Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam- February 2018

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I had booked a flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City on Jetstar.  My flight time only changed 4 times, and in the even it was only delayed 30 minutes in the end. I paid an extra $10 to get the first row seating. It was actually not too bad.  When I arrived I wish I had organized my transportation to my hotel. I am pretty sure I overpaid for taxi.

I went a city tour on the afternoon of my arrival. The first stop of the tour was the War Remnants Museum.  It was interesting.  It’s important to know that it’s a bit bias. It does present the truth but from one side.  It’s worth a trip but might be helpful to do a bit of research about the war as so to get a full understanding the magnitude.

My tour was the highlights. A temple, the post office, the museum, Independence Palace, Notre Dame, Ben Tranh Market and a flower market.

That evening I went out to enjoy the Tet Festivities.

The next day was Tet eve, so I arranged for trip to the Mekong Delta.  I did not think this about what it will entail. I do not like boats.  To visit the delta it requires getting in a boat and even a canoe.  My tour started out with a stop at My Tho to the Vinh Trang Temple.

Then we took a boat ride out to Unicorn Island.

We sampled so of the local fruits and honey products.

We walked thru what felt like a jungle to a private home, where they served us lunch. I politely declined because well elephant fish did not seem like a good idea.

And then it was time to head back to the boat. But it required a ride in canoe. It was experience. I don’t recommend wear white pants. As I fell trying to get in and ended up covered in mud. But the highlight, I got to see a water coconut up close and in person.
And if I had not gone, I would not have gotten the super cool cone hat. Meet Meykong Flo.

With the next day being Tet, I did what anyone would have done in my shoes, I booked a spa day. It was great! A little too great in fact. I was so relaxed that when I ordered my lunch, Banh Mi, I did not ask what was in the sauce that came with it.  It was quite good but apparently there was something fishy in it.  I realized this about 45 minutes later when  I was standing in line for immigration at the airport. I noticed my breathing was weird. It took me a few minutes before I connected the dots. And I started to wonder if it was all in my head. Psychosomatic or not, I have a full on meltdown.  I managed to get to the lounge and get some water. At this point I realized I was not ok. And I had left something at security.  I walked back and the agent was asking why I left it, I was practically crying saying I just don’t feel well.  He actually looked at me and said you need to go to medical. I knew that if I told the truth I was looking at 24 hours of observation.  So I took my chances, waited until he looked the other way and hightailed it my gate.  I managed to make it safely to Australia without any medical intervention. I was sick for 3 days.  I know I take chances with my allergy but after this little episode I realize I need to be more careful. I got very lucky this time.

Until next time.. Safe Travels

Da Nang, Vietnam-February 2018

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I had quite the little adventure getting to Vietnam. Southeast Asia is probably the birthplace of the low cost airlines.  The fares are ridiculously low and if you are lucky you will depart and arrive on time.  The model works well, but man, PACK YOUR PATIENCE. I had booked Cambodia Air to fly from Siem Reap to Da Nang, Vietnam.  I think the flight time changed about 3 times before day of departure. I lost count, if I am honest.  I thought I would have to check my bag so I arrived at the airport 2 hours ahead of time. The first clue something was wrong, my flight was not on the departure board.  The second clue, I was suspiciously in line with people that did not appear to be going to Vietnam. I was right they were going to China.  I started panicking that maybe something was off with my flight, so I did what any pampered traveler would do. I looked at the departure board for the next flight to Da Nang and bought a ticket. I paid about 10 times the price. Even then the flight was delayed! I learned a expensive lesson, book a flight that would potentially connect to the a international long haul. Better chances of it going on time or close to it. I arrived safely, so in the end it all worked out.

And it was so worth it!

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I had originally planned on going only to Ho Chin Minh, I am SO happy I added Da Nang. Even though it was not ideal beach weather it was still quite nice. It also helped that there was a Hyatt. What can I can I am loyalist!  I mistakenly booked to be in Vietnam during Tet, or Lunar New Year. It’s like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all rolled into one. Basically the country shuts down.  I arrived a few days before, and it was fun to see all the preparations.

Lots of signs and yellow chrysanthemums. Their Vietnamese name is  Hoa Van Tho which means longevity and prosperity.  The best part, seeing them being driven around on motorbikes!

Hoi An is a fun town about 30 minutes from Da Nang. My favorite part of Vietnam, so far, has been the fact that the roads are paved! I headed over to Hoi An to check out the town. It was raining and over run with cruise ship passengers, but even then WOW. It was like a little village with fun architecture. A labyrinth of cafes, shops and markets.

It was nice to see a large selection of local made items. Especially the ceramics! So much to buy… too bad I was traveling with a carry on. And the market was quite fun, interesting how they sell meat and fish. At least thru the eyes of this germophobe American!

I spent most of time in Hoi An. After it stopped raining and the cruise ship departed, the streets were quite bare. I was happy that I went during the cooler time of year. But I would like to go back to enjoy the beach properly.

I loved the mix of relaxation with the hotel by the beach and the vibe of the Hoi An city.  I highly recommend visiting this area if a trip to Vietnam is on your radar.

Stay tuned next up another flight on a low cost carrier….

Siem Reap, Cambodia, February 2018

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Apparently, the third time is the charm. I finally made it to Siem Reap, after booking it 2 other times.  First impression, not what I expected.  Mainly I thought it was going to be extremely hot. The heat was bearable, but this could have been because it was “winter”.

The main reason for my trip was to visit Angkor Archaeological Park. The park was the capital cities for the Khmer empire from 9th to 14th century.  It’s the largest religious monument in the world.  It’s also quite large and spread out. So I hired a guide and driver. You could easily do it yourself, a guide is nice but not required.

And let’s be honest, it was also nice to have someone to talk photo’s of me.

And no trip to Southeast Asia is complete without some random monkeys running around. Including one guy getting a massage.

After getting my temple fill, I choose to walk around town.  I stayed at the Park Hyatt, which was a great location. Which I remember reading somewhere about the challenge of crossing the street. I figured it out, but man, I should have just hired a driver. I took a tour of local art center. Saw how they make hand make stuff. Of course you end of in a shop at the end of the tour. No comment about what I purchased…….

Siem Reap is being the process of being developed. They have a significant tourism traffic with people flocking to see Angkor Wat, one of the most know temples. You need a visa to entry and the Cambodia government got wise a few years ago. If you fly in, you are required to stay over night.  It’s evident that money is being put back into the local community.   The photos below, show how different one street could be from another.

It will be interesting to see what it looks like in 5-10 years time. There is so much more to Siem Reap then just visiting the temples. Hopefully if you are reading this, when planning your trip, maybe stay more then 24 hours and see what it has to offer.  Oh definitely avoid the monsoon season. February was idea. It was warm but quite bearable. And you are visiting a religious monument and need to be dressed appropriately.

I am glad I went and would go even go back, in the cooler months.

Next up, my adventure booking a low cost carrier in SE Asia…

Cheers!

Adventures in Australia-February 2018

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It was finally time for me to head back to Brisbane. It felt like I had been gone forever! I could not have planned my departure any better. There was this white stuff on the ground………

I was SO happy to see these blue skies…..

And then I walked in into the best welcome EVER at the Hilton Brisbane. aka “home”.Felt a little bit like a rockstar.

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I arrived back in Brisbane to catch the last few days of the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. I stood in line for 45 minutes to see the Soul under the Moon for 30 seconds.

It was interesting. But since the exhibit was in final days, they already started taking some of it down. I did manage to see quite a bit. I am glad I braved the heat to check out.

Until next time safe travels……..

Goa, India- January 2018

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I have been to India a few times now, and I’ve always enjoy

I need to get my health back on track, so I decided to go to Goa, India for 2 weeks and do a cleanse. I joked that I was going to eat street food and let nature take it’s course. The look of horror on people’s face. If you are not able to drink the local water, it’s not advised to eat street food. This is an international rule. FYI, the drinking water is not kind to the western stomach in India.

My “cleanse” was more of no drinking and making better food choices. And lot of walking around taking sunset and landscape photos.

I spent two in total in Goa. Which in my opinion was a week too long.  I did change hotels 1/2 way thru. For the first week, I stayed at the Park Hyatt and then 2nd week the Grand Hyatt.  If I were go back, I would choose the Park of the Grand. Only because if you are in Goa to relax, the Park is much calmer and quieter. The Grand was quite active. In fact I gate crashed about 4 wedding during the week I was there.  And I worked on taking more landscape photos.

I did manage to lose weight, so mission accomplished.  Most people would not travel that far for that but it worked for me.

Until next time, safe travels.

 

Rio de Janerio, Brazil- January 2018

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Back in 2002, I went to Santiago, Chile and I was pick-pocketed. My travel wallet was stolen, which had all money, credit cards and passport. It was experience to say the least.  Since then I’ve had no desire to return to the South American continent. Which was just ridiculous.

So when presented with the opportunity to go to Brazil for the holidays, I agreed.  It helped that I was in the States for 3 continuous weeks, so I was able to get a visa issued. And for some odd reason I was able to book saver flights with my miles. You know that’s like the traveler’s equivalent of winning the lottery.

I took a friend’s suggestions and signed up for the Eat Rio Tour on my day of arrival.  Not normally my thing, but I am SO glad I did it. I had a lot of fun, and the group that day was actually great! We started the tour at local produce market. Tom, the guide, was very informative.  (P.S. I was excited to use my new Iphone X,  hence the better quality photos).

I am not going to go into great detail of my day, because honestly, you should just stop reading this right now and book a ticket to Rio.  Once that is done use this link, Eat Rio , to sign up for the same tour.  See how easy that was…

If you are considering traveling to Brazil and have safety concerns, ask yourself why?  What is the crime like where you live? If you live in a community in middle of nowhere and it’s safe to leave your doors unlocked at night, then you may have a problem traveling to Chicago, never mind Brazil. IF you live in place, where crime is an every day occurrence, sorry to say like Chicago, then you will be fine traveling to Brazil.  At the end of the day it’s common sense.  Do not ask for trouble, and trouble will probably ignore you.  Every time I mentioned I was going to Brazil, I heard, BE CAREFUL. I should have asked those that told me to be careful, if they have ever been there? And if so did something to them? Or had something to happened to someone they actually know? Or was it, like it most cases, a friend of friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s Uncle who heard of it may happen? Common Sense is your friend. If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t bring it. And maybe leave the shiny stuff at home.  This is just my opinion. I spent 7 days in Rio de Janerio and not once did I feel unsafe.  Not to say crime does not exist just that I was lucky enough not to encounter it.

I rocked in the New Year, eating a ridiculous amount of cheese and watching the fireworks,

 

 

I did the required sites one must see while in Rio, including Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Selaron Steps and yes the famous Copacobana and Ipanema beaches.

And of course then there with fun times with these two…..

Most of my photos moving forward involve porn, food, but still. This is a public blog. So I will only share this one taken at Gringo Cafe, a cafe with an American flair in Ipanema. Since you will already be in Rio, remember you booked your ticket earlier, stop by and say Hello to Sam!

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So we stayed at the Grand Hyatt which is in Barra di Tijuca. It’s a newer area and felt quite safe. I probably wouldn’t recommend it for sightseeing in Rio, as it’s a bit a drive from the Copacabana and Ipanema.  BUT if you are Hyatt loyal, that won’t stop you.  The hotel, has great views. And an amazing staff. I can’t speak highly enough of the concierge, Felipe and Caia, dealing with my 50,000 requests. Or Ramon, making sure I have coffee for breakfast. Or Marlon that keep feeding me cheese on New Year’s. I would go back for the staff, the property could use some TLC.

Until next time, safe travels!

Krakow, Poland- November 2017

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I’ve been wanting to visit Poland for years. I had several co-workers that would from various parts and would always say how nice it is. I had tried to go a few years ago, but no surprise I had an accident and could not walk.  It also helped that there was a direct flight on Austrian from Vienna to Krakow, and I could use miles.

*Travel Tidbit*- I fell off the stairs of the airplane when we were deplaning. I luckily was wearing ugly sturdy shoes, so no damage was done.

First impression of Krakow. NOPE. I arrived at 2pm and it might as well as been 7pm. It was dark,dreary and cold. I was crabby because I took out too much cash from the ATM. And it was pouring rain. So I just took a time out. I stayed in the hotel and did some work. Horrible I know give how little time I had in Krakow to begin with.

I booked a tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was an interesting choice on my part. It was Thanksgiving Day in the US, a day that we give thanks. I opted to tour a memorial of where over a million people lost their lives.  I have no words to describe it. So I will not.  It should be noted that if you happen to visit, remember it’s a memorial. Where people died. It’s NOT a place to use your selfie stick and pose for photos.

After my tour I went to the Oskar Schindler factory. But it was just too much history for me take in for one day. I wish I had done the factory tour on a different day.  I headed back to my hotel and since the sun was out decided to check out the town. How AMAZING.  Oops.

A friend had given me some suggestions for dinner. I went to Szara, because hunger and laziness kicked in, and it was the easiest one to locate from his suggestions.  It was SO good! High recommend it, if you happen to be in the main square in Krakow.

I also checked out the Wieliczka Salt Mines.

I timed my visit in just in time for the opening of the Christmas Markets. I actually met a fellow solo American traveler, who I was able to tour around the market with.  It turns out we were on the same flight heading to Munich.  Such a crazy world.

In the end I did not spend nearly enough time in Krakow. I would like to go back but maybe not in the winter, I have to imagine its beautiful in Spring.

Too soon I was back in my happy place heading off to my next adventure.

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Until next time… safe travels.