Location: SA PA, Vietnam
Our journey to SAPA began about 7:30am, the four of us from our tour and two Dutch honeymooners. The trip up to the mountains was 5 hours in a luxury transit limo. We eventually arrived after travelling up hill for most of the way. After checking in we left on our first trek. The weather was somewhat misty and the path/road was not exactly smooth in fact it was very rough. There is a lot of building occurring with new hotels and roads and tourist outlets being built. We feel that SAPA will one day become one of Vietnams major attractions. The trek took us through old villages, rice paddies and we were constantly hounded by Women from the MON tribe trying to sell us overpriced junk that we did not need. We finally managed to get our guide to tell them scram. This was all very interesting and an eye opener as far as the conditions that the villagers lived in. After about 2 hours our guide arranged for the driver to pick us up and take us back to our hotel. That at least was the plan however like Robbie Burns said, things change!
There was a traffic jam and our guide said we were only10 mins from the hotel after 25 hot uphill mins we arrived thoroughly exhausted. A shower, change of clothes and out for a meal then bed, end of day one trekking. A massage was now needed for us both to survive, $20 each for one hour of absolutely bliss.
Next morning after a nice breakfast it was off again but this time it consisted of about 2700 steps up to a huge waterfall and back down then off for a walk through a very tidy and quaint village area. By this stage we had invested in two selfie sticks and two walking sticks which made the final part of the journey bearable but only just. The good part being that we actually completed all the walking and saw some great sights. The weather had been quite cool but the visibility was ok. That afternoon it started to get dark early as the clouds came right down low so we spent about $9;00 and We got a windbreaker for Lyn and the plan for the next day was to take the train up to the mountains and then cable car to the top. Unfortunately the rain arrived and the visibility disappeared. We took the train and had an enjoyable time at the top with a Japanese Shinto temple and some great shopping. Back to the hotel,a final pack and back to Hanoi by limo. 5 hours later we arrived. Had tea, bed and then homeward bound. Fly from Hanoi to KL and then it was KL to Auckland. All in all a really great experience but not a restful holiday but feel privileged to have done it together.
Location: Halong Bay & Hanoi, Vietnam
To wake up to a beautiful sunrise on a boat is something to dream about. Breakfast and off again on an excursion. This time to a large cave system, they euphemistically call them the surprise caves as they actually 3 caves in one system, quite mind blowing and about 4 thousands steps later we were back on the jetty for our trip back to the boat minus about 3 litres of sweat, it was well worth it though.
Once back on board it was a case of clean out the cabin, pack your bag and get ready for lunch. after this it was settle your bill and get off for the return bus trip to Hanoi, did I mention that Lyns massage cost a whole $40 NZ for an hour, she said it was lovely though. Back not Hanoi about 3 hours later and then off to a water puppet show and a meal for 6 of us. The show was well done and quite humorous at times. The meal was 4 - 5 courses and very scrumptious. Back to the hotel and pack again for a 5:30am wake up and off to the mountain town of SA PA.
Location: Hanoi-Halong Bay, Vietnam
Early start this morning for our flight to Hanoi, 12:45!!!
The flight was good and most importantly the weather was excellent and the hotel once again was nice. After we had settled in we headed off with our new Aussie friends; Robert and Helen Ayers. The plan was to go to the restaurant the was recommended on foot and then onto the night market. Well it turned out none of the four of us could find our way out of a paper bag. However after asking directions many times we finally found it and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal. Next the markets were vast and hundreds of outlets selling the same product ie. shoes, handbags, shirts scarves and dresses. Altogether an amazing but very daunting spectacle. Back to the hotel on foot and into bed ready for our Halong Bay cruise.
9:00am pickup and away we went, all 16 of us. Two stops on the way to fill in time before boat was ready, a gem factory and embroidery display centre and a pearl farm, all very entertaining but nothing on our bucket list.
We arrived at Halong harbour which is undergoing a huge tourist expansion with hotels and condominiums. Onto our boat which is the Majestic Legend. Our room is quite stunning and easily surpassed our expectations. First stop was about 1 hour away among lots of volcanic and Asian type islands. We disembarked and were towed through a series of caves into a sheltered lagoon.
Next it was onto an area converted into a false beach. There were 2 options, first was a 40 min climb to the top of a small mountain which we declined or a paddle and relax on the beach which we chose: even Lyn was brave enough to get in. Then it was back onto the boats tender and back aboard for the evening. Tea consisted of 4 courses of yummy Asian food. Lyn chose to have a leg and foot massage and we were tucked up by 10:10pm.
Location: Saigon - Hoi An, Vietnam
An early start for the travellers today with a 7:00 am pickup and 5:30 wake up!!!
It was then off to the airport and on to Da Nang, mostly cloudy and somewhat very bumpy, finally got down to experience tropical rain, they had the tail end of a cyclone the day before and the evidence of trees down and roads flooded was there for all to see. Arrived at our hotel in Hoi An about 2:00 pm and settled in. Venus Hotel quite posh.
Later we went browsing at the shops and ventured into the old city. The city is divided into two parts, the old and the new. The old part is mainly filled with small shops selling everything from coke to full restaurants to hand made shoes, Taylors, Paintings and souvenirs.
The old city is divided by a river and at night is lit up by heaps of lanterns and yes it rained!!! However it was still a great experience.
After having a meal it was back to the hotel and I had a massage ( one hour for $20.00 NZ) and very good and relaxing.
Tomorrow it is off to MY SON, an old temple area in the mountains and thankfully no rain, the only negative was that I got Adelphis Belly the night before and did not feel too flash. I will use Lyns photos for this segment. On the way home we stopped at a government controlled restaurant for lunch. We also learned a bit about water coconuts.
After it was back to the hotel , rested up a bit and then off shopping, you soon learn how too many options make shopping and choosing difficult.
Back to the hotel, Lyn bought a couple of nice scarves for about$15:00.
Tomorrow it is off to Hanoi and good weather we hope.
Today was an earlier start and we were off to see the CU CHI tunnels.
These were dug to provide a huge safe underground area for the Viet Cong during the war. They were at least 3 levels deep and housed a hospital, weapons manufacturing area, accomodation and trading areas. They built in death traps, disguised air vents and blind end off shoots to trap the enemy, unfortunately that included us. The tunnels were about 18in tall to prevent anyone charging down them.
All in all a very hot but informative day.
We were dropped off before our hotel and walked to the war museum. This was on 3 levels and told of the Agent orange tragedy, the murder of villagers by US soldiers and the weapons used during the war. Unfortunately history is always written by the winners of any war, so this is all very one sided against the US and Aust and NZ Forces
We then decided to go to the Catholic Cathedral, this was more than a small short walk, about 4 km in very hot conditions, crossing roads packed with thousands of motor bikes and getting thoroughly lost in the process. We finally found it about 4:50pm and went in to pay our respects. Seeing as how Mass was due to start at 5:30pm we stayed. When we left it was dark and we headed off to get back to our hotel
And got thoroughly lost again. We finally found a hotel after walking several Ks Id, explained our predicament and arranged to get a taxi to take us back to our hotel, by this time all our clothes were wet with sweat so had tea and then back for a shower and off to bed.
Explore, explore, its off to explore we go. Our first tour was labeled the Mekong delta boat trip. The bus drive to the delta was about 2 hours. On the way we stopped at the largest Buddhist temple in Vietnam. Then off to the river, if my memory serves me right the delta covers an area of about 1800 square kilometres. There are 4 main islands here: unicorn, Phoenix and two others whose names I cant remember. We saw bees at work, had some honey wine and some honey biscuits, played with a python watched coconut being extracted, went on a river rowing boat ride, had a lovely sea food lunch, bought some sugar coconut candy and finished with a tut tut ride. All in all a great but tiring day, then a 2 hour bus ride back to the hotel, showed etc and then off to our usual eating place. By this time my( John) legs were had it. I found a massage place and had a great 60 minute massage for $22 then off to bed.
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
Well our latest adventure got off to a slow start with issues getting into the airport car park and then finding out that our flight would not be leaving until 11:45pm.
The flight itself was good but the leg room was non existent.
Arrived at KL about 5:00am and then on to Saigon about 10:00am.
Up till now we could only imagine the heat, after standing around waiting for our transfer Lady to get all her passengers we remembered what 33deg and 90% humidity actually felt like, B hot!!
The trip into town and our hotel was interesting to say the least, the traffic is unorganised chaos with thousands of motor bikes going in all directions.
The hotel is modest but more than adequate,
After a shower and a snooze we headed out to explore the area and play dodgem with the traffic. We found a huge market selling everything accept cool temps, the conditions were just too hot for us so we headed back, did a stock up at the local
Grocer and back to our bed for a nanny nap!
Later it was off for tea, we found a below ground level shopping area with aircon, had tea, did some browsing and then back to our room. The only problem being the monsoonal rains, we got soaked but at least it was warm!
Location: Gisborne, New Zealand
After yesterday's excitement, the drive to Gisborne was almost without incident, we visited Tikitiki, Ruatoria, Te Puia Springs and then Puaua, and Makarori Beach on the way into Gisborne. Filled up with fuel and got rid of the dump but no sooner had we finished this than the heavens opened up, the rain was so heavy and lasted a fair while that all the roads were flooded and we could only travel about 5km/hr.
It was good to catch up with Maurice and Lyn spent some time with Richard Bernstein , unfortunately Richard is going through Chemo for prostate cancer and his Daughter Aimee who lives in London has had to have a breast off and she too is having chemo.
That night the temp dropped and Maurice insisted we sleep inside, it was too cold to sleep outside.
Next day it was off to Napier and Perfume Point again for the night. It was a good trip down and we arrived to our usual pRk with no issues, a small shop, tea and the Lyn beat me at Crib and Rummyoh. Just proves you can teach some people too much!!!!!
Thursday morning off to Ormondville and the family. They had just got their first two calves and had to learn how to feed them, it was good being a bystander!!
Friday saw us off home 3800 km after we had set out.
It has been a great holiday and as usual we have seen lots of sights that we did not expect, but that's Caravnning.
Location: Hicks Bay, East Coast, New Zealand
The Mercury Bay Club was full to overflowing when we got there, they had reached the point in their membership draws when it had to go and at $2,000 it was very popular. It eventually went and the place just emptied out and we ended up watching the rugby almost on our own. What a great game, go the Canes.
Saturday saw us on the road to Tauranga with lots of Kodak stops on the way at some of the beautiful beaches. We eventually got to Bethlehem, visited Mrs Maddock (Lyn's old neighbour) and then after a few missed directed turns from our GPS we finally got to Colin & Robyn's place. We had an enjoyable evening with them, next morning it was off to Mass and then a visit with Sue & John McOviney, they have an enormous and very modern home at the Mount. It backs on to the Golf course and a swimming pool and a large spa pool looking out over the golf course.
It was then off to Ohope and Mike and Irene's for a quick lunch then on to Noel and Judy's (Lyn's favourite cousin). Noel was still working driving a truck taking Kiwi fruit from the orchard to the pack house, I had the pleasure of going with him, each load was about 46 ton. The harvesting and collecting vehicles were a real revelation. Finished about 6:30pm and then home for a few beers, lots of talk and tea.
Today it was on the way again going south around the East Cape. We have not done this since the kids were little when we lived in Gisborne.
We decided to go this way as the views of the different bays are said to be quite spectacular going South and they certainly were with deep blue water and special coves and bays. It must be mind blowing to do this in December/January when the Pohutakawa,s are in full flower.
We have decided to stop on the beach at Hicks Bay but not before getting stuck in loose sand but hey it's all part of the experience and no harm done in the end.
Tomorrow it is off to Gisborne and a visit with Maurice.
Location: Thames, New Zealand
Once again the morning started fine and warm and remained that way all Day. The drive through to Coromandel town was very slow as there were lots of road works and it is quite narrow but the views west toward Auckland were stunning which made up for the stop starts along the way.
We called into Coromandell town but parking with the van was non
Existent so we did a crawl through and headed off to Whitianga. We had a few Kodak stops on the way and arrived here about 11:00am. After setting up it was onto town, info centre, op shops and then back to the van for a quick lunch and then off to see Hahei and Hot Water Beach. They were lovely spots and the water at hot water beach had just started flowing when we got there and there were heaps of people with spades digging there own little spa pools. Some of the water coming out of the ground was too hot to stand in, however I managed to scrounge a spade and dig my own little bath!
After this it was back to the van, a quick tea and we intend heading off to the Mercury Bay club to watch rugby. Tomorrow it is off to Tauranga.
Location: Whangaparaoa, New Zealand
We had a good evening with the Kids and of course our bundle of joy, Christopher (CJ). We arranged the programme for Lyns 70th birthday and then off to bed in our van. Next day it was Happy Birthday to the 70 year old and then around to pick up CJ and into town on the bus and the main one was a double decker and he loved being up the front on top. We had a Maccas ice cream and then up Quenn street, boy it is noisy and busy. I managed to get my Vodafone acc sorted and then Lyn had a shop while CJ had a nap, then it was off to Burger King for lunch and stroll around the water front before Steven picked us all up and then off to home, get changed and out to the RSA for a nice family meal, then off to bed. Lyn had lots of phone calls and messages from family and friends including Auzzie and our Zimbabwean friends.
This morning it was on the road again and then off to Thames on the Coromandel for the night. We have a lovely spot overlooking the sea and waiting for the sunset another warm day.
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
April Fools day began with church with our new Christchurch friends, Bev and Mark Taylor then after this it was off to visit our God Daughter Meagan and her family just out of town. They have a lovely location and a 1930's that will keep them busy for a long time. Their two Sons were really neat young adults and all in all a really great time before heading back for our Wellington group photo.
It was then a time for Lyn to browse the craft stalls and attempt to not buy too much, which she nearly achieved!
Happy hour was with our safari group which was a nice way to Finish as the departure and shocks at Kaikohe cast a damper on the end of the safari so it was nice to end on a happy note.
Then that evening it was a Vaudville Caberet act which was both entertaining and heaps of costume changes. The huge marquee cost $60,000 to hire.
Monday it was the closing ceremony and then breaking camp and bugging out about 2:00pm. In the mean time we had a really good catch up with Margaret and Ruffy, from Blenheim and Lyns school friend and we may end up going down to them in early August for some fishing which will be good. The meal and catch up with the cussys was really good and some family history was revisited!
Next morning it was off to Whangaparoa and our Auckland family.