Posts Tagged With: life journey

Connections: Photo Challenge

Ailsa over at Where’s My Backpack has some amazing photo examples of connections. She is showing how 2 things are connected. I mistook the challenge for companions, but I think my examples still fit the theme. What do you think?

My Companion in Life

My Companion in Life

The above photo is a shadow pic of me and hubby with a maple tree 🙂 He is my life connection and companion. The maple tree is a nice connection to my Canadian heritage too 😉


This is the one and only Willow. My furry companion. It was a year ago this past week that we brought home the little ball of fur that warmed her way into our hearts. She is about 17 months now. I took this photo yesterday as she cuddled on my lap. Saturday is her cuddle day and Sunday she likes me to play chase with her. Willow is quite funny and very smart! Last week we were playing chase and I threw her mouse. She jumped and spun around in the air, only to fall into the laundry basket that was close by. I was doing the laundry and I don’t think she was expecting the basket to be there. She won’t fall for that again. She has a good memory too and will find a toy you have tucked away. Some how Willow knows right where it is. She keeps us laughing and loves attention.

Show your examples of connections or go here to see more.

Stay tuned…

Stay tuned…

Categories: Photography, post a week, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The longest day

You may be wondering where my post was this weekend since I didn’t have any photo challenges or daily life in China adventures, or maybe not… But I am going to tell you anyway 😉

My feet on Chinese soil the night before returning to Canada.

My feet on Chinese soil the night before returning to Canada.

For the first time I had a flight booked for the day after school. I always wish to get out of Shanghai early, but I like the extra day(s) to pack, sleep in and do last minute errands without the rush and stress. Well this year it was cheaper to fly early and with John leaving ahead of me I was looking forward to getting home. I quickly regretted that as I came home each night tired, hot and low on energy after a busy day at work. The last week was rainy (too many indoor recesses where I was trapped with kids all day), humid and with so much to do. Luckily I had a few students who love to help and they did some little fiddly jobs so I could get other more pressing things accomplished. Friday night I had to do all the errands and the adrenalin of summer holidays ahead quickly wore off and I felt like I hit a wall of exhaustion. I pushed through and did as much as I could before heading to bed, vowing to wake early and finish.

The next morning I was up with the birds and finished packing, cleaning and getting the cat off to the kennel. Checking my flight I realized it was delayed two hours. I worried I would miss my connection, since I only had about two hours between flights. That soon became a blessing of what became the longest day of my life! When you have a bad day you can’t wait for it to be over….well add traveling across the globe to stretch that day even longer made me wonder if it would ever end. I landed in Vancouver before I even left Shanghai…. Missed my connection, but I am getting ahead of myself. This is not the worst thing that happened today.

Ok, so running late, but I knew the flight was delayed so I had a little bit of a window, so I didn’t

At the airport, Shanghai

At the airport, Shanghai

worry. All packed and thirty minutes to an hour behind schedule I was finally ready. The last few jobs would have to wait until I came back. Everything at the door all I had to do was shut off the water. Easy task…. Well that quickly became my worst decision of the day.

I turned the knobs to the hot water heater and then pondered another knob. Do I turn this one off too? I guess I should just in case. Well I barely touched it when it broke off in my hand and a gush of water came spraying out all over me, the wall and everything in between. I stood frozen in shock wondering what do I do? I have to go to the airport! Quickly looking for a shut off and seeing none…. This was the shut off, so where is another? Next, I panicked. I ran to my neighbor who speaks English. No answer. I ran to my other…. No answer. I called John’s cousin who lives in the building maybe she knows. Through my crappy phone where no one can hear me and my panic she didn’t know what I was saying. Finally she came down and my neighbors came over. We all ran around trying to scoop out water which now was going into the dining room. I tried to call the school guy who takes care of our units, no answer. I called a friend… They were too far away. My neighbors stuck a wine cork in the pipe, which was temporary since the pressure popped it out within minutes. At least it helped for a short bit while they called for the building maintenance. This fellow comes to the door. “Ay- o” (I-O) which is like “holy crap”. He turned off the water from a main shut off that was in a cupboard in the main public hall behind a door… Why didn’t I think to look there? Geesh didn’t even know it was there! He gave us ideas how to quickly dry up the water as we built a dam with every towel I had and slowly pushed the water back to the kitchen. I was so worried and didn’t know what to do…. And no one could hear me on the phone… It only made my stress rise. I was so lucky to have great neighbors to come to my rescue and help me. They were kind enough to offer and stay with the mess so I wouldn’t miss my flight. I stayed and helped though… I just couldn’t leave this for others.

Finally it was cleaned up and I could go. Did I mention the pipe broke because it was attached only by a thin bit of caulking?!! I guess I am lucky it broke BEFORE I left and not while we were away. The fellow from work would come later to assess the damage and fix the pipe. I went to leave and of course it started to rain. Already late and now rain… I was still wet from the flood and didn’t have a chance to change. Good luck now getting a taxi. Luckily my other neighbor who speaks about as much English as I speak Chinese saw me struggling and helped me get a taxi and told the driver exactly where to go. I must have looked like heck… wet, make-up down my face, which I didn’t even notice until I got to the airport. After a crazy day I was so thankful for all the help I received. I guess in a time of need someone will come to your rescue.

Inside the taxi we headed to the airport. I should make it. No sooner the thought crossed my mind we stopped dead…. construction traffic. Could anything else go wrong today? With my stress level at an all time high we made it with a little time to spare. The airport was so busy the driver couldn’t get to the curb, so he stopped me on a lane of traffic. Dumped my bags and sped off. Now on the road I had to struggle to the curb. Luckily a baggage cart was left so I nabbed it and ran inside the airport. I made it…. But was informed my flight was overbooked. They put me on stand by for the direct flight hoping to ease up the extra passengers. It made little sense since the other flight was ALSO overbooked. I didn’t make that flight, but asked them about my original flight and they put me back on it. Once through customs and at the gate I could relax. I made it.

We were delayed further, so I missed my connection in Vancouver, but JUST made the next one to Toronto. Relaying my crazy adventure to a fellow traveler she said well keep smiling…. It was true I somehow managed to keep smiling after the initial panic and shock wore off. I was thankful to all those helped me and came to my rescue. I made it…I was home. The longest day of my life was over, I was tired, but I made it.

Stay tuned…. My next adventure was not as chaotic and lots of fun. More about that later.

Categories: everyday occurances, post a week, strange adventures, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beijing: Hell of a Hike -The Great Wall

Saturday morning the alarm went off way too early and woke us for our next Beijing adventure. This was the day we were heading out to the Great Wall. Bleary eyed and sore from the rock hard bed we got dressed and ready for the tour we booked with the Grey Line tour desk that was located in our hotel lobby. We grabbed some baked goods and coffee for a breakfast on the bus from a great bakery beside the hotel, Xinqiao Sapporo Bakery. Their croissants were excellent. We rushed to make it to check in just in time to find the bus had not yet arrived. A few minutes late the bus arrived and we loaded onto the coach and waited to leave.

The tour guide informed us we would be getting dropped off at another hotel and going with a different guide. Our first stop on the tour was the Olympic Park. From a raised platform we has some great views of the Water Cube, an interesting building that looks like someone blew a bunch of bubbles. The glass is iridescent and bulges out in small 3 dimensional sections.  The way the light plays off the glass really added to the effect. The Bird’s Nest was a tangle of patterns. The few minutes to snap a few photos wasn’t enough to really appreciate the complexes. If we had more time in Beijing this would have been a place to go back to explore at leisure.

Traffic in Beijing like any big city is busy. Saturday there are no restrictions and all cars are allowed access to highways. With today being a warmer, sunny day many people were escaping the city. We crawled along to our next stop which was a tourist trap to show a variety of jade cutting and designs. The short tour ended in a large over priced show room where they sold everything from jewellery, knick knacks and larger statue style pieces. Back on the bus our next destination was the wall. It was creeping up on mid day and the anticipation and reason for the trip was starting to build as I kept thinking “are we there yet?”

Another turn off the highway and the mountains came into view. We strained our eyes wondering if this was the wall… not yet, but we were getting closer. After we went through a small village and started to twist, turn and climb we came to the parking area where we were let off to the entrance of Mutianyu. A steep climb past many vendors selling everything for a ‘dollar’ brought us to the entrance to the cable car. A steep ride up brought the breathtaking views of the wall perched along the ridge finally into view. Jason, our guide, left us at Tower 14 and told us to return in two hours.

First Views of the Wall

First Views of the Wall

Surprisingly out of breath we started the trek on the wall. Uneven and broken stones paved the way to a misty view with dotted towers in the distance. After a narrow climb through the crowds we set off onto the rolling path that stretched out before us. Tower 20 was the goal; a steep climb straight up. Each twist and turn brought in a new view which my 200+ photographs can attest to. Some towers allowed a bird’s eye view from high above that is you could make the awkward and precarious climb. Mutianyu is said to be the most picturesque section of the wall and it certainly lived up to that claim with steep mountains, deep valleys and stepped terraces. The landscape was still dusty brown with spring coming later to this elevation. Small patches of snow clung onto the shade in a few shadows along the wall, more evidence that spring had not yet arrived.

Breathtaking Views

Breathtaking Views

The steps were wide and shallow, not what I expected. It made walking difficult since it didn’t fit your usual stride. Flat sections were welcomed, but slippery and hard on the calves on the way down. The elevation made even the slightest exertion seem difficult. The steep climb kept getting closer. After about tower 16 the crowds thinned and I had the wall mostly to myself. John had run ahead to ensure he had time to reach the top of tower 20 in the short time we had. Looking around it seemed so surreal that I was here, a place of history and where few people may ever have the luxury to visit. I pressed on and started the climb up to tower 20. Low walls on the sides and the elevation started to make me feel light headed and dizzy. I easily could have made it up, but feared the decent with a dizzy head and no railings to help support me for the return. Checking the time I knew I wouldn’t make it to the top gate and I was forced to head back. I made it a quarter or third of the way up. I returned to our meeting place and waited for John. Just in the nick of time John came running back. He made it to gate 23 which, is crumbling away. According to our guide Jason, many parts of the wall are now allowed to crumble since it is not needed for security and too hard to manage and maintain. Enough places are preserved to support the tourists, so the majority of the wall is now off-limits or unsafe for visitors. John made it to this limit which he described as amazing.

Here are some Great Wall Facts:

Chinese Name: 长城/万里长城
Chinese Pinyin: Cháng Chéng/Wàn Lǐ Cháng Chéng
Length: 8,851.8 km (5,500 miles)
Construction Period: About 2,000 years from the Warring States Period (476 BC – 221 BC) to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)  This section is 7-8.5 m high (23-26 ft).                                                                                                                                                               From:

We really lucked out with great sunny weather. The day before and day after our trip was cold, damp and very smoggy. We certainly would have missed the amazing views and scenery if we had come another day. We headed back to the city tired and worn out. One more stop at a tea factory where they quickly showed us a tea ceremony and then allowed us to taste many teas. Most time was spent encouraging us to buy. We stumbled tired and exhausted back to the bus after  a long and most amazing day. We will sleep well tonight —even on the rock hard beds.

Stay tuned for more… next time the Forbidden City.

Categories: Chinese Adventures, travel, Uncategorized, unique experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nothing is Impossible

This week a friend of mine sent me an email that I thought was a forward from the title. As I read it I realised it was her thoughts and words from the heart. With life so busy, depressing and messages of despair we sometimes forget how to be happy and celebrate the little things that bring us joy. For me personally, lately there have been a lot of things going on with family, work and the world that have brought me to tears on more than one occasion. How do we rise above it? How can we be happy when surrounded by negative energies? It is not easy and each day I find it a struggle at times to not let the little things get me down… be happy, find joy and laugh.

For this week’s post I am hosting a guest. You will know her from comments on my posts, but I have known her since college. We always ‘wax the poetic’ when together. Soon as I read this, I emailed her said “you need to post this, or be my guest blogger!” Without hesitation she sent me her approval and here it is from Lavender Lady… enjoy!

With all the sad and scary news in the world it could be easy to see life’s cup as half empty. I choose to see it as half full. There are a few people who have made headlines that inspire me to reach farther …to see how life’s cup can be filled to the brim. These are people who live the quote from Audrey Hepburn “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”

Mike Strange, a former Olympic boxer from Niagara Falls, Canada. He was deeply touched by friend’s battles with cancer so he decided to pick up the fight from where Terry Fox (another inspiration) was forced to stop. Mike is almost finished that run across Canada. He started April 12 2012 from Thunder Bay Ontario and will finish in Victoria British Columbia… 82 days of running …40 km per day..approx 3000km in total distance.

Wes Prankard, a 13 yrs old boy from Niagara Falls who said “I CAN”. He has seen the great need that our northern communities have …needs that include children’s right to play. Among other things that Wes is doing to make their life better, he’s raising money for these children to have playgrounds. To do this he formed an organization called “The Northern Starfish” (inspired from a story called “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley) This 13 year old boy has travelled to many places to speak, to raise awareness, to raise money and to raise hope.

Nik Wallenda, a man who just made history by walking on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. It was daring and exciting. He saw what he wanted to do and said “I can.”

Spencer West, a man who reached the peak of Kilimanjaro with his team. His legs were amputated when he was 5. Later in life when he joined with “Me to We” to build a school in Kenya he had a realization. “Suddenly, I understood that I was different for a reason. I was different because I needed to show others that it doesn’t matter what your abilities are or where you come from in the world. If you work hard, never give up and laugh a lot, you can achieve anything. I’m living proof, this year, I’ll return to Kenya to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money to bring sustainable water programming to East Africa.” Spencer recently reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. He looked at that mountain and said, “I can.”

And while these last two people on my list have not been recent news, they have inspired me all the same.

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. I adore the books and how wonderfully they were written. Those stories took me on an amazing journey. Her ability to write such amazing tales is inspiration enough but her life story is all the more inspirational. She spent many years of her life to make her dream a reality.

Walt Disney, who said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” He had a vision of providing entertainment for the entire family. Creating a place through movies, t.v. and hard work that a family could come together and enjoy. When they told him he was crazy for building on swamp land. That no one would come. He looked at them and said “I can do this.” “If you can dream it you can make it happen.”

I write this for my children, may they always say, “I can”. I’ll leave you all with these words from another inspirational Canadian, Jack Layton. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Hats off to you Leslie for sharing these amazing people, thoughts and inspirations with us. May we all continue to hope, dream and make the world a better place. We may not be able to change the world, but we can change our own by trying. 🙂

Stay tuned…

Categories: everyday occurances, post a week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Blue

Well without any explanation the new challenge was posted and the theme is blue…

Blue at first thought means sadness and loneliness… then I looked around my wardrobe and home and saw most of the things that I own that are BLUE… My wedding colours included a turquoise BLUE,  most of my clothes are BLUE and I prefer writing in blue ink. All this BLUE doesn’t make me sad, so time to readjust my thinking and think BLUE…

In China the city maintenance trucks are blue and the city workers all wear blue… I see it every day, but that is not my favourite or first thought of things blue; they didn’t quite fit my image either. Further reflection (hee hee link to the unofficial challenge from Ailsa at Where is my Backpack?) I thought about why I like BLUE so much.

Living in Shanghai for almost 2 years now I realized maybe why I tend to steer towards BLUE colours… I miss BLUE 😦 ‘What are you talking about?’ you may wonder… well I miss the BLUE sky. It seems to be cloudy, smoggy or dull and drab so rarely do we see BLUE sky. The sun is a little orange disk that you can stare into and when you take a photo it is so faint it barely shows up, only visible to the naked eye. I miss the BLUE sky, fluffy clouds and bright sunshine that I used to take for granted.

I also love a beach holiday with sun, sand, and surf… the turquoise blue waters…. so soothing for the soul.

So here is a collection of photos in a slide show to represent  BLUE… I guess I am feeling a little BLUE after all 😦 but these pictures show my fav BLUES…

One shows the amazing skyline taken from the World Financial Tower with no blue sky 😦 but the view is amazing.

Another is bright blue Christmas lights from last year (2010) at Thumb Plaza near our house in PuDong. With little clear sky and so much light pollution stars are also rare if not impossible to see. These lights made me think about driving up North or in the country back home and seeing so many stars that the night sky just glistens…

And the ultimate blue… at the beach on a picture perfect day in Cuba 2008.

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Stay Tuned… so many ideas of what to post about next…

As always play nice and please ask before using or reproducing any images or text 🙂

Categories: Photography, post a week, teaching overseas, travel, 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Surf, Sand and Swim -More on Vietnam

Mui Ne is a sleepy beach. If you are looking for night life, rocking bars and clubs you won’t find it here. The shops and restaurants tempt you to stay awhile and relax. Everything is so friendly and welcoming from the restaurant greeters calling hello, the taxis slowing down to see if you want a ride and even the soft and soothing sounds of the Vietnamese language which is not as harsh, loud and abrupt as Mandarin. People don’t seem to be arguing all the time and speaking loudly so you can’t help but overhear their conversations.

If you get bored there is a little adventure to be found with kite boarding (very expensive about $150 US/ hour) and motorbikes (cheap $10/day) for rent. The sand dunes are a short day trip where many people go and explore. We really wanted to see the dunes, but didn’t make it. Missing out makes us want to return. Long ago some good travel advice I learned was to take things as they come and enjoy the journey…. leaving things undone, or 1 more thing to see and do is OK because it is a good reason to make you want to return.

So what did we do? You must be thinking oh yawn… 3 days of nothing… do I have to read about this? Well even in quiet times interesting things happen. I did spend 3 days by the pool reading and having the occasional happy hour cocktail. John and I always cooled off in the pool and got a little bit of a tan. The days were hot with a slight ocean breeze, so we didn’t want to venture too far… besides within minutes you would be drenched with sweat. This reason alone kept us close to the pool. Evenings were cooler, so we strolled the street and enjoyed great food for cheap! We ate at Good Morning Vietnam Pizza twice because it was so yummy. We also found this German place that was part of Charm Villas. They had great schnitzel and the best French Onion Soup I ever had outside of France. We were OK with this pace since we wanted an escape from the cold drab wet winter we were just coming out of. Work had been more hectic than usual and I needed the R and R to recharge me to get through the last few months before school was finished.

I woke up early in the mornings just as the sun was rising and wanted to go out and get some sunrise pictures. A few

Sunrise Sparkles on the Surf

people were out strolling along the edge of the waves and even swimming. It was so peaceful and relaxing as the surf gently rolled in. I snapped lots of shots as the sun rose into the sky and left its shimmery hues of yellow and orange behind before the heat and brightness set in. In between shots I looked around for crabs, the beach was littered with holes and escape routes with evidence of little claw marks that left interesting patterns scattered about. Occasionally the clear coloured crustaceans would skitter like a flash into a ready hole, so it was hard to snap a photo of the camouflaged little critters. Out on the water fishermen were already returning with the daily catch. Small blue boats bobbed in the waves. Smaller ‘teacup’ boats were scattered on the horizon a few hundred meters from shore. They reminded me of an episode of the Amazing Race when a task was to row one of these small round boats to a point and back. One of the contestants found it hard and complained about the ‘teacup boats’ and the image stuck in my mind.I watched the single fishermen, or occasionally a pair, expertly guide these perfectly circular boats by oar across the waves. The sea was still a bit rough, so this was not an easy task. I took some shots, but my little point and shoot camera couldn’t zoom in as much as I would have liked. Down the beach some were being pulled out so I went to investigate. Once the teacup boat was close enough to shore someone was there to help them carry the boat away from the waves. Quickly they got to work and once in position a tarp was placed on the sand and the nets were laid out. Then by hand  they (I assume it was the fishermen’s wife and sons) began to pluck the fish out of the tangle of the nets. It seemed so primitive compared to the large fishing trawlers and nets that over fish most of our waters today, but it was simple and effective. It brought me back to my childhood when I went out with my Grandfather and later my Uncle who were commercial fishermen in Eastern Canada. They too didn’t have a lot of fancy equipment, often homemade, but what they

Carrying the Teacup Boats

Today’s Catch










had was very  effective. I remember my uncle having a simple wooden frame  with fishing line wrapped around it with numerous hooks. He would lower into the water and when he pulled it back up minutes later with an expert flick of the wrist the fish were flung into the boat. Soon we were ankle-deep in fish and I was covered in scales (yuck!).

I enjoyed the morning exploration and got up early again to watch the sun rise and the fishermen with their daily catch. The resort was quiet as the workers watered the gardens and cleaned everything  before their sleepy guests awoke. In the morning sun the colours were more vivid which made it great for taking pictures of the beautiful gardens and flowers. The resort was almost full with guests, but still felt peaceful and relaxed. This morning time was even more special as I had it all to myself.

Traditional Boat Made from Woven Reeds or Wood. Today’s Version is Fiberglass.

Stay tuned for 1 more post of Vietnam…

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

Weekly Photo Challenge: Together

Together… I had so many photos… I narrowed it down to 3… each with a different meaning of  “together”.

One is 2 glasses of champagne with my wedding ring in one and my husband’s in the other. I took this shot on our honeymoon as we started our married life ‘together’. It was a cool idea, but the bubbles made it difficult and not as I envisioned.

Another is my brother and I together when he was a baby. My favourite doll had to be in the photo too as I never went anywhere without her… we were always ‘together’. This was before digital so excuse the grainieness of the photo.

The last is a humours take on ‘together’. The Roman’s used to bathe ‘together’ and use public toilets ‘together’. This shot is of a communal public toilet. Today we would be mortified at the idea, but then it was common practice where you would meet people, friends and discuss business ‘together’.

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As I get more experience and see other people’s blogs I am trying out new things… so here is my first attempt at a slide show! The 3 photos will cycle through, or you can mouse over and click an arrow that will appear to see them at your own pace.

To see more great photos click on this link which will bring you to the originator’s page.

A few of my favourites:

Jennifer’s cute cows:

Wanderlust Gene father and child:

Sorry there are only 2 this far. Seems not too many people are posting for this challenge or are procrastinating.

As I was looking through pictures I came across 2 more great sun pics so I am going to post those too!

Categories: Photography, post a week, Weekly Photo Challenge | 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: , , , , , , , , ,

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

I looked for sun pictures and my favourite is on film and back in Canada… 😦 so these will have to do. It was hard to find some that were not sunset or sunrise. I seem to avoid taking pictures into the sun!

The first photo my husband took a few years ago when he was working in North West Territories, Canada… the great white north eh!

Great White North

The next took are shots on vacation. The one on the left is on the Mayan Rivera in Mexico, March 2010… our last trip to the Caribbean before heading to work overseas. The one on the right is a view from our hut balcony in the Philippines, near Puerto Galera.

Sunny Days

Sun in the Palms









All pics are property of ME and cannot be used without permission of CTB 😀



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Categories: Photography, post a week, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tags: , , , , , ,