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

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

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

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

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

Last days in Peru

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 not sure how, but we navigated … 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

Machu Picchu!

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!

Train ride, long hike, jungle waterfall, early night

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

Stepping up, stepping down in the Sacred Valley

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

Discovering Cusco

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

Tour bus to Cusco, the Inca capital

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

Up to Abra Patapampa & down to Chivay

We set off from Arequipa in a small bus with a new guide. Peter announced he would be our doctor and gave a detailed lecture on preventing altitude sickness. I had brought a prescription but opted for the recommended combination of coca leaf, dark chocolate and mineral water. I soon had a big wad of coca … Continue reading Up to Abra Patapampa & down to Chivay

Peruvian textiles

Handmade textiles are a big part of Peruvian life. Alpacas and llamas provide the fibre which is often hand-dyed using traditional methods and is spun, woven, embroidered and knit into all kinds of products with both┬átraditional and modern designs. Mummies are still clad in their 2,000-year-old shrouds and museums display some amazing examples of similarly-ancient … Continue reading Peruvian textiles

Nazca’s desert mummies

After the Nazca Lines flight, our stop at the Chauchilla Cemetery, an open-air Nazca Culture burial site and Indiana Jones movie location, was decidedly more subterranean. Legally protected since 1997, Chauchilla was discovered in the 1920s but local grave robbers (huaqueros) plundered valuable artifacts and damaged the site. The cemetery is in the middle of a … Continue reading Nazca’s desert mummies