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!

 

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!

A day in Kandy, Sri Lanka

We were soon on our way to Kandy where we would spend our next night. On the way we stopped at one of the many Spice Gardens and had a very interesting tour learning of all the health benefits that the different herbs and spices have to offer.

In Sri Lanka I was again reluctant to get on a bus, the driving habits of the bus drivers in Sri Lanka seem to be fairly similar to that of their fellow bus driving friends in Vietnam…. CRAZY! As you can see, this bus thought it would be fine to pass on a corner… oh no wait there is a car coming maybe I wont!

We made a few stops along the way to have a look at some of the road side offerings.

Once we arrived in Kandy, our driver Chris took us to a place for lunch which served a great choice of curry and rice. What I love about the curry and rice in Sri Lanka is that you don’t just get one dish. Curry and rice on average consist of up to 8 to 10 different curries, sambal and assorted dishes. After we were completely stuffed full with these wonderful tasting dishes we took the time to explore Kandy a little further.

Of the countries we have been to I would have to say the Sri Lankans are the some of the warmest and kindest people we have met. And they just love to have their photo taken, which is great for someone like me who tends to be a little shy when it comes to asking people if I can take their photo. Most people would ask me if I could take their photos without me even needing to ask! Brilliant!

A shoe repair man on the side of the street… cheap rent.

Ice cream vendor and fresh fruit by the lake in kandy.

Electroplating Jewelry (Gold and Silver) an interesting process to watch.

After walking around the streets of Kandy we checked into our guesthouse and relaxed with an ice cold beer on the balcony overlooking the surrounding Mountains. Later on we went to a cultural show of local dances which was interesting enough then before heading back to the guesthouse, watched the sunset over the lake. Soon time for dinner, we decided to give the guesthouse a chance and have our dinner there. Food in general in Sri Lanka is never served in a hurry which you soon get used to and as long as when you plan to have your meal you are not already starving, the wait is not so bad. So three beers later and some time spent researching the next days events our dinner arrived from the unassuming restaurant, and I would have to say it was one of the best meals we had while in Sri Lanka. Dave had curried chicken which had a lovely rich and spicy gravy and I had deviled chicken which was a slightly drier dish but full of strong savory and spicy flavors and both of them were ‘Sri Lankan hot’ which was great! Finally we had been given a dish that made our mouths tingle and the beer seem that bit more refreshing.  The both of us have a great fondness for very spicy food, however while we have traveled through SE Asia we have found that even when we ask for ‘very spicy’ or ‘extra hot’ the person taking our order has a slight smile on their face and says OK. Then disappointment always would follow with the dish coming out ‘tourist hot’.

All in all it was a great day in Kandy followed by a great evening and authentic Sri Lankan meal. Next stop Ella.

Visiting some Elephants in their natural habitat… The Minneriya National Park

While in Sri Lanka we were lucky enough to be there for the ‘Gathering’ which is the name that they give to the Elephants that congregate on the edge of the Minneriya reservoir during the dry season in the Minneriya National Park. In the late afternoon the Elephants, which can be as many as 200 arrive around the waters edge for play time and bath time, but to mainly graze on the green grass that lies next to the reservoir.

After about a 15 minute drive on a dirt road through the Forrest of the park we came out onto the planes and before long we saw our first lot of elephants.

It was a great afternoon and it was so nice to see the elephants in their own environment, doing their own thing and not in captivity.

Penang through the lens of my camera

 

After catching the Ferry from Koh Tao to the mainland and a very uncomfortable mini van ride (I would like to point out there were no seat belts and our driver seemed to think he was invincible behind the wheel and thought it was best to pass only on blind corners and directly in-front of on coming traffic) to Chumphon followed by a 16 hour train ride, we arrived in Penang.

Penang was just a short stop over of two nights for us on our way back to Singapore to then get to Vietnam (where we are currently still). This was plenty of time for us to try plenty of street food and to explore Georgetown and even get up Penang hill. The Cable car up Penang hill was extremely impressive and no photo that I was able to get through the window did it any justice. Here is a little bit of what we saw in just under 48 hours.