Day 55, July 4: Michelle & Geordy join us! Tour Hanoi’s Old Quarter in a bicycle rickshaw.

July 4: a morning tour of Hanoi by rickshaw was a visual and olfactory experience!  We toured the city’s Old Quarter aboard bicycle rickshaws called cyclos. In this part of town we found each colorful street devoted to a particular craft or ware. We were pedaled amongst the quaint French buildings along Shoe Street, Silk Street and Banner Street (to name just a few), and ended at historic Hoan Kiem Lake, the social center of Hanoi, where we were transferred by bus to Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (a small and unimpressive experience).

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Electrical lines….not near our safety codes!!

After a very hot and humid morning we enjoyed lunch and a rest in our beautiful Sofitel Metropole Hotel.  Michelle, George, Tom and I braved the hussle and bustle walking to the Old Quarter shop and find a local bar for a beer.  Apparently, the locals prefer to have their little shops (first floor store front of their homes) over office work. Many shop owners make just enough to get by. Their social life includes coffee, lunch and tea breaks with friends sitting on little chairs in a circle right on the sidewalk to visit.  This set-up adds to the challenge of walking the sidewalk and streets—not to mention dodging the huge volume of cars and motor bikes dashing around you. Slightly scary on your first outing!

Day 54, July 3: Luang Probang, Laos to Hanoi, Viet Nam (400 NM) — Visit “Hanoi Hilton”

Leaving Laos went smoothly.  Our flight was 45 minutes…we were instructed to taxi off to the right of runway 11 R.  This was the opposite side of the airport where our briefing directed us last evening. There were 4-5 commercial airlines awaiting our touch down, waiting for clearance to take the runway.  While that made us feel a little important—the tides changed because we ended up holding for 45 minutes before we were escorted to the assigned parking position!!  Thank God for air-conditioning — 113 degrees!!  This was our record length for a taxi hold.  Two of our comrades were assigned holding patterns before cleared to land…either way we all burned extra jet fuel today.  Busy airport!IMG_2650

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Honda factory in Hanoi.
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Short final….notice 4 aircraft holding for us to land.

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July 3, afternoon Tom and I visited the “Maison Centrale” (Central House, a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France). The people call it Hoa Lo Prison (by it’s location) the French colonialists built it in 1896 to hold thousands of Vietnamese patriotic and revolutionary fighters. August 1964 – March 1973 part of the prision was used for captured American pilots who were shot down in North Vietnam. John McCain spent time in this prison in 1967….it is interesting to see photos and read the Vietnam “slant” on the how the US POWs were given the “best possible living conditions”. American refer to this prison as the “Hanoi Hilton”.
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Solitary cell, with shackles.

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Late July 3–Michelle and George arrived in Hanoi to spend a week with us.  We are thrilled to have them join us on this amazing journey!

Days 52 & 53, July 1 & 2: Laos

First evening is Luang Prabang we visited the “evening market” to bargain and make a few small purchases.

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Fish for sell…pets?

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One of many Buddhist temples.

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Diann joined a few of our traveling comrades to give morning offerings for the Buddhist  monks. A daily 0530 routine: monks from the 5 monasteries, walked around town to gather donated food for the day (two meals: breakfast and lunch).  Our resort prepared the sticky rice, we contributed a handful of rice to each monk’s pot. Several of them are very young.

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The beautiful sunrise 0515…up for offering service.

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After giving the monks rice the routine is to pour special water on ground/grass and connect with deceased our ancestors.
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Our assistants who directed our proper giving of rice offerings.

The afternoon cruise on the Mekong River: Tom & I boarded the long narrow boat for a peaceful 3 1/2 hour river tour. The “Cave”, containing multiple Buddha statues, was interesting end point up river.

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Stairway to the Cave.
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River cruise boat—same as our boat.
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Old Stupa under repair…viewed in country side as we traveled up river.
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This boat was very spaciouos for the two of us.
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Our cruise guide…

More interesting spots in Luang Prabang..

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Fence around monastery.
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Huge drum in front of buddhist monastery.

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Scenic views from the river cruise.

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Ending a full day with a beautiful sunset.
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The Amantaka resort’s main pool with candles glowing.
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Full moon rising….

Day 51, June 30: Siem Reap to Luang Prabang, Laos (415 NM)

0730 transfer to airport, another flying day.  After a smooth take-off, little traffic, we were quickly cleared to 26,000 then 29,000.  Just for curiosity we plugged in our Milwaukee airport (MWC)… 7,251 NM away!  Of course that would be the great circle route—which is not our journey’s plan.

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Siem Reap River
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Cambodia country side.
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Heading 358 degrees to Luang Prabang, Laos.
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Udon Thani, Thailand. US Airforce base used during the Vietnam war.

Todays flight path also took us right over Vientiane, Laos where our good friend, Richard, spent a few years of his flying career.

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Vientiane, just north of Thailand boarder. (Mekong River is border)
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Nah Nguh Reservoir north of town.

Approaching Luang Prabang the clouds are closing in as the terrain rises in the “up country” of Laos. IMG_2482 IMG_2485 IMG_2487 IMG_2488

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Buddha? need to inquire…
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Interpretation: Laung Prabang International Airport.
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Short final…clear of mountains.
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Amantaka, another restful tranquil place to restore our mind and body.

Day 50, June 29–Afternoon: Cruise on Siem Reap River….River Village People

After too short a rest, cool off and lunch break we were off to the Siem Reap river for a boat cruise to experience a whole different lifestyle.

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The type of boat we boarded to cruise the river….looks brown.
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Out of the city of Siem Reap, on the river, we located a floating Catholic church!
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They call it home…floating to better water depth when the waters become high or low. The river flows into Tonle Sap Lake.
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Moving with the water levels…you stick with your neighbor (if you like them)!
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Young girl who maneuvered amazingly in the little wash tub boat.
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Mother and naked young boy circling tour boats, begging.
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General store….Angkor beer sold everywhere!
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Local grade school, on flots.
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Two rafts connect to look like a meeting place. Dance hall???
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To and from school house on boats.
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Young helpers on cruise boats.
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Catholic church…in 95% Buddhist area.
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Low water…all cruise boats stay in deeper section….coming extremely close to one another.
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Coating the boat’s bottom…all maintenance.
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Tuk tuks on roadside.
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First Christian church seen on river.
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Barrels used to store fish.
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Radio station tower…way out here.
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Many tour boats lined up.
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General store or bar??

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Gathering place for tourist. Reportedly a young boy performed with a cobra snake.
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None of us could ignore this begging mother with baby and child in small boat.
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This larger cruise boat seemed out of place on this rugged river.

Day 50, June 29–Morning Tour: Angkor Temples

0730….loaded in our Tuk Tuk (motorbike rickshaw) we were off visit three Buddhist temples: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.  The breeze while riding in the Tuk Tuk in the shade was lovely but once in the sun (almost no breeze) we melted in the 90 degree temperature and 85% humidity. Along our way we witnessed a walking funeral procession with Buddhist monks attending.

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Our tour guide, Ket, not only shared volumes of knowledge but did so with very well spoken English.  The 12th century Hindu-built temple was constructed with sandstone by volunteers.  After Jayavarman VII convertd to Mayana Buddhism the Temple became a Buddhist Temple. The temples of Angkor are highly symbolic structures. Only 3 of the 5 lotus shaped towers remain.  The foremost Hindu concept is the temple-mountain, where the temple is built as a representation of the mythical Mount Meru: this is why so many temples, including Angkor Wat itself, are surrounded by moats. Angkor Wat is the 7th wonder of the worldIMG_2312  IMG_2323 IMG_2340 IMG_2311

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This is a small portion of the detailed reliefs.
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Huge detailed relief (reportedly 9 ft. tall and 1/2 mile long) relates stories of their philosophy.
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Stairs to the upper level (very high & narrow).
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Learning the proper form—photo-op.
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Diann rested with she had a chance to talk with guide, Kat. Tom did complete the top portion of the temple.
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Main Buddha stature in Temple.
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This continues to serve as a Temple where people come to meditate and make prayers offerings.

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Angkor Thom has five entrance gates, one at each ordinal compass point and the Victory Gate in the east wall. Each of the gates is topped by the face of Avalokitesvara.  The woman sculptured faces are on all four sides of the towering structures..

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Ta Prohm. Built during the time of king Jayavarman VII and is best known as the temple where trees have been left intertwined with the stonework, much as it was uncovered from the jungle. It might be considered in a state of disrepair but there is a strange beauty in the marvelous strangler fig trees which provide a stunning display of the embrace between nature and the human handiwork. This is one of the most popular temples after Angkor Wat and the Bayon because of the beautiful combinations of wood and stone. Black and white film photographers especially love this site because of this and most of the stunning postcard shots of Angkor’s trees come from here; pop culture fans, on the other hand, may recognise a few scenes from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider.

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The strangling fig roots are HUGE.

Reportedly, there have been over 1,000 more temples identified beneath the jungle floor using NASA technology. Continue reading “Day 50, June 29–Morning Tour: Angkor Temples”

Day 49, June 28: Singapore to Siem Reap, Cambodia (720 NM)

Another flight day, up early…bags ready and off to the airport. 3 hours flight time today.

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Another over water leg today…heading 358 degrees.
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Muddy looking river…with little villages along side.
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Holding pattern X 3 for traffic management in Cambodia.
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Finally after an extra 25 minutes, we are on short final.
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Rice fields..

The holding was necessary because of ground work (closed taxiway & section of apron).  Airplanes landing needed a long taxi to position and take-off traffic required a long back taxi on the runway to take-off.  The four Air Journey planes were part of stack up…..and only one runway.

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Cleared for the approach! We were # 4….

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Day 48, June 27: Touring Singapore

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One day tour for the highlights of Singapore: tour guide transported us to the largest display of orchards in the world! Then an hour floating boat tour.

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Singapore Marina Bay water front offered a unique view of the city.  We boarded the Bumboat (battery operated) which decreases polution of motor boats on the Singapore river. In 2008 the government created a new method of providing drinking water: a “Marina Barrage” to hold the conservation of recycled rainwater.  Currently, Singapore has a water supply agreement with Malaysia which ends 2060. Fresh water is a valued and limited commodity which drives the government research for plausable solutions.

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Esplanade—interesting armadillo-like structure—huge concert hall for the arts.
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Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. This is miniature, the large stature is closed off for cleaning.
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Fish trading buildings reflective of older times of fishing village.
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Marina Hotel building—with boat shaped top section.
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Not a UFO….rather, this modern structure court building.
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Singapore Flyer, 165 meters high (answer to the London Eye).

Singapore Flyer: each capsule holds 28 people with full capacity of 784 total. A full circuit is completed in 32 minutes and gives amazing views of the city.

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Victorian Library
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Each bridge over the Singapore river has a history…the Cavanagh Bridge (only suspension) bridge opened 1870. It was build in crates in Glasgow, Scotland and reassembled by convicts in Singapore. It is a national monument and now open only to pedestrians.


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IMG_2243Our Buddhist Temple visit in China Town…was most colorful and a peaceful conclusion of touring on this very hot and humid day.

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Day 47, June 26: Bali to Singapore (920 NM)

Much of our flight took us over water…the Java Sea.  Flying over the equator…we attempted to photograph it on the middle portion of the display…almost!!  We did get the South indication….then the North.

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Busy bay with boating activity.
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More volcano tops seen above the clouds.

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High  cranes to left of our approach…

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Tall cranes on the Malaysain side of the waterway.
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Johor Strait divides the Malaysia side…from Singapore.
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Atrium in the Raffles Hotel..
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Raffels Hotel, Singapore
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BEST steak all trip!
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Unusual floral arrangement in lobby of Raffles….warm greetings.