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Fab Asia Travel

    Fab Asia Travel

    Vietnam Farewell

    Ending Chapter Five in Laos

    Location: Vietnam

    We are marking three months on the road with our departure from Vietnam. After 28 days we say farewell to Vietnam. Tomorrow we fly to Laos.

    We will only be in Laos for nine days, six of those will be spent on board a boat on the Mekong River with 20 other passengers. I am very much looking forward to this experience and the sun that is forecast. No doubt it will generate a blog or two.

    Woman spinning in Mai Chau

    At the end of our time in Laos we close Chapter Five- Southeast Asia, and turn the page. Chapter Six is six weeks in New Zealand!

    At the three-month mark we have settled in to the

    Textile art in Mai Chau

    lifestyle, behaving less like tourists and more like locals.  I am surprised by a few things – finding a place to run has been hard and it is not happening as often as I would like.  Cooking has actually

    Photo of old woman from Vietnam Women’s Museum

    proved more expensive than eating out, so I am not cooking as much as I thought I would.  That will likely change in New Zealand.

    Flowers on the back of a bicycle

    We regularly take a day or two to do nothing. Hanging out, working on the computer and reading. I like these days and do not need to be on the go all the time.

    I try to blog a couple of times a week and just submitted my next story for my column “Travel Bug” to West Sound Home & Garden Magazine.

    We have been amazingly healthy.  We both had a tummy issue in Thailand that was brief and a cold here in Hanoi only lasted a few days.  Feeling great.

    We tell our travel story to people we meet who all stare at us mouth agape at our plans. Why it seems so unachievable to most people but not to us still baffles me.

    Bridge in Hanoi

    We are under budget thanks in part to how inexpensive everything in SE Asia is. A beer costs about $1.  A manicure is about $3. Dinner for three people, $15 or less.

    We track our expenses very closely right down to

    On the boat in Halong Bay

    taxis and tips. It helps us see where we are spending and where we can improve.

    I will say once again that our choice to live this life is not for everyone. We are living much less

    A common sight on the busy streets of Hanoi

    expensively than we did back home. We do not have a house to update and maintain. We do not have a yard to spend thousands of dollars on each year. We are not entertaining as we used to (which I of course loved to do but also spent tons of money on). No

    Young girls in traditional dress, rice paddies of Mai Chau

    cars, boats or even lawn mowers to put gas in, maintain and purchase tabs for.  I haven’t had a haircut since August. I don’t buy shoes and clothes or even gifts. But I know some people couldn’t give all that up. And that’s okay. We did – for now at

    Floating village family Halong Bay

    least.

    When asked Arne always tells people that if we make it to the sixth month mark he thinks we can make it to the six – year mark. My answer is a bit different – as long as we are having fun then I can continue.

    And we are. We spend nearly every waking hour together and get along better than we ever have.

    Night view from our apartment in Hanoi

    There is nearly no stress, nothing to argue about or disagree about. It’s working.

    So it’s farewell to beautiful Vietnam and hello to Laos. I’m looking forward to a bit of a change of scenery and learning something new – I know so little about Laos. So it will be an adventure.

    A Grand Adventure!

    Thank you for following!  Please share and tell your friends!  ❤

    Note- I have been asked to write about the books I have been reading (currently reading book #18) and I’ve also been asked to write more about how Airbnb works. I promise to both in the near future. 

    Fab Asia Travel

    36 Streets – Ancient Hanoi

    Chapter Five

    Location: Vietnam

    We are winding down our time in Vietnam. Each place we have visited has been so different. Although when asked the question “what is my favorite?” I answer Hoi An – the reality is each place has been special in its own way.

    Our time in Hanoi has been very relaxed. We have spent time just wandering around for the most part in the Old Quarter. It’s a fascinating place.

    Wooden toys and gifts

    Hanoi’s Old Quarter has a history that spans 2,000 years.  It is the oldest continually occupied area in Vietnam.

    Old Hanoi is often referred to as the 36 Streets. In

    Silk

    ancient times merchants or guilds occupied certain streets with various workshops.  Today the ancient way is still obvious around the quarter with each guild or street still representing a certain trade.  The website Things Asian explains the current system –

    Some streets have achieved fame by their inclusion in popular guidebooks. Han Gai Street offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored,

    The pots and pans street

    embroidery, and silver products. Hang Quat, the street that formerly sold silk and feather fans, now stuns the visitor by its brilliantly colored funeral and festival flags and religious objects and clothing. To Thinh Street connects the above two and is still the wood turner’s street. Hang Ma glimmers with shiny

    Scissors and Knives

    paper products, such as gift wrappings, wedding decorations and miniature paper objects to burn for the dead. Lan Ong Street is a sensual delight of textures and smells emanating from the sacks of herbal medicinal products: leaves, roots, barks, and powders.”

    Walking around the Quarter you turn on one street and it’s the scissors and knife street. Next it’s the paper products street. Then there is the

    Zippers. All kinds.

    pots and pans street. Today we stumbled on the buttons and bling street.  And one store selling only zippers.

    It’s so fun to see how the rest of the world lives and functions. No Costco. No Target. No Safeway. It’s working for them and has been for 2000 years.

    Vietnam – Fabulous!

    Fab Asia Travel

    Halong Bay

    The Magical Mystery Tour

    Location: Vietnam

    Some people only come to Hanoi to make the trek to Halong Bay. We actually planned time in Hanoi, and then decided to add a tour to Halong. We heard how beautiful it was, but in an effort to stay on budget we weren’t sure if we should go.

    Boy am I glad we did.

    Even though the weather wasn’t perfect, it didn’t matter. In fact the mist laying over the stunning rock formations gave a mystical quality. Serene.

    We booked an over night tour on a boat – the way most people see this UNESCO Heritage Site. We ended up on the White Dolphin with only five other guests. It was great. We got lucky and had really great tour companions and crew.  Our two day tour included four amazing meals, kayaking, swimming, cooking lesson, comfortable cabin, squid fishing as well as great information on our tour from a guide.  Well worth every penny.

    Although there were lots of other boats with overnight guests, it never felt overly crowded and touristy. Except for the floating fishing village, which is now mostly just for tourist “show”.  The ancient way of living and fishing on the water has changed greatly due to efforts to protect the environment of the area.  The environmental protection has trumped the historic cultural protection in this instance.

    I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Halong Bay – magical, mystical, memorable.

    Vietnam – Fabulous.

    Fab Asia Travel

    Beep! Beep!

    Chapter Five – Traffic

    Location: Vietnam

    The Scooter goes Beep Beep

    Up and Down the street

    One thousand in a row

    It’s how the Vietnamese go

     

    Peddlers bike along

    Weaving in and out

    Taxi swerves so rude

    Honking and a shout

     

    Behind you comes a truck

    Or Tourists on a bus

    Old lady walks so slow

    Traffic doesn’t break its flow

     

    Sidewalks aren’t for peds

    Scooters park instead

    Nowhere else to walk

    In traffic you must stalk

     

    The scooter goes Beep Beep

    Appointments they must keep

    In Vietnam it’s the way

    Adjust if you plan to stay

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fab Asia Travel

    Light the Way

    Chapter Five – The Lanterns of Hoi An

    Location: Vietnam

    Lovely Hoi An, located on the South China Sea halfway between Ho Ch Minh City and Hanoi is truly the jewel of Vietnam. Somehow spared from ravages of both recent and ancient  wars, Hoi An’s charming architecture sings a beautiful song of ancient Chinese and Japanese spice and silk trade routes and past shipping port importance.

    But today the Unesco World Heritage site thrives on tourism. A testament to a shrinking world and a changing economy.

    Most visitors only spend two days. Our laid back itinerary allowed us nine days – time enough to feel ensconced. To see the light.

    That light meaning lanterns. Lanterns have become Hoi An’s signature. Depending on who you talk to, the story of the lanterns is either from ancient Chinese merchants and seafarers, whose use of the lanterns guided their journey, while others will tell you the lanterns are a more recent adaptation, based on the tourists and their love of the bright colorful globes – visitors all too willing to  pay to have this souvenir accompany them back home.

    I want to believe the first, more romantic  version, but my long career in marketing tugs at my conscience to accept the second. Perhaps it is a bit of both.  But no matter which, our many evenings in the magically lantern lit historic Vietnamese village is something I will always remember.

    Grateful for the lanterns, symbolic of our continued journey.

    Light the Way.

     

    Fab Asia Travel

    Bloody War

    Chapter Five – Vietnam

    Location: Vietnam

    What I’ve seen of Vietnam so far is beautiful and hospitable.

    But the past is real and haunting. And bloody.

    I was only a child. What I remember is every night on the news. Huntley and Brinkley telling the story. Cronkite introducing Rather in the field.  Black and white images of soldiers, helicopters and dead people.

    This familiar photo is tame compared to most of the images in the museum.

    Not dead soldiers as much as dead Vietnamese children, women and elderly. The casualties were unbelievable.

    One of the most famous photos of the fall of Saigon. Americans evacuating from the top of the CIA building.

    These are my childhood memories of growing up in the 60’s and 70’s as the war played out on our black and white TV each night.

    The same building today. It’s just a block from where we are staying. It is unmarked and has no reference to that day and what happened.

    I didn’t understand it then. I still don’t understand it now. For what?  More than 50,000 American soldiers dead. We learn this in school. But what about 3 million Vietnamese dead?  And most importantly 2 million of those innocent civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some tortured.  Some shot point blank.

    A prisoner cell at the War Remnants Museum.

    When you visit Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, you must visit the War Remnants Museum(formerly called the American War Museum and the War Autrocities Museum). Although I had to walk out of part of the museum

    PRG forces seize control of the presidential palace in Saigon, after the fall of the city, May 3, 1975
    The war in Vietnam ended 30 April 1975 as the government in Saigon announced its unconditional surrender to the Vietcong.
    AFP/Getty Images

    because it was so horrifying. What war does. What we do when we are at war. What we do to each other to impose your beliefs.

    Us enjoying the beautiful grounds today of the Presidential Palace, now called Independance Palace.

    All of these lives. Gone.

    I didn’t understand it then. I still don’t understand it now. For what?

    Not fabulous.

    Fab Asia Travel

    Thailand – Final Days

    Chapter Five – Three Weeks in Hua Hin

    Location: Thailand

    Staying in one place for three weeks has been great. I don’t think I have felt this healthy and relaxed in…well…maybe never.

    Although Hua Hin does not have the most beautiful beaches in Thailand  (Phuket and Koh Samui both had clearer and more blue water) we have really grown to love it here.  Our little condo has been perfect (and cheap – $40 a night). Easy walk to the beach and a fabulous pool big enough to swim laps in. This has has been a plus. I have also made good use of the equipment in the exercise room.

    Funny though how different it feels than the night we arrived three weeks ago in the middle of a monsoon.  All the roads were underwater and trying to get to our condo seemed nearly impossible.  Remembering what it looked like when we ventured out for a walk the first few days – it’s not even the same place. The storm surge had flooded the beachfront restaurants. The high surf had washed in millions of shells and jelly fish. The roads and sidewalks were lakes and access to stores or taxis was impossible. Restaurants were closed. For the first few days we lived on food from the 7-11.

    It was kind-of-an adventure.

    But now we know the real Hua Hin; the night market and the weekend markets and the Songthaew, and the vendors. We met lots of guests at our condo from all over the world (we are the only Americans). We have been spoiled by the great staff as well as the owner of our condo (Autumn Condo if you ever find yourself in Hua Hin).

    We’ve eaten in most nights, in an effort to be frugal and also to be  “normal”.  And healthy.  I hope I have lost a few pounds – given all the exercise.

    But it’s time to go.  On to the next adventure in Southeast Asia (Chapter Five) – Vietnam.  We won’t have a chance to spend three weeks in one place while in Vietnam. In fact the longest we stay in one place now until May is 9 days.  I’m sure by the time May rolls around we will be ready to sit still for awhile.

    So, if you aren’t bored yet with My Fab Fifties Life Grand Adventure I hope you are ready for four weeks in Vietnam, one week in Laos and six weeks in New Zealand – this will take us through April.

    Come along! It’s fun having you follow!

    NOTE – We expect Facebook, Twitter and Word Press (our blog is Word Press) to be difficult and possibly impossible in Vietnam.  We won’t know for sure until we get there.  Please follow us on Instagram which we understand is a little easier.