Monday, October 21, 2013

Hello Vietnam

The vivid colors of Vietnam
During China's National Holiday or Golden Week, we travel to Vietnam to see the places and meet the people of an infamous, yet fascinating country.
Roof dragon on Temple of Literature in Hanoi

We fly to Hanoi from Shanghai, 3.5 hours.  We hear Hanoi is what China was about 25 years ago.  No subway, just motorbikes, taxis, and few private automobiles on the road.
French Opera House in Hanoi City

Ken at Hoa Lan Prison, ironically named
Hanoi Hilton
American pilots were incarcerated,
John McCain's flight suit is on
We never thought we'd ride one
of these, but it was fun!

 Hanoi is the northern capital city of Vietnam.  This is a dynamic city. We stay two nights and are overwhelmed with sights, smells and a people who are genuinely pleased to welcome foreigners into their city.

Jeanie doing morning Tai Chi on the Junk
We then take a bus west towards Halong Bay; roads are slow with construction.  We arrive 4 hours later, and embark on our sailing cruise ship called the Treasure Junk.  This is a serious splurge for us and we love it!  Exquisite French cuisine, relax time on the ship and, for the first time all year, we KAYAK!!

Treasure Junk, Halong Bay
Incredible kayaking
Halong Bay floating fishing village

Paddling the South China Sea

 Warm water swim as the sun goes down on Halong Bay

Hoi An along the Thu Bon River
After our two day cruise, we fly to the middle of Vietnam along the coast to Hoi An, an atmospheric World Heritage Site.   Hoi An has an incredible legacy of Japanese and Chinese architecture, tea houses and temples.  The food is delicious.  We spend time on a beautiful, yet vacant beach.  This is the area called China Beach, once an R&R hang out for U.S. Soldiers.

Fishing along the Thu Bon River

Fresh markets line the streets
Yummy food

 China Beach, Vietnam
Hoi An Old Village
Cultural Center concert in Hoi An

Ho Chi Minh City
We fly south to Ho Chi Minh City, or the former Saigon.  Many locals still refer to their city as Saigon.  We enjoy the French colonial architecture and the modern buzz of this city.  We are moved deeply by the war museum.

Notre Dame Church in the background
Intercontinental Hotel in the foreground as seen in the
 movie The Quiet American

City Hall in Ho Chi Minh City

Ken with US tank & helicopter at War Remnant Museum
Vietnam has a lot to offer. We barely touch the surface. We are grateful to experience a bit of Vietnam, and have a new awareness of the hardship so many experienced during the war.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  Romans 12:18

Next Up:  The Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gorgeous Guangxi

Happy Autumn!
Yao Women of Dazhai Village
Guangxi Province is a 2 hour flight southwest of Shanghai.  In late September we take advantage of the three day Zhong Qiu Jie, or Mid-Autumn Festival, and travel to two magnificent areas: Longsheng Rice Terraces, and Yangshuo

Harvest time

Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces

The rice is almost ready
for harvest
We first head to the spectacular vistas of Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces.  The rice is just about ready to harvest.  We stay in a simple inn, Wisdom Inn, run by a Shanghainese woman.  The town of Dazhai is tiny. Very refreshing to be away from the crowds!

Called Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces
 because in some seasons they look like the twisty scales of dragon's back.

We trek from village to village in the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terrace

Dazhai, laid back Yao Minority Village where we stay
In the rice fields with new Chinese friends

We then travel 3 hours south in a taxi to spend two more nights at our next destination:  Yangshuo.  The karst mountain peaks are just stunning.  Mystical and magical, we are in awe of God's creation.  We take a bamboo raft down to Yangshuo.

Two hour float down Li River

We stay at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat; very affordable  @ $100 per night, with this view! An American educator started this wonderful retreat in Yangshuo.  He employs all local workers.  It was a relaxing place to retreat and reflect on our time in China.  We have only two more months in China!

We experience one of the most beautiful bike rides ever! 
Water buffalo sighting from bikes

Biking through fields and mountains
Our bike ride leads to a 600 year old bridge.

Mystical Mountains of Yangshuo, Heavenly.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.  In His hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.  Psalm 95: 3-4

Next Up:  Vietnam