Our seven hour sleeper bus from Ninh Binh to Sapa, about 400km to the northwest near the Chinese border, was uneventful. We drove through Hanoi on an elevated expressway and I missed a great photo of rush hour traffic below. There were at least four full lanes packed with wheel-to-wheel, footpeg-to-footpeg scooters. An impressive sight. … Continue reading Trekking in Sapa
While on our way home after a few weeks in Laos, we stopped in Hong Kong to renew old acquaintances. Like many people, we follow HK's pro-democracy movement and wished there was something we could do to show support. As it happened, a "police-approved" march was starting shortly after our plane landed so we checked … Continue reading Standing with Hong Kong
We'd never heard of Ninh Binh but it was highly recommended by our AirBnB hosts in Hue so we decided to check it out. While not well known to foreigners, Ninh Binh is a very popular vacation spot for Vietnamese, a classic un-destination about 100 km south of Hanoi. Ninh Binh has a phenomenal karst … Continue reading Where’s Ninh Binh?
Our ten dollar, 135 km trip from Hue south to Hoi An was by tour bus. It stopped several times along the way and was a good introduction to the area. First up was the Thanh Toan Japanese Bridge in a small market village about 7 km from Hue. Lovely place and worth the half … Continue reading Backtracking to Hoi An
We had one more day in Hue and spent it exploring on our own. First up was a trip to a pair of off-the-beaten-path Chinese clan association temples we'd read about. Before I go any further I have to say how difficult it was to find these places and confirm their names. Among other names, … Continue reading Last day in Hue
Our second tour in Hue was down the Perfume River to various pagodas, mausoleums and monuments located on its banks. We were picked up at our AirBnB by a pair of scooters and that was an adventure on its own. Traffic in Vietnam follows its own mysterious rules and, while Hue's roads are tame by … Continue reading Cruising down the Perfume River
We've learned that most destinations have unlimited numbers of tours and guides eager for your business so there is no need to pre-book. And that's how it was in Hue. We decided on two tours, first to Paradise Cave located north of Hue in PhongNha Ke Bang National Park and then down the Perfume River … Continue reading A really big cave
Our time in Siem Reap ended with a US$4 tuk-tuk ride to the airport and a flight to Hue, Vietnam, with an unavoidable six-hour layover in Saigon. Our trip was not well planned and I confess to my mistakes in the hope you won't repeat them. We had intended to start our Vietnam tour in … Continue reading Arriving in Hue
For our third and final day in Siem Reap, our hotel booked us a car and driver (US$70/day) for a trip to the reclining Buddha atop Kulen Mountain in Phnom Kulen National Park. Tuk-tuks can't handle the steep grade so we piled into the well-worn Lexus for our two-hour journey. Used or stolen cars such as … Continue reading Siem Reap: there was more!
Coming face-to-face with the horrors of Cambodia's genocide at S21 was a straitening experience. Nonetheless, we left Phnom Penh in an optimistic mood; it's an interesting city and we want to spend more time there. Our visit to Cambodia was an afterthought to our Vietnam plans -- "while we're so close..." -- but the country … Continue reading The wonders of Siem Reap
Our second day in Phnom Penh was spent at S21, also known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school that became one of hundreds of torture and death centres operated by the Khmer Rouge. More than two million Cambodians perished by their hand. Supported by Mao, the Khmer Rouge came to power … Continue reading S21: dark place, sad day
After a three hour bus ride from the Vietnam border along a highway festooned with signs supporting the shamefully corrupt Cambodian People's Party, we arrived in Phnom Penh. Our expected transportation did not meet us as expected but a call to the hotel set that right. We were soon in a tuk-tuk and on our … Continue reading Phnom Penh: food, palace, pagoda
After a month of planning and anticipation we left Toronto for Vietnam with a long layover in Beijing. The Beijing approach was remarkable: extraordinarily dense development, lots of wind turbines, the Great Wall snaking along the countryside, and the city peeking out from a heavy layer of smog. Not surprisingly, Beijing Capital Airport is vastly … Continue reading Off to Saigon
We flew back to Lima and split with our group to spend our second last day exploring Pachacámac, an enormous, sprawling archaeological site about 31 km south of Lima. It was a major adventure that required two local minibuses and another bus down the highway to the site. I'm not sure how, but we navigated … Continue reading Last days in Peru
When I checked my email on February 27, a strange thing happened. There was nothing new. Not even the junk mail that greets me every morning. Oh well, thought I, just a glitch, I should log on fresh and get things synced up. It can occasionally happen that, due to an update or some such, … Continue reading Email is great when it works but a big pain when it doesn’t
It was an early start. Well before the crack of dawn we left our hotel and trudged down to Aguas Calientes' bus loading area to join a very long but fast-moving line for the nine km, 1,500 ft. grind up the Hiram Bingham Highway to Machu Picchu. Walking is an option for those with a masochistic bent but … Continue reading Machu Picchu!
We were off to Aguas Calientes and our long-anticipated visit to the "Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu. It was an early morning departure from the Hotel Marquese in Cusco for the five-hour PeruRail Vistadome trip to Aguas Calientes. We could have walked the Inca Trail -- four days three nights of hard, high … Continue reading Train ride, long hike, jungle waterfall, early night
Still acclimatizing for Machu Picchu, we spent the day exploring the so-called "Sacred Valley," so-called because according to our guide this is a recent name, created for touristic purposes. Oh well, still a lovely, extraordinary place and the centre of the Inca Empire. First stop was Awana Kancha Living Museum of the Andes which features llamas and … Continue reading Stepping up, stepping down in the Sacred Valley
Truth is that I had never heard of Cusco and had very little idea what to expect. This was a pre-arranged tour so research was not necessary and I let the experience just sweep me along. Looking out over Cusco. So it came as a bit of a surprise that this provincial town and ancient … Continue reading Discovering Cusco
It's been a while but Vietnam and Xmas are behind me and it's a new year so time to get back to blogging. Our trip to Cusco was by a guided public tour bus with several stops on the way and it didn't start well. Our six am transportation didn't show up at the hotel … Continue reading Tour bus to Cusco, the Inca capital