Archive for April 2013

HALONG BAY, VIETNAM   13 comments

Remember, you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.

It was a beautiful, peaceful, and interesting day, cruising the lovely Halong Bay in a touring junk.

Another Touring Junk - Version 3

Inside Junk

Lovely scenery

Halong Bay

Area of Thien Cung Cave

Interesting events. Boat family selling fruit pulled right up to the Junk, the mom clinging to the side, while dad steered the boat, and their young one munched on fruit. I didn’t buy fruit, but I did take a photo, so I handed a dollar to the mom (not visible, to the left of the photo) but it was the child who calmly and with great authority took the bill and tucked it way.

Money Collector

They came back later for another try. This time the mom, riding the edge of the boat, inserted her head and her fruit right into the junk.

Please buy my fruit

So did an older child.

Older child

This was a “city” of boat people. See the banner at the top. Even, apparently, they have their own bank.


The most amazing view was of a Unesco World Heritage Site, as marked by this sign.

UNESCO World Heritage Site


Inside there somewhere is the Thien Cung Cave – the word awesome, in its original powerful meaning, applied – I mean, really awesome. But I didn’t take a photo of it. With my acrophobia, I knew I’d be clinging to anything I could find that was cling-able, so I left my camera behind. But I have something even better, thanks to my son the photographer who doesn’t suffer acrophobia, or any of those other inconvenient things.

Thien Cung Cave

Is that amazing, or what? ….

Da Nang’s Vietnamese Forbidden City   7 comments

(Please remember you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.)

A story of splendor and destruction, we saw the remains of the imperial city, the enclave of the last emperor of Vietnam, whose rule lasted until the mid 1900s. Since 1993 it has been a UNESCO site. Once lavishly beautiful, it was seen by some as the equivalent of China’s Forbidden City. Even before war took its toll, however, it suffered damage through termites and neglect.

Originally during the Vietnam war it was protected by the Americans, but in 1969 bombing destroyed much of it when it seemed a necessary step in the process of the battle. According to reports, it is being at least partially restored with predictions that the improvements will be completed sometime in 2015. Click on this More on the Imperial City for additional information about its history and future.

I failed to get a photo of the Ngo Mon Gate through which the emperor was allowed to enter while all others were required to enter by side exits based on status, with gender one of the distinguishing factors. Click on Ngo Mon Gate and choose the fourth photo on the right at the top to see the gate and entrances.

Some of what’s left is beautiful as befits an emperor.



P1060934And much is sadly destroyed and/or neglected. I took the following photo looking through an opening onto what was essentially a collection of rejected items.

P1060941Saddest was the remnant of the Imperial library which apparently survived the war in pretty good shape, but was finally deliberately destroyed by the Viet Minh. (Maybe someone in commenting will correct me, but that’s what I understood.)

Library, final Bombing - Viet Minh

As we headed back to our bus, I couldn’t help noting and recording the memorial to war casually sitting there on the corner.


Lest I leave you with the impression of destruction, here’s a shot of the opposite corner.

Imperial Hue

And another scene along the way.


Posted April 16, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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Nha Trang, Vietnam   9 comments

I promised more color this time, so here it is. Nha Trang.

Please remember you can click on the photos to make them larger. It’s especially impressive, I think, when you get to the embroidery.

Already Things look more affluent. The header is a photo — cropped to fit — of one view across the harbor from the ship.

And a busy harbor it is.

Red-Clad entertainers on right

Look down to the right at the buses lined up on the pier, ready to take us off to our day’s adventure. Notice the red dots near them – musicians just finishing up after welcoming us.

First visit, the Po Nagar Cham Towers where Buddhists come to pray, leaving their shoes outside, though I didn’t choose that photo. This one is clearer, so just imagine the entry steps at the bottom, littered with shoes. Wikipedia can tell you more. Po Nagar Cham Towers

Po Nagar Cham Towers

Interesting and colorful things were going on around it, like this woman weaving.

Weaving at Po Nagar Cham

And Doug being interviewed by a member of the local media. By the way, Doug’s hat blew off during the Tuk Tuk ride in Thailand, so he bought himself a new one in Cambodia. You may also be able to see how he celebrates vacations by letting his beard grow.

Doug in Respondent Role

Long Son Pagoda was our next stop. I was satisfied with viewing the giant white Buddha from below, while Doug, of course, took full advantage of the opportunity to explore. I chatted with a lovely lady of 89 on tour with her daughter. And I bought two drawings on silk, done by the monks, sold by a lovely young girl who explained that the profits went to supplies for the school. Very inexpensive. I should have bought more. Sometimes I get ridiculously stingy; other times I get ridiculously spendthrift. And so it goes when traveling. (By the way, isn’t “spendthrift” an oxymoron?)

Long San Pagoda

I loved seeing the Buddhas from the time we arrived in Singapore.

But now we moved on to something quite different. An embroidery factory. According to the guide’s report, the women work 10 hour days 7 days a week. Reported very matter-of-factly. One woman gave us a lovely smile as we walked past, but I didn’t act fast enough, so I got a photo of her after she turned her attention back to work.

Smiles from woman on left

The final products are beautiful — and expensive. I just looked.

Completed embroidery

At the end of the day, back aboard the ship after dark, I got a photo of one of the cable car stanchions. Indicative of the advanced economy of Nha Trang, the cable cars run regularly, carrying people back and forth from the mainland to a reportedly top-notch resort hotel on an offshore island.

Cable Car Stantion

I’ll be back in a few days with the next stop, Da Nang, Vietnam.

Posted April 10, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

Cu Chi Tunnels. No color here   10 comments

The port was Phu My, Vietnam. The excursion took us to the Cu Chi Tunnels. I recommend that you go to this link to get more detail. Cu Chu Tunnels

Seeing and exploring the tunnels left us shaking our heads. There was no way the war could have been won against this connection of tunnels so small only the Vietnamese, smaller than Americans, could easily crawl through them.

Amazingly there were also underground rooms large enough to serve as hospitals, weapons storage, or eating areas.

If you read the link, you’ll see how miserable it was for the warriors who spent days in the tunnel, emerging at night to tend their own land. You’ll also see how miserable it became for the Americans and our allies, as well as for the decimated land.

Great efforts were taken, of course, to hide the tunnels. For example, here’s a fake termite mound that concealed the opening for air to enter the tunnel.

Fake Termite Mound

We tourists were invited to explore a section made somewhat larger so we could go through it. I’m including some photos, taken with my camera, of the experience in the tunnel. I could pretend I took them, but my parents implanted in me much too severe a superego, so I can’t lie. I have to confess that, Doug’s camera being too large to cart along safely, it was  my little one that went into the hole with him. I saw no need to duck walk through a tunnel.

Anyway, here’s part of the series that Doug took, starting with the folks in front of him entering the tunnel.

Entering Tunnel

And going deeper.

Deeper into tunnel

And the folks behind him emerging.

Exiting Tunnel

With the camera back in my hands, I got a very poor quality photo of a guide demonstrating the entrance into the tunnel. Arms up to make himself small enough. Some of the folks in our tour group tried it themselves. (I didn’t.)

On The Way Down

And finally, the entrance concealed.

Tunnel concealed

No, not a colorful day. But after the Cu Chi visit we had lunch at a very pleasant restaurant on the shore of the Saigon river. I was fascinated with the quiet beauty of a row of greenery flowing rapidly downstream. That’s what I chose as the header for this presentation. I’m also including the full photo here.

Greenery on the Saigon

So the excursion ended peacefully, with thoughts lingering of the futility of war.

I promise the next stop I’ll share will be much more colorful.

p.s. I’m quite sure you can increase the size of any photo by clicking on it.

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