Starting out in Ankara

Turkey is vast -- 84 million proud and nationalistic people in an area twice the size of California -- with an incredible depth of history and natural wonders galore. It borders the Mediterranean to the south, the Aegean to the west and the Black Sea to the north. Head northeast and you'll be in Georgia. … Continue reading Starting out in Ankara

Ankara’s Museums

Our first Turkish museum visit was to the Musezi Gordion, 75km southwest of Ankara, the country's capital. Gordion was the capital of the Phrygian Kingdom that flourished until about 700 BC. The area has several large funeral mounds or 'tumuli,' the most famous of which housed the remains of King Midas, he of the golden … Continue reading Ankara’s Museums

Cruising on Bai Tu Long Bay

The last leg of our Vietnam adventure was modestly luxurious: a two-night cruise on Bai Tu Long Bay, the newer, cleaner, less known and less-overwhelmed-by-tourists neighbour of Ha Long Bay. Ha Long is said to have over 1000 cruise boats packed like sardines and Bai Tu Long doesn't. That's the big difference. Bai Tu Long's … Continue reading Cruising on Bai Tu Long Bay

Triumphal Hanoi

Hanoi is an exciting city to explore with lots of shops, markets and great food. It's also the capital of Vietnam and the country's military prowess is on display. Vietnam has a long and strong martial history; they defeated Chinese Han invaders in 938, Mongols in 1288, French in 1954 and Americans in 1975. In … Continue reading Triumphal Hanoi

Hanoi: food, fun & scooters

Arriving in a new city and getting settled is a stressful part of any trip and Hanoi was no exception. The bus from Sapa dropped us off on a desolate street around mid-day and, while there were lots of taxis waiting, we heard bad things about Hanoi taxis so opted to call a Grab, Vietnam's … Continue reading Hanoi: food, fun & scooters

Trekking in Sapa

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

Standing with Hong Kong

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 in … Continue reading Standing with Hong Kong

Where’s Ninh Binh?

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?

Backtracking to Hoi An

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

Last day in Hue

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

Cruising down the Perfume River

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

A really big cave, DMZ, dessert

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, DMZ, dessert

Arriving in Hue

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

Siem Reap: there was more!

For our third and final day in Siem Reap, our hotel booked us a car and driver (US$70/day) for a trip to┬áthe 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!

The wonders of Siem Reap

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

S21: dark place, sad day

Our second day in Phnom Penh was spent at S21, also known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, once a 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 seized power in … Continue reading S21: dark place, sad day

Phnom Penh: food, palace, pagoda

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

Off to Saigon

Saigon scooter traffic 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 … Continue reading Off to Saigon

Last days in Peru

Cusco market full of wonderful food We flew back to Lima and split with our group to spend our second last day exploring Pachac├ímac, 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 … Continue reading Last days in Peru

Email is great when it works but a big pain when it doesn’t

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