Next stop, HoiAn

After our Road Scholar trip ended, Mike and I started Part Three of our Asian Adventure, this time just the two of us, traveling through Central Vietnam with a guide and driver, arranged by Ann Tours.

We flew from Hanoi to DaNang, where our guide Ahn met us. Although the buses were comfortable, and air conditioned, it still felt rather luxurious to have a Mercedes all to ourselves.

What remains of the former US airbase at DaNang
What remains of the former US airbase at DaNang
Modern DaNang, with its new bright yellow serpent bridges.
Modern DaNang, with its new bright yellow serpent bridges.

The Cham Museum contains sculptures from My Son, a religious sanctuary dating back to the 4th century. When an area was conquered, the invaders cut off the heads and hands of the religious statues to decrease their power.

Lakshmi's hands were originally holding a lotus blossom
Lakshmi’s hands were originally holding a lotus blossom

But more interesting to me was this frieze, showing the art of massage dated back more than 1600 years in Central Vietnam.

I can't let all those years of expertise go to waste.  There will be a massage in my future!
I can’t let all those years of expertise go to waste. There will be a massage in my future!

We made a quick stop at DaNang’s beach, better known by the American soldiers as China Beach because of all the porcelain found buried in the sand. Here’s one of the few “G” rated photos from that stop.

"China" Beach
“China” Beach

Last stop before HoiAn was in the Marble Mountains. We climbed well over 100 steps that were carved into the mountain, all with different sized steps (steep, steeper, steepest).

The lady in blue decided I would make a dandy handrail, so she grabbed onto me as she climbed down
The lady in blue decided I would make a dandy handrail, so she grabbed onto me as she climbed down
At the top of the first "staircase", smiling Buddha (happiness), with a fat belly (prosperity) and long ears (longevity)
At the top of the first “staircase”, smiling Buddha (happiness), with a fat belly (prosperity) and long ears (longevity)was waiting to welcome us.

As we climbed higher, the view got better.
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But the most awe inspiring experience was when we entered the huge cave.

Sunlight from holes in the roof of the cave gave the interior a very spiritual feel
Sunlight from holes in the roof of the cave gave the interior a very spiritual feel

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Our hotel was fantastic–my very favorite of the entire trip.

Welcome drink and fruit at the HaAn Hotel
Welcome drink and fruit at the HaAn Hotel

Yes, those are rose petals on the bed
Yes, those are rose petals on the bed

Check out the shower. You can see the plants hanging on the back wall if you look in the mirror. And yes, there were flowers scattered at the bases of the shower and the toilet.
Stones in the shower.  You stand on that white platform under the shower head.
Stones in the shower. You stand on that white platform under the shower head.

Our tour company booked us here for three nights. Great choice!

Why I Love Road Scholar!

Mike and I are now traveling on our own, after our whirlwind tour with Road Scholar, through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And what a tour it was!
My blog couldn’t keep pace with our activities and even now, this summary will only provide a taste of those incredible 20 days.
Here are a few of the many reasons I love Road Scholar.

SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE
Road Scholar made contributions on our behalf to the two village schools and hospital we visited.

One nurse per 500 children at the outpatient clinic of this free hospital
One nurse per 500 children at the outpatient clinic of this free hospital
Look who else visited the hospital--but not while we were there.
Look who else visited the hospital–but not while we were there.

While traveling in Cambodia a few years ago, the Spitlers asked their guide to suggest a worthwhile project. The end result was this village school.
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Sarin, a Cambodian tour guide, and head of the Spitler School
Sarin, Cambodian tour guide, and head of the Spitler School

Prior to the Spitler School, children in this village had no opportunity for education.
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Yes, we were captivated.
Yes, we were captivated.

JAW DROPPING EXPERIENCES

Mike, taking in the majesty of Angkor Wat
Mike, taking in the majesty of Angkor Wat
The demons guarding the bridge to Angkor Thom
The demons guarding the bridge to Angkor Thom
One of the many faces of King  Jayavarman 7
One of the many faces of King Jayavarman 7
Good guys on the left, demons on the right, churning the sea of milk
Good guys on the left, demons on the right, churning the sea of milk with Jayavarman 7 gazing down on it all

And of course, the many Buddha images in Laos and Thailand were unforgettable and impressive.
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WONDERFUL LECTURES

Tony Zola, another former Peace Corp volunteer who settled in Asia, was a fascinating lecturer.  He spoke to us in Thailand and Laos.
Tony Zola, another former Peace Corp volunteer who settled in Asia, was a fascinating lecturer. He spoke to us in Thailand and Laos.
Tara (an American)and a local Lao woman created the Museum of  Art and Ethnology.
Tara (an American)and a local Lao woman created the Museum of Art and Ethnology.
We had an amazing lunch at Fabian's stilt home in a  Laotian village, followed by a lecture.
We had an amazing lunch at Fabian’s stilt home in a Laotian village, followed by a lecture.

GREAT COMPANIONS
Fantastic experiences are even better when shared with like minded companions.
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The jungle temple
The jungle temple
Showing off our Baci Ceremony stringe
Showing off our Baci Ceremony strings

CULTURAL IMMERSION

Elephant Camp
Elephant Camp
Water Puppet Show
Hanoi Water Puppet Show
Lanna dance
Lanna dance
Ancient musical instruments.  That IS an elephant carved on the end of that bow
Ancient musical instruments. That IS an elephant carved on the end of that bow
One of the marriage stories in the museum of Art and Ethnology
One of the marriage stories in the museum of Art and Ethnology
From night markets...
From night markets…
To rice paddies, we saw it all
To rice paddies, we saw it all

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
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INCREDIBLE FOOD
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Judging from their rounded bellies, I think these apsaras just finished a Road Scholar trip!
Judging from their rounded bellies, I think these apsaras just finished a Road Scholar trip!

I’ll give your eyeballs a rest, and stop with the photos.
You’ll just have to take my word for it, this trip was AMAZING!

Halong Bay

For this post, the pictures will (mainly) speak for themselves.
HaLong Bay is about 4 hours by bus north of Hanoi.image

I think the ballot box may have been stuffed for some of these choices, but Halong Bay definitely deserves to be on the list of Natural Wonders.
I think the ballot box may have been stuffed for some of these choices, but Halong Bay definitely deserves to be on the list.
The surrounding area is starting to get built up, with lots of hotels across from the beach.
The surrounding area is starting to get built up, with lots of hotels across from the beach.
We, however, spent the night on the Emeraude.
We, however, spent the night on the Emeraude.
Take a good look.  Can you find the shower?
Take a good look. Can you find the shower? What about the “closet”?
Great views from the top deck (and the middle and  the lower decks)
Great views from the top deck (and the middle and the lower decks)but the top deck has the bar!

I didn't expect penguins in Vietnam
I didn’t expect penguins in Vietnam

Or monkeys...
Or monkeys…
My sister Sue always wanted a pet monkey.  I tried to convince this one to come home with me.
My sister Sue always wanted a pet monkey. I tried to convince this one to come home with me. Check out her facial expression for her answer.

We took a tender to the Surprise Cave.  The third cave was enormous!
We took a tender to the Surprise Cave. The third cave was enormous!

We climbed over 100 steps (I lost count) to an opening that gave us this wonderful vantage point.

I couldn't resist posting two shots--one framed,one not. You get to choose which you prefer.
I couldn’t resist posting two shots–one framed,one not. You get to choose which you prefer.

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These ladies were waiting for us to return to the ship so they could sell us some of their handmade goods.
These ladies were waiting for us to return to the ship so they could sell us some of their handmade goods.

How lucky were we, to see night fall on Halong Bay
How lucky were we, to see night fall on Halong Bay

And with an almost full moon.my photos don't do it justice.
And with an almost full moon. My photos don’t do it justice.
Sunrise on the bay
Sunrise on the bay
East coast girl, hanging out, enjoying the view.
East coast girl, hanging out, enjoying the view.
We cruised for a while, enjoying the effect the changing light had on the seascape (bayscape?)
We cruised for a while, enjoying the effect the changing light had on the seascape (bayscape?)
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Time to return to Hanoi for our farewell dinner and the end of this phase of our Asian Adventure.
Time to return to Hanoi for our farewell dinner and the end of this phase of our Asian Adventure.