We have taken it to a data guru, hoping he can rescue our pictures. Luckily my son had his camera as well, so at least we have something to fall back on if the card is nuked (and I have some pictures to show you!). I'm sure I can ask for pictures from other people in the group, too. Still, I am praying we'll get our own pictures back!
When we arrived at Hanoi, I thought I was going to die. Seriously. The traffic was insane. Imagine if you will, if every car you see during rush hour was replaced by 50 scooters. Oh, and all of them beep their horns constantly. Then, think about what it would be like if there were no stop signs, no lights, no right of way--if every direction of traffic all went at the same time. Now, imagine that you, Joe Pedestrian, must cross these streets to get around.
|Crossing the street. No one stops--they just drive around you!|
Of course, the .25 cent beer and social nature of the Vietnamese helped ease my nerves a bit! It's quite incredible. Every night the streets transform as people drag out hundreds of low stools, claim a piece of sidewalk, and roll out a keg of freshly brewed beer. Vendors are everywhere, serving all kinds of local street food. DELISH.
It was very eerie floating along in our boat, surrounded by these giant limestone rocks. Ha Long Bay is one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature.
|Thien Mu Pagoda|
After we got back on the mainland, we took a rickety sleeper train to Hue (Hway) which was an adventure in itself, one that taught me one very important acronym for travel in Asia: ACTP (Always Carry Toilet Paper!)
In Hue, we did this awesome all day scooter trip, touring the Imperial Citadel, Royal Tomb and Thien Mu Pagoda.
I was in a constant state of grin, riding behind a savvy yet half-crazy motorbike driver as we zipped from historic site to site, through the countryside, alongside rice paddies and down back alleys to see how the people lived.
This is me with Lisa, a fellow Canadian & member of our tour group. She took a video of what it was like to ride 'in' the traffic--I'll have to see if I can snag it off of her!
From Hue we moved on to Hoi An, which was a shopper's dream. This city is known for their tailoring, and you could get anything you wanted made for you within a day or two. Suits, dresses, blouses, skirts, jackets...you name it, and everything was runway gorgeous and good quality. Inexpensive too--an evening dress might cost 30-50 dollars, a suit 80. One person had a beautiful wool coat made for 60.
Darian and I also went to a cooking school there as well. At the Blue Dragon we learned how to make Vietnamese spring rolls, BBQ pork and stuffed fish in banana leaves. The best part? Eating it all once it was cooked!
|Darian fitting himself in a hidden tunnel entrance!|
|Hubs in the tunnels|
I went into the tunnels via a different entrance built for the *cough* North American body type, and as I crawled through, claustrophobia started to take hold. All I could think was, These tunnels were widened TWICE and they are still so narrow? How the heck did people LIVE down here?
After crawling around in the pitch dark and wondering what sort of crazy I'd been drinking to do such a thing, we took a boat cruise in the Mekong Delta and visited a Coconut Candy factory. Aaaaah. MUCH more my speed!
Finally it was time to head over to Cambodia and Phnom Pehn. It was an all day bus ride, mainly due to a two hour traffic jam we encountered. At the roadside stops we were exposed to lots of local eats that included spiders, cockroaches, locusts, grubs and tiny birds. My gift to you all is to NOT post pictures of these creepy crawly sauteed delicacies (but if you are curious, head over to my FB page, where I did post a shot!) And no, I didn't eat any of it!
|Silk being harvested--look closely!|
Tuol Sleng Prison and Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields), a mass grave site.
In the 1970's, the Khmer Rouge came into power and killed over 3 million people through torture and starvation. They turned a school into a prison (one of dozens) and systematically murdered almost every educated person in Cambodia.
When they were finally driven out, the entire country had only 2 doctors and four teachers among the population. The Khmer Rouge wanted to make a single class of people--farmers--and so even sought out people who wore glasses, believing they wore them to read, and therefore had education.
|It takes at least 1 day to make a silk scarf|
Cambodia has high poverty and low education, and is still recovering from the KR regime. We did meet people who are working to bring education into the country however, and creating opportunities for women to learn a trade so they do not have to turn to prostitution, which is widespread.
One place was a silk farm, and so we actually got to see how silk is formed and how it is harvested. The farm imports most of its raw silk because the bushes silk worms eat do not grow well in Cambodia, but they produced scarves and teach local women how to weave.
We were led to the lake in the dark, with no idea of what we would see once dawn came. It was such an experience to see the darkness lift bit by bit, and silhouettes of far off buildings form.
|Soldiers would touch the goddess for luck before battle...3 guesses where|
After sunrise, we headed back to our hotel for breakfast and to pick up the kids (they opted to NOT get up at 4:45 am, lol). Then it was back for a full, hot day at Ankor Wat. The Hindu temple complex is massive beyond imagining and would take days (or weeks!) to explore it all.
It was fascinating to learn the history of this lost city and those that ruled here. The walls were full of carvings depicting their religious beliefs, the cultures of the time and their dealings with each other.
They were renovating many parts of the complex, trying to restore what they could, but the jungle has taken hold in many places and I think it will not release it's grip too easily.
And okay, yeah, so maybe I goofed around a bit with this headless Buddha statue I discovered...
It was quite hot there--creeping into the 40's Id say (Celsius). A person got used to sweating all the time and drinking gallons of water to stay hydrated. It was a very fulfilling, yet exhausting day.
Despite the heat, we managed to climb up to the upper level of the Wat (temple). You'll see me here with my fan. I swear, that fan was the best $2.50 I ever spent. Darian grabbed one too, and we noticed whenever we had it out, people in our tour group would stand closer to us, rotf...
So after our big, long day at Ankor Wat, we decided to just bum around the city a bit. Everywhere we looked, we saw these fish tanks. They were for fish massages!
This one had a sign that said, "Fish Massage: No Piranhas, We Promise." Now if that isn't sound advertising, I don't know what is!
Well, we figured while in Cambodia, do as the Cambodians do... (it helped that each massage session came with a free beer!)
I'm not going to lie...this FREAKED me out at first! But then after 5 minutes, it sort of felt good. And my feet were so soft afterwards, too!
(RIP any fish I killed from my nasty foot sweat!)
Our time ended all too soon, and off we went to Bankok, Thailand. Unfortunately by the time we arrived it was about 4 pm, and we flew out the next day at 5 am. We were able to swing past the Palace, and did get one night in Thailand.
After dinner, we went to the Night Market, and let me tell you, anything goes! We passed a lot of bars that offered things that I can't mention on this school friendly blog, and more than one booth that offered to make just about any type of ID a person could ever need or want. The streets were alive with activity and energy.
I would love to go back and spend more time there, and check out the rest of Thailand. I think I'll end this snippet of my trip with this beautiful street lamp I discovered as the sun went down...
I loved the trip, but it's good to be back. Please let me know if any cool things happened while I was away! Share your news, your goals or anything else!