September 20th, 2017
Cambodia will touch your heart and your soul. It is a Third World country. Many villages don't have plumbing or a well. Water is carried from a nearby stream, pond or puddle, often teaming with parasites. The children go unwashed. Cleanliness is not next to Godliness. Anamism is part of their beliefs. As it was explained to me, the spirit world admires beauty. The beautiful child is in danger of being taken to the afterlife by the spirit. The unkempt child is safer.
We stayed in Siem Reap. The capital city of the province in northwestern Cambodia and very near Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and The Pink Temple as Banteay Srei is known. Part of our first day was spent exploring Ta Prohm Temple. We walked through the ruins of what was once a school. The temples were build centuries ago, flourished, were abandoned and overgrown by the jungle. Huge trees now grow out of the structures. Temples are still being discovered as the area is surveyed using laser radar.
Our visit to Angkor Wat began well before sunrise. We rode in a tuktuk to a parking lot near the temple grounds then began the long walk in the dark along well worn but uneven paths. Luckily my husband had a light on his head. We waited by a pond outside the temple walls for the sunrise. Slowly the structures began to differentiate themselves from the dawn sky. There were hundreds of people gathered there but it was so quiet. Slowly people began to enter the grounds.
As impressive as Angkor Wat was from the outside, the inside was even more impressive. It's huge; it's well laid out and those steps are steep! And if you think they are steep going up, wait until you go down. The walls of the main building have the entire Hindu Bible carved in pictures - hundreds of meters long. Most people couldn't read, but they understood the images. It made me think of the tapestries in The Vatican. Every picture tells a story.
September 18th, 2017
Before I leave Viet Nam and put up pictures of Cambodia, I want to talk about Halong Bay. We spent a night on a ship in Halong Bay. It has an 'other worldly' feel and it was foggy the night we arrived so that added to the eerie feel. Halong Bay is comprised of mountain outcrops surrounded by the Gulf of Tonkin. The people of Halong Bay don't live on the land. They are fishermen. For the most part, their homes float on large plastic drums. This has been their way of life for generations. The boat that comes to pick up the fish they caught brings supplies the 'village' needs.
All this is about to change. The Vietnamese government is relocating these people to apartments in the cities. In many cases, three generations will continue to live together, but in an apartment on land. They will no longer fish. The grandparents will remain at home. The parents will be given jobs in factories. The children will go to school. That's the deal. The education of the children will be paid for by the state until age 18. No more fishing. My understanding is they weren't given a choice. The UNECO World Heritage Site will be preserved. Tourists will visit by boat. But at what cost?
September 5th, 2017
I am so glad that we visited Viet Nam. We spent a day in Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was like stepping back in time. The village is perfectly preserved with wide streets and cobblestone sidewalks and quaint shops and restaurants. You need a hat? There are shops with hundreds of different hats. You want a suit or a dress? The seamstress can make it for you in a day and deliver it to your hotel. And the food markets had baskets full of fruits and vegetables you don't find in most grocery stores in America, like Durian fruit, mangosteen, dragon fruit, longan and pomelo. Wandering around the village , you still need to be aware of people on motor scooters and bikes. Everyone rides a scooter or bike. Viet Nam is still a Third World nation and petroleum is expensive so the motor scooter is the way to go quickly.
August 29th, 2017
The flight from Dubai to Viet Nam took all night. We arrived in Hanoi late afternoon and began dodging motor bikes. Everyone has a motor bike. It makes sense. They're less expensive to operate. Viet Nam is a busy, growing country with great food. We toured the grounds of Ho Chi Minh Palace, the National Arts Gallery, which has incredible statues of Buddha, and Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the "Hanoi Hilton". We learned the prison was originally built by the French and used to incarcerate the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese then used it to incarcerate American soldiers.
But, Viet Nam is more than its darker historical episodes. I'm glad I had the opportunity to spend time in Viet Nam. I'll be honest, it wasn't my choice, but I wasn't on the world trip alone. It took a long time before I agreed to including Viet Nam, but I realized it would be like my parents refusing to go to Germany. The war is over. The world has moved on.
August 15th, 2017
me "I've always wanted to visit Australia."
him "Okay. After I retire, we'll go."
And that's how it all began.
After two years of planning, (we were only going to places we'd never been) we left the United States and landed in Barcelona. It was warm for early February; no need for more than a light jacket at night. One day we wandered around the city heading towards the water determined to get to the beach on the Mediterranean Sea. The beach was wide with soft sand and a few children running in and out of the waves. All too soon it was time to wander up La Rambla. We'd found a great little Tapas restaurant, GATS, and were going back for dinner. They have great sangria. If you're ever in Barcelona, I recommend GATS for food and drinks.
August 15th, 2017
We left Barcelona, Spain, and flew to Dubai. Flying Emirates Air on an A380 was an experience. Yes, it is a double deck plane. Yes, they have a bar/lounge area. Yes, the flight attendants are friendly, engaging and overall terrific people.
How do you build a modern city out of a desert? At sea level? Dubai is amazing. They are building 24/7 and the buildings are so unique. Architects from around the globe design the buildings. They are unique, striking, incredible, one of a kind. We had lunch at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah on the 27th Floor - except it was really the 54th floor because all the apartments/ condos have 2 floors. The restaurant protrudes from the side of the building. What a view! That night we went up to the 148 floor of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Dubai at night is glowing!