Vietnam ( part 2)

Today I will talk to you about our excursion from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. On our way there, we saw many people working on rice fields. Sometimes, they use water buffalo instead of a tractor. We passed many small villages. We could see the shops and people riding their bikes . We saw ladies walking while using a pole (on their shoulder) to balance the weight of the baskets. This is very traditional in Vietnam. As well as the conical hat that is kept on the head by a cloth (often silk)  chin strap. It protects the face from the sun or the rain.

We also saw  a woman selling fruits along the road. I am not sure what fruit it is . Maybe mangoes ?

We got on a small boat to get to our ship where we would  have dinner, spend the night and have breakfast. It was a mini-cruise on the Emeraude Classic. Too bad the weather was so cold. We could not enjoy  the deck very much.

There were plenty of things to do while we were in Ha Long Bay. We  saw a fishing village with the floating houses. Can you imagine how life must be here ? A community of around 1,600 people live on Ha Long Bay in four fishing villages.

We visited some caves and a pearl farm.

Ha Long Bay is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rain forest.

The next morning, after a session of Tai-Chi ( at 6:30 AM) and breakfast, we went back to Hanoi.  It took  more than 3 hours  with one stop ( for  bathroom) as the road was quite busy with buses and trucks. I must say it was interesting to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site but I wish we had warmer weather.

Maybe you went to Ha Long Bay. If  you did  , did you like it ?

Thanks for reading. I will show you more about Hanoi in my next post.



Vietnam (Part 1)

Hello readers  and friends !

Why did we want to go to Vietnam ? One day, we saw a presentation about  a bike trip in that country. Doing an active trip was a good idea for us. We registered with Great Explorations  (a company based in Vancouver, BC, Canada) for this adventure. We started to do more  training ( going to spin classes) until it was time to travel to Asia.  On that long  trip,  we  spent time in Northern Thailand ( see the 6 posts before this one). We arrived in Hanoi after one sunny week in Thailand. What a shock! Hanoi was cold and humid . Somehow we did not expect that although it was February.

Between the airport and the city, we got our first glimpse of the country. We saw people working in rice paddy with a tractor that looked quite different to what we have here in North America.  Most of the work is done by hand. Amazing, isn’t ? Think about that next time you have a bowl of rice.

On the road,  there were  lots of people on their scooters  as they were coming back  in town from a major holiday after visiting family. Tết , or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration in  Vietnamese culture. Tết celebrates the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese calendar , which usually has the date falling in January or February.

This photo would be a typical family on their scooter. Most people were wearing the face mask as there is a lot of   air pollution. I am sure they were also cold . You can see the man putting his left hand in his pocket. He forgot his gloves ?  I was thinking about car seat we have for our little precious children. Well, I guess having no car means all the family has to fit on the scooter.

That first night, we walked to a restaurant that  GE had recommended. We had a map of the city so it was not too difficult. We would not be able to ask anyone for directions  as we don’t speak Vietnamese and I doubt many of them speak English or French. It was a good way to see the city and get a feel of the life in that noisy city.   So many scooters!!!

We walked along Hoam Kiem Lake ( meaning Lake of the Returned Sword) , the epicenter of OLD HANOI. We saw Ngoc Son Temple sitting on an island and the Turtle Tower. Being built on the Jade Islet and dedicated to Confucian and Taoist  and philosophers and the national hero, Trần Hưng Đạo, the small temple was expanded in 1865.

The Huc Bridge is a graceful link between the sacred Buddhist Ngoc Son Temple and the bank of Hoan Kiem Lake. Huc Bridge is called  “The Welcoming Morning Sunlight ” bridge in English. Ngoc Son Temple was built in the 18th century .

More photos…

This area is very popular with tourists. The next morning , we left Hanoi to go to Halong Bay . I will show you this part of the trip in my next post. We will have more time in Hanoi after this excursion and soon we will be  cycling.

Thanks for reading and your comments.



Memories from Thailand, 2014 (part 6)

On our last full day in Chiang Mai, we enjoyed a parade  before going up to Doi Suthep to see  one of the north’s most sacred temple. The road was steep with many curves. Half way up,  we spent time in a  quiet temple. Our friend told us that not too many people knew this place. I am happy to say that we stopped to see it . It was a  good place for photography and  it had a feel of peace .

… and then we arrived to the main temple , walked up 306 steps  to get to that busy place with many tourists. This place is over 600 years old and if you go to Chiang Mai you will want to see it.

We saw some little kids  playing on the steps. They were wearing traditional costume of the  Hmong tribe.

The Hmong are an ancient tribal people whose origins are something of a mystery. With no written script of their own, they have preserved their history through tribal traditions and folklore, but the identity of their ancestral homeland has been irrevocably lost in time and translation. It is known only that they traveled through ‘a land of dry sands and of cold and snow’ and ‘a land six months light and six months dark’, to Mongolia and southern China. Today, most remaining Hmong are still concentrated in remote, mountainous regions of southern China, but they can also be found in Burma, Laos and Thailand.

We had to say good bye to our friend Fred.  More travel days were ahead of us. I will   now post about  what we did after we left Thailand. Thanks again for reading.


Memories from Thailand, 2014 (part 5)

It was another day to enjoy in Northern Thailand. We got an early start as we wanted to go to the morning market. The sky was a delight. I took a minute to capture it but I think it is  a moment I will not forget. We walked from our little room to the market.

All kind of vegetables are sold at the market. But you can also buy souvenirs and have breakfast. I will show you some pics I took that morning.

This lady was making deep fried fingers of dough. I drank warm soy milk with it. I liked it.

Some fun things happened that morning . We had met the lady (to the left on the picture below) the day before. She showed enthusiasm to see us again.  The other lady  (right)  was dressed in traditional  Akha costume. You can see her teeth are stained because she must had been  chewing betel. Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel leaf is a tradition, custom or ritual which dates back thousands of years from India to the Pacific. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects.

I did not buy the hat I have on my head  but other little souvenirs.

We saw children walking to school.

and later by the road, the rice paddies.

In Chiang Rai, we  visited Wat Rong Khun, perhaps better known to foreigners as the White Temple. It is a contemporary, unconventional, privately owned, art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. We cannot take photos inside the temple.

Every day was fun and different. Weather was good , food was delicious and we were happy to discover another part of the world. I will share one more post on this  trip . Thank you for reading and commenting.







Memories from Thailand, 2014 (part 4)

More  details from my  trip in  Northern Thailand .

Almost everybody ride a motorcycle or a scooter. And seeing 3 or 4 people on it at the same time is not unusual. Wearing an helmet does not seem to be mandatory.

We visited around another village called Mae Salong. There were many large fields of tea plantations.

We got to a hill tribe village called Akha. Some older women were looking after the younger children. We tried to communicate with them  but they did not speak English  or French. Even Fred who can speak Thai could not say much with them as they have their own language. The younger woman in this photo arrived in that covered area and with photos we “communicated”.  I did not know that I would see her again the next morning at the market.

Again, we saw a woman making brooms.

From the village we went up 719 steps to see the temple Wat Pra That Mae Salong and the Chedi.   In Thailand being a Buddhist country, temples play an important role in everyday life for Thai people. People go to the temple for merit making, prey to the Buddha for things such as good health, good fortune and wealth and to seek advice from monks. There are literally tens of thousands of Buddhist temples in Thailand, most of which are active.

Chedi is an alternative term for a Buddhist stupa. They are  mostly seen in the form of a bell-shaped tower. It containing relics ( typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns) that is used as a place of meditation.

Ending  the day with a cold local beer was not a bad idea !!

It was another fantastic day of discovery. I hope you enjoyed reading this travel story. More to come soon.

Thanks for reading.