strange adventure

Fadoodle Faces #5

Continuing on with my silly theme of faces in nature here is another. This face is a little harder to spot… Can you see it?

Long Face

Long Face

I challenged you to tell me what Fadoodle means and thanks to Quiall and my Aunt Freda for their guesses. Faces in a doodle was Quiall’s guess and Faces on Food was my Aunt Freda’s definition. Drum roll please…. fadoodle means nonsense, ridiculous or foolish. I thought it was fitting since the faces in my photos are in nature or food. How silly is that? Faces are not meant to be there!

Check out my other fadoodle faces in the previous posts:

If you have a cool face and want to share, link to it and tell us about it in the comment section below. In your post please give me a ping back to this post (or a previous fadoodle faces) so we can all share and easily find them. Can we see what you see?


Categories: Canada, Nature, strange adventure, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Double Take -Extra Photo Challenge

Look what I found in the refrigerator this morning. I had to do a double take. As I rubbed my tired, bleary eyes I could swear some eyes were looking back at me!!!  Certainly not what I expected. It was a little something ‘extra’.

What is that???

What is that???


My class went to a large vegetable farm this week and we picked some carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant. They were delicious in my salad. I hadn’t used all the green pepper and this is what is left.


This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is asking for ‘extra extra’. Something in a photo that gives it a little extra, something unexpected and only you could capture. It was quite a challenging theme, but I think this fits the bill. Could I ever find something like this again? Could I cut another pepper in just the right way? Probably not. Funny because I usually place the pepper upside-down on a plate, but for some reason this time I didn’t. I may have never noticed the cool pattern if I had.


What does it look like to you? Add your suggestions in the comments below.





On a side note don’t forget my Tourist in Your Own Town theme. The challenge for June is Festivals and Events. Click here to see an example and get inspired.

Stay tuned…

Categories: strange adventure, Tourist in My Own Town, unique experiences, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Travel Theme: Gaudy

Due to travelling back to Canada for Chinese New Year I missed out on posting on the theme walls and unique. With my computer and external hard drive back in Shanghai I thought I would miss out on this theme too, but found a little treasure tucked away on a USB I happened to have with me.

We haven’t been able to travel much this year with John returning back to Canada in November. His step mom has found out she has stage 3 ovarian cancer and he came back to help out his family as much as he could. I have made the long trips back for Christmas and now Chinese New Year to be with family and John. However we did have a last-minute (short) trip to Seoul, South Korea for the recent October holiday.

When we were in Korea it was Korean Thanksgiving. People were off work, shops and banks were closed and special events like a night parade with outdoor concerts were part of the festivities. John and I went out to explore the night when we saw this fellow all dressed in a gaudy, shiny, white,  paten leather (or vinyl) suit. He was driving a motorcycle or electric scooter which was decked out in silver and white heart-shaped balloons. It was also spewing bubbles! I am not sure what he was advertising or doing, but with the heart shapes and bubbles we thought he was spreading joy and love. It made us laugh. It was certainly unique and gaudy, but made us happy. Events like these make great travelling stories and memories to last a life time.

The White Love Devil?

The White Love Devil?

We saw him driving around and didn’t think we would get a photo. He drove by a few times too fast, or too far away. We happened luck out and snap this photo, which he happily posed for when his bubble machine got clogged up and he stopped at an intersection to fix it. We quickly ran over before he sped off into the night once again.

Looking at his horns and hearts I wonder… is this the White Love Devil? Just in time for Valentine’s Day. 🙂

Is this gaudy enough for you? If not check out Alisa’s page where you can find hundreds of other posts with examples.


Categories: Culture, Photography, post a week, strange adventure, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Never Know What Your Gonna Get…

I have talked about the strange, unexpected and bizarre before in China… you just never know what you are going to get. Walking down the street you see people breaking road rules, carrying odd amounts of recycling or using the street as a personal toilet… Never is that as scary as when you are going to eat something! I wish I could ask and understand in Chinese “what is that?” or “what is in that?” At the grocery store it would be helpful if I could read some Chinese and know what I am getting. It is a leap of faith when you bite into some of the foods. But what can I do I need to eat right?

Before I go on lest back up a bit. I have been blogging almost 2 years now and I have written about some of the odd sights, sounds and foods before. My blog has really exploded about March this year, so you all can get caught up, or review, you may want to check out my previous posts from last year. The first about sights…. Seeing Is Believing and then about some food (I think I did 2 or 3 on food alone, but here is one.) Never Gets Old, so now that we are up to speed on to today’s adventure.

I went to the grocery store and it was busy, as it often is on weekends. Think Boxing day sale busy… yes THAT busy. I went to get some strawberries, none. Then to the bananas and the only choices that were left was soft, mushy and split or green and gross (when they ripened they would be all bruised). I eat fruit for my morning snack every day since I eat breakfast about 6AM due to the fact I need to leave around 7AM to get to work for the required teacher’s time at 7:30 AM (ouch… school starts here at 8AM and goes to 3:15). 12:30 (or duty days 1PM) is a long ways off from breakfast, so I must have a snack unless I want to scare the children with my stomach growls and grumbles. My favourite fresh fruit was out this week and I had picked some veggies instead. I thought about some dried fruit as an alternative and was heading back to that part of the store when I saw this little package of Vitamin C with pictures of fruit. I picked up the package and it was a little heavy. I couldn’t understand the Chinese writing, so I had to use the clues provided to me and I assumed it was those dried fruit bars like I have had at home. Similar weight and packaging, so it was a safe bet. The price was like 9RMB (or less) which is under $1.50 Canadian so I thought I could always give it away if it was totally gross.

As luck would have it there was a break in the  crowds and I jumped in a checkout lane and bought my weekly groceries and new-found treasure. I couldn’t wait to try it out when I got home. I opened the large packet and took out 1 of the smaller prewrapped ones. I squeezed it and it was soft and a bit mushy. Hmmm maybe not what I thought it was, but maybe a candy like wine gums, gummy bears or something similar. So what do you think it was? I should leave you all hanging and post in a day or two… Oh I better not report cards are upon us and it may be awhile before I can give you the answer, so I won’t leave you all hanging!

I took off the next wrapper and there was a little plastic tube filled with something green. Should I dare? I tried to get it open and no teeth, twisting or pulling was getting off this lid. Well not really a lid I guess. With scissors I cut off the skinny top and a sticky goo ran down my fingers. Before I could chicken out I put it up to my lips to try it and a lot of it ran down my chin. It was runny, sticky, but at the same time a little thick. The best thing I can think of is jello that has melted and has a few semi solid chunks in it. It tasted good… so I finished it off. Still not sure what it is, or purpose: drink, snack, vitamin? It wasn’t so bad so I guess I’ll finish the package.

Ya never know what you are gonna get and so far I have been pretty lucky and haven’t eaten anything that has forced me to spit it out.

So what did you think it was? What did you think of the older posts?

Stay tuned for more…


Categories: Chinese Adventures, everyday occurances, post a week, strange adventure, teaching overseas, travel, unique experiences | Tags: , ,

Unofficial Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

Hi All,

Again I had a great picture in mind of a small pond that was like glass reflecting some amazing images of fall colours… I don’t have a copy of that here in China, so I started looking for something in the archives. I came across this one and thought it was fun and you can get a glimpse of me 🙂 That is me behind the camera.

We went to the World Financial Tower last winter which, is currently the tallest building in Shanghai (but not for long its rival is about 2/3 of the way up and growing fast!). There is a lot of cool buildings on the Pudong (New Area) side of the River, especially in the Lujuizai (Lou -Jazz- Way) area where you can see the Pearl Tower, and Jinmoa Tower. WFT (not wtf!!!) It is also called the “Bottle Opener” because of its rectangular opening near the top. You can go to 3 observation decks one of which has a glass floor to see the road below. In one area I happened to look up and see a mirrored or polished ceiling and I took this snap of us and other ‘tourists’ walking by.

Reflection 😉

Categories: Chinese Adventures, Culture, Photography, post a week, strange adventure, teaching overseas, travel, unique experiences, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cooking & Final Thoughts: More on Vietnam

Can you tell we really loved Vietnam? Who knew such a short vacation that was mainly spent lazing by the pool would amount to 4 posts! God help me if we ever go away for a month… you would never hear the end of it 😉

The last full day in Mui Ne was an unexpected adventure and my favourite. It was not what I wanted to do, but I am so glad I did because it made the trip so much more enjoyable. John inquired about cooking classes and they were offered at the hotel. He wanted to sign up, but for some reason we could not at that time and had to come back the next day. It was nearing the end of the trip and panic was setting in that soon I would be back at work and up to my eyeballs in things as the school year was winding down. I wanted to savour every last minute of relaxation and sunshine that I could. We didn’t go out to the dunes as we had hoped -couldn’t give up an entire day of R’n’R for an early morning and long day in the oppressive heat. The last day I planned to go to the spa for a massage and read and John would do a cooking class. That was until they signed us both up. Quickly I jumped in and said NO I am not interested… just John. They informed him the class either couldn’t go ahead as planned with only 1 student, or he would have to pay double (for 2 people). He was going to pass on things since he knew getting away was a much needed escape for me. I didn’t want him to miss out, so I agreed to join. The happy employee signed us up and gave us the details in where to meet and what time the next day. I was very touched that John was willing to so easily give up what he wanted for me 🙂 He is such a keeper!

The next morning we finished our breakfast (more pho -yum) and went off to the lobby to start our cooking adventure. We waited for the cook to arrive and then we would be off. First they would take us into town to buy the ingredients and then return and cook. We had a private car with driver to take us, the cook and a tour guide. I felt like royalty with all the attention… Our tour guide pointed out things along the drive and answered questions about what we saw. She informed us of the building going on at a large development on a hill overlooking the sea just before getting into the beach area (in which a cemetery had to be moved to a new location!), pointed out some places of interest and asked us about our home country. Soon we were in town and left to walk in to the wet market. Our guide told us to watch our belongings and they helped us cross the chaotic street as we entered the crowded market area. Vietnam is a very safe place, but like anywhere pickpockets are always on the lookout for an easy target and foreigners are viewed as rich and good prey.

Buying the Pork

Immediately we saw fluffy little yellow chicks for sale at the entrance. I was falling behind and didn’t want to get lost in the maze of stalls, so I missed a great photo-op. Inside the dimly lit market stalls were crowded in every available space with produce, meats, cloth and other necessities. The ground was stained and soiled from years of debris. We squeezed through the narrow aisles and followed our cook who knew where to get each ingredient. As she went our guide kept a look out around us to keep us safe and explained things as we went. Locals often sat on their table tops squeezed in with their wares since there was just no space to spare and allow them to stand. It was hot and humid outside and inside the tarps and thin roof the heat was oppressive, but they didn’t seem to notice with their long sleeves and pants. Before going I had read that they are modest and don’t dress in tank tops and low-cut outer wear and frown against those who do. Many of the locals wore brightly coloured patterns of matching pant outfits (t-shirt like top with short or long sleeves and pants) in the same pattern/colour or sometimes mismatched pattern or colour. Younger Vietnamese wore jeans and more modern t-shirts.


This is what I imagined the Chinese Wet Market to be like but wasn’t. This one was crowded, smelly and somewhat dirty with scattered bits of produce, blood and guts tracked into the floor. I was SO glad I opted for the running shoes today and not the flip flops! The market was a hive of activity where people were buying and selling their daily needs and moving goods in and out. When we stopped to buy some meat and shrimp. As the cook asked for what she wanted, as the guide told us she knew this stand was of good quality. The seller pulledout a large knife and quickly slammed it into the meat and cut off the requested amount. I was glad to move on from the meats and into the spices and vegetable section.

This one grandma?

The colours were so vibrant and the smells much more pleasing. Actually the smell wasn’t as bad as the fish market I went to in Granada, Spain if memory serves me correctly. That stench was unbearable and lingering everywhere, and this was just a bit unpleasant as you went by the meats. As the cook bought some carrots, cucumbers, taro, mint and other items I snapped up pictures and took it all in. We became the tourist attraction as we did not fit; I felt like an example of ‘what is wrong with this picture?’as people did a double take on us.








After our whirlwind tour through the market we were back outside in the sunshine. Our driver had to drive around to meet us, so they took us to a temple to get out of the hot sun and see all the worshipers. It so happened this was a Chinese temple, or many Chinese worship there. Our guide told us today was busy because it happened to be a full moon, a day for them to pray for good fortune. Later I remembered it was also Qing Ming Festival and this may have also been areason it was busy. Many people were inside the temple with incense which they held near the middle of their foreheads and rocked their heads back and forth as they prayed. Certain statues were spread throughout and people gathered near them and touched them, which was a ritual we didn’t understand. You could see the worn areas from many hands caressing the statues. I felt like we were intruding and I didn’t venture far past the door and took a few pictures before our air conditioned comfort was waiting for us.

Little girl waiting for her parents as they worship

The temple















Back at the hotel we were given a break while cook prepared the ingredients. We sat by the pool for a few minutes before heading into the restaurant. To our surprise everything was cut and ready for us, we just had to do the assembly! We were making 2 style of Vietnamese Spring Rolls (yum!) Cook cut some large rice paper into triangle shapes and we added our ingredients and rolled the spring rolls up like little cigars. We made some with pork (for me) and others with

Making the Cold Spring Rolls

shrimp(for John). These would be deep-fried slowly in a warm oil. When we used that up we turned to cold spring rolls which were more vegetable with cucumber and mint and would not be cooked. As time went on I got better at rolling – cook who did not know English laughed at my first attempts and even made me do a few again. John on the other hand did well first try -show off! As we worked on the cold uncooked rolls our guide fried up the first batch and by the time we were done we had our meal! They treated us to a table for 2, an amazing cold iced tea (chamomile maybe?) and we ate our creations. Oh they were delicious! As I write this my mouth waters. I really enjoyed the cold ones, so refreshing on a hot day. Fully stuffed we enjoyed the rest of our day by the pool.


The next day we were checking out and heading back to Ho Chi Minh City. We spent our last hours by the pool catching the last rays before a long drive. Back in Ho Chi Mihn we wandered the streets and alleys near our hotel and bought a few souvenirs. We learned that many things are made locally and provide people with work and much-needed income. I bought a lovely woven yarn scarf, John a few t-shirts and an interesting purse with embroidery. There was other handicrafts and art work, but we packed light and had nowhere to put it without the purchase of another suitcase, so we had to pass.

The next day we had to leave early so we turned in for the night. The next morning we checked out of the Liberty hotel, the same place where we stayed when we arrived. It was a simple hotel, cheap, without frills and good enough. Breakfast was included and we had to check out before breakfast began so we thought we would have to forgo our free meal. They were kind enough to offer and pack us a little meal to go! Loaded into the taxi we wove through the dark early morning streets as the city began to come alive. Motorbikes loaded down with supplies and materials were being transported to the local markets before opening time and large blocks of ice sat on doorsteps to help keep meats and other items cold. As the sun started to rise we reached the airport and it was time to say goodbye to Vietnam.

Vietnam is considered third world, and doesn’t have all the frills that other international big cities may have, she certainly isn’t as sophisticated and rich as Shanghai… but there is a hidden beauty, an inner light that shines through that made me fall in love with Vietnam and definitely want to go back and see more…. the terraced rice patties, historical tunnels from the war, the floating markets and revisit the beautiful beaches.

Stay tuned for more next time…

Categories: Culture, everyday occurances, Photography, post a week, social graces, strange adventure, teaching overseas, travel, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paradise at Last -More on Vietnam

We quickly put our packs down and headed outdoors and explored our new playground for the next few days. The grounds were covered with gardens that held many types of flowers, trees and even a small rice patty! There was a nice pool in the centre of the resort and it was steps away from a deep sandy beach. The beach stretched for maybe 100 meters before you reached the water. The surf was rough and waves pounded in on a steady beat and the red warning flags were  straight out flapping and snapping in the wind. After the typhoon things were still unsteady and there was slight chance of rain and thunderstorms in the forecast, but the beautiful clear blue sky didn’t show any warning signs.














Mui Ne is very cleverly designed with all the resorts on the beach side and most shops and restaurants on the opposite side. The area we were in is nestled behind a hill and appears to only be one long road along the coast. We ventured along the street looking for a place for dinner as the sun was setting.

Again most vehicles along the roads were bikes and motorcycles with a few buses and cars sprinkled in. Taxis would slow down and honk to see if you wanted a ride as we walked along. I didn’t think a taxi was all that practical and how busy would they be in such a small place? We soon realised how long this little village was and to save your feet or escape the heat a taxi would be a good idea. There were enough restaurants in our end of town that we  checked each menu for something to tempt us. Most places were seafood restaurants, especially since this still is a fishing village. I am not a seafood eater and John was in search of a pizza place that was recommended to us, so we kept walking. Some restaurants hire ‘greeters’ and they call out “Hello” and wave to people passing by… just added to the friendly atmosphere that seems to be “Vietnam”.









Many signs were in Vietnamese, English and Russian. Many Russians tend to flock to this area for a much deserved break from winter. As English speakers we are very lucky travelling. Many signs will be in English and often you can find someone who can speak or understand you. To see things in Russian was certainly the unusual. We finally saw the sign in the distance “Good Morning Vietnam Pizza”. A transplanted Italian runs the restaurant and uses a wood fire oven for cooking. YUM! Nice thin crust with so much cheese. Almost as good as we had in Rome a few years ago! A good meal here is cheap! Much cheaper than home and Shanghai, for maybe $8.00 we each had a medium size pizza and a drink. Bellies full we headed back to the resort. Along the way we peeked in a few of the tacky tourist shops loaded with the usual souvenirs that you would see anywhere. We passed a few corn vendors set up along the road. Steaming boiling pots of water were ready for hot corn on the cob. If you were lucky they even had a tub of margarine to slather your street treat. Back at the hotel we turned in for an early night so we could make the most of the next sunshiny day.

The next morning we awoke and headed off to our breakfast buffet, which was included in the room price. Seems most resorts in Asia include breakfasts, and are not all inclusivelike the Caribbean resorts we are used to back home. I am a picky eater, but in a new place I attempt to eat some of the local foods. Most foods were a mix of local dishes and western choices. I tried the pho (fahh) from a soup cart that they had set up to look like one you may see in the streets. The cook took some rice noodles and bean sprouts and quickly cooked them in some boiling water for a few seconds.

Pho -my new fav food

Next she added some broth, spring onions, flavoured pork, basil and a few hot chillies. She put a wedge of lime on the side as well. The enormous steaming bowl seemed a bit odd to be eating not only for breakfast, but in such heat. Chopsticks in hand I sat down with my new food adventure. After getting the hang of holding onto the flat slippery noodles I had my first taste. It was delicious! I found my new favourite food that I could eat everyday. It was very filling, and good for you too!

After breakfast we staked out our claim by the pool and sat and relaxed for the day. I read half a book in a few hours, what a treat! The weather was fantastic and not a cloud in the sky. Seeing some very red and burned people the night before we knew the sun was not forgiving and we stayed under the beach umbrella for the day and slathered on tons of sunscreen. The surf was still rough and the wind was strong, so you felt cool even in the hot sun. This is always the most dangerous since you do not realise you are burned until it is too late. The pool was  a bit cool, so I just dangled my feet in a few times. I was glad I was so careful to cover up as I had missed a spot and my knee had an interesting heart shape burn where it didn’t have enough sunscreen. The burn was like nothing I had before and the sting was very uncomfortable; even more painful than the time I burned my back and blistered. I pity those poor people who looked like cooked lobster with bright red bodies.

The hotel (Seahorse Resort) had a spa and it was much cheaper than in Shanghai so I waited until we arrived to get a pedicure and make my toes beach worthy. The spa was closed that morning, so I had an afternoon appointment. I must say I was a little disappointed with the pedicure, even though I had paid extra for the ‘deluxe’. I am used to a little massage and creams as well as the top quality polishes. This was OK, but at times awkward as the woman positioned my feet for her to work on; my leg didn’t always bend where she wanted it to! She was a bit rough with the scrub and pulling off the nasty winter skin. Finally it was time for the polish and she quickly applied the colour, with a cheap brand, and no top coat. She left and never came back. After about 15 minutes I attempted to check my nails and the manager came over and helped me. A pedicure is expensive and something I occasionally treat myself to. In Shanghai they are cheaper than home and I usually have had a few in the summer months. They are relaxing and it is nice to feel pampered. This left me feeling awkward and rushed… so much for coming back for another spa treatment. A fellow teacher told us about the Seahorse and comparing notes since we came home she said the massages were fantastic… duly noted for next time.

The next few days we had to decide what to do next? Go out to the dunes (red and white sand dunes), relax by the pool, or go into town? Stay tuned to find out more…

As always play nice:) and words and images are property of ME and cannot be used witout permission from CTB.

Categories: Culture, Photography, post a week, strange adventure, teaching overseas, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Long Road to Paradise – more on Vietnam

After a short few hours wandering the streets in Ho Chi Minh city we were off to the beaches of Mui Ne (Me-you Nay) which used to be a fishing village before someone decided the great silky white sands would be a haven for tourists to relax and sun themselves. We hired a car for the 4-5 hour journey through one of the many travel agents that lined the streets in District One. Luckily our car had air conditioning and the promise was made if the A/C broke down our trip would be free… how is that for a deal?

We returned to the travel agents with our backpacks and we loaded into the car and were off. Looking out the windows the world passed us by. Houses that were small thin buildings with corrugated tin rooves, or fancier ones with balconies and large gates lined the streets. Every available space was filled with a sign of life… bikes, houses, laundry or bits and pieces of things that were salvaged and could be reused elsewhere.

Ho Chi Mihn City

Not to mention all the motorbikes loaded down with wares or families sped past. The hydro wires were big bunches of tangled webs that were rolled into a spiral at corner on small towers… very much like we saw in the Philippines only much neater and organised.

Soon we were heading out of the city and things were less crowded. We got on a small stretch of highway but before long the highway ended and we were driving through small towns and villages on a 2 lane road. On each side of the street there were numerous shops. Each shop was a small 3 wall cement building and inside it was full of items, many recycled car parts. There were axles, tires, motor parts… then beside this was a furniture shop with wood furniture, chairs, tables and beds, or a place that made coffins and wedding dress shops. Amongst all this dirt and unpaved store fronts to see a white (even blue, red and pink) wedding dresses looked a little out-of-place. The one thing that was missing was animals. For some reason my mind assumed animals should be wandering among all this… no longer the thought crossed my mind I saw a few dogs, cats and chickens.

Once we left some of the towns we passed numerous plain houses and rest stops amongst open spaces. Cows were tethered to yards and chicken ran wild. Some houses were large 2 story building with a large gate with a high fence and maybe a car or motorbike in the drive. Other houses were simple narrow long rectangular buildings that looked to be 1 or 2 rooms. Most of these places the doors were left open wide and you could steal a peek inside their lives as we raced by. The houses were simply furnished with a wooden frame sofa with a large cushion. Maybe a table and few chairs were also off to the side. Many had no electricity, but a few had a static-y TV left on with no viewers. Families sat on door steps or worked in the yards. On our return trip many places also had various nuts and items spread out on tarps drying in the sun. With so many family members home during a work day I wondered what these people did to earn a living. I can only guess they sell some of their farming wares or provided a few dollars by setting up a food stand at the side of the road. Many places had a few tables and chairs set up under a tarp. Smoke billowed out from open fire grills and a drink cart displayed all the soft drinks available. This reminded us of the country side and houses we saw in Cuba when we did a day trip to Havana. It was all so familiar like we had been here before.

The best thing about the drive was the rest stops. Numerous rest areas were along the roads and they were like nothing I had  ever seen before. These rest stops were not like what we see in North America or even Europe; large chain restaurants, gas stations and souvenir shops. These were simple stops with trees providing shade, tables and chairs, and hammocks! Now that is a rest area! Some were nicer than others and had places to use the restroom or get food, the rest area may have a thatched roof to provide shade. Others were a corrugated tin roof or tarp. Some had been weathered and the tarps were ripped and set up on small A frame sticks tied together. People used them and took a break from their long travels between point A to point B.

Some of the typhoon still left some rain in its wake. The skies darkened and we drove through some heavy rain. Fields were flooded and in some places water went up to the front doors of houses. This area is prone to flooding and after the typhoon the night before a lot of water had not had

Flooding left over from the typhoon

a the chance to drain away. In one place the road was flooded and I thought we may have to turn back. This was nothing and people just slowed down and kept on driving.

We arrived into Mui Ne village and saw many bright blue fishing boats as we wound our way through the town and passed by the water. We got to the top of a hill and saw the sparking South China sea to our right and a huge building development on our left. Soon a golf course, condos and shopping centre will grace the hill-top and be a draw to more travellers. We arrived at our hotel, The Seahorse Resort and quickly jumped out of the car and into the warm sunshine and cool breeze. The front desk was an open air lobby with a few cushioned benches. Quickly they booked us in and took us down a path to our room. Everything was green and lush… like we were in a garden. Our room was fantastic. We

Entrance to our room... fancier than we expected!

entered into a small sitting room and then through a door way we entered a large bedroom complete with comfortable bed, flat screen TV and small balcony. The bathroom was a room with a view! Large windows overlooked the gardens and palm trees outside. To shower a blind was drawn to give you privacy.

Stay tuned for more…. next time our R & R in Mui Ne.

Play nice all photos belong to ME and cannot be used without permission!

Categories: Culture, post a week, strange adventure, teaching overseas, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Miss Saigon – a visit to Ho Chi Minh City

After some delays we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and crashed for what was left of the night after the long delay in Cambodia as we waited out the tropical storm/typhoon. We awoke early to a buffet breakfast that was included in the price of the hotel. We were filled with anticipation to get out and explore the city before heading off to the beach in Mui Ne. From the 9th floor restaurant I could see the city streets and a park across the road. People were already out and exercising before the heat of the day. The park, like those in China, has interesting equipment to work out. A few couples were dancing down the sidewalk and weaving around others walking, or sweeping away the remaining debris from the storm. Further down the sidewalk was a small parking area for all the motorbikes and mopeds. Cars are a huge luxury here and everything travels on motorcycles! Speaking of luxury looking out over the skyline there are few skyscrapers and most buildings are 10 stories or under, very different from the fancy architectural delights that line Shanghai and we have become accustomed to. I remember hearing about how different things would be here and the most important travel tip given to us was “keep an open mind, and not everything will run smoothly, so again KEEP an OPEN mind!” I also knew traffic would be crazy, even more chaotic than Shanghai… if that was possible. Soaking up the sights and sounds and feeling the welcome warmth  I watched the motorcycles zoom up and down the 2 lane road 4-6 bikes wide at times…

More 2 Wheeled Traffic than 4

A taxi stopped at the hotel beside us let out a few newcomers to the city. Bags in hand there they stood there with their heads bobbing back and forth like they were watching a tennis match as the traffic continued in a steady stream and it looked like it would not let up any time soon. The taxi driver sensing their hesitation and probably very familiar with this got out of his taxi, rolled his eyes and started to cross weaving between the bikes and motorcycles. Turning back they still had the look of fear in their eyes, so he motioned to them to come on and held his hand up high to show motorists he was there. They eventually made it across. I had to giggle as I totally understood the fear since it took me maybe a month before I felt somewhat comfortable crossing the streets here in Shanghai… and this was even more intense and congested.

Breakfast done we went for a walk to organise our transportation to Mui Ne. There are so many travel agents, every other shop almost. We found one and went in and ended up booking a car since the next bus was going to be very late that afternoon. With some negotiation we got a reasonable price. We allowed ourselves a few hours to look around the city before having to leave. We were staying in District 1 which is the “backpacker” area so there are many reasonable hotels, travel agents, laundries, tourist shops… we walked about 2 blocks from there to Ben Thanh Market. Along the way we saw a few downed trees that fell during the storm. The roots were now facing skywards and the rest of the tree was cut into large logs for easier removal. (I added a picture of this last week).  The tree had fallen on a store front and part of the awning was now torn away from the building. Life goes on and all around the businesses were open and ready for customers as workers diligently worked to repair the damages and remove the debris. We passed many restaurants with Western names and menus with staff calling hello and inviting you inside. We made it to a large intersection and the first stoplight we have seen along our walk. Traffic was thick and motoring through as bikes were loaded down with people or items to be transported elsewhere. Families of 4 held on and weaved through traffic as well as busses and a few cars. At the waiting red light so many motorcycles awaited the change to green. It reminded me of all of a sudden seeing a bunch of motorcycle gangs waiting to spring into action. Once we crossed this intersection we were more into the ‘local area’ where rundown buildings, sidewalk restaurants that spring up in any empty section of pavement with folding chairs, tables and stools house locals drinking iced coffee and breakfasts. Across the street another park was filled with people strolling along or resting in the shade. The market was across a busy intersection and no traffic lights to guide us, so we had to dive right in, or stand and wait all day for an unlikely break in flow. Crossing the street was actually much easier than Shanghai as a pedestrian we DO have rights here and bikes will slow down, go around you and beep to warn you of oncoming traffic. We just waited to cross when no large busses were barreling along.

So many things... where to begin?

Inside the market it was jammed floor to ceiling with bright colours, clothing, bags…. you name it. No individual stores, but countless stalls squeezed in every available space. Vendors called out to us “Lady what you want to buy?’ Some even reached out to touch your arms to tempt you with their wares… that was a bit freaky. My experience of markets and no eye contact got us around with little hassle. The market was divided by sections into like with like… clothes, shoes, bags, souvenirs, food, and produce. We left the crowded aisles and moved into other areas to explore. The most interesting was the produce area with women cleaning and gutting fish, washing vegetables and chopping and crushing ice. Families all worked together and small babies slept on counters as their parents went about their daily work. Locals came along with their interesting coloured and patterned outfits and typical cone-shaped hats haggling for a good price.

Funky Purses in SO Many Outrageous Designs

After snapping a few pictures we left the market and back into the sunshine and humid temps. Walking back to the hotel we passed people carrying the balancing scale type baskets filled with items to sell to those on the street. Back in the backpackers area we were approached by those selling everything from sunglasses, bracelets, CDs and tall stacks of books. Here you don’t have to look for them they will find you. Some travelers told us to beware as these sellers sometimes pickpocket and stealthily take cell phones or cameras, that tourists leave on the tables for quick and easy access, to easy targets of theft. We had time to sit in a cafe on a little narrow street and watch the locals and tourists go by and we enjoyed fresh mango smoothies… YUM! Lots of young people, hippies with dreads, and older men wandered by. I guess this is what Europe used t be so many years ago. Now it is so easy to go there and explore more daring, adventurous and different travel is sought after… and South East Asia being so cheap and easy to get around is starting to become the destination of choice.

With time almost up we returned to the hotel and checked out ready for our ride to the next few days of vacation… a sleepy little fishing village that has started to be less of a diamond in the rough and more bright star attraction.

This is my second post for today (my first was my second blog award :))and I was thinking for those of you who don’t know you can have an email sent every time I add a new post that way you don’t miss anything 🙂 All you have to do is hit the follow button and a link to each post I write will be sent to you seconds within being posted. Click on that link and voila… easy peasy! Give it a try.

Stay tuned for more… I haven’t posted the weekly photo challenge yet this week and if I find a good example I will do that later… next week more from Vietnam!

As always these pictures are all property of ME and have been watermarked with CTB 2012. Use is prohibited unless given written permission. Thanks and stay tuned for more…

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Gooood Morrrnnnning Vietnam?

Gooooood Morrrrrnnnnning Vietnam? Cambodia? Vietnam!  This is the question we asked ourselves as we got ready for our vacation to Vietnam. I have rambled on and complained about the weather in Shanghai this winter which has been said to be the coldest, wettest and dullest in 32 years or 60+ depending on who you read. We had a week holiday for Qing Ming and Easter holidays and wanted to get away from the dullness and head for warmth, sunshine and blue sky.

As we watched the weather reports we noticed a typhoon was expected to affect Vietnam the day before we arrived and hang around for the first 2 days of our vacation. I thought typhoon season was summer/fall, but turns out rainy season starts in May so this was early and typhoon season is all year. If conditions are right typhoons can occur at any time. The rest of the week was calling for cloud and thunderstorms and Shanghai had warm and sunny temps forecasted. We shopped for rain gear and hoped for good weather as we packed. We got to the airport and found our flight was on time. We boarded, the plane and left on time. We flew towards our destination and could see the mountains and the coast below, all clear. We started to get restless and looking at my watch I figured we would be landing in about an hour. The sun was starting to set and we were above these puffy clouds that changed colour with the setting sun. As darkness settled in I could smell rain and looking outside into the darkness I could see rain with each blink of the flashing lights on the wing. The rain got more and more intense and I could see it sparkle in the lights from the wing to my seat a few rows ahead. The rain was going sideways and the drops must have been huge because the rain was white and it appeared like large snowflakes in a blizzard. The seat belt light came on and the announcement said we were heading into turbulence. Shortly after with less than a half hour to our destination another announcement, this time saying we were going to reroute as the storm had approached Ho Chi Minh City and due to high winds we were unable to land. The slow-moving storm had finally made land fall.

I watched the storm, which was 200 km off shore, since early the day before and wondered what that would mean for a plane full of passengers heading on vacation or some going home. We landed in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. More word, an announcement saying the winds were very high producing a cross wind so the airport was closed and we would wait 30-60 minutes before heading out again. I knew the storm had moved very slowly over the last 24 hours, so I figured an hour would not do it. Everyone settled in and chatted to others, read books, listened to music and played video games on their electronic devices. Isn’t technology wonderful? Kept a restless bunch settled. After an hour the questions started and people wanted to know what was next.  We were refueled and hopes rose, but no movement. People started to be removed from the plane beside us as busses came and loaded them on and took them into the night. No word, so speculation started as people wanted to know what was happening and filled in the blanks for the unknown information. Bits and pieces of overheard information was turned into statements like “We need Visas and the airline won’t pay for all of us”; “This is a small city there won’t be enough hotels for us all”; “We’ll sleep in the airport”…. while others were upset that they even attempted the flight knowing the weather. How did some of us know about the storm and the airline did not? I wonder if they decided to go and outrun the storm since it was so slow.

One lady decided to go and speak to the captain and suggest an alternate route and get us into a different city in Vietnam… her reasoning at least we would be in Vietnam! She was disappointed when they told her we needed more fuel to get there and her response we are at an aiport, get more. If it was only that simple… The poor crew hid out as they had no information and many difficult questions were being asked. A few gentlemen sitting in front of us were making phone calls and finally they said the storm had ended we could go now. I thought ya right… how could it be that quick?  Shortly after this the captain did announce the airport had reopened and we could take off. Everyone clapped, but a few “Negative Nellies” said lets not clap until we are there. I was just hoping it was safe. The airport was small and by the time we left there were many planes parked on the tarmac. We got in position only to wait again to take off as 5 or 6 other planes landed (there is only 1 runway). This is probably the most action this airport has seen in a while! After 4.5 hours sitting we were in the air again.

We approached the airport and a wind jolted us sideways a little bit, but the pilot did an amazing job as we landed smoothly. We were herded into a large bus waiting on the tarmac. It was raining lightly… I couldn’t fathom how the storm passed so quickly after it had taken over 24 hours to arrive. We were led into the airport and got our visas processed and just after midnight we were ready to leave. Our taxi had to take a few detours as the storm had uprooted trees and the branches, leaves and huge tree trunks littered the roads. As late as it was the street sweepers were out with their fan like straw brooms clearing up the streets. By morning there probably would be little evidence there even was a storm!

Typhoon Pakhar's Damage

The roads were pretty deserted and not much action in the city. I am guessing the storm had people in for the night. A short drive to the hotel (Liberty 4 in District one- cheap and clean with breakfast included) we arrived as tired, weary travellers hoping our reservation would still be valid, as they only hold them to midnight. All was well and we checked in so we could get up and explore Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) before heading to the beach at Mui Ne.

Stay tuned for more next time … our short visit in Ho Chi Mihn and then the beach!

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