December 1, 2019

Hanoi, Vietnam




Our hotel in Hanoi had a mall on the lower levels and a grocery store in the basement. We had a quick look through the grocery store before our morning tour.

Museum of ethnology.



Enjoy free time before your short afternoon flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia.  It was wonderful having Kong travel with us as he took care of all the customs clearance etc.  We just walked right through.

Welcome at hotel.


Check in to your hotel  for a three-night stay; tonight’s dinner was a buffet at our hotel. Lots of seafood! It was accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance show.

November 30. 2019 Updated

Hanoi, Vietnam

We started the day with breakfast on the 63rd floor restaurant  If it hadn’t been so foggy we would have had a great view.6FB741C9-B175-46EA-B5AE-0B45FC510D41

This was followed by a Welcome meeting with our program directors.  We are in group A with Kong for our program director and the second group B have Tony


Take a tour of this unique, thousand-year-old Asian capital where old and new combine in a lush setting of parks and lakes.

We walked by a beautiful Lake which on Saturday is closed to traffic so makes a great place for families to go and spend some time.


Our morning continued with a tour around the Old Quarter by electric car.

After our electric car tour we went to Hanoi’s Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070 as Vietnam’s first university, this maze-like compound features inviting courtyards, gateways, pavilions, walkways, lakes and a museum.


These Stelae of Doctors were carved with the names of graduates from triennial royal exams. They are on turtles as they believed turtles represent wisdom and Longevity.

It is supposed to bring good luck if you touch the stork and the head of the turtle at the same time.   

Then tour the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” the Hỏa Lò Prison where American POWs were held captive during the Vietnam War.

Lunch was on our own but Kong recommended a local Pho restaurant behind the Opera House so this is where quite a few of us headed.

Opera House

My first Pho in Vietnam as well as first beer!  Both tasty.


After lunch we visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the final resting place of Vietnam’s revered revolutionary leader.  The body was not there when we were and I understand the lines are very long to see him (not a high priority for me) when it is.

Our ‘Bus A’ group except Lois who was at the hotel not feeling good.


The grounds were interesting and there were two of Ho Chi Minh’s houses – a grander yellow one and then a simple stilt house that he preferred.  There were many guards.

Simple stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived. And One Pillar pagoda.

Our dinner was at Maison Vie. A great French restaurant.


November 28 and 29 2019

Well our travels got changed from the original plan. We came into Regina last night as our flight was leaving at 6:50 am. We were all checked in and thinking all was okay when we got a text at 8:30pm saying one of our flights – Regina to Vancouver has been cancelled. They had rebooked two of the legs of our flight but not until 29th and hadn’t rebooked 3rd leg so that wouldn’t work. After many phone calls and being on hold we went to the airport and got things sorted but travelling through Toronto leaving an hour earlier than the original. We are just happy they found us spots on a plane and that we don’t miss our only full day in Hanoi.

We had a taxi booked for 4am. Trip fairly uneventful just VERY long.  Toronto to Seoul was a 14 hour flight.


I think if I ever travel to this part of the world again I will have to go part way and stay over somewhere for a break.  Preferably on some tropical island!

We arrived into Hanoi about 10:30 pm on Friday November 29th.  Hanoi is 13 hours ahead of Saskatchewan.  Long waits to get through customs and then pick up luggage. 00D94055-DB7C-463A-A1AE-717C89D8F408

We were met outside by our Viking transfer person and just had to wait for two other couples arriving almost same time. We had a 45 minute drive to our hotel.  It is a 64 storey building with hotel reception on 38th floor. Beneath that is offices and department stores.
There are lots of Christmas decorations up already. This beautiful tree is in the lobby.

Our beds were a very welcome sight. We have an early morning start tomorrow.

Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand

Well here is to another adventure.  I have often wondered about these beautiful countries so when the opportunity arose for a visit of course I said yes!  Then we discovered all the hoops we had to jump through regarding visas.  We need them for Vietnam and Cambodia and because of the nature of our trip (partially on River Cruise) we cannot do the e-visas which would have made life easier.  Passports have been bundled with visa applications and photos and sent off to Washington, DC where there is an embassy for each of these countries.  There is a visa business that do this all the time so we are hoping it will all go smoothly.

Part of our tour is a week River Cruise along the Mekong River.  Not sure if this is our boat – but similar.Mekong-Bassac-Pandaw_1680x716_tcm23-76717



I am not sure if I will have internet access while I am gone but will update once I get home if not.  Watch this space!


Bali November 2017 – extras

Fruits I hadn’t heard of before:


Sudiana told us about this fruit – and called it the stinky fruit.  There was even a warning in our second hotel manual:

We were also told it smells like hell but tastes like heaven.  Luckily (maybe) Sudiana didn’t think we should take his word for it so we stopped at a road side market for us to try.


Well I agreed with the first part very smelly – not so much with the second part – I won’t be rushing to find Durian


Salak or snake skinned fruit – tis was on our breakfast buffet one morning so I asked what it was and then tried it.

We were also able to try jack fruit, oranges, dried fish(snack food similar to pork rinds) thanks to Sudiana as he bought from stalls for us to try.

One of the things we noticed early on in our travels around Bali were unusual decorations in front of almost every house.  Beautiful creations that ranged from fairly simple(a one hour) to very elaborate creations(several hour).  Of course we asked Sudiana and he told us all about them.  I didn’t make notes so have googled an explanation:


The penjor is a tall, curved bamboo pole decorated with coconut leaves with an offering at the base. This is one of the media used by Hindus in Bali as part of almost every important ceremony, especially for the anniversary temple celebrations.

The Sri Jaya Kasunu manuscript states that the penjor symbolizes the mountain and the mountain itself is the symbol of the universe. Therefore, for the Balinese the penjor is synonymous with Mount Agung, the highest and holiest mountain in Bali.

The aim of erecting penjors at Galungan is to show devotion to God in His manifestation as Hyang Giri Pati (the God of the mountain). Mountains with deep forests hold a lot of water, which flows into rivers. This then fulfils water needs for irrigation and drinking water.

During Galungan celebrations, each family erects a penjor outside their gate, which makes the whole neighborhood look splendid.

Material for a Penjor

The basic material of a penjor is a curved bamboo pole. The pole is then decorated with yellow coconut leaves, pala bungkah (roots – sweet potato or cassava), pala gantung (fruit – cucumbers, oranges, bananas), pala wija (cereal – rice, corn), plawa (leaves), traditional cakes, 11 Chinese coins, and a small shrine with some offerings.

All materials for a penjor constitute peoples’ basic needs, signifying that we should take care of those things. In addition, livestock sacrificed for the ceremony are believed to become better creatures in their next life.



November 12, 2017

The Magic Northern Bali

Bottle-green rice terraces, stacked up in curvaceous shelves as far as the eye can see; lazy tides on black sandy beaches; birdsong and the smell of incense floating on the breeze. This tour will take you back to nature and show you Bali’s scenery in all its glory. The north of Bali is home to national parks, serene coastline and mountain ranges that hide holy lakes, springs and waterfalls. This is the garden of Bali, where traditional farming techniques have created some spectacular and picturesque views.

First we take you to the most scenic areas of Pupuan and Antosari, where the morning sunlight is ideal for taking pictures of the unique rice terraces. After driving through the highlands where coffee, cacao and lots of different fruits are also grown, we descend to the north coast. Lovina Beach, the quiet and nice black sand beach area is our next stop.

Here will be an opportunity for lunch. After a relaxation break we continue on our 230 km route, winding up the mountain with magnificent views on the way until we reach about 1,200 meters above sea level where a striking panorama is spread before us. Passing by Lake Buyan and Tamblingan allows you to view an area which is the habitat of many species of birds, trees and flowers unseen anywhere else on the island. We then stop at Bedugul to visit Lake Bratan, the “Lake of Holy Mountain”, and its floating temple called Ulun Danu. This holy site is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of water. A bit further on, we will make a stop at the local flower and fruit market for the opportunity to buy fresh and natural tropical fruits directly from the farmers. It’s a long day driving across Bali, but it is well worth it to discover the heart of Bali’s impressive natural beauty.

We knew today would be a long day but it was well worth it as we saw so much more of the natural vegetation and beautiful rice terraces.  We reversed the order of our day from the above itinerary as Sudiana had done this tour with another group the day before and thought we would have better luck avoiding the rain going in reverse order.  This made sense as we had been having beautiful mornings but then the rain would start in the afternoon.


Ulun Danu

Lovina Beach – included lunch a swim for some and bartering on the beach for others.IMG_3238IMG_3239

November 11, 2017

Elephant Safari Ride at TARO

Being the world’s largest sanctuary for Sumatran Elephant’s, the Elephant Park at Taro Ubud offers fun experiences such as the 30 minutes safari rides in the well protected jungle, completed with many other not to be missed activities such as museum visits and talent show.

The half-day experience starts with the park guide’s welcome and guide you to meet the Sumatran elephants. You will have a chance to hand feed and take pictures with them as well as learn about the park history. Next, your 30 minutes rides begins, the trek takes you through the well protected jungle atop the friendly mammals and you can get to know them better through their Mahout followed by Elephant Talent Show.

Afterwards, it is time to enjoy your sumptuous lunch buffet at the park restaurant continued by free time to explore the parks facilities such as elephant museums or take more pictures with them.

Transfer back to your hotel at around 14:00 hrs

We travelled today in 15 passenger vans. Our regular guides had the day off.

We arrived at Taro in time to see the elephants being bathed.

First they were brushed off and then sprayed down in the water.

and then we were sprayed! Note the water heading our way!

Next we got to meet some more of the elephants and buy food for them.  Very much a contrived ‘tourist’ experience but it was fun interacting with the elephants.


We rode in pairs through the jungle about 2kms.  Each elephant has a trainer that works with them and most have been with them many years.  They appeared to be well taken care of.

The elephants did a short talent show – including an elephant painting. You can then buy previously painted art in the gift shop.

Buffet lunch was also included in this visit – another enjoyable open air experience.

After lunch we headed back to our hotel. It was another warm, humid day.

So a swim seemed to be in order.  We started in the larger pool with swim up bar.

Then moved over to the infinity pool.

Not quite the glass sided infinity pool on the top of a cliff that we have seen pictures of since getting home but an incredible view out into the jungle.

Although I didn’t see them Shelley captured some amazing video of monkeys playing by the yoga studio at our hotel.