We are living in Virginia and still traveling! It is hard to believe but my last post on our travel blog was in May of 2016 and it was a trip we took in May of 2105! I am not...

 

Where have we been? and more...




Where have we been?

We are living in Virginia and still traveling!

It is hard to believe but my last post on our travel blog was in May of 2016 and it was a trip we took in May of 2105!  I am not sure why I stopped blogging.... but I miss it.

In August of 2015 we relocated back to the United States and it was a much more difficult transition then I could ever imagine.  We were frantically traveling before heading home, along with the giant task of packing up our entire home to move to the other side of the world.  There was no time to blog and once you get out of the habit it is hard to keep it going. 

But I AM READY to get back into the groove of blogging!  I have so many exciting trips to share.

We continue to travel.... D quite a bit!  In fact, we will head off to Greece in a few weeks and on the way home he will hit his million miles on United!  Technically, he hit it a long time ago if you count ALL of our travels, but while we lived in Brussels and Singapore we rarely flew on United so our miles are spread across many airlines.  I probably have one million under my belt as well!

So check back soon - I will be posting trips from Beijing and the Great Wall, Sri Lanka, Japan, Vietnam, Bangkok, Bali, California, Paris, Brussels, three fabulous weeks in Italy, and Singapore (I have been back twice since we left, D has been back five times!)  I asked him if we really should still be living there  :  )

 

     
 

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Snapshots from Korea

 

Seoul, Korea

May 2015

 

 

Seoul 29

 

 

 

Seoul

 

 

 

Seoul 22

 

 

 

Seoul 21

 

 

 

Seoul 17

 

 

 

Seoul 12

 

 

 

Cone
 

 

 

Seoul 9

 

 

 

Seoul 10

 

 

 

Seoul 19

 

 

 

Seoul 20

 

 

 

Seoul 24

 

 

 

Seoul 26

 

 

 

Seoul 30

 

 

 

Jeju Island, Korea

 

 

Jeju 4

 

 


Jeju 13

 

 

 

Jeju 9

 

 

 

 

Seoul 15

 

 

  Jeju 8

 

 

 

Jeju 50 

 

 

Jeju 17

 

 

 

Jeju 6

 

 

 

Jeju 7

 

 

 

Jeju 19

 

 

 

Jeju 20

 

 

 

Jeju 21

 

 

 

Jeju 24 

 

 

 

Jeju 22

 

 

 

Jeju 23

 

 

 

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Jeju 27

 

 

 

Jeju 28

 

 

 

Cupcake men

 

 

 

Jeju 29

 

 

 

Jeju 30

 

 

 

Jeju 31

 

 

 

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Jeju 36

 

 

 

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Jeju 45

 

 

 

Jeju 46

 

 

We really enjoyed Seoul and wished we had more time to explore the city. 

We ended up having less than two days there due to the conference D had to attend on Jeju Island. 

A fun fact about the route from Seoul to Jeju Island, it is the WORLD"S busiest passenger air route.





     
 

Ninh Bình, Vietnam - the missing post

 

Ninh Bình, Vietnam

"The missing post"

November 2013

 

 

Vietnam ninh binh 1

 

 

This was a really good trip and I am not sure why it fell through the cracks in getting posted.  Ninh Bình is a city in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam and has some amazing scenery.  It is about a two-hour drive from Hanoi.  D had a business trip to Hanoi and while we were there we took the weekend to explore Ninh Bình.  We were not expecting the area to be so picturesque.

 

 

Vietnam ninh binh 2

 

 

Ninh Binh is much less touristy than its nearby "big brother" Hạ Long Bay.  We found it to be as beautiful with equally impressive views of the Karst Mountain formations.  But to really see the Karst Mountains properly at Ha Long Bay, you have to take a two-to-four day cruise.  Ninh Binh can be done via a car or motorbike with a few short trips in a small boat. 

 

 

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In fact, Ninh Binh has been referred to as “Ha Long Bay on Land.”   And along with the Karst Mountain views, you experience winding rivers, rice paddies, ancient settlements, and everyday life in the countryside.  

 

 

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We visited in November, which is the tail end of their cold & rainy season.  And yes, it was rainy and cold.  But this did not stop us.  We had planned a two-day motorcycle ride, but it was too rainy the first day so we had our driver bring a car.  The next day, even though it was very cold, we bundled up and rode on the bikes!

 

 

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In all of our travels we have never seen a raincoat for a calf.  Adorable!

 

 

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Our guide needed to stop by the father's house of his best friend, and he asked us if we wanted to go along.  The older gentleman's wife had passed a few months earlier and our guide had not been able to visit to give his condolences.  What a unique opportunity.  Other than our guide, no English was spoken.

 

 

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Moments like these make me realize why I love traveling.  They were as interested in us as we were in them. 

 

 

Bedroom&bath (1)

 

They offered us tea.  I always do my "pretend tea drinking" when we are offered tea in an area that I feel the water might be questionable.  It would be rude to say no, but I also can't risk getting sick.  So I just put the cup up to my mouth and act like I am taking a sip.  

 

 

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 It is always fascinating to me to see how hospitable they are to complete strangers.

 

 

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The inside of the house was very simple.  It was one large room with fabric hung to separate the rooms.  It's hard to tell from this picture, but the wall directly behind us is the family shrine.  Every Vietnamese house has a prominent family shrine with photos of all their relatives.  The owner was very proud to tell us stories about notable people in his family. 

 

 

Vietnam ninh binh 10

 

 

Next, a boat ride at Tam Coc to see the Karst Mountains...

I have to say that I think Karst topography is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world.  We have seen them in Vietnam and China, but there are many countries around the world where you can experience them.  The mountains are formed from soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite and gypsum.  They have unique underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.

 

 

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D steering our boat.

 

 

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... an interesting hay stack.

 

 

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In this area they have a very unique way of rowing... look closely at how the locals use their feet on the oars to row.   Interestingly, most are older women rowing, especially on the tourist boats.

 

 

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As I mentioned, it was very cold, so I had on two pairs of pants and four layers of tops.  

 

 

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A great Pho stand near our hotel.  We ate here a few times as there were very few restaurants.

 

 

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 And we had to sample local Banh Mi.

 

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With the local salted lemon mineral water.

 

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The next day...

The rain stopped so we decided to hop on the motorcycles with our fabulous guide Toan.  It was still very cold, especially riding bikes!  D wore three pairs of pants (really) and five layers of shirts/sweaters. He basically had on his entire wardrobe at once. 

We stayed at the charming Vancouver Hotel in Ninh Binh.  Many guides will tell you to stay in Tam Coc, but since this is not a touristy area good hotels are scarce.  We highly recommend this hotel but book early, because David (the owner) only has two rooms.  He was hoping to expand and may have done so since we stayed.

 

 

Me moto

 

 

I have shared with our readers that I am not a fan of motorcycles, but I do love riding them in Vietnam!  Okay, technically these were only motorbikes.

 

 

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I was enamored the poinsettia trees (Trang Nguyen flowers) that grew wild in this area.  All in full bloom.

 

 

Flower

 

 

As of 2014, Tràng An, a scenic area known for it's boat cave tours near Ninh Bình, was included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.  

 

 

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This time we were in a boat steered by a shoe-less woman.  It was a bit cold so she had socks on.

 

 

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Get ready - we are going in.... there are about ten different caves on this two-hour boat ride.

 

 

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 It was an amazing view when you exited the cave.

 

 

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Below - a packed boat of friendly visitors.  We were very lucky because this time of year is a low travel period so there were very few boats on the water.  At peak season the waters are full of boats with locals trying to sell you soda and souvenirs.   We did not experience any of this so it was a very pleasant experience for us and we highly recommend it.

 

 

Vietnam ninh binh 40

 

 

Back to our bikes for more rice fields and local characters...

 

 

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Always a favorite of ours, visiting the local market. 

 

 

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 And a few photos of the local people.

This might be my favorite photo - notice how the girls are all bundled up with coats, leggings, and hats but still have on their flip flops!

 

 

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I thought this was a parade but our guide told me it was a funeral.  But he said it was a time to be happy and to celebrate the life of the deceased.

 

 

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Vietnam ninh binh 81

 

The local barber...

 

Barber

 

 

Ear cleaning is an art in Vietnam.  I think I would be afraid to let someone dig in my ear like that!

 

 

Ear cleaning

 

We went to a very old amusement park.  It was closed for the winter; at least we think it was just for the winter.

 

Vietnam ninh binh 63

 

 

 

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Can you image and old rusty ride like this in the US?

 

 

Vietnam ninh binh 66

 

 

Bái Dính Temple and Cultural Complex is a series of Buddhist temples on Bái Dính Mountain.

 

ninh binh

 

 

The compound consists of the original old temple and a new larger temple. It is considered the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam and has become a popular site for Buddhist pilgrimages.

 

 

Vietnam ninh binh 31

 

 

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We really enjoyed our three days in Ninh Binh - we would love to go back when the rice fields are green.

 

 

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia - the girls trip

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 1
 

 

Siem Reap/Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 February, 2015

 

Exactly one year ago today, Cousin Maria, Jane, Sue, and I took a "girls" trip to visit Siem Reap for Jane's 50th birthday.  It was also part of Sue and Maria's big Asian Adventure.  Although it was only three days, we packed in a lot and had a fabulous time.  It was my second visit to Siem Reap, but I was still in awe at how amazing and beautiful this area is.

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 6

 

 

 Getting up at 4 am to see the sunrise at the stunning Angkor Wat temple was worth it.  The great temples of Angkor Wat are situated in the province of Siem Reap Cambodia. These ancient temple ruins are considered the largest religious complex in the world.  Interestingly, this area was abandoned for nearly 1000 years, hidden by the jungle.  In 1890, a French explorer rediscovered the "lost city."

 

 

  Cambodia girls trip 2

 

 

Angkor Wat was dedicated to Vishnu, a Hindu deity.  This was unusual for this time as most were dedicated to the reigning king.  In the late 13th century the temple transferred from Hindu to Buddhist use and is still used by Buddhists today.  Angkor Wat has also become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag. 

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 3

 

 

There were many tourists at the temple, but it did not distract from the experience.  I actually favor this photo of all the tourists, each doing their own thing, while they anxiously await the sunrise. 

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 5

 

 

We were so lucky as the weather could not have been more perfect for the sunrise! 

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 9

 

As I mentioned in our other girls trip, the Maldives, it is fun traveling with girlfriends as we all LOVE posing for group shots!

 

Poses

When Angkor Wat was named a World Heritage site in 1992 it was also added to the List of World Heritage sites that were in danger.  People were pillaging and stealing the ancient artifacts.  In 1993, UNESCO launched a campaign along with the Cambodian authorities to restore and safeguard Angkor. 

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 46

 

UNESCO continues to be a part of Angkor’s future to ensure that tourism and development do not compromise this cultural treasure.  However, the structures are in jeopardy from the sheer amount of visitors who walk on the ruins each day.  There are rumors that authorities may shut down parts of the monument.  This would be so unfortunate for future visitors but I can understand why they would make this decision.

 

 

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 Cambodia - cathy996

 

 

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That evening Jane managed to surprise us all for her birthday.... she had made a donation to buy a water pump for a needy village in all of our names.  We were able to go and visit the village, meet some of the children and people who live there, and see the water pump.  What an amazing gift for us... but can you image what this clean water will do for this poor community? Only 30% of rural people have access to safe drinking water, 19% to adequate sanitation and 50% to health services. About 4 million people, or almost 40% of the population, live below the poverty threshold.  Jane is a very thoughtful and a very giving person.

 

  Water pump

 

 

Elephants!

Of course riding an elephant was high on Maria and Sue's list of things to do in Asia.  It certainly made for a unique photograph with the temples in the background!  

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 11 

 

  Elephant ride

Many people do not realize the vast amount of temples in the Angkor Wat complex.  In three days, you can only visit a small handful of them. 

 

  Cambodia girls trip 18

 

 

 Ta pram

One temple not to be missed is Ta pram or the jungle temple made famous by Angelina Jolie and the Tomb Raider movie.  Construction on Ta Prohm began in 1186.  Unlike most of the temples of Angkor, it has been largely left to nature, hence the fantastic overgrown roots.  Ta Prohm is often described as the most magical place in all of Angkor.  

 

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You feel like an explorer as you wander the temple grounds.  Not to mention, it is a playground for photography.

 

 

 Tree

 

 

 

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 Bayon Wat

Know as the temple of faces, Bayon Wat is one of my favorites.  From a distance, it looks like a pile of blurry stones.  But as you get closer, the magic appears...

 

 

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Built by Jayavarman VII the temple has 54 towers and 216 faces.  No one knows exactly whom the faces represent. 

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 27

 

 

Each tower has four huge carved faces on each side.  The faces are 13 feet high (4 meters) and oriented toward the four points of the compass.  They all have closed eyes, which gives a very peaceful Zen feel.  It is another site that is fantastic for photographs.

 

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Cambodia

 

 

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Statues

 

 

 Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is a 10th-century Cambodian temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. The modern name of the temple means “Citadel of the Women.” 

 

 

Cambodia girls trip 21

 

Because it is 20 miles from the main group of temples, it is not as crowded.  It is also very different from the others as it is built with rose-pink sandstone.  The temple is elaborately decorated with floral motifs, female deities, and monkey guardians.

 

 

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group temple

 

So many picturesque Doorways...

 

 

Doorways

 

 

Statues2

 

 

Back at our hotel

 

We enjoyed a cooking class where we learned how to make traditional Cambodian dishes. 

 

 

Cooking class

 

Cooking

photo by sue

 

Our last afternoon we relaxed at our hotel pool.

 

Pool

 

 

The local village

 

Flash back to April 2011, the first time D and I visited Cambodia.  We stayed at the same hotel and visited the village next door.  Below is a photo of D sharing photos with the children in his viewfinder. 

 

 

Sojourn village 17

 

 

It was a very special experience for us. We even bought a water filtration system for one family in this village.  D had a great idea and printed out photos that we took on that trip, so that I could give them out when I visited with the girls.  Many of the staff at the hotel are from the village so all we had to do was show the photos to them and they were able to tell us whom the parents are. 

 

 

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This was a grandmother of the little girl in the photo.

 

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I was very excited, as were they.  One of those priceless moments!  Thanks Sue for taking these photos of my reunion!

 

 

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When I walked away, I looked back and they were still laughing and enjoying the photos.  I just wish D were there to enjoy it.

 

 

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We continued on to visit more of the peaceful little village.  The hotel is outside of the city so not only do you get to feel what the local life is like; there are hardly any tourists.

 

 

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Below is a typical house in the village - no electricity, no running water, basically a palm leaf hut.

 

 

Sojourn village 26

 

 

Cambodia has a population of 15 million people.  Cambodia is slightly larger than state of Missouri and lies between Thailand and Vietnam in mainland Southeast Asia, with the northern border adjoining Laos.  Decades of war and internal conflict have left it one of the world's poorest countries.

 

 

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Most likely her blackened teeth are from chewing betel.  Betel chew is made up of several ingredients - betel leaf, slivers of areca palm nut, and lime paste.  It releases a mild stimulant. There is also a tradition to lacquered teeth, but I think this is from betel because it is on her lips. 

 

 

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{above photo by sue - fantastic!}

 

 

A Buddhist cemetery

 

 

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The predominant religion in Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism where death marks the transition from this life to the next.  The belief is that all life/being evolves in a successive cycle of birth, sickness, old age, death and rebirth/reincarnation.

 

 

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In Theravada Buddhism it is traditional to cremate.  Cremation is usually carried out in the temple and the ashes placed in an urn, which is then placed in a stupa (also called a chedi).  Only one person is laid in each stupa.  The size of the stupa reflects the status of the deceased.

 

 

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Prayer flags at the temple grounds.

 

 

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Bringing the cows home at the end of the day...

 

 

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I pulled the photo on the left from mine and D's visit in 2011 - it is the same man in the photo on the right I took on this trip.  Sporting that same dapper look with his hat and scarf.

 

 

Cambodia
 

 

A note about Cambodia's history: 

The Khmer Rouge is a very important part of its history.  There is so much to be told it would take me an entire blog…..what I will tell you is when the Khmer Rouge ruled between 1975 to 1979, it is estimated that 1.4 to 2.2 million Cambodians were killed.   Half of those deaths were from executions, and the rest were from starvation and disease.  Most of the people killed were the wealthy and educated.  This horrible part of history devastated Cambodia and they are still trying to recover and it is still one of the poorest countries in the world.

 

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Always my favorite, the beautiful children...

 

 

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I'll end this post with a handful of random photos that really captured the essence and the fun we had on this trip!!

 

 

Cambodia just for fun 1

 

It's all about the photos!

 

 

Cambodia just for fun 2

{above photo by sue}

 

 

 Cambodia just for fun 3

 

 

Temple posing


 

 

Bond girls

 

 

Happy 50th birthday Jane!!!  Thank you for sharing your special day with us!!

 

 

Cambodia just for fun 4

 

Cousins!

 

  temple

 

 

Maria and Sue - catching the spirit of the temple.

 

 

Cambodia just for fun 5

 

Maria - supporting the local economy by purchasing handmade bracelets from a young girl.

 

 

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{above photo by sue}

 

 

Cambodia just for fun 6

 

 

Cambodia just for fun 7

 

  GIRLS

 

 

And if anyone can guess what Jane is doing... you win a prize!

 

 

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Good Night Cambodia!

 

I love the colors in this photo... taken at the "golden hour (the golden hour also called the magic hour is just before sunset - or after sunrise when the sun's light is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky).  I have taken only a handful of photos caught at this exact moment.  But when you are able to catch it, the light makes for a very special image.

 

 

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It was a perfect sunset TO END A PERFECT TRIP.

 

 

 

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