The DMZ

Skipping back to the end of June this year (yip all over the show now… I am writing on our time in Vietnam where we spent a month traveling from the north to the south). After our few days in the lovely and quaint city of Hanoi we decided to take the train down to a town called Hue. We booked the overnight train which we jumped on at 2300 and arrived only a couple of hours late at 1300 the next day. On the trains in Vietnam, one is woken around 0600 when they turn the Rail TV on to a level of volume that one might only dream of being able to sleep through after being awake for most of the night in a reclining chair due to not being able to get a sleeper cabin even a week in advance (dam peak season).

So aside from Rail TV waking the both of us from our ever so light sleep it was in fact a pretty enjoyable train ride, watching the scenery go by along with watching the different family’s on board traveling to their holiday destinations and let me tell you the average Vietnamese family traveling on these trains travels with everything but the kitchen sink! I’m straying yet again from the topic… with the topic being the DMZ just north of Hue (well when I say just north, it was still a good three hour car ride in which I willed us to stay on the road and keep all cars, buses and trucks from hitting us the whole way there and back!

A few stops we made along the way to look at a few memorial sites leading up to the DMZ. This area of Vietnam was one of the most bombed areas in military history! Many of the bombs filled with nasty things like napalm, phosphorus and herbicides. Even though most of the land is now covered in vegetation you can still see many of the craters left by the bombs exploding. However many of the bombs didn’t explode on impact, almost a third, well so they say. They continue to clear the land of these unexploded landmines, bombs and shells but incidences still happen on a weekly basis causing death or injury in both adults and children.

Local people lived in the tunnels for years, only at night would they come up above ground level to see the stars and have fresh air.

Built for little people!

The tunnel system consisted of three different levels under the ground, the dense clay in the region made it easy for the people to dig the tunnels then once dried remained extremely strong. The first level was 13m below ground level the 2nd being around 15m and the 3rd level being 24m underground!!! It took two years to build, and is linked to the sea by seven exits, these also worked as ventilation for the tunnels.

After our guide through the tunnels we headed for some lunch about a ten minute drive from the tunnels in a little coastal village. The place where we ate, as many of them do looked rather unassuming with not a soul to be seen aside from the family that would be serving us our lunch.

Not a bad view from the lunch table.

Our driver ordered lunch for us and within minutes the husband was off on his scooter to grab a few ingredients. The food was fast and fresh and tasted amazing. Served with a cold beer also!

Back in the car for the three hour drive back to Hue I dared not go to sleep I had to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic! All in all an uneventful car journey back to my surprise. Got to see some fish being dried on the side of the road, I can only guess it was for the ever famous fish sauce made in Vietnam!

 

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Dinner with our Friends Jeff and Eileen

Now I take you all the way back to June this year, the week before we left what had been our home away from home for the last two years in Italy. A lovely dinner with our friends Jeff and Eileen from California, America who also have their home away from home in Viareggio, Tuscany Italy. I wonderful summers evening with great company, great wine and fantastic food!

Koh Tao

So I am jumping back a little here, we have now been home for close to two months (and I have not even posted 1/4 of the posts of our travel that I should have by now) and yes I have been a little slack in the posting department but this is all due to good cause. We have built a vegetable garden (not just any vege garden, it’s a pretty neat one, it looks great thanks to Daves amazing building skills and my staining skills) and been getting our home to be just the way we like it. So that’s my excuse anyway 😉

Back to the story at hand, I am taking you back to Thailand, Kho Tao to be exact, where we had a really nice 8 days of unwinding, swimming, reading, eating, drinking and exploring. We stayed at a great little place called Samatha Bed and Breakfast which was newly built and a nice place to retreat to during the peak heat of the day and at the end of an evening out.

Lucky Seafood….

I really like this photo for some particular reason. We ate at this little place several times, their Thai Green Curry and Red Curry were to die for and the cheapest we found anywhere on the Island.

Help your self to a seat at the table!

Time for an afternoon caffeine fix!

Tea Plantations of Sri Lanka

After our night in Kandy we were back in the car and on the road again heading to Ella. The car ride was great, the scenery was amazing, the day was misty and the tea plantations all looked a vibrant green colour. As per normal being on the road was a little scary, buses passing buses on steep tight corners with nothing but sheer cliff face on one side of the road.

After almost two hours into the drive our driver stopped at what looked like a rickety old shack and said we were going for a cup of tea as it would still be another hour before we would be arriving at the Tea Factory for a little look around. Out of the car we got and sat down in the dive of a shack.

Served with a nice hot cup of sweet tea were these little Rotti served with the BEST hot sauce I have ever had! As I spooned a generous amount onto my Rotti, Chris our driver looked horrified and warned that it was very very hot and I would not be able to handle it… Ah why do people in foreign countries always think that the little white girl won’t be able to handle the spice! I couldn’t get enough of the stuff meanwhile Chris was in a world of discomfort having only put a small amount on his piece of Rotti. As for Dave, he too was able to handle the spice more than our driver. Such an unassuming place to stop but we were very happy to have stopped there as we were pleasantly surprised with the food and the very kind man who served such good Rotti!

Back on the road, we soon arrived at the Tea Factory for a tour around and a cup of tea!

After a cup of tea we were on our way again, next destination Nuwara Eliya situated at 1,868m above sea level.

Some interesting markets to walk through… Fish this high above sea level, and at least four hours from the coast, no ice to be seen anyone and I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as refrigerated transport in Sri Lanka! So needless to say we bought no fish however we got some hot peanuts and they were pretty good!

Back in the car again and not too far from Ella where we had two days and two nights to explore. Train track walks (posted that one ahead of myself) climbing little Adams peak and meeting some great people.

Sri Lankan Train Track Walk

On our fourth day in Sri Lanka we did something a bit different.

We arrived at a small town called Ella, located in the hill country in southern Sri Lanka. Our guide recommended a 5km walk down the train tracks from Ella to the next station down the line. This sounded fun and we soon found out it would be a good way to see the condition of the of the railways, originally built by the British in the mid 1800’s. Once walking to Demodara, we would take the train back. Sounds like fun, lets go !

After heading off down the track, it didn’t take long to notice that maybe these are the original rails laid by the British over 150 years ago !

Isn’t that nail meant to hold that track down?!

Wonder where the ‘clickity-clack’ noise comes from? Its from the gaps in the rail joins, and its little wonder Sri Lankan trains are not the quietest to ride in. More loose bolts, missing nails…..

Walking down the track we meet a rail ‘inspection & maintenance’ worker. Looks like he has been doing alot of walking….. not much else!

We came to the conclusion that Sri Lankan railways rely on the weight of the trains to hold everything down. So we got on and enjoyed the scenery.

Cheeky monkey !

After a lovely 5km walk and arriving to our destination of Demodara station, we had a bit of time to kill before jumping on a train back to Ella.

There is only one way to cool down after a long walk…….. mmmmm beeeer !