Thursday, June 24, 2010
Hanoi is celebrating its millennium as a capital city this year. There are festivities all over the country. This week was Hoi An's turn which accounts for the floats among the lanterns. Enjoy the night lights, and the lanterns both festive and commercial. Next post, I'll show you the city by day. It's one of the few old cities in Vietnam that didn't get obliterated and is well worth a look. also a taste! Its restaurants have the best cuisine in the entire country!
See ya next post,
Monday, June 21, 2010
Like our own Niagara Falls, Vietnam has allowed a lot of crappy souvenir shops to glom onto some astonishing geological formations. The Marble Mountains are a case in point. They're known as the source for Vietnam's marble carvings, as they are literally made of marble. However, to avoid decimating a tourist mecca, the Vietnamese have halted excavations and now import all the marble that's carved here.
Walking up the mountain you pass through as ancient entrance pocked with mortar shells from the war.
Look up. Look way up...
At the peak, we descend into a cave as magestic as any cathedral. It's been a natural Buddhist shrine for centuries. The Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) used it as a fortified field hospital.
It's filled with monuments: Some garish to Western eyes, like a lot of the art here, that go back a hundred years; others carved into the walls the better part of a millennia ago. Note the shrine INSIDE the cave...
We left the mountain and drove through the rain to Hoi An.
Hoi An is an amazing Unesco World Heritage sight, and I'll show it to you in depth with photos from a sunnier day. But next post is going to be all about LANTERNS! Especially BRIGHTLY LIT LANTERNS!
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Squid. They're incredibly smart creatures, like pigs, so I always feel bad whenever I eat them. (Unlike cows, which are essentially walking carrots with a gas problem.) But sadly for squid, they don't have the "Bunny Factor" and I'm a hypocrite, and we were at a fishing village at the outskirts of Nha Trang, so...
But on to sunnier matters. Today was the day we said goodbye to our first guide -- see earlier posts about the Texting King: He had more attitude than a Beverley Hills prom queen -- so needless to say it was a day of celebration. And what better way to celebrate than to walk along a gorgeous beach. Avid readers will know the photo is cribbed from two posts ago, sigh, but hey, it's from our hotel window and from this high up you don't see the garbage.
Note this closeup of the building in the panorama shot. It's designed to look like a lotus bud.
And note the palapas. Unlike those throughout the Carribean, they're designed like the traditional Vietnamese conical hats.
And of course, Edward Scissorhands has, once more, been here before us. On the second photo note the white paint at the base of the trees. It's not just for bugs. Instead it's to act as a reflector so motorbikes don't plow into them.
As always, too, there are trees decorated with night lights. Which reminds me, it's time for bed. Have to be up early tomorrow to fly to Danang and the Marble Mountains then drive to Hoi An -- a city well worth seeing!
Monday, June 14, 2010
So... we finally made it to Nha Trang.
Nha Trang is noted for its beautiful beaches, its diving, the picturesque fishing villages surrounding it, and as the birthplace of Thich Quang Guc (English spelling inaccurate due to Vietnamese alphabet), a Buddhist monk who burned himself alivein protest of the policies of the Diem regime. A major Buddhist shrine has been erected in his memory. You call read all about the appalling Diem here -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngo_Dinh_Diem -- an American uber-ally whose family was so unspeakable that the U.S. government tacitly approved his assassination.
Above is the statue on top of the hill. The plaques surrounding the base are each dedicated to a monk who burned himself in copycat suicides.
Halfway up the hill is a reclining Buddha.
And here's a statue to the monk whose immolation focussed the anger of the international community against Diem, which in turn led to his assassination.
I mentioned fishing villages. Here's the entrance to one of the tackier aquariums I've ever visited. I'm surprised it's not in Dalat. :)
But the sight of the fishing villages is truly glorious, as is the sight of the boats on water. I'll be taking you to floating fishing villages in in Halong Bay and Cambodia, so let's let two photos suffice for now.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Well... cast your mind back a couple of weeks -- before the Cannes and Venice excitement -- and wake up in Dalat, Vietnam's Niagara Falls without the falls. We've just been to a Buddhist monastery -- where fortunately we were able to escape our idiot guide who strolled around in his preppy scarf, texting all and sundry. And now we're headed to Nha Trang and have stopped at a Buddhist cemetery on account of road construction. Driving on, I asked the snoozing guide if Vietnam had any problems with soil erosion. "No," he said. And one minute later...
The non-erosion continued for the next half-hour through miles of timber cutting and deforestation. And then we encountered the homes below. They belong to the Ethic Minority People, as the Vietnamese put it. They've lived here for centuries and are being squeezed. Note that the homes are built on stilts. The stilts are to protect against snakes and lizards, flooding, and are a place to store things.
Just when things were getting boring we drove up into the Cloudy Mountain range and found ourselves flying by turns into and out of, well, clouds.
Then down and on through rice and tea plantations.
Finally we enter Nha Trang. I remembered massive walls in Xian and other cities in China, so as we approached this smallish underpass I asked if it might be the walls of the old city. Our guide roused from his slumber in ther back seat, rolled his eyes, and said, "Of course." Then rubbed his eyes and texted somebody.
At last we got to our hotel across the road from the beach. Have to say, it was EXTREMELY nice. Although we had to keep the lights on because of the sunken living area beside the bed with no railing. (Also a sunken tub by the toilet; nearly cracked my head open on a midnight trip. :)
But what a view! What a sunset!
Monday, June 7, 2010
Another lazy blog. Just photos. But hey, they're of lotus (loti?) in Vietnam, plus gorgeous red peppers and other amazingly beautiful flowers. I only have an old Cannon and haven't figured out how to work PhotoShop so try and imagine what these would look like if I actually had a camera and weren't a techno nerd. :)
Next post, I promise I'll return to our interrupted tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. You gotta see Angor Watt!
Now, must sleep, must sleep. Zzzzzzzz......