February 25, 2012

3 Years Later – The Final Post

Trip Video

DSC06360Over the last 3 years, I have been asked many times, "when are you going to write the Final Post?" My response has always been, "yeah, I need to do that . . . " as my mind wanders off thinking about our trip around the world. Well, after 3 years of procrastinating and maybe just not wanting to post the Final Post, here it is. I assume the reason that I haven been avoiding it stems from the fact that the act of doing so brings an official end to the trip. The prod I needed was Jennifer posting a picture of Halong Bay on Facebook a couple days ago stating where we were 3 years ago. 3 years ago?! Really?! The other prodding came from my desire to convert the blog into a book and the book really should have an epilogue.

Aaron Grad FamilyIn the time that we have been back, Aaron graduated from Williams College and started his professional career at J.P. Morgan in New York. He absolutely loves living and working in Manhattan. Noah has passed up Aaron height wise, topping out at 6'5". He is a Junior at Apple Valley High School and thoroughly enjoys hanging out with people other than his parents after 7 months of too much Mom and Dad time. Jennifer is on her 3rd job since our return, landing for the 4th time at IBM. I sold my internet company and went back into the project management consulting business. Jennifer and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Kauai!

DSC04572The last few days in Fiji, the final destination on our trip, we spent a lot of time reminiscing about the previous 7 months. We discussed the experiences we had, the people we met, and potential impact they will have on how we live our lives. Other than those deep philosophical topics, we also chronicled how we got around the world. We took 33 flights, 103 taxi rides, 99 bus rides, 29 boat rides, 4 car rentals, 6 train rides, 37 trips on the subway, 5 bike rentals, 16 trips in friends cars, 1 cable car, 19 Tuk-Tuk rides, 4 trips on a Cyclo, 4 scooter rentals, and 3 types of animals (horse, camel, and elephant).

DSC06496Looking back on the trip, we feel blessed that we were able to take a break from life and experience all that the world has to offer. The picture to the right pretty much sums up how we feel about taking 7 months to travel the world. This little boy is from Ubud on the island of Bali in Indonesia. It makes us want to go back to Bali, since we did not spend enough time there. Better yet, we need to figure out when we can do another trip around the world. It might have to wait until we get Noah through college.

Until next time . . .

Click on the following link to view a 15 minute video/picture summary of our trip ==> Trip Video

March 25, 2009

Fiji - Last Stop

DSC07222We have been back in the United States for over 2 weeks and I am just now getting around to completing this post for the last stop on our trip around the world. I think the reason it took so long to sit down and write this is that it brings a finality to our adventure. It means that we will no longer wake up each day exploring a new land and culture. We realize that it couldn't go on forever, but it was sure great while it lasted.
DSC07214 Fiji was added to our itinerary when Airtreks, the company that booked our around the world flights told us that it would be cheaper to fly home from Australia if we had a layover in Fiji. That was all it took to spend the last 4 days of our trip on the island of Viti Levu. There are over 300 islands that make up Fiji, but the population of the entire country is less than 1 million. Language was not a barrier as English is the official language even though most people speak Fijian when talking to each other. The only Fijian word that we really needed to know was bula! For Fijians, bula means hello, welcome, cheers, and great to see you. There is also a wonderful requirement that you smile widely when saying bula!
DSC07223 We happened upon a great hostel called Uprising Resort, which offered bures on the beach for a reasonable price. A bure (booray) must mean house on a beach because we had a house and it was right on the beach. Jennifer wanted to take the last 4 days to "unpack". This "unpacking" took the full four days as she never left the resort. She spent much of her time thinking, looking out at the ocean, thinking, reading, writing, and then thinking some more.
DSCN8276 Not being so good at this "unpacking" concept due to being male and having a touch of A.D.D., I joined Noah for kayaking, hiking, playing catch on the beach and seeing how much food we could eat. Noah even had the opportunity to ride a jet ski. The highlight of our activities was kayaking in the ocean and up a river in the jungle. We didn't see any crocodiles on the river, DSCN8297but it sure looked like a place that they would like to hang out.
Whether we were at the resort, walking through the town, or kayaking up the river, the local people greeted us with hardy bulas and a smile. Fiji turned out to be a nice, friendly relaxing place to close out our 7 month adventure. We will soon follow up this post with one last post summarizing our trip, including thoughts about being home. To view our slide show of Fiji, click on the following link ==> Fiji Slide Show

March 20, 2009

Sydney, Australia - The Harbour

DSC06986The picture to the left is a photo of the Sydney Opera House taken from a ferry while going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is probably the most photographed opera house in the world. We have watched the spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks in the harbour many times on TV. In person, the Sydney harbour is even more impressive. The harbour is made up of an extensive network of bays, points, and rivers. These waterways are accessible by ferries that act as river taxis to and from various points in the city.
DSC06996 Like Melbourne, Sydney has a great mass transit system that makes it easy for locals and tourists to get around without a car. There are trains, ferries, monorails, buses, subways and bikeways that connect the city with the suburbs. We made use of the trains, ferries, and buses during our stay. Speaking of Melbourne and Sydney, we have met many people from both of these cities. Melbournians and Sydneyians both made adamant pleas to us about how their city was better.  Rather than joining the fray, we will just say that they are both great cities for different reasons.
Some of you have asked us about how we have gotten along with just the three of us traveling together for such a long time. Overall, we have done quite well despite the usual family conflicts and issues that arise whether we are at home or somewhere on the DSC06982other side of the world. We did start to melt down in Sydney though. As a result, you won't see as many group pictures in this slide show. After traveling together for almost 7 months, we needed a little more "alone time" than we have had in the past. The jokes that we used to think were funny were no longer funny. Personal habits became annoying habits. I just don't understand why me tapping my fingers on the table while using a knife as a toothpick can be considered annoying to Jennifer. She of course has no annoying habits.
DSC06997 We took turns exploring the city and split up at times. One such "alone time" was for Jennifer to attend the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. She got to enjoy the music without Noah asking her "how much longer" or me asking "does this mean I can go to the rugby game tomorrow". While Jennifer was at the Opera House, Noah and I were off eating pizza and popcorn.
DSC07053 We did all go to Bondi Beach together. We had watched the Australian reality TV show about the Bondi Beach lifeguards, so we thought it would be fun to go there. The TV show is a combination of Baywatch and 90210. What's there not to like? Our plans were to take a look at the beach and then go for a walk down the coast, but seeing the large surfer waves changed our minds. We rented boogie boards and ended up riding the waves the rest of the afternoon. We originally rented the boards for one hour, but that turned into three hours. After finally convincing Noah to take a break, we went on a walk on the beautiful coastal walkway.
DSC07200 Wanting to play baseball on a nice baseball field, I found the Olympic Park fields on a web site that has 3 manicured fields with batting cages for use by the public. We set out to the Olympic Park Village, home of the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. It takes a while to get there by ferry or train since it is a ways out of town. A unique characteristic of the Olympics in Sydney is that all the facilities were built in one area so the entire Olympic complex is massive. The only problem is that the baseball fields that were on the web site were not at this location! They have everything but baseball fields here. I still don't know where the fields are. Maybe I should have checked this out in more detail prior to going all the way out there?!
We are off to our last stop on the trip - Fiji! to see our slide show of Sydney, Australia, click on the following link ==> Sydney, Australia Slide Show

March 16, 2009

Queensland, Australia - The Great Barrier Reef

Queensland, Australia Slide Show

DSC06940 Realizing that driving from Melbourne to northern Queensland would be the equivalent of driving from Dallas to Boston, we added a flight to see the Great Barrier Reef, beaches, and rainforests of Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef is located off the coast of Queensland, the state that occupies the northeastern section of Australia. We started in Port Douglas, using it as a base to explore the area.

DSCN7874Traveling in this area can be a bit unnerving at times. Either Australians are just trying to scare you with all their "danger" and "warning" signs or there are truly many dangers awaiting tourists. We were warned about stinging trees, winding roads, stingers, falling rock, jellyfish, wet roads, snakes, cyclones, crocodiles, deadly currents, spiders and some big bird the size of me that you should avoid pissing off. It appears that the danger signs are just for tourists since the locals handle all these animals and call them by their names as if they are best friends. Our various tour guides pet huge fish in the ocean, handle crocodiles, hug lizards, kiss birds, hang snakes on themselves, and are not bothered when a koala "poos" on them.

DSC06843 Besides seeing animals in the wild, we had to get used to a variety of critters showing up in our rooms. Any food left out brought an immediate army of ants. Geckos obviously liked it better inside with us. A hornets nest in Noah's closet caused him to lose some sleep. I wish we had video of the three of us trying to chase a bat out of the house. Luckily the crocodile and kangaroo stayed outside. They would have been a little more difficult to deal with.

DSC06789 Noah turned 14 years old in Queensland! After failing in my attempt to make him pancakes (pre-packaged and stale) and bacon (thrashers are not bacon) for breakfast, we spent the rest of the day visiting various spots in the Daintree National Park on a beautiful day. The park is a wonderful combination of hills, streams, rainforest, and deserted beaches. It is the only place in the world where the rainforest meets up with a reef (the Great Barrier Reef in this case). We were meant to be as there was a Noah's Creek, Noah's Range, Noah's Campground and the massive Noah's Beach. We had Noah's Beach to ourselves. Was it because of the multiple warnings about deadly crocodiles and stingers?  We finished off Noah's birthday by eating Mexican, and playing pool and video games back in Port Douglas. Noah agreed that it was a great Birthday.

DSC06748 Since you can't go to Queensland without snorkeling or diving at the Great Barrier Reef, we hopped on a boat that brought us to three locations for snorkeling. We of course had our stinger suits on to avoid ending up in the hospital. Each site brought more fish and variety in coral. We have snorkeled quite a bit and overall this is the best snorkeling that we have ever experienced. Another boat trip took us up Packers Creek in search of crocodiles. We only saw one due to the warm waters.

DSC06818 From Port Douglas, we drove down the coast to Airlie's Beach, the base town for visiting the Whitsunday Islands. We took a raft boat trip out to the Whitsunday's in some very high seas which made for a wild ride. We did some more snorkeling, but the highlight was going to Whitehaven Beach, which has to have the whitest sand in the world. The sand is 98.9% silicone. I am not quite sure of the significance of this composition, but it sure makes for incredible baby-powder sand.

DSC06949 Our final stop in Queensland was on Magnetic Island, just off the coast of Townsville. The island is a week-end destination for Australians so there are very few foreign tourists. It has a homey feel being void of large resorts. We rented a house in the rain forest on a lagoon about a 5 minute walk away from the ocean. It was a great house except for the aforementioned bat, geckos, and hornet's nest. This is where we saw our first kangaroo in Australia. Yes, it took us 2 weeks to see a kangaroo in Australia! Keeping with the nature theme, we held crocodiles, lizards and birds, and Jennifer got to hold a Koala! No, it did not poo on her.

To view our slide show of Queensland, Australia, click on the following link ==> Queensland, Australia Slide Show

March 06, 2009

Melbourne, Australia - No Worries Mate!

Melbourne, Australia Slide Show

DSC06635Going through the airport, we were preparing for our routine of retrieving our luggage, going through customs, finding a place to stay and trying to understand another language. We were tired and our bodies and heads were dragging when we heard across the way, "No worries, mate!" Immediately, smiles came to our face. Hey, he was speaking English and he was happily greeting us upon our arrival! Not counting South Africa, which has 123 official languages (give or take a few), Australia was the first country that we visited where English is the main language.

DSC06548Actually, the airport employee was speaking Australian, which we learned quite a lot about traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam with our fellow Aussie travelers. We found out that a "TimTam" is a chocolate biscuit that you drink tea through, a "mossie" is a mosquito, a "tinny" is a small can of beer, "footy" is Australian Rules Football, "salties" are salt-water crocodiles, "freshies" are fresh water crocodiles, "schoolies" are high school kids on spring break, a "jumper" or a "cardy" is a sweater, "g'day" means good morning or good afternoon or good night depending on the time of day, "tinny in a stubby" is a can of beer in a cooler, "loo" is a bathroom, and many others that I can't remember off the top of my head. Our pronunciation lesson continued with city names as Melbourne is pronounced "Melbin" and Cairns is pronounced "Cans". The best that I can tell is that the "r" is not pronounced in a word, but is added in a word that does not contain an "r", such as the name Donna is pronounced "Donnar".

DSC06591 Speaking of Donnar, I mean Donna, we met her on our Intrepid tour through Cambodia and Vietnam. Like most Australians that we have met along the way, it was easy to quickly develop a friendship with her and she was nice enough to have the three of us stay at her home in Melbourne. She lives within walking distance to downtown and most of the major sights. We spent the days walking and biking around the beautiful city of Melbourne and the evenings staying up late with Donna and her friend Chris, eating and drinking like only Australians can do. On one of those nights, we met up with another Intrepid traveler, Dave for dinner. Before entering Australia, I had lost 6.8 kilos, but I assume that I will leave Australia over my starting weight.

DSC06613 Even though Melbourne is a big city, it feels like a small city. People stop you on the street asking if you need help and restaurants take charges off your bill if they feel that they didn't provide good enough service. Twice we had this happen when we didn't have an issue at all with the service. Anything they did take off our bill was appreciated though since we were still adjusting to the significantly higher prices of a developed country after recently spending time and money in India and Southeast Asia.

DSC06663Besides being friendly, the people of Melbourne are sports fanatics. You don't walk very far before walking by another sports stadium. They have 2 major stadiums that they use for Australian Rules Football, cricket, soccer, and rugby and are building another one. The Australian Open is held at Rod Laver Stadium and Noah and I even came across a 6-plex of baseball fields. Well, we didn't exactly come across the baseball fields. Actually we took an hour train ride followed by a 15 minute taxi ride to a baseball warehouse where we purchased a baseball bat and a dozen balls and then walked to the fields. It didn't bother us that there were 40 mph winds blowing us around. We were playing baseball on a baseball field! On our last night in Melbourne, we even got to see Collingwood thrash Essendon 106 - 62 in the semi-finals of the Australian Rules Football NAB Cup.

DSC06599The winds weren't all that blew through Melbourne. Just north of Melbourne, the forest fires were still blazing away when we arrived. The state of Victoria was in a 5 year drought, which was not helping the fire situation. That's okay, we took care of that. It rained for the first 4-1/2 days of our 5 day stay, at least temporarily putting an end to the drought and the fires. There was a front page picture of a fireman dancing in the rain and puddles. Whatever we can do to help.

The cloud and rain didn't help our photography, but if you would like to see our Melbourne, Australia slide show, click on the following link ==> Melbourne, Australia Slide Show

March 01, 2009

Bali, Indonesia - Not Enough Time

Bali, Indonesia Slide Show

DSC06432Due to schedule changes in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, we ended up with only 4 days in Indonesia before we were scheduled to fly off to Australia. We chose the city of Ubud on the island of Bali to spend those 4 days. We feel that we made a great choice. We absolutely loved our time in Bali. In fact, after our short stay, it became one of our favorite places on the trip.

DSC06496Indonesia is a country that is made up of 17,508 islands and has a population of 250 million people. So, visiting one of those islands in a town of 5,000 people does not make us experts on Indonesian culture. In recent years, the news about Indonesia has included terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005 and the 2004 tsunami. Fortunately for Bali, the tsunami did not affect their island. These factors have led to a decrease in tourism numbers and contributed to us being able to receive 5 star treatment at 3 star prices.

DSC06538Tourism makes up 60% of Bali's economy. I assume that much of the rest consists of rice production as there are rice fields all over and the weather conditions allow for 3 harvests each year. Besides the beautiful landscape, people come to Bali because of the warmth of the people. Bali is considered the most tourist friendly island in Indonesia and it shows. We sure felt that from the people that we met at our hotel, in a taxi, in a restaurant, at our bike guide's home, and on the street.

DSC06485 The highlight of our stay in Bali was taking a bike tour around Ubud and the surrounding countryside. We had a guide that took us up in the mountains where were able to start our trip downhill. We biked through small villages, rain forests, and rice fields. We visited a family home in a village. Extended families live together in a complex. Multiple families are part of a community that share responsibilities. Multiple communities make up the town. There is a real sense of community.

Our guide, who is from the area also took us to a spice farm and a walk through the rain forest that we would have never found on our own. To get to his home for lunch, we biked through some difficult terrain in the rain forest on a muddy road. We found out that Jennifer can fly as she flew about 5 feet off her bike trying to avoid a mud puddle. She was successful and she is okay.

DSCN7367 Walking to and from town was fun since the best way to get there was through the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The monkeys are quite comfortable with humans walking through their forest. As I found out though, don't go walking through there with food. My peanuts quickly became their property.

We should have stayed longer. We should have taken more pictures. We should have tried to fit more into those 4 days. Well, maybe we will have to come back. To view our slide show of Bali, Indonesia, click on the following link ==> Bali, Indonesia Slide Show

February 28, 2009

Noah Ford - Around the World With My Parents

Noah Ford's Favorites Slide Show

DSC00470While sitting in a hotel in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia on a rainy afternoon, Jennifer and I approached Noah with an idea. We felt that people would be interested in his view of traveling around the world. Our suggestion that he write a post on the subject was turned down, but he did agree to being interviewed. The conditions of the interview were that we couldn't suggest answers and that we would publish the interview word for word. We agreed to these conditions, so here is Noah's interview about traveling around the world with his parents.

100_17231. When your parents first brought up the idea of going on a trip around the world, what did you think?

Noah:  I thought, no way. I will miss basketball. Who takes a trip around the world?

2. Did you think that they would follow through with the trip?

Noah:  Not at all.

DSC017173. What has surprised you the most about the trip?

Noah:  How much more developed things really are than I thought. How other countries are catching up with America. Also, that everyone has a cell phone.

4. Have you missed your friends?

From the beginning of the trip until the beginning of Chile, that is when I missed them the most. After that, I started getting used to this whole trip thing and missing them less. And then, starting about now, I am easing into going back to see my friends.

DSC031725. What are some of the "low-lights" of traveling around the world?

Like the sleeping in a hotel for 3 nights, pack, move, repeat. And then not having home cooked meals. No Chipotle. Not getting to see your friends. If you get to know people, you just say goodbye to them within a week, at most.

6. How did you keep in contact with your friends?

Through our Skype phone, Myspace and texting through email. It has really helped to keep in touch with my friends so that it can be a smooth transition getting back.

7. In what ways were you homesick?

The house itself. The memories that I have had there. The lake. Home cooked meals. The JetSki.

DSC06340 8. What was it like traveling with your parents?

Sometimes it can be helpful, but sometimes it can be frustrating. Like when you want to have one of your friends to express your feelings to tell them about how unfair sometimes and frustrating your parents are. But then all you have around is them so you can’t let it go. It makes traveling a lot more easy since my parents planned most of the trip in comparison to traveling alone where you can forget something like your passport and they will find it.

DSC05040 9. What were some of your favorite sights?

Machu Picchu in Peru, Valle Nevado for skiing and Torres del Paines National Park in Chile, Moreno Glacier and Puerto Madryn for Penguins, Sea Lions, and whales and Iguazu Falls in Argentina, Table Mountain and Kruger National Park in South Africa, beautiful beaches on Zanzibar, the Giza Pyramids and Abu Simbel in Egypt, the Old City in Israel, Petra in Jordan, seeing a 7 star hotel in the UAE, Taj Mahal in India, island / mountain / beaches of Koh Chang in Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Halong Bay in Vietnam and the beautiful jungles in Indonesia. And we still have Australia and Fiji left.

10. Have you lost anything while traveling around the world? If yes, what?

Yes, I have lost the following items: a watch, an Apple Valley baseball hat, a hat with a built-in light, a pair of pants, cell phone memory card, a belt, multiple pens, and other items that I don’t even remember. That’s all.

RSCN2296 11. Tell us about making it to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro.

It was shocking enough myself doing it, especially without my parents. It was a great feat and felt good to accomplish. Thinking about it 3 months later, it seems like years ago.

12. What is your favorite country? Why?

It is hard to say. It would be a three way tie between South Africa, Thailand, and Argentina. Argentina was so consistent no matter where you went and the beef was great. You know you were going to be surprised and have a great time. South Africa is beautiful with lots of things to do. Cape Town is my favorite city. You’ve got mountains, animal safaris, wineries (for my parents), and great people. Thailand has the nicest people on our whole trip and Bangkok is one of my favorite cities along with Koh Chang being my favorite beach place. Also the food of Thailand is great.

DSC04825 13. Was it difficult to find food that you liked to eat?

In South America, I really didn’t try the local food because I just didn’t want to leave home food and I was pretty picky. I just ate pizza. Tanzania was probably the hardest place to find food that I liked. It was basically leftovers. Middle Eastern food was my favorite. I really liked the pita, hummus, and shwarma. Indian food had lots of ups and downs, especially in my stomach. All Southeastern Asia food is good.

14. What is the first thing that you will do when you get home?

Get a group of friends together and have a sleep-over at one of their houses at midnight when I get home.

DSCN6448 15. Would you recommend a trip like this for other kids your age? Why?

Yes, because it shows them that the rest of the world is safe and there is lots to see and people to meet. It matures people and shows them the real world and not the things that you see on the news.

16. Final thoughts?

The trip has been very good. I don’t regret going on the trip. We have seen so many sights and met so many nice people. But, there are times when you feel like you want to go home but then there are those times where you couldn’t think of going home. Looking back on this trip when I am older will give me great memories.

To see a slide show of Noah's favorite photos to date, click on the following link ==> Noah Ford's Favorites Slide Show

February 25, 2009

Vietnam - Remembering the War, But Moving Forward

Vietnam Slide Show

DSCN6468 Like many Americans, the first thing I used to think of when I heard "Vietnam", was the Vietnam War. When the Vietnamese hear "America" they think of the American War. It is of course, the same war, but depending on which country you are from, you refer to it differently. That might seem obvious, but for some reason we were surprised when we heard it referred to as the American War. As an American, it was disturbing in many ways to learn about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective.

We spent 13 days traveling with our Intrepid group throughout Vietnam. The dynamics of the group changed some as 2 people left the group, having only signed up for the Cambodia portion of the trip and 3 new people came on for the Vietnam segment. Son, who is Vietnamese, was our new group leader.

DSC06244 Vietnam is a very diverse country. The south is relatively flat and tropical. The north is cooler, has mountains and a beautiful shoreline on the South China Sea. The heart and soul of the south is Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon. The city is modern and it's people are very open to tourists, western influences, and smiling and having fun. The pulse of the north is Hanoi, where the Communist Party is headquartered and Ho Chi Minh's preserved body is on display. The people are very serious, hard working, and less likely to welcome you with a smile.

DSCN6827 Our travels in Vietnam were fast paced as we went to Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. We crossed the border from Cambodia to Vietnam on a boat along the Mekong River. Our first stop was Chau Doc where we took scooter rides up to a mountain overlooking the rice patties and then went to a karaoke bar. Since it was Valentine's Day and everyone was giving me a hard time about not buying Jennifer a Valentine's Day gift, I reluctantly stepped up to the mike for my first ever karaoke performance. I butchered the love song, "I will be right here waiting for you . . ." in hopes of redeeming myself. The bartender even helped me out by giving me a plastic flower bouquet to give to Jennifer while I was singing. It was a nice touch. At least Jennifer should remember this Valentine's Day! Noah prefers to forget it ever took place.

DSCN6531 Next up was Ho Chi Minh City. The city is an example of the entrepreneurial growth in Vietnam's economy. We were surprised at how modern the city is. Even though Vietnam is a Communist country, they did open up their economy in 1986 to allow foreign investment and private business ownership. The city's name was changed from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City after the war when North and South Vietnam were united. We really enjoyed Ho Chi Minh City and felt welcome, but at times it was difficult as an American to read and view the Vietnamese descriptions of America's involvement in the war.

DSCN6448 One day, we went to both the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum. The Cu Chi Tunnels are an underground system that the Vietnamese used to hide from the Americans and take refuge from the bombing. In addition to the tunnels, we saw traps and weapons used to capture Americans and U.S. tanks that were destroyed by land mines. I even shot a U.S. issued M16 at the firing range. It took 2 days to regain full hearing in my ears. The War Remnants Museum has U.S. planes, tanks, and pictures documenting the war, including the affects of Agent Orange that was used during the war. Both of these sights were educational but disturbing to see what the U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and Vietnamese civilians had to endure.

DSCN6717 Besides being surprised at how modern Vietnam was, we were surprised at how beautiful the countryside is. We spent a couple nights at a wonderful riverside town called Hoi An where we ate first class meals, biked through rice paddies, took a boat cruise and had a great island BBQ meal. In Hue, we visited ancient Vietnamese tombs and palaces and dressed up as royalty for dinner. Since Jennifer and I were the only married people on the trip, we were elected King and Queen for the evening. Lucky us! After Hue, we took an overnight train to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. We were supposedly booked in 1st class, which led us to wonder what 2nd and 3rd class was like. It was an experience!

DSC06360 In addition to the overnight train, we took an overnight boat trip to Halong Bay. This overnight experience was first class as the accomodations onboard were very nice. Halong Bay is one of the more picturesque places that we have been to even though it was overcast and drizzling. As a result, the pictures don't do it justice. Halong Bay has 3,000 limestone tree covered islands that rise up from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. We kayaked in the bay, visited a large cave and watched Chinese "junks" sail by.

We finished up in Hanoi, a city that we had a difficult time warming up to. The weather was poor, we didn't stay in the best part of town, and the people were not as friendly as they were in the south. It also probably had something to do with the fact that we were at the end of a travel period where we were constantly on the go. In the end, we have many fond memories of Vietnam and no longer only think of Vietnam as the location of the Vietnam/American War.

To see our Vietnam slide show, click on the following link ==> Vietnam Slide Show