Get up and go for breakfast and get ready to take the airport shuttle at 9.17 am. We arrived at the a’port at 9.30 and we’re able to get our boarding passes and our assigned seats. Good thing that I had printed those papers as they were both needed at the ticket counter. The first one was our ability to show that the Vietnamese Government had invited us and the other was for a list of the invitees that included ours. Of course the visa application form also had to be shown.
Now comes the hard part about flying, We had to kill a couple of hrs before security and boarding. For this, my computer comes in handy. Good thing that the entire Van a’port has a hotspot for the wi-fi. Security was flawless and this is the first time in all our flying adventures that we did NOT check in our luggage. Just like everyone else we decided to take it on board.
Finally we boarded and at 12.40 pm the pilots put the petal to the metal as we were off to our newest adventure. Now it is a 12 hr non-stop flight (good thing as it is only water below us) to Shanghai, China. We have a 5 hr lay-over here before we proceed on a 4 hr flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
As always, the flight was a bit late leaving and by the time we arrived in Ho Chi Minh we were an hr late. Eventually we were able to obtain our visas at the airport by the police and had obtained a taxi to take us to our hotel. That was all competed by 3 am. Fortunately for us is that there had been a time change of one hr in our favour. Nothing like suffering a bit of jet-lag. We got to bed at 3AM and by 7.20 we were already eating our breakfast.
Now we had the entire day ahead of us. As always Lenora had the places ready to be seen, so the hoofing begins. The most interesting place we went to was the War Museum. This was as disturbing as was the “Killing Fields” in Cambodia and The “Death Museum” in Kanchanabury in Thailand (the bridge over the River Kwaii” Each one of these places is as disturbing as the other. It’s amazing what man can do to each other. The Vietnam war was another war that the U.S.A. got into without the permission of the world bodies. In this war the American G.I.s did a world of notrocities to the people of Vietnam.
Today, our Monday, we are a day ahead of you in Canada, we booked a few tours. These we’ll mention later. The biggest problem was that when we used the ATM, it ate our card, without giving us any money. It took a few hrs from 11 AM to 3PM to get our card back, but we do have it.
As we walked back to our hotel, My foot got caught on a low chain on the sidewalk, thereby giving Gerry a faceplant in front of a few Vietnamese. Mostly a few cuts and bruises and a hurt pride. Tonight though coming home from the night market my right wrist is quite sore so I must have sprained it when I fell. We’ll see how we make out in the morning.
Tuesday, Dec 06
My right wrist is really acting up this morning as I expected, it is difficult to move my fingers, but am sure that I did not break anything.
We now waited for our bus to take us to a rather unique temple. Roughly 120 km east north east of Ho chi minh. The religion is only found in this part of the country. As different as the temple was it also looked a bit gaudy. The followers come to pray here 4 x a day, starting at 6 Am, noon, 6 Pm and again at midnight. Their ceremony is rather odd as we watched the noon ceremony. Then it was time for lunch.
After lunch it was on to the tunnels at Cu Chi, approximately 75km north of Ho chi minh. These are the famous or infamous tunnels of the Viet-cong soldiers. It’s what defeated the Americans during the war. Many explanations were given as to how the tunnels were build, the sizes (24×36”) and the total length (250 km) Many different booby-traps were also hidden throughout this area. Most of the traps were huge spikes. They are too numerous to describe. After a break we were taken inside a section of the tunnels that at some were 15 meters deep. It almost was a bit nauseating going down that deep hunched over and trying to take the odd picture. Here as well we were given a lecture on the war from the Vietnamese point of view instead that of the Americans. It is amazing how the story changes when you hear the other side telling you how it was. The same held true in Cambodia as well as in Cuba. Then slowly it was time to head back to Ho chi minh. Our day was from 6am to 7.00 pm and after dinner we still wanted to take in the night market.
Wed, Dec 07
Another early morning, as we waited in the lobby for our 7.45 bus to arrive. Today we are headed for some exploration of the Mekong Delta. After a 1 ½ bus ride we arrived at the river. Here we were herded into a long boat to take us to some of the islands in the river. At the first island, called Unicorn, all the inhabitants do is to make coconut candy. We were treated to some honey tea as well as other treats. After we had inspected the factory as to how that the coconut candy was made it was time to move on again. This time on to Ben Tre island.
There was this eccentric Vietnamese person that was from a rich family. He travelled the world back in the very early 30ts. Eventually he made it back to Vietnam and to this particular island on the Mekong River. Here he started a new religion, called what else, Coconut religion. It never got recognized or accepted by the government but it has survived till today. He build a hideous temple there and he and his followers ate nothing but coconuts and coconut milk to survive. He did last into his early 90s
Once again as we left the Mekong Delta for home, our thoughts were already turning to tomorrow morning, but before we leave this area of Vietnam.
Earlier, it was known as Saigon, today it is Ho chi minh, after one of the fathers of this country. Some observations are as follows;
The city is old and has struggled for centuries with war, the most recently one, being the Vietnam war in the 1970s.The city is old and many places need a good cleaning up. The city itself is rather clean. The people are very courteous and friendly. Costs are rather low as well unless you want to go to the ritzy places of which there are numerous. The food is really inexpensive. The newer homes that are being built are some 20 ft wide only, three or four stories high as well as maybe a 70 to 80 ft. long. I don’t know if this is all for a single family or whether it is shared by others. The older ones are falling apart.
Ho chi minh has a population around 6 million and I swear that there are 4 1/2 million scooters on the road at the same time. From a dead stop at a light they proceed, 12 to 20 abreast to 100 or so deep. When the lights change the buses, trucks and cars are turning left and right, while the bikes intertwine amongst, without making accidents. It looks like ballet.
Night time is when the city really comes alive as the pseudo restaurants appear on the sidewalks and the Night Markets are set up. Then 3 million or so people (I think) and start searching for deals for clothing, flowers, cafes, jewelry etc.
We did enjoy ourselves here and we leave tomorrow for a city called Mui Ne four hrs north of here and well let you all know what happens next.
Gerry and Lenora in Viet
At the border we were given the go ahead after a quick check through our unit. On to Omak so that we could fill up the fridge and continue to Moses Lake. That would be our first night. Sat. June 4. We were both quite tired yesterday so we did not get up till 8 am, but by 9 am we were on our way. Our goal was to make it to Twin Falls Idaho for the night but it was an 8 hr drive. At 7.30 pm including a one hr time change. The weather was great and the entire day was uneventful. If it wasn’t for gas stations we would not have stopped at all. At our arrival we walked around a bit we had something to eat at a Wendy’s sat in our 5th and did what we had to do and finally called it a day at 10 pm.
Sunday, June 5. Up at 6.30 am. This was planned for 6, but what the heck. We left Twin Fall Idaho for Cedar City, Utah. We arrived here at 6.30 pm. It was a long day for driving. The wind was so strong that it really cut into our mileage. This did give us a good chance to stop more often at the gas stations. One service attendant was even so nice that he found a number of items wrong with the nuts and bolts on shackles between the wheels of the 5th. But that is another story.
Other than that it was an uneventful day, although we are where we were planning to be. Tomorrow the exploration will start. Monday, June 6th. We took our time this morning as the day would be short (driving that is) We drove from Cedar City to Springdale in just over an hour and a half. There, we booked in to the Quality Inn R.V. Park for 3 days. We arrived at 10am and set up. At 12 noon had some lunch then we waited for the shuttle bus to arrive (as no-one is allowed to drive their own vehicle in the park unless it is to traverse), to take us on a long tour through the absolutely fascinating Zion National Park. The shuttle bus comes by every 7 minutes and it is like a hop on hop off bus.
We got off at 3 different stops so we could do a hike. By the way, the wind is still howling as it has been for the last couple of days. We spent most of the day here admiring all the different rock formations. And there were many.
Evidently the mountains here are all sandstone, hence the awesome features and colours. Tonight we also met many of the neighbours in the park and had some great conversations as to what to do and to get most out of your time.
Tuesday, June 7th. Today Lenora and I took off in the truck on a jaunt of our own to do some exploring of our own. We made sure that we had our maps, water, enough gas and most of all we were glad that we did not have a GPS to lead us astray. We drove a number of miles and saw many new rock formations as well as spectacular views. Since it was a hot day, in the 30s C. we enjoyed ourselves in the pool here at the campsite. We also decided to rest up for tomorrow’s “Angel Landing” hike. This hike takes around 4 hrs and has an elevation change of 1478 ft. but the rewards are supposed to be spectacular. We will report on that in tomorrow’s addition.
Wed., June 8th. Time to get up early as we want to tackle the Angels Landing hike. It is so named as access to the top of the mountain has only been available since the Great Depression. It was so steep that only an “Angel” could fly up there and land. After a quick breakfast we took the shuttle to the appropriate stop, looked at the mountain and said “do we really want to do this or do we? Well let’s go.
The first section was not to bad, a zigzag trail up the mountain for 45 min. Then there were about 12 or 13 short but steep switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggle and then we ended up at the Scout Lookout. It was one hr since we started. We rested here for a bit, then continued onto the top. Here there were many areas that had chains to keep you safe and to help the climb. There were areas that might have been 4/6 ft wide with a 1000ft drop-off on either side but it was upward and onward till we reached the top. All along the way there were other people doing the same thing.
Finally at around 11.30 am we reached the top at 1478 ft above the valley. We awed at the view all around in 360 degrees for a minimum of 15 min then decided it was time to go back to the valley floor. Finally, we were back to where we started, on the valley floor. This hike had taken us 4 hrs to do. Once we took the shuttle home to our adobe and settled in for a few cold ones. We talked a fair amount with the other guests in the RV Park, then headed (walked) into the town of Springdale for a great dish of Mexican Food.
Late Friday night, February 4th, we arrived at Kuwait City. First item on the agenda was to find where to obtain our visas. Once found we realized that we needed Kuwaiti currency to pay for the visas. I noticed an exchange and quickly and quickly headed for it. In the meantime, Al was able to exchange some money with an American that he had been talking to. Once the visas were obtained it was time to pick up our luggage. We had to do a little searching as it had been moved to a secure area as we were not there when the belt stopped turning. That accomplished it was time for a taxi to bring us to the Ibis Sharq Hotel. Once again there was a bit of a hassle. When that was finally figured out, we were finally able to go to bed around midnight.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
I really had a good sleep for a change. Al woke me up at 8 am by knocking on my door. I guess it was time for breakfast. Then we had to get a plan, where do we go today? The lady behind the front desk was very helpful and suggested a few choices. I also had looked up what to do and where to go on Google Earth. We opted out to see the Kuwait Towers.
At one time these towers had been the pride of Kuwait. Then came the invasion and destruction by the Iraqis and things changed. These towers were restored by the Kuwaitis, but by looking them over, they are not the pride that they once were. It took us around an hr to walk here (had Lenora been here it might have taken ½ hr). then it was time to explore other parts the city. Another 3 hr walk took care of that in a hurry.We returned to the hotel for a rest.
The weather has been unacceptably cool the last few days and it has been hazy as well. After a couple of hrs we decided to walk to the TJIF Restaurant. That too was a fair distance. This had to be one of the largest restaurants I’ve been in. I asked one of the waitresses how many employees were on this shift. She wasn’t sure but knew it was over 50. It seems the customers were all Kuwaitis and the employees were mostly Pilipino, Indian Egyptian etc etc.
On the way home, Al suggested that we take a taxi. We told the taxi driver what hotel to go to but he had no idea. Heck we could almost see it. I could yell and scream at him and call him names and all he would do is say “hotel”. This driver reminded me of an episode on the Amazing Race. The one team had taken a taxi to go to the next point but the driver had no idea as to where it was. Instead he just keeps driving totally clueless. I stead of stopping and phoning, since all of them have mobile phones, they just drive. I now know how that couple felt, it cost them the race. You talk about a dummy.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Today we would walk south along the Bay. It was a clear day although rather windy and with the wind coming from the Arabian Sea it was cool. We walked for approximately 4 hrs getting to where I thought we ought to get to. This was a leisurely walk mind you. We stopped at numerous places of interest along the way and at the end of the walk were rewarded with an antique car show. The cars were the latest Bugatti’s Massaretti’s Ferrari’s and Rolls Royce’s. As well as some of the oldest cars such as the ’21 Ford Model C, 1913 Peugeot Model Phaeton 139 A. Every car was in show room condition. On top of that, every car driven by the last six or seven rulers of the countries of the UAE were also there. Then it was time to take the taxi back home. An hr or 2 later I went for a walk, as Albert wanted to have a snooze, to find a small store so we could have a snack as soon as I got back. I was even able to buy 2 bottles of 0/0 % beer, what a treat that was. problems. Then we watched a few shows and went to bed.
Monday, February 07, 2011
This is the morning we were dreading as it meant an end to our adventure. Al got up rather early so I too got up. As always I got the coffee perking and got ready to check the e-mail. Between a coffee, breakfast, going for a walk and taking a last few photos it got to be 10am. We headed down, checked out and called a taxi. We went through security, waited around, another security, waiting around and passport control we finally got into the waiting hall to wait for our departure. Unless something out of the ordinary happens this will be the last blog that I will send you as tomorrow we will be home again. Thank you for bearing with us, reading and commenting. I find this so much easier than to send and reply to individuals. Once home we’ll reply to you individually if I get a message of course. So Long
BAHRAIN Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
We departed from the Doha international Airport, just after lunch. As it turns out, Gulf Air is the Bahrainian National Airline and we are flying with them again, now for the 3rd time.
Fortunately, there was no lost luggage this time or lost passports.
The cost of the visa upon arrival was also was painless, we just had to hand over some money. We whipped past the passport control, past the customs and landed in the arrival room right in front of an ATM. What luck. After obtaining some of the local currency (Dinars) we proceeded outside to the taxi terminal. Here we haggled a bit over the price, but it is set.
The drive from the airport to the Al Jaberiya hotel took about 15 minutes.
What I observed immediately was the absence of tall building. Just in the financial district were there a few sky scrapers. The streets also were not as clean as they were in the other countries.
Our hotel was fine and not in a bad location. Al and I went out on a familiarization walk then attended to some business. He would go and get some laundry done and I would work on the blog and photos. At 7 pm we went out for dinner. After that we stayed in for the night
Wednesday, Feb 2nd.
After having a couple of cups of coffee in the room we went out for breakfast, as it is not included in this restaurant. Once done we went back to the room, took out the map and made our walking plans for the day.
This would include walking to the Old Palace. Once there we were told twice that photos could not be taken, so that was a waste. Now to carry on to the gardens to admire the beautiful flowers, most of which had not yet been planted. Oh well just the walk was worth the time of the day. Then I noticed a mosque (surprise!!) and wanted to take a picture of it, only to be persuaded to go into the DQ instead and have an ice cream to cool off, why not.
Next, on to some towers of in to the distance, As we approached the waterfront there was this huge statue with a pearl on the very top. Believe it or not, it was called the Pearl Monument. Now it was time to take a picture. First we had to run to get into the centre of the round about that was surrounded by four lanes of traffic and pedestrians are frowned upon. With a hop, skip and bounce we were set and I got the photos. Now to get off this round about.
We carried on walking along the waterfront to once again witness the derelict boats and finally on to the financial district. Now we saw the sky scrapers we had seen yesterday as well as a fair amount of new construction.
At this point we crossed the 8 lane hgwy, using an overpass and carried on to the diplomatic area of Manama, Bahrain.
But I am getting ahead of myself. We walked passed two towers mirrored of themselves with a fair space between them. In this space were three huge wind turbines so the towers could power themselves, what an idea.
As we walked passed a number of embassies I noticed that there was a Canadian on as well. Let’s see if we are getting our monies worth re; the building we are paying for. As I walked up the stairs this guy in a green suit comes out of this little house and he has a rifle in his hands. Mmmm I say, what is this all about? He tells me not to take a photo (today was not a good day to take photos) as this is the Saudi Embassy. I agree and carried on up the stairs to take a photo. He says NO, and I say, I only want to photograph the Canadian Embassy. He tells me that from where I was standing I would have a part of the Saudi Arabia one in the photo and that is not allowed. I agreed and finally walked around that building to photograph ours. Here too, two security personel came out to tell me no, but after I told them that I owned part of it, with the proper I.D. they allowed me three pictures.
Now to head back to the hotel. We had left at 10 am and now it was getting on to 3pm. Al being the old man that he is (much younger than me) said he required his afternoon snooze, so I obliged. After our fiesta we had a bite to eat at the nearest Gyro stand, walked the street a bit, then headed back to the hotel with a couple of 0/0 alcohol beer for our evening entertainment on the Arabic only, T.V.
I got back onto Google Earth and started to plan tomorrow. How close can we get to Saudi Arabia without crossing the border??
Thursday, Feb 3rd
The best place to get to the Saudi-Bahrain border would be the King Fahd causeway. First conceived in 1968 it was finally started in 1982. The joint project was completed in 1986, at a cost of $ 1.2 Billion.
One of the major contractors was Ballast Nedam, a Dutch based company.
The causeway is 25 km long and 23 mtrs wide. On average it carries 45,000 cars on weekdays and 60,000 vehicles on weekends.
Now pay close attention to the following. This has been told to us by a number of Bahrainians and we have both seen and heard the results.
The liquor laws in Bahrain are much more relaxed (although still almost non-existent) than those of the Saudis, as they are not allowed any liquor at all (the Muslims that is) So on their weekends they drive to Bahrain, their sin city, and have a great weekend. This includes all the liquor they can consume and all the women they can handle or try to handle. This business has really increased since the opening of the causeway. The weekend in this area consists of Thurs. and Frid. Therefore on Wed. evening we didn’t sleep much due to all the noise and commotion in our hotel. This morning as well as we walked the streets, almost every vehicle we saw was either Kuwaitin or from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I kid you not. Bussiness must be great, praise Allah.
I digress. At 10am on Thursday morning the driver that I hired the night before is waiting for us. I told him we wanted him for 3 hrs and where we would like t go. We drive down the freeway (8 lanes) till we get to the causeway (4 lanes) and continue to drive as far as we are allowed to go without crossing the border.
Somewhere at the centre of the causeway is the border. Here they created what looks like a figure 8 piece of land, one part is Saudi Arabia the other is Bahrain. This is where you clear customs. Both sides have an observation tower that are identical, so not to discriminate and both sides have a Mc Donald’s believe it or not.
After leaving here we carried on to the King’s camelry, for the sake of a better word. It is nice to have more money than you know what to do with. Beautiful open air bldgs with sun roofs to keep the camels cool. There were a minimum of a couple of 100 camels here. I guess he likes camels for racing and breeding.
Then we carried on to the largest mosque in the country. It is capable of holding just over 7000 worshippers. That’s just peanuts, as the one we visited in Abu Dhabi held over 17,000. In this mosque you required a guide to show you around. We got a bald headed Frenchman around 40 yrs of age (did I show prejudice). We got many statistics from him and eventually I asked him a question that did not get answered when we visited a mosque in Penang, Malaysia. Lenora and I were interrupted there.
The question was, why do you kill in the name of Mohammed? Out comes the defense and all the scriptures that you can think of to justify their beliefs. I told him that these scriptures were thousands of years old and maybe are not accurate. After all, we didn’t have pencil or paper so everything we know today had to be told by someone and eventually be written.
I guess we were both set in our beliefs and since we were the guests in his Holy place I decided to bid him farewell as our taxi was waiting. Boy oh boy, religion can be what ever you want it to be as long as you believe, that’s called faith.
Back to the hote
We left Oman without any problems but unknowingly they were breeding in the future The flight from Oman to Doha, Qatar is rather odd. It’s only 15 min away, but first you fly to Manama, Bahrain, hang around for an hr, then board another plane for Doha. That flight is 45 min. So the overall time takes over 3hrs. A new visa had to be purchased here before being able to enter the country. The lady in the black outfit asked for my credit card, put it in the machine, tried it 3 times but it was refused. Bring out another credit card tried it and it didn’t work. Finally she looked at me and said your cards are refused. She called over a man and told him of the problem. He took the cards to another machine and there was no problem. Final conclusion, Her credit card reader was busted. Next came our luggage. Mine was there almost immediately. While waiting for mine I took out my black folder to check out the name of the hotel we had reserved etc. My black folder also contained the passport, visas, flight tickets etc. Just then Al called that his luggage had arrived. Together with our luggage we walked out side to get a cab and within 10 min we were at our hotel. First things first. Our room had been rented out to another, so for tonight one of us could sleep on a bed, the other on a mattress on the floor in what would be the kitchen. I refused that room and demanded something else and better. He would try. Now he wanted my passport to make a copy. You know it, I couldn’t find the black folder. Some how I had forgotten it at the airport. I asked Al to look after the luggage while the hotelier was told to get us a room and I grabbed a taxi and high-tailed it back to the airport Breaking a few security laws I walked in back to where I had waited for the luggage but was now stopped by security. A few explanations and heartbeats later the security guard took me into the back to a couple of official looking chaps and my brown folder was back into my possession. I took the taxi back to the hotel and now still had to deal with our room issue as nothing had been done while I was away. I asked the clerk to wake the manager up, which he reluctantly. I gave him a piece of my mind and the next thing I know, we are being transported to another of their hotels. It is now midnight. Now we were in a superior hotel & room. Personally I didn’t like this one much better and there were around 10 complaints that were legit that I found in about ten minutes. After breakfast I spoke to the manager, took him up to the room and showed him the problems. This time they found us two rooms, with king size beds and internet, for the same prizs of course. Time to go out for a walk now and see some of the sights. A few hrs later we returned only to find a bowl of fruit and a Bluetooth media player, compliments of the management. Sunday, January 30th This morning soon after breakfast we walked to an area close to the hotel to do a little sightseeing. We found the souk and explored it a bit then carried on to the Islam Cultural centre. It is amazing that when you read about their religion how peaceful it is. Nowhere does it say to kill, only to spread love. Have no fear, I am not about to be converted but I do enjoy learning the other cultures. Al and I continued down the road to see where the boat races had been in the bay and inspected some of the old wooden ships. From here we could see the huge and tall bldgs of Qatar. I think it must be in competition with Dubai. The shoreline has many interesting designs and each one is taller than the other. There is still a fair amount of oil here but the natural gas is feeding the economy. Qatar ships 10 million liquefied ltrs of gas on a daily basis and has enough for the next 70 years. Therefore there is no such thing as personal income tax, no sales tax, etc etc. for that matter every country so far is the same. If it was not for the foreigners the countries could not survive as there would be a shortage of people. Each country thus far has people from the Philippines, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Most of them work for $ 5/10 per day but that is at least twice if not three times a day more than what they would have earned at home. Even the stewardess on the plane was from Romania. All of them work in the service industry. Sometimes I get the feeling that we are in India. In the evening we met up with the sun of a lady that Lenora hikes with. He has been here for 3 yrs. He took us back to the souq and showed us what it is like at night time. It reminded me a lot of the Medina in Marrakesh, Morocco. A million little businesses, narrow little alleyways and a hundred thousand people milling around looking for something or anything, then finally sit down at a restaurant, outdoors of course, to have something to eat. Thank God for French fries. We took a taxi to a place called The Pearl. Here you can purchase and rent condos. It really is an adult community but you must fit in. We walked around the waterfront of the Pearl and stood in awe of the mode of transport these people have. Many, many yachts, some as large as 135 ft. hundreds of sailboats, cars like Rolls Royce, Masaraties, Jaguars, etc,etc . Then on to the Villagio by taxi. Sorry Lenora, we are not walking as much as when you and I go but then there is no other form of transportation, so a taxi it is. The Villagio is a shopping mall that was built for the Asia Cup in 2006. the moment you walk in you are in Italy. All the stores have Italian fronts the lagoon is filled with the gondolas, the ceilings are painted to look like the sky. Even though you are inside, it feels like the outside. There is even a full sized skating rink inside as well as a carnival with all the rides including the roller coaster. After admiring a few more buildings, watching where the new stadium for the World Cup in 2022 will be build, we headed back to the hotel. That evening glen picked us up for dinner with another couple from Canada. This time to a Turkish place. Afterwards we said our good byes and once back at the hotel started to pack as in the morning we would be leaving for Bahrain.