we start roaming the streets and
looking at all the different fresh foods for sale!!! I think the word fresh and unprocessed explains why
these people are not weight challenged. All of them are in great shape!!!! The veggies were very
colorful. I even recognized a few of them!!!! And, we found a few new food toys, which some people
bought, but I had to pass as they could not travel in my carry on!!!!
After the veggie market, we did a tour of a shrine/temple thing, but I never understood what it was..
But, it was neat... We do some more street walking, stop by a few odd places, including a visit to a
bridge and a museum. But stopped for a refreshment break at one point, and walked through the
garment district.... Then, back to the bus and off to lunch, and from there back to the hotel, or I should
say hotel pool...!!!!! Which turned into a nice little afternoon party!! After the pool, people took off
looking for places to eat.. Again, I am not sure what I did.. Don't remember now! But, tomorrow, we
move again. We are flying to Hanoi in the morning! OH, and our program said we were supposed to
get a Trishaw Ride, but we never got this, so I am not sure what we missed...
Part 1... Big Buffet Breakfast, Halong Bay Tour, plus Dong Thien Cung Cave tour
This is going to be an awesome day to be a tourist looking for great views.. Today we are going to be blessed
with beauty in every direction that we looked. The reason we are here in this town, and the reason we came
here last night, was to get an early start on seeing the famous Halong Bay. And, after you get through all the
images, you will understand why so much attention is on this very unique natural work of art. In my life I have
been blessed to have visited quite a few of the most beautiful places on earth, and now I have come here to
add this place to my list of beautiful places visited.
To tell you about this day, I have to tell you it was really neat to have stayed in such a beautiful hotel last night.
Then this morning we were treated to an absolute feast in the form of a huge breakfast buffet!! Was great..
After breakfast we bused over to the beautiful Bay Club where I ran onto a lady selling the famous cone
hats!!! As soon as she offered to sell me a hat, I thought about the sun exposure I was going to get on this
tour, by standing on the deck taking photos.. I had done that once before, and got a serious sunburn, on top of
my head, where much of my hair is very thin!!!! And, I was intrigued by the cone hats.. I think I had secretly
wanted one as soon as I arrived in Vietnam, and saw one, but had not had the chance to buy one.. When I
asked how much, she said 3 US dollars.. For three dollars, I did not see any reason to bargain, I quickly gave
the lady three dollars and went happily on my way!!! Thought I probably looked pretty cool in it, so got
someone to take my photo with my new hat on, before I lost it, by having it blow off my head, as I later saw
happen to someone else's hat!!! I sort of expected my hat would not complete this tour, but, it did!!! Also, I
was later told by several people that my purchase was not of good quality, and I could have gotten it for 1.5
dollars, or less.. Maybe so, but I still felt like it was a good deal at 3 dollars.. There was a lot of work in it!!! I
mean a lot!! There is more hand stitching in one of those things than you would guess!!! And, yes, later I did
see one that was of good quality, and it was neat, but mine was good enough for my day trip, and, I was not
planning to take it on a plane with me, so quality was not real high one my list!!! It worked out great, and in
fact, before we got on the next plane, I gave it to someone else. You will see that presentation on a future
Now for the photo comments, this was such an awesome place, I just kept shooting and shooting and
shooting, so as to try to capture everything. The lighting this day was a challenge, but... That was the easy
part, the hard part was back here when I had to decide which images to leave out.. And, I did leave out many
images, but knowing that many of my followers would never be able to come see this beautiful place in
person, and that my images would be as close to the place as they would ever be, I took the plunge and
shared almost everything that I thought would create the feeling of having been here.. And, to share all these
images in sensible fashion, I broke the full day down into three sets, but even they are long, as these sets are
almost like watching a movie, one frame at a time.. That is a warning!!! If you love this sort of thing, you will be
in heaven, if not you might want to use the fast/skip function... But, I hope you get comfy, settle in and just
enjoy the memories. This is Part 1, there will be two more..
Part 2... Continue and finish Halong Bay tour
This is Part 2, and it is just an extension of Part 1, except that in this set we do get lunch, and this set ends as
we return to the boat dock where we started... In the next set, I will share the bus trip back to Hanoi.
Part 3... Bus ride from Halong Bay to Hanoi, plus hotel and treats
This is Part 3 of this day and is the last set of images for this day. In this set you will see Vietnam the way I
saw it from our bus as we made out way back to Hanoi. Yesterday morning, we flew into Hanoi, boarded our
bus and bused to the Novotel Hotel near Halong Bay, as we planned to do the Halong Bay tour early this
morning. We did the tour, and it was awesome!!! Beautiful works of art by Mother Nature!!! Now, with this tour
complete, we have to get back to Hanoi were we are scheduled for tours tomorrow morning, etc.. So, the
images here are mostly just photos out the window of the bus as we drove down the highway.. We did make
one surprise stop to get out and walk for a few minutes in a farmers field, and take some memory photos,
then it was back on the bus and on down the road... I do not know anything about what I saw, but it was neat
just to have seen it.. I hope that if you have seen all the sets for this day, you will agree with me that it was an
awesome day!!!! Now, we get ready for more adventure tomorrow!!! I think tomorrow we go see the famous
Hanoi Hilton!!!! OH, and I did not have to go out for dinner tonight!!! While I was sitting at the desk in my room,
wondering what I would do for dinner, there was a knock on the door, I answered it.. Someone was delivering
a fruit treat!!! Beautiful.. I took some photos of it, and then ate it!!! About the time it was all eaten, another
knock on the door!!! I answered it, and found someone delivering a small dish with four pieces of chocolate in
it... To be honest, I sort of thought they had delivered all this stuff to the wrong place, and would come back
for it, so I eliminated that possibility by taking photos of it, then eating it right away!!! Well, guess what, it was
all good, they did not come back for it, and I was too full to be interested in going out to hunt for dinner!!! So, I
guess I could say dinner was on the house!!! I still do not know what all the treats were for!!!
Part 1... Ho Chi Minh Memorial in Hanoi, a temple, and graduation photos
What an interesting day this turned out to be. For a lack of something better to call it, I will call it a walking
culture tour of Hanoi.
We started the day with another awesome buffet breakfast. One of the many things people here are good at is
cooking, and that includes breakfast!!! The question is how can these people eat so much and still stay thin..
They eat a lot, and they are thin!!! Maybe some day that mystery will be solved. What I can say is that I think
they do not eat anything that comes out of a box or a can.. Everything is fresh, and organic..Maybe those two
things do the trick. They also do not drink water from a PVC pipe, nor did I see them use plastic and aluminum
to serve or cook food. They did have plastic chairs and tables, etc. But seems that for the cooked foods it was
steel, stainless steel, glass, or ceramics, etc.
After the big breakfast we bused to a drop point and went to see the body of Ho Chi Minh. I do not know how
to accurately describe the whole set up, but there is a large piece of property centered around his life. There is
the huge memorial building which has his body on display, and you can see it by following the single file parade
that goes by the body, which is sealed in a huge glass case, etc.. It is guarded, and no photos can be taken in
the building.. Outside the building, you can take as many photos as you like.. On the same property as this
monument, is several official houses and other items I did not learn the importance of. But his old cars are
stored here, and the Simple House he chose to live in is here. I suppose one of the building is the official
residence of the country's leader, but he did not want to stay there, so... Then there was a short hop over to
another temple thing, where on this day school kids of all ages were coming to get their photos taken for their
graduation.. I found all this to be very interesting, and grabbed a lot of memory shots, many of which I am
sharing here.. I think sharing so many photos gives a much better sense of just how much alike people are all
over the world. It shows how they feel about their life, their image of themselves, and the fun they are having
being together, and sharing their zest for life. It is the same everywhere I have been. The locations change, but
the people remain the same. They just want to be happy and have fun, with their friends and family. Here we
found a true sense of pride the young people had in having reached these milestones in their life, and on the
road to their future. They were super proud people this day.. I loved capturing some of that excitement and fun
in my photos.
After watching the graduates do their memory photos, we bused back to the hotel for a lunch break. There was
no provided lunch, nor was there an arranged lunch, so we had to be survivors. I tried a couple of places in the
area, but did not get interested, so I came back to the hotel for lunch, and found they had a lunch buffet that
looked pretty good, so I took it.. Cost about 15 dollars I think.. There was a good number of things I did not
know what was, or what to do with the things I recognized. I tracked down the manager fellow, who was most
happy to help me with lunch. I said I liked soup, noodles, beef, etc, etc.. And, after our little chat, he told the
hired help what to fix for me, in their language! Turned out great!!! I got lots of good food!!! This was at the
Movenpick Hotel in Hanoi.. Very good eats!!! But, I had to eat and run, as we had another tour experience
coming up after lunch!! In the next set I show life on the streets and we go to a Water Puppet show!!!
Part 2... A walking tour in Hanoi, and a Water Puppet Show
This set shares the second half of our day here in Hanoi. After lunch we are bused off to see life in town, but
along the way, we pass one of the longest, if not the longest murals in the world.. I think our guide said it was
about 2.5 miles long. It is quite the thing to see as it just goes and goes and goes... When I did the Google
thing, for the longest mural, I got the sense that this longest mural thing is kind of like the tallest building thing,
there is a race going on all the time for each.. So, the longest and the tallest are generally only in number one
position for a short time, then someone else grabs the title, with something longer, taller, wider, faster, or
whatever, but, this mural is long and neat..
OK, so we reach our drop point, and off we go to see life in the streets.. There is not much I can say, you just
have to see it, but as you do, I suggest you try to notice this, all merchants that sell similar products have their
businesses together.. How strange by our standards.. We do not want anyone selling the same thing we are to
be selling next to us!!! If someone selling shoes moves in next to our shoe store, we move out!!! Not here,
shoes businesses all gather in one area. All cooking ware people do business together, and the list goes on.
Today we passed a lot of what I would call group stores.. There was areas selling clothes, another selling
shoes, another selling metals, and on it goes, even to the point that all the people selling natural medicines, or
ingredients to make medicine, were all grouped together. Not sure what this arrangement does for competition,
but that is just how it is here.. If you sell pots and pans, then you go sell these items with the other pots and
pans people!!! Interesting to say the least..
And, yes, our street tour was on foot, and a bit tense at times... The merchants have their wares stacked out
right to the street.. There is no sidewalk, in many places, so you are forced to walk on the street, and on the
street is scooters and cars.. You become part of the traffic!!! I tried to grow eyes in the back of my head to
watch for danger!!! And, we did see one crash.. Happened right in front of us.. A car actually hit a fellow on a
motor bike. Knocked him down good.. The other scooters and cars just kept on going.. The police arrived, got
the man up and on his bike, had a few words with the driver, and away everyone went... Interesting!!! Scooters,
motorcycles, tricycles, bicycles, cars, carts, and pedestrians, are all mixed together. I do not know how anyone
gets anywhere, especially without getting killed or just hurt, but, they do manage.. Even we managed to get
At some point, we arrived at the point of interest we had on our schedule, the Water Puppet Show. I think we
were to arrive at 4 PM, and we did. We already had our tickets, and our seats had been prearranged, etc..
But, I had to pay an extra one US dollar to us my camera..!!! Video camera people had to pay 2 dollars, I
think.. Was an interesting show!!! We had good seats, but in front of me were to tall guys that were more
interested in talking and leaning their heads together like lovers, which blocked my view a lot.. I finally just
leaned over and put my zoom lens right in between them and kept shooting, click, click, click.. They did not
seem to even notice!!! But, even with these two lovers and their cameras to compete with, I did see a lot of the
show, by dodging around them, and I got my memory photos, which I will be sharing in this set... I cannot say
this was my thing to like, but it was so unique that I had to have the photos, so I took a bunch, and I am sharing
a bunch... If you have not been there, or if you may never get there, then maybe this is the next best thing,
except you miss the sound effects.. There was about 7 people who acted as the band and the sound effects
people.. They played the music, they made all the stage effect sounds, and they talked for the puppets, etc.. If
nothing else, the production was interesting... After the show, some people chose to walk back to the hotel, and
to shop and eat dinner, etc, along the way. The rest of us bused back to the hotel and found other ways to
pass the evening away.. Richard and I chose to go to a local beer place that was recommended to us. We
chose to go with the local brews, which was interesting.. Was a very mild weak brew, but it was cold, and
turned out to be cheap, at about 70 cents per glass!!! We lost count of how many we had, and at one point the
Canadian family came by on their way back to the hotel. The wife and daughter said HI and continued on. The
father chose to stay for a few brews and some shop talk about sports and politics, I think... But, even with lots
of fun left to be had, we finally called it a night and went back to the hotel to get ready for tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a super full day. We visit the famous Hanoi Hilton, we do another rickshaw ride, then we fly to
Part 1... Eat a big breakfast, start the tour of our first temple
WOW, our first full day in Cambodia, and it is going to be a full day!!! Tis a good thing that people here start
the day with a big breakfast!!! You need it to keep up with the action from daylight to well after dark.. Very
little time wasted here!! The number of images I took this day was a large number, and even after the
editing, there were a lot of images left, so to make them easier to view, I broke the day up into five parts.I
will tell you ahead of time, that I left a lot of images in these share files, because I know many viewers will
not get to do this adventure, so maybe through my share files, the viewer can take a fantasy trip.. To
support that, I added a lot of detail images. However, I cannot add a lot of info. The tour company I have
been traveling with, SMARTOURS , is just a contractor, who subs these trips out to local tour businesses.
And for some reason, no matter how much people complain, these companies will not use the WHISPER
system, which is a way for our leader to talk into a transmitter, then we all hear them on headsets.. Many
companies do use this system, and it is great, but not with SMARTOURS!!! And, many, if not most of the
contractors do not speak very good English, even though the advertising says they do.. They do, a little.. To
say they do is taking a lot of liberty with the facts.. Also a problem with this contractor and its sub
contractors is that many of the local guides do not speak very loud or very clearly. And, they generally want
to do their talking in crowded places, which just makes things even worse.. Many of us have complained,
but, no changes!! So in many of the images I am not able to tell you what you are looking at.. It is just part of
what we saw... And, even if you do not know what you are seeing, I hope you enjoy the visual journey. I
enjoyed the trip, even if I could not hear or understand our guides.. To keep the trips cheap, they have to
hire low grade help.. And the tour company wants you to tip the guides, even if you cannot hear them or get
any good out of them.In this first set we visit our first set of ruins, which is a temple, one of many in this area
of the world.. I heard several different numbers about how many temples there are here, but who knows.
The numbers ranged from a few hundred to a few thousands.. Many not rediscovered until here in the last
few years.. And, many of those that still exist, are in pretty bad shape. From what we could see, they were
built of sandstone, which does not hold up well. Second, there seems to have been a lot of fighting in this
area, through the years.. One group would build temples, then another group would come along and tear
them up, etc.. This seemed to be a repeating process... Then, once they were totally abandoned, mother
nature took over and has been trying to finish them off..Most, if not all the temples were abandoned at some
time, then the vegetation moved in and took over.. I think most vegetation is destructive in some way, but
trees seem to be the real temple killers.. In this jungle environment, they grow everywhere, and they grow
fast.. As the preservation has started on many of these temples, it is a hug effort to fight off the invading
vegetation!! In simple terms, it is the roots that do the damage. As the roots grow between the stones in the
temple, the stone are pushed apart, and eventually collapse when stability is gone. So, I think wars and
trees have been the killers of the temples.. And, from the looks of things, they are so badly damaged in
many cases, they can never be fully rebuild.. The pieces are there, but there is no way to know where each
stone went.. That said, progress is being made in trying to reassemble some of the temples, and for good
reason, money!!!It would seem that Cambodia is trying to cash in on the interest in these old temples,
through tourism.. And, it seems to be working.. Multi-million dollars hotels have already been built, and many
more are being built. It would seem there is a plan to make this into a future GO-TO place, much like
Vietnam is doing. Right now, there is a big mix of old and new.. I do not know if that part will remain the
same or not, it might. In my travels I see this happen.. A lot of new comes to an area, and good things
happen, but still, much of the past never goes away.. So, if you go there, it will probably be easy to travel in
both time zones, the past and the present, all in one day..I hope you enjoy the images from this day.
To the photogs looking at the images, I can tell them, it is very hard to do photography here.. The light
contrast is so strong. Some things are in super bright light, while something else is very dark in color, or in
dark shade.. I had to use photo editing a lot to compensate for the contrast in light and dark.
Part 2... Continue tour in set Part 1
The images in this set continues the tour started in the first set of images for this day.
Part 3... Visit and artist workshop, and tour the countryside a bit.
In this set, we leave our first temple, then travel to an artist venue of some kind. It was a place where we
could see a few artists doing their craft, then of course they had a store to sell art goodies.. I managed to
get one photo in the store before they stopped me.. I did not know there was a no-photo rule!!! I do not see
the issue as there was nothing special there, but, none the less, no photos..
The shoppers did their thing, and off we went.. In this set you do get to see some of the amazing electrical
wiring which is famous in this part of the world.. Not sure how the system works, but it seems to work fine!!!
The people here have better internet than we do back home!!!! In the USA, there is no free internet at the
international airports.. All the internet is contracted out to someone!! You pay or you do not use... In all the
foreign countries I have been in, all the airports have free internet for everyone, and it is good.. In fact, most
all stores and businesses outside the USA have free internet for people like me to use, but not back home..
When I travel, I have to leave the USA to use my tablet at an airport. On this trip, I could not use my tablet
after I left my home, until I got to the hotel in Los Angles, Then could not use it again until I was in Vietnam.
It was pretty much the same in reverse coming home from Cambodia..
Part 4... Visit the Pink Temple
In this set we stop and view a temple that I understand is referred to simply as the Pink Temple.. Probably
has an official name, but I think this is what it is called.. It is in pretty bad shape... But, has some neat stone
carving to see..
Part 1... Visit Hanoi Hilton prison
There are several things in history that just seem to stick in everyone's mind, no matter what. Vietnam
and the war that involved the Americans during the 60's and 70's, is one of those things that seems
everyone knows something about.. Lots of stories fill the history books with stories from this war. And,
probably the most remembered place and person, from this war, is the Hanoi Hilton and American pilot
Today, we are going to visit the prison where John McCain was held prisoner for some 5 years, I think it
was.. I had never seen photos of the place, so I had no idea what to expect, or what to look for. What I
found did not look anything like the image in my mind. Not more, not less, just different. Even now, that I
have been there and gone, there is a contest in my mind about the stories and of what took place here
and what is here now. The place is far from what I expected, probably worse than I expected, given what
I learned while there. How the prisoners survived for years here is amazing.. Don't think I would have
been a survivor. The place is all cleaned up now, but with little imagination, you can imagine what life was
like here at the time.
As for John McCain, I almost did not see the items that connected him to all this, But, while waiting to
leave, our guide, Boeing, asked if I saw the John McCain area and item collection. I said no, had no idea
there was such a thing. Boeing told me where to go. Lucky Boeing mentioned this to me or I would have
missed it. I thought McCain was probably kept in one room, and we would get to see that, but that was
not the case, he was moved around over time, so there was no one place he stayed, but my biggest
surprise was that they still had his parachute and flight clothes, etc, that he was wearing when he was
shot down and captured.. How was it that his clothes, etc, survived. His parachute and clothes are in a
display case.. Did they keep the clothes of all the other pilots as well.. I do not know, but they have his
for some reason, and they are on display. Per the photos on the walls, McCain returned in 2000 for a
tour himself.. There was not much other info about his visit, with the photos on the walls. I hope my
photos give other people a sense of what is there. I am not sure anything can give a true sense of what
was there. I am sure it has changed a lot, with cleaning, painting, etc... It is now a museum and tourist
destination. It does require a ticket to take the tour. It is a self guided tour. There is a suggested route on
the wall. But, even then, it is easy to miss stuff, and I did, and almost did... So, if anyone seeing all this
does go, plan to search around a lot, maybe even take a flash light, as some of the prison cells are
almost too dark to see in, etc.. Also, the location of the prison is surprising. I thought it would separated
from the rest of the town, but it has other buildings packed around it. It is squeezed into a very busy
After the prison tour, we took a little bus ride to a drop point where we got in the little three wheel trikes,
and took another street level tour!! I just love these things.. Was fun to be jammed right into the middle of
all the action.. That said, I am not sure we were safe, but we felt safe, as these people are use to the
style of travel and seem to do it well.. Only saw one crash while in Vietnam!!! Our three wheeler ride
takes us back to our hotel, the Movenpick, but along the way, the numbering system in my camera
maxed out at the 10,000 number, and had to start a new set. So, that requires me to create a second
set for this day. In Part 2, we continue our ride to the hotel, then we go to the airport, catch our flight to
Cambodia, and settle in for the night at our next hotel.
Part 2... Leave Vietnam and fly to Cambodia
In this set, we complete our three wheeler ride back to our hotel, where we meet our bus again and head
for the Hanoi Airport. This afternoon we we leave Vietnam and fly to Cambodia, were we will finish our
On the flight to Cambodia, I managed to get a window seat on the right side of the plane.. I had been
seated by the exit door on the left side of the plane.. No way I could do photos from there.. I begged the
flight attendant to find me a window seat where I could take photos.. I got lucky on this.. Just so
happened it was on the right side of the plane, and it just so happened that there was an awesome
sunset to view. I was so busy taking photos that I could not eat my dinner, which came while I was doing
the sunset photos.. Beautiful sunset..
On the ground in Cambodia, we met our new local guide, put our luggage on a truck, then we got on a
bus and headed towards our hotel.. Turns out our bus is a junker, and we have to use it for the rest of
the trip.. Was the worst bus I have been on since starting these Smartours trips.. This thing had hand
rails or something across all the window at eye level.. Very hard to see out and super hard to do photos,
as they were in the way!!! Plus, the bus surely had no shocks.. It was like riding in a bathtub... Maybe a
bathtub would have been better, no handrail to deal with...
On the way to the hotel, we stopped at a mini-mart for supplies of snacks and refreshments!! I got the
refreshments and skipped the other stuff!!! Oddly most things here were very cheap, compared to home.
I saw some Pringles on the shelf. Thought I should get some to go with my refreshments!! Checked the
price. Was double what they cost at home.. I skipped the Pringles and went back for more
We arrived at our new hotel, which appears to be very nice!!! It had a jacuzzi tub, which I did try later,
and was good fun!!!! We also have a pool which I can see from my room, but when I try to get a photo of
it this night, the camera lens fogs like crazy.. It was cold in the hotel, with heat and humidity outside, so
when I stepped outside, zap, fogged lens!!! But, I took the photo anyway!!! Tomorrow, we start Temple
Hopping... Will be fun!!!!
November 23... Do a tour, do Farewell Dinner, head home
Today, we finish our adventure and head home, but first, one more tour!!! This morning, after another big
breakfast, five of us and our guides, did one of the extra fee tours. The highlight of this tour was supposed to
be something about the Killing Fields.. We never did see any killing fields, and our guide could not speak
English well enough to explain what it was that we were seeing, but there we were...
So, was the tour fun, and how did it go!! First of all, it was fun for me.. Even if in my opinion we did not see
what I thought we were supposed to see.. The tour started with being picked up at the hotel by the famous
Tuk-Tuk. After a bit of a joy ride, we stopped at a silk factory.. To be honest, they do not make enough silk
there to do any good, so it is mostly just a small operation kept there for the tourist industry, but it was very
interesting to visit, and see the silk production as it was in the old days.. Now, modern machines have surely
taken over, but, here, you get to see it the original way.. I loved it..
Then, we did go to a place where a marker, or monument of sorts, was located. There we saw skulls and
bones behind glass. I suppose this place was the location of some mass killings, during the bad days...
We also stopped by a soldiers memorial, then headed off to some shopping.. My guides finally took pitty on
me and let me take one of the Tuk-Tuks back to the hotel. Once back, I went into the restaurant and had a
top of the line lunch. Problem was that even though it looked good, the quality was not there.. Sadly the filet
of beef that I got was as chewy as the sole of my shoe, and the potato was at least as dry as my shoes.. At
this point, I finally had to make the final statement that tender beef comes only from America.. And, I have
since met people from other countries who agree!!! Why?? We really do not know!!!
We had sort of a free afternoon, then we were off to our farewell dinner, and from there to the airport, where
we would take the first leg of our flights home.
This was one awesome day, or at least the first part was!!!!!!! The company I go with charges you extra for nearly
everything, and today is no different. I am doing another extra fee tour!!! The good part is that the tour is great!!! In
this set, we leave our hotel, and do about one hour?? bus ride to experience a fishing village located on a lake!!!
The lake elevation Changes a lot during one calendar year, so people live on a combination of stilted homes and
floating homes!!! But, in this set, I share the bus ride to the village.
This is the last set for this adventure!!! The travel part of the adventure ends today!!! To me, the adventure
never ends as long as I can remember! As long as the memories are still in my mind, the adventure lives
on!!! And, to that end, I take a lot of photos to remind me of the fun, years from now when maybe I can no
longer get on the planes, carry the bags, or the cameras, I can still live the adventure through these
images... It is not only the adventure of the places I go, but the great and interesting people I am so lucky to
meet!!! I met a lot of great people while traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia, then more on the way home.
Amazingly, on my last plane ride coming home, I sat next to a lady who was busy COLORING in a book,
pretty much the same way we did as kids, only at a much more detailed level... Of course before we got off
the ground at LAX, she and I were already talking!!! We pretty much talked through the whole four hour flight
from California to Missouri!!! To my surprise, there was a story behind the coloring that was going on. It was
mental distraction for this lady, Dianne, who was suffering from a lot of pain, due to really bad surgery done
to her in her home country of Australia. It would seem that a doctor had talked her into doing some pelvic
surgery on her bladder area. Two things seemed to have happened. One the surgery was badly done, and
two, mesh was used that has proven to be a bad thing to do.. The result for Dianne was a horrible and
painful mess, which no other doctor in Australia would attempt to correct. After endless pain, and mega
outreaches for help, Dianne found one of only two or three doctors in the world willing and able to do some
corrective surgery for her. That doctor was in St Louis, Missouri. On the day that I met her, she and her
mother were on the final leg of their flights to St Louis so Dianne could get the corrective surgery she
needed. I did hear from her before she went to surgery, but have not had any updates since, so I do not
know how it turned out.. I can only hope that given the struggles she has had and the extreme effort she had
gone though to get help, that coming here and getting the surgery was the answer to her long awaited
In Summary, it was a great trip...One of my best.. For anyone interested, I can recommend both countries,
based on my experience!!! If time allows, I expect I will make a return trip!!! I have a lot of places yet to go,
but when I start over on my list, this will be one of the places I will plan to go!!!!
The Vietnam-Cambodia Adventure is complete! I returned home safely, late on November 24.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day, and I had the good fortune to share Thanksgiving Dinner
with friends, while talking about travel, as most of us have one thing in common, we love to
travel.. We love that sense of adventure that comes from going out to see the world!!!
There is one big draw-back to traveling to places like China and Vietnam, it is called JET LAG!! For those who
have not experienced it, feel blessed!!! It is not fun!! It just comes with the territory!!! For this trip, I flew 4 hours to
get to LA. I did sleep in a hotel room that night, then the next morning, I flew 14 hours from LAX to Shanghai.. I
changed planes and flew another 4 hours to Saigon. That is 22 hours of flying to get to Vietnam from home. On
the way back, it was 4 hours of flying from Cambodia to Shanghai, where we got a day room at 3 in the morning,
or something like that, slept 3 hours, then it was back on the plane for a 10 hour flight back to LAX, then 4 more
hours to get home!!!!! For about a week after each of these far away adventures, I have almost no energy, and I
feel sleepy all the time!!! But, going to bed is not the solution, though there is little else to do.. When I am too
sleepy to spell my own name, I go to bed, but, in a few hours, I am awake again, only to become super sleepy a
few hours later!! And the cycle continues.. At some point, after about a week, the mind gets back on track with the
local daylight-dark cycles here, and then life goes on!!! But, most everyone says it takes a week to recover from
these trips, and that is just about right!!! Given that to be true, I have about four more days of recovery ahead of
Late in the evening on the 24th of November, I returned home safely from the adventure, dropped my travel bag,
and headed to bed.. Since then, I have been doing the recovery thing, plus sneaking out for a few hours to do
Thanksgiving with friends, at the home of one friend who has a huge beautiful home, and is happy to share it for
events such as Thanksgiving, and other special occasions.. She believes that the home is for sharing, and for
being a gathering place for family and friends.. We are blessed to have her in our social circle!!!
When I told a friend of mine how many images I took while on this adventure, they said I was insane!! And, I guess
I have to agree.. But, I did it, so...... If my computer count is correct, I returned home with a little over 15,000
images!! That means I have a lot of editing to do, before I share, but I am afraid there will still be a lot of images in
the share files.. Why???? Because the places I went were sooooo unique!!! I just could not stop trying to record
everything I saw.. It was neither good nor bad, just different... One element, more than anything else, that caught
our attention was the number of motor scooters in Vietnam, and how they seem to be everywhere, going like
crazy, in all directions at once, but not running into each other!!! There were women in short skirts and high heals,
whole families, people in business suits, and parents with kids strapped to them!! I am not sure how many people
is legal on a scooter, but five was the highest number I saw.. Many were smoking a cigarette, talking on their cell
phone, and moving at a fairly high rate of travel, only inches from other scooters!!! You would have to see it to
believe it!!! Then, there were the "freight hauler" scooters... !!! You will have to see the photos to understand..
But, there seemed to be no limit on what could be hauled on a scooter.. Pipe, 20 feet long, dozens of eggs, pigs,
ducks, fuel bottles, lumber, bags of rice, windows, tubs, stoves, etc, etc...
I am better at sharing an adventure in photos than I am in words, and since this adventure was jam-packed with
new and unusual things, my share files are most likely going to be huge!!! I am already trying to decide how to
break them up into smaller files for sharing, but not sure how that will work yet.. And, yes, people ask, why so
many photos!!! Truth is, I have a wide range of people who view my photos.. For many people, my images will be
about as close as they will get to ever being there themselves, due to time, money, health, etc.. So, when I do
these adventures, I try to capture enough detail to help the viewer feel closer to having been there.. Many photogs
only go for the postcard photos.. But, I go beyond that, trying to capture images that bring the adventure to life..
This means I include the good, the bad, and the ugly.. To me, you have to have it all to tell the story!!! And, just as
soon as I get time, I will start telling the story, in the shared images.. At this time, I have another project to finish
before I can start this one, but I will get it done, so please check in often to see what I have added.. Below, you will
find the "original" info I put here before leaving on the trip, and at the bottom of this page, you will find the images I
have ready for sharing.... If you have any comments or questions, send me and email.. My email address is
************* ORIGINAL INFO LEFT HERE FOR HISTORICAL PURPOSES ****************
November 09... I travel from St Louis to Los Angeles
Today is the big day!! Today I start the adventure that will take me to Vietnam and Cambodia. The trip officially
starts tomorrow in Los Angles at around 1130 in the morning, but for me, the trip starts today.. I have to get up
early, do the home stuff, then get to the airport, get my car checked into the parking lot, then over to the
terminal.. For parking, I have starting using globalairportparking.com and it has worked great for me.. If others
have not tried it yet, give it some thought. On this trip, I paid around 5.5 dollars per day to park, as opposed to
the regular price of 10 dollars per day!!! The only deal is that I pay up front, online, before I leave home.. When I
get to the parking place I have chosen, I have to submit my parking info, and get a ticket to use to check out of
the parking area when I leave!!! So far it has worked great...
In this set I am able to get a window seat, and from where I am sitting I can see and share what I saw as I flew
from STL to LAX!!! Plus, I share the room and the food, etc.. I try to make the viewer feel as if they were there..
Oh, and I was able to get a direct flight, so that made flying so much nicer!!!
Part 1... Start of an "Extra Fee" Excursion in Mekong Delta
This is the first of three sets of images for this day. We start with a big breakfast then set off in our bus to do a boat
tour experience in the area called My Tho, according to our trip info package. Those of us who are on the bus have
paid an extra fee for an excursion in the Mekong Delta. We will be viewing the Vietnam life style as viewed from a
bus, we will do a boat ride on the Mekong River, we will visit a candy factor, return to our bus, go to lunch at the
Mekong Rest Stop, then stop at the Phuong Nam Lacquerware business for a tour before returning to our hotel.
Part 3... Lunch and tour at Lacquerware business
This is the third and last set for this day. Was a long day!! After finishing the boat tour on the Mekong River, we
bused to a restaurant named Mekong Rest Stop, which appeared to be a very popular place, and as such things go,
it was very nice. It was also an Open-Air type of dining place, as most are here. If I understood correctly, the place
was started by a 25 year old lady, just five years ago. Started small and has exploded in size, etc.. This place, like
many is a seafood place. I do not eat seafood, so my guides, made sure that I got non-seafood items for lunch. Was
small amounts of food, but good. It was also an adventure to watch them cook the Sticky Rice Balls!!! And, to watch
them serve fish to the other people at my table. The fish arrives whole, then is made into little wraps at the table.
After lunch, we went to the Huong Nam Lacquerware business, where we took a tour and got to see part of the
process of making art in this way. Was very interesting, and the results were amazing.. I was allowed to photograph
the show-and-tell area, but not in the For-Sale area. But I did get away with a few sample images.. I show photos of
some pictures, but there was a lot of furniture, and knickknacks, etc.... After the tour, it was back to the hotel and
refreshment. I am not sure what was done for dinner, if anything at all.. This is the one big issue with these tours,
they do not make sure you are fed all the time. A lot of meals are omitted, and you are just left to hunt for food. Most
hotels have a dining area if you chose to go that route. I have had mixed results doing that. The worst was on the
first night on my first trip like this. It was to China last year. We came in late and very tired. Four of us tried to do
dinner at the hotel restaurant. I ordered Curry Chicken. All I got was some chicken bones in a bowl with curry sauce
on them, plus some rice. The rice was okay, but the rest of the meal was a loss.
Tomorrow we are off to more adventure, starting with an awesome sunrise!!!!
Part 1... Danang, Flowers, Flying, Hanoi,
Today is going to be another moving day. Today we fly from Danang to Hanoi, get on a bus, and travel
on to Halong, where we arrive after dark.. Was a long day!!!
After breakfast this morning, and while waiting to get on the bus, I took advantage of the neat sunlight
on the flowers in the pond, in front of our hotel. Very nice.. Once on the bus we learned that we would
have a new day guide for the ride to the airport. It would seem that during the night, our original day
guide, Tien, had an emergency back home, and had to catch an 0500 bus home, but she arranged for
her friend to come travel with us to the airport and make sure we got checked in properly. We never
learned what the issue was for Tien. She was a neat guide and we missed saying goodbye to her.
In this set, I get to share more photos of life in Danang, as we travel to the airport. After that I share
views from the plane as we fly towards Hanoi. On the ground in Hanoi, we meet our new day guide,
Fong, who will be with as we bus to Halong, tour that area. In Part 2, we stop for lunch, then continue
Part 2... Halong, farming, Novotel Hotel, buffet
Here in Part 2, we continue our drive from Hanoi to Halong, with our new day guide, Fong. In this set we
will be making our lunch stop at a place where we get to choose either soup or sandwich for lunch!!! We
will be paying for this ourselves, but to make it easier for the staff, we are asked to choose soup or
sandwich. We make this decision on the bus, and Fong calls the rest stop from the bus and tells them
how much of each to make.. When we arrive, we are asked to sit at the soup table or the sandwich
table... At least one couple wanted to sample both, so one sat at the soup table, the other at the
sandwich table.. Each ate half of the food served to them, then they traded seats to complete their
meals!! Was kind of funny!! I had the sandwich, which was pretty good, especially when I put the chili
sauce on it!!!! Good chili sauce!!! The total cost in US dollars for the sandwich and a beer was 5
dollars.. The really good part was the ice cream I bought after the meal. Yummy!! Forget how much the
ice cream was, but I think it was about 1.6 US dollars.
After lunch, we were back on the road and headed to our hotel. Which was the Novotel Hotel. Very nice
place!! Too bad we are only staying here one night, then returning to Hanoi. Besides being a really
beautiful place, we also had a buffet dinner included. Was nice!!! And, the room was set up with all kinds
of emergency supplies!!! Items I had never found in hotel rooms before.. In most hotel rooms they have
a mini-bar to entice people to buy extra goodies at a high price, here, they went a step further.. I leave
the rest as a surprise to ya.. There is a lot new construction in this area. I assume it is all big resort
hotels. The newest one I saw coming in looked like it was built for kings!!! Vegas style. It appears
Vietnam is working hard to become the next vacation capital of the world.. Miles and miles of coastline,
with beautiful weather.
I hope I have my facts straight here.. Located southeast of Siem Reap, on Lake Tonle Sap, is a fishing
village named Kampong Khleang, which is probably famous for all the tour companies that take people
there to see the amazing living arrangement people here have... Truth is, this fishing village is an attention
getter in that it is on a lake that I think changes in elevation about 30 feet during the year depending on the
season.. For the people to survive these elevation changes, they either live in houses on stilts or live in
homes that float!! Either way, it is a sight that has to been seen, for people like us who have probably
never experienced anything close to this!!! The second thing to take note of will be the tour boat, the tour
boat driver, and the tour boat helpers.. The tour boat seems to be some home built thing, with an ole car
motor in it.. It is steered by some ropes, plus the steering column from a car, plus, it has some welded in
foot peddles, used to elevate the propeller and to reverse the propeller, etc.. It is a site to see in action!!!
Visit the Sunset Temple, eat dinner in the hotel.In this set we do a bit of a tour on the bus. For some odd
reason, the bus stopped and we are asked to get off and do a little walk along side the road, not sure why,
other than to give the kids a chance to sell us something.. Everything the kids here, and other places, sell,
are sold at the price of five for one dollar... They would repeat this so many times, rapidly, that some
people would give them one dollar just to try and stop the repeating noise.. Did not bother me, so no
problem...After the walk, we bused on to the temple called the Sunset Temple. It is here that many people
gather each evening to watch the sunset over the valley below.. Really neat...!!! We got there a little early,
but no problem for me.. Seemed to be a problem for others.. They climbed the temple, looked around and
said they were ready to go.. One lady said that if you have seen one sunset, you have seen them all.. No
big deal.. Lets go... I suppose she wanted to go shopping, but, I would not leave, and the bus would not
leave without me.. I stuck it out.. The others went to the bus and to the local beer sales people and did the
refreshment thing, while I hung out with the crowd on top of the temple.. It was said that the sun would set
today at 5:30 PM, and it did... While I was waiting, I kept walking around looking at the temple.. Tis
amazing what people have built so many years ago.. Just amazing..Ok, 5:30 is here and the light show
starts.. Lucky for us, there were some neat clouds to make the sunset fun!!! I stayed with the show and
did my photos until the show was over... Most everyone left after the brightest part was gone, others just
stayed and relaxed.. I headed back to the bus and caught up to the others, after grabbing a couple of
refreshments from a local vendor!!! Who, tried to charge me way to much.. He wanted 1.85 dollars per
brew.. I said no way.. I would give him the same price as the others were getting, one dollar per brew.. He
balked, but gave in, and the deal was done.Back at the hotel, I did not have a plan for dinner, so I chose to
do the hotel restaurant. Turned out to be good fun... Got a really neat waitress, who, like the others, could
barely understand English, but somehow we managed to get me some food, by pointing, and maybe some
help from another waiter and the management.. You would generally expect English to be a common
language around hotels, but not so here. The management does speak good English, but that is where it
stops.. The rest of the crew still need a lot of help.. What I ended up with was unsweetened tea, a soup of
some kind, and a filet mignon, with veggies.. I think I am repeating myself here, but good advice to all
travelers who are outside the USA, there is no tender beef in the world outside the USA.. Italy has the be
worst place to eat beef, then Argentina is second on that list, with Vietnam and Cambodia taking the next
position.. I did get some fairly good beef in Innsbruck, Austria. A place called Kupp, I think, has an onion
soup to die for, then a beef plate that is very good. Not sure what part of the beef I got, but it came with
broccoli, I think, and hash browns.. Was very good!!!! OH, the one thing that was super good for dinner
this night, was the dessert.. Not sure what it was, but it was gooooood. Had chocolate in it, which
chocolate is about the only word my waitress understood... But, it worked!!! Dinner cost about 45 US