A Travellerspoint blog

June 2019

Orchha, India - medieval history well off the beaten path

Fifteen cenotaphs (17th and 18th centuries) to the Bundela Kings and members of their clan were right behind our tents; there are virtually no tourists in this small town of only 10000 people

Fifteen cenotaphs (17th and 18th centuries) to the Bundela Kings and members of their clan were right behind our tents; there are virtually no tourists in this small town of only 10000 people

There are cows wandering everywhere in Orchha and the other places we've visited; they aren't skittish because they are used to people and everyone treats them well

There are cows wandering everywhere in Orchha and the other places we've visited; they aren't skittish because they are used to people and everyone treats them well

The Raja Mahal (King’s Palace), abandoned in 1783, was built in the early part of 16th century; the interior of the palace is totally empty with no evidence of how it once looked

The Raja Mahal (King’s Palace), abandoned in 1783, was built in the early part of 16th century; the interior of the palace is totally empty with no evidence of how it once looked

I can't imagine visiting India solo; it is far too primitive and would be impossible to get around without being on a tour (at least the places we've visited)

I can't imagine visiting India solo; it is far too primitive and would be impossible to get around without being on a tour (at least the places we've visited)

Everyone seems to live in harmony where we have visited despite their religious differences (ignoring the constant horns on the roads); the culture has multiple generations living together and people traditionally have stayed close to their hometowns

Everyone seems to live in harmony where we have visited despite their religious differences (ignoring the constant horns on the roads); the culture has multiple generations living together and people traditionally have stayed close to their hometowns

We stayed in these large, air-conditioned tents right next to the cenotaphs; what may not be apparent is the fact that it is 107 degrees!

We stayed in these large, air-conditioned tents right next to the cenotaphs; what may not be apparent is the fact that it is 107 degrees!

A girl on our tour was walking back from the store when one of these langurs went straight up to her and stole her snacks!; a good Samaritan did retrieve her soda which I guess the langur couldn't open

A girl on our tour was walking back from the store when one of these langurs went straight up to her and stole her snacks!; a good Samaritan did retrieve her soda which I guess the langur couldn't open

We visited a local enterprise where discarded hosiery is turned into paper; the paper is sold throughout India for certificates and school uses

We visited a local enterprise where discarded hosiery is turned into paper; the paper is sold throughout India for certificates and school uses

From sign in city: Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy to the ages; the palaces and temples built by the Bundela rulers retain much of their pristine perfection (HA!)

From sign in city: Orchha's grandeur has been captured in stone, frozen in time, a rich legacy to the ages; the palaces and temples built by the Bundela rulers retain much of their pristine perfection (HA!)

The view of Orchha from the fort in black and white; the town definitely looks better from afar since up close it is poor, dirty and without anything to interest a tourist

The view of Orchha from the fort in black and white; the town definitely looks better from afar since up close it is poor, dirty and without anything to interest a tourist

There are just a couple of frescoes remaining in the Orchha Fort complex; our local guide went on and on and on about all of the Hindu gods represented but it was way too much information

There are just a couple of frescoes remaining in the Orchha Fort complex; our local guide went on and on and on about all of the Hindu gods represented but it was way too much information

The old buildings were attractive but are totally empty on the inside and are not being preserved; the government would need to pour a lot of money into Orchha to restore its historical buildings

The old buildings were attractive but are totally empty on the inside and are not being preserved; the government would need to pour a lot of money into Orchha to restore its historical buildings

This was originally the main entrance to the Jahangir Palace; the doors are made of teak which is grown in this area

This was originally the main entrance to the Jahangir Palace; the doors are made of teak which is grown in this area

This ceiling fresco was the only one left in the Raja Mahal; most members of the tour attended a Hindu puja ceremony one night but it was at 8pm so I skipped it

This ceiling fresco was the only one left in the Raja Mahal; most members of the tour attended a Hindu puja ceremony one night but it was at 8pm so I skipped it

This building was where the camels stayed while their owners visited the Orchha Fort complex; there were ruins of dozens of other buildings on the grounds but no idea what purpose they had

This building was where the camels stayed while their owners visited the Orchha Fort complex; there were ruins of dozens of other buildings on the grounds but no idea what purpose they had

Sheesh Mahal at the Orchha Fort has now been converted into a hotel but there was no evidence of anyone staying there; supposedly you can get a royal feeling staying in one of the suites here

Sheesh Mahal at the Orchha Fort has now been converted into a hotel but there was no evidence of anyone staying there; supposedly you can get a royal feeling staying in one of the suites here

We had a free day in Orchha where there was absolutely nothing to do; I was having bad pain problems and stomach issues (despite not eating the food) so I wasn't complaining

We had a free day in Orchha where there was absolutely nothing to do; I was having bad pain problems and stomach issues (despite not eating the food) so I wasn't complaining

Jahangir Mahal is a palace that was exclusively built by Bir Singh Deo in 1605 to humor the Mughal emperor Jahangir who was a guest of the Maharaja for one night only; just staying in Orchha for one night makes sense to me!

Jahangir Mahal is a palace that was exclusively built by Bir Singh Deo in 1605 to humor the Mughal emperor Jahangir who was a guest of the Maharaja for one night only; just staying in Orchha for one night makes sense to me!

Orchha lies on the Betwa River which is very low now since it's dry season (you can raft at certain times of year); during the monsoon season the bridge is underwater

Orchha lies on the Betwa River which is very low now since it's dry season (you can raft at certain times of year); during the monsoon season the bridge is underwater

It's too bad that there were no representations of how the Orchha Fort once looked; it's just a shell and we were left to envision how the rulers lived in the 16th and 17th centuries here

It's too bad that there were no representations of how the Orchha Fort once looked; it's just a shell and we were left to envision how the rulers lived in the 16th and 17th centuries here

Posted by VagabondCowboy 18:42 Comments (0)

Palau's world famous Blue Corner dive was spectacular

This area was a cleaning station for the turtles as they would rub their shells on the bottom of rocks; every turtle we saw had a perfectly clean shell

This area was a cleaning station for the turtles as they would rub their shells on the bottom of rocks; every turtle we saw had a perfectly clean shell

Gray reef shark; in 2009, Palau created the world's first shark sanctuary when they banned commercial shark fishing in their territorial waters (a size similar to France)

Gray reef shark; in 2009, Palau created the world's first shark sanctuary when they banned commercial shark fishing in their territorial waters (a size similar to France)

Blackfin barracuda; fruitbat soup is considered a delicacy in Palau and is made using fruit bats, coconut milk, ginger, and spices

Blackfin barracuda; fruitbat soup is considered a delicacy in Palau and is made using fruit bats, coconut milk, ginger, and spices

Despite sharks everywhere, this bluespine unicornfish is more interested in me; we hooked ourselves to rocks to watch the underwater show in the strong current

Despite sharks everywhere, this bluespine unicornfish is more interested in me; we hooked ourselves to rocks to watch the underwater show in the strong current

This photo captures the terrific seascape of Palau with turtles, reef fish, hard and soft corals all in a rainbow of colors; Palau is a 2 1/2 hour flight from Manila or 4 1/2 from Tokyo

This photo captures the terrific seascape of Palau with turtles, reef fish, hard and soft corals all in a rainbow of colors; Palau is a 2 1/2 hour flight from Manila or 4 1/2 from Tokyo

Oriental sweetlips; the Palau constitution bans the use, storage and disposal of nuclear, toxic chemical, gas and biological weapons

Oriental sweetlips; the Palau constitution bans the use, storage and disposal of nuclear, toxic chemical, gas and biological weapons

Green Bumphead Parrotfish; the rainy season is July to October although there is no true dry season as the country averages 150 inches of rain annually

Green Bumphead Parrotfish; the rainy season is July to October although there is no true dry season as the country averages 150 inches of rain annually

Palau has become the first country to ban mass market sunscreen products (starting 1/1/20) which are toxic to coral reefs; if you attempt to bring them in, they will be confiscated at the airport

Palau has become the first country to ban mass market sunscreen products (starting 1/1/20) which are toxic to coral reefs; if you attempt to bring them in, they will be confiscated at the airport

I'd like to think that I wasn't getting the stink eye from this turtle; there were lots of turtles here and they didn't seemed bothered by our presence

I'd like to think that I wasn't getting the stink eye from this turtle; there were lots of turtles here and they didn't seemed bothered by our presence

We saw lots of reef sharks sleeping here; they have structures called spiracles which allow them to breathe while they are lying on the ocean bottom

We saw lots of reef sharks sleeping here; they have structures called spiracles which allow them to breathe while they are lying on the ocean bottom

The bigeye trevally is commonly found in large slow moving schools during the day, becoming active at night when it feeds, eating a variety of fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and other invertebrates

The bigeye trevally is commonly found in large slow moving schools during the day, becoming active at night when it feeds, eating a variety of fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and other invertebrates

Lowfin chub; the distinctive flag of Palau features a full moon in yellow against a light blue background

Lowfin chub; the distinctive flag of Palau features a full moon in yellow against a light blue background

Whip coral; the sunniest months in Palau are March, April and May with June having the fewest hours of sunshine

Whip coral; the sunniest months in Palau are March, April and May with June having the fewest hours of sunshine

Pinnate spadefish; Palau is one of the few independent nations of the world that lack an army but, through a compact, the US is responsible for defending Palau against foreign invasions

Pinnate spadefish; Palau is one of the few independent nations of the world that lack an army but, through a compact, the US is responsible for defending Palau against foreign invasions

The bumphead parrotfish can grow to 5 ft long and weigh 165 lbs; this species is the largest herbivorous fish inhabiting coral reefs

The bumphead parrotfish can grow to 5 ft long and weigh 165 lbs; this species is the largest herbivorous fish inhabiting coral reefs

Posted by VagabondCowboy 20:28 Comments (1)

Massive Tokyo lacks big sights but is still fascinating

As of 2018, Greater Tokyo ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world with 38  million people; surprisingly, it's easy to find peaceful places in the city to escape the masses

As of 2018, Greater Tokyo ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world with 38+ million people; surprisingly, it's easy to find peaceful places in the city to escape the masses

World War II wrought widespread destruction of Tokyo due to persistent Allied air raids; the bombing in 1944 and 1945 is estimated to have killed between 75,000 and 200,000 civilians and left more than half of the city destroyed

World War II wrought widespread destruction of Tokyo due to persistent Allied air raids; the bombing in 1944 and 1945 is estimated to have killed between 75,000 and 200,000 civilians and left more than half of the city destroyed

The Full Moon Bridge at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens; Tokyo has many serene spots like this garden located right in the heart of the city

The Full Moon Bridge at Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens; Tokyo has many serene spots like this garden located right in the heart of the city

Tokyo National Museum at Ueno Park; there are several other excellent museums in the park as well as the Tokyo Zoo

Tokyo National Museum at Ueno Park; there are several other excellent museums in the park as well as the Tokyo Zoo

The Sensoji Kannon temple is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of compassion, and is the most widely visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually

The Sensoji Kannon temple is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of compassion, and is the most widely visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually

Rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world (and definitely in Japan), Shibuya Crossing is like a giant beating heart, sending people in all directions with every light change (this photo was taken mid-day)

Rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world (and definitely in Japan), Shibuya Crossing is like a giant beating heart, sending people in all directions with every light change (this photo was taken mid-day)

This huge torii gate leads to Meiji Jingu which is a Shinto shrine; it is the largest wooden torii in Japan and is made of 1500 year old cypress

This huge torii gate leads to Meiji Jingu which is a Shinto shrine; it is the largest wooden torii in Japan and is made of 1500 year old cypress

Bonsai tree at Meiji Jingu Inner Garden near the crowded Shibuya neighborhood; this was a garden as far back as the early 1600s and became an Imperial Garden in 1868

Bonsai tree at Meiji Jingu Inner Garden near the crowded Shibuya neighborhood; this was a garden as far back as the early 1600s and became an Imperial Garden in 1868

Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Bldg; as of 2018 Tokyo ranked as 2nd-most expensive city for expatriates, according to Mercer consulting firm and the world's 11th-most expensive city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's cost-of-living survey

Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Bldg; as of 2018 Tokyo ranked as 2nd-most expensive city for expatriates, according to Mercer consulting firm and the world's 11th-most expensive city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's cost-of-living survey

I was amazed that you weren't even allowed to smoke outside in some areas of Japan; there would be a dedicated smoking area (similar to a jail) but it could be blocks away and not protected from the elements

I was amazed that you weren't even allowed to smoke outside in some areas of Japan; there would be a dedicated smoking area (similar to a jail) but it could be blocks away and not protected from the elements

It makes sense than a company based in Atlanta would have a peach flavored version of their product; I tried it and can see why it is in Japan and not in the US

It makes sense than a company based in Atlanta would have a peach flavored version of their product; I tried it and can see why it is in Japan and not in the US

Koishikawa Korakuen, built in the 1600s, is one of Tokyo's oldest and best gardens; like traditional Japanese gardens, it attempts to reproduce famous landscapes in miniature, using ponds, stones, trees and man-made hills to replicate Japanese scenery

Koishikawa Korakuen, built in the 1600s, is one of Tokyo's oldest and best gardens; like traditional Japanese gardens, it attempts to reproduce famous landscapes in miniature, using ponds, stones, trees and man-made hills to replicate Japanese scenery

Nakamise-Dori, leading from the Thunder Gate to the Sensoji Temple, was the most touristy street I found in Tokyo; the shops are part of a living tradition of selling to pilgrims who walked to Sensōji

Nakamise-Dori, leading from the Thunder Gate to the Sensoji Temple, was the most touristy street I found in Tokyo; the shops are part of a living tradition of selling to pilgrims who walked to Sensōji

This 5 story pagoda, built in 1639, is at the Ueno Toshogu Shinto Shrine; 5 story pagodas are Buddhist although this particular shrine was built on the site of a Shinto shrine demonstrating the strong ties between the 2 religions

This 5 story pagoda, built in 1639, is at the Ueno Toshogu Shinto Shrine; 5 story pagodas are Buddhist although this particular shrine was built on the site of a Shinto shrine demonstrating the strong ties between the 2 religions

Ueno Toshogu, a Shinto shrine dating from 1627, has survived through wars and earthquakes; its gorgeous buildings are trimmed in gold leaf and contain beautifully intricate carvings

Ueno Toshogu, a Shinto shrine dating from 1627, has survived through wars and earthquakes; its gorgeous buildings are trimmed in gold leaf and contain beautifully intricate carvings

I was just astounded that public bathrooms were strategically located around the city and they were amazingly clean!; you'll notice no graffiti and they even had toilet paper

I was just astounded that public bathrooms were strategically located around the city and they were amazingly clean!; you'll notice no graffiti and they even had toilet paper

There are 50  stone lanterns made between 1628 and 1651 lining the entrance to Ueno Toshogu; like many other elements of Japanese traditional architecture, it originated in China

There are 50+ stone lanterns made between 1628 and 1651 lining the entrance to Ueno Toshogu; like many other elements of Japanese traditional architecture, it originated in China

The five-storied pagoda at Senso-ji, built in 1648, is one of the most famous in Japan; its the second highest pagoda in Japan at about the height of an 18-story building

The five-storied pagoda at Senso-ji, built in 1648, is one of the most famous in Japan; its the second highest pagoda in Japan at about the height of an 18-story building

The Japanese language was impossible to decipher; we were told there are 30000  characters so reading and writing would seem to be much more challenging than speaking

The Japanese language was impossible to decipher; we were told there are 30000+ characters so reading and writing would seem to be much more challenging than speaking

Between 1940 and 1945, the population of Japan's capital city dwindled from 6,700,000 to less than 2,800,000, with the majority of those who lost their homes living in ramshackle, makeshift huts

Between 1940 and 1945, the population of Japan's capital city dwindled from 6,700,000 to less than 2,800,000, with the majority of those who lost their homes living in ramshackle, makeshift huts

Tokyo has efficiency down to a science; there are signs indicating which side of the sidewalk, staircase, etc you should walk on and they are dutifully followed improving traffic flow

Tokyo has efficiency down to a science; there are signs indicating which side of the sidewalk, staircase, etc you should walk on and they are dutifully followed improving traffic flow

The Tokyo Dome is next door to Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens; it is famous for hosting NFL and MLB games as well as sold-out concerts by Michael Jackson, Madonna, Mariah Carey, BTS, Taylor Swift and Mick Jagger (and 2 Mike Tyson fights)

The Tokyo Dome is next door to Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens; it is famous for hosting NFL and MLB games as well as sold-out concerts by Michael Jackson, Madonna, Mariah Carey, BTS, Taylor Swift and Mick Jagger (and 2 Mike Tyson fights)

Our GAdventures tour leader was 71 years old which is middle aged for the Japanese; life expectancy is 5  years more for Japanese compared to Americans

Our GAdventures tour leader was 71 years old which is middle aged for the Japanese; life expectancy is 5+ years more for Japanese compared to Americans

The Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) is the outer of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensōji Temple; a giant red lantern hangs under the center of the gate and is 3.9 meters tall, 3.3 meters wide and weighs 1,500 lbs

The Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) is the outer of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensōji Temple; a giant red lantern hangs under the center of the gate and is 3.9 meters tall, 3.3 meters wide and weighs 1,500 lbs

The Hōzōmon (Treasure-House Gate) is the inner of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensōji Temple; the Hōzōmon's second story houses many of the Sensōji's treasures

The Hōzōmon (Treasure-House Gate) is the inner of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensōji Temple; the Hōzōmon's second story houses many of the Sensōji's treasures

An all day metro ticket was only $5 and a great value as you could get across the city in just 30 minutes; there are hundreds of metro stops so no sight is very far from a stop

An all day metro ticket was only $5 and a great value as you could get across the city in just 30 minutes; there are hundreds of metro stops so no sight is very far from a stop

The Meiji Shrine is covered by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, which were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established

The Meiji Shrine is covered by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, which were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established

Ema are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes; the ema are left hanging up at the shrine, where the spirits or gods are believed to receive them

Ema are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes; the ema are left hanging up at the shrine, where the spirits or gods are believed to receive them

The Japanese tend not to adhere to a specific religion as much as live by the principles of a blend of religions; nevertheless, the level of religious participation remains high, especially during festivals and special occasions

The Japanese tend not to adhere to a specific religion as much as live by the principles of a blend of religions; nevertheless, the level of religious participation remains high, especially during festivals and special occasions

Barrels of sake donated to the Meiji Shrine to honor Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken; the shrine is located on 170 acres in central Tokyo

Barrels of sake donated to the Meiji Shrine to honor Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken; the shrine is located on 170 acres in central Tokyo

We were told that the city is mainly using existing facilities for the Olympics so we didn't see any big construction projects to prepare for the Games; I suspect all of the athletes will absolutely love Tokyo and the Japanese hospitality

We were told that the city is mainly using existing facilities for the Olympics so we didn't see any big construction projects to prepare for the Games; I suspect all of the athletes will absolutely love Tokyo and the Japanese hospitality

I always knew Coke Zero was healthy!; most all of the businessmen in Tokyo wear either solid blue or black suits which just added to the homogeneity

I always knew Coke Zero was healthy!; most all of the businessmen in Tokyo wear either solid blue or black suits which just added to the homogeneity

In 2015, Tokyo was named the Most Livable City in the world by the magazine Monocle; the Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars of any city in the world amd was ranked first out of all sixty cities in the 2017 Safe Cities Index

In 2015, Tokyo was named the Most Livable City in the world by the magazine Monocle; the Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars of any city in the world amd was ranked first out of all sixty cities in the 2017 Safe Cities Index

On the eve of new year, Japanese usually visit a Shinto shrine to prepare for the worship - hatsumōde - of the new year; Meiji Shrine is the most popular location in Japan for hatsumōde

On the eve of new year, Japanese usually visit a Shinto shrine to prepare for the worship - hatsumōde - of the new year; Meiji Shrine is the most popular location in Japan for hatsumōde

The Kiyomasa Ido Well is a natural spring that feeds the South Pond at Meiji Jingu Inner Garden; the superior water quality flows year round

The Kiyomasa Ido Well is a natural spring that feeds the South Pond at Meiji Jingu Inner Garden; the superior water quality flows year round

There were 7-11s everywhere in Japan with lots of ready-to-eat items and a small seating area with free wifi; some of the options seemed a little strange to this picky eater

There were 7-11s everywhere in Japan with lots of ready-to-eat items and a small seating area with free wifi; some of the options seemed a little strange to this picky eater

In TripAdvisor's 2014 World City Survey, Tokyo ranked first in its Best overall experience category (the city also ranked first in the following categories: helpfulness of locals, nightlife, shopping, local public transportation and cleanliness of streets)

In TripAdvisor's 2014 World City Survey, Tokyo ranked first in its Best overall experience category (the city also ranked first in the following categories: helpfulness of locals, nightlife, shopping, local public transportation and cleanliness of streets)

Posted by VagabondCowboy 23:53 Comments (0)

Visiting the people of the Mekong River delta

One of many modern bridges we've seen in Vietnam; the Mekong is the fastest growing large river basin in the world in terms of hydropower construction (it is already heavily dammed but there are 20 more planned)

One of many modern bridges we've seen in Vietnam; the Mekong is the fastest growing large river basin in the world in terms of hydropower construction (it is already heavily dammed but there are 20 more planned)

In large cities, poor women will carry fruit in these baskets to sell; the endemic Mekong giant catfish can grow up to about 3 m (9.8 ft) in length and weigh 300 kg (660 lb)

In large cities, poor women will carry fruit in these baskets to sell; the endemic Mekong giant catfish can grow up to about 3 m (9.8 ft) in length and weigh 300 kg (660 lb)

Agnes helping to power our boat; an estimated 2 million tons of fish are landed a year in the Mekong, in addition to almost 500,000 tons of other aquatic animals; aquaculture yields about 2 million tons of fish a year

Agnes helping to power our boat; an estimated 2 million tons of fish are landed a year in the Mekong, in addition to almost 500,000 tons of other aquatic animals; aquaculture yields about 2 million tons of fish a year

This was the specialty of the restaurant where we had lunch (eyes included); fish species in the Mekong have declined drastically because of dams, flood control and overfishing

This was the specialty of the restaurant where we had lunch (eyes included); fish species in the Mekong have declined drastically because of dams, flood control and overfishing

Snake and scorpion rice wine, due to its high alcohol percentage, is traditionally drunk in shot glasses; in traditional Chinese medicine the wine is widely believed to improve health and virility

Snake and scorpion rice wine, due to its high alcohol percentage, is traditionally drunk in shot glasses; in traditional Chinese medicine the wine is widely believed to improve health and virility

Vietnam is the second largest exporting country for coffee after Brazil; coffee and tea are both extremely popular here with lots of stores dedicated to each

Vietnam is the second largest exporting country for coffee after Brazil; coffee and tea are both extremely popular here with lots of stores dedicated to each

We drove 2 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to spend most of a day in the Mekong River delta; the area is known for growing fruit and other crops which require bee pollination

We drove 2 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to spend most of a day in the Mekong River delta; the area is known for growing fruit and other crops which require bee pollination

Cocoa beans on a cacao tree; much of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic present on earth makes its way to the oceans; 90% o plastic in the oceans is flushed there by just 10 rivers; the Mekong is one of them

Cocoa beans on a cacao tree; much of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic present on earth makes its way to the oceans; 90% of plastic in the oceans is flushed there by just 10 rivers; the Mekong is one of them

A local woman rowed us along this canal; the Mekong basin is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world (only the Amazon boasts a higher level of biodiversity)

A local woman rowed us along this canal; the Mekong basin is one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world (only the Amazon boasts a higher level of biodiversity)

I liked the chocolate packaging; our group didn't buy much since it would melt quickly given the brutal heat (the free samples were much more popular)

I liked the chocolate packaging; our group didn't buy much since it would melt quickly given the brutal heat (the free samples were much more popular)

Our tour guide taking a needed break; the Mekong is the world's 12th longest river at more than 2700 miles long (it starts in Tibet)

Our tour guide taking a needed break; the Mekong is the world's 12th longest river at more than 2700 miles long (it starts in Tibet)

We were served local fruits (pineapple, bananas, sapodilla, dragonfruit and mango); I tried them with the pineapple being my favorite; the little bananas don't taste quite as good as the larger ones

We were served local fruits (pineapple, bananas, sapodilla, dragonfruit and mango); I tried them with the pineapple being my favorite; the little bananas don't taste quite as good as the larger ones

The dragonfruit grows on a cactus-like plant; the fruit's texture is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit because of its black, crunchy seeds; the flesh is bland, mildly sweet and low in calories

The dragonfruit grows on a cactus-like plant; the fruit's texture is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit because of its black, crunchy seeds; the flesh is bland, mildly sweet and low in calories

Pineapples are grown here but it's hard to see how they can be a lucrative crop since they yield only one fruit in their lifetime; it also takes 2 years for a pineapple plant to produce while you can have 3 rice harvests a year

Pineapples are grown here but it's hard to see how they can be a lucrative crop since they yield only one fruit in their lifetime; it also takes 2 years for a pineapple plant to produce while you can have 3 rice harvests a year

We asked about the young people packaging the chocolate pieces and were told they went to school in the mornings; the small operation would not meet US sanitary standards

We asked about the young people packaging the chocolate pieces and were told they went to school in the mornings; the small operation would not meet US sanitary standards

All of the farms we have seen have been small family plots; no heavy machinery is used and all facets of production are typically done by hand

All of the farms we have seen have been small family plots; no heavy machinery is used and all facets of production are typically done by hand

Posted by VagabondCowboy 20:21 Comments (0)

Palau's Ulong Channel is world famous drift dive

Grumpy grouper; I thought lodging was quite expensive in Palau and it's not even high season (December - April)

Grumpy grouper; I thought lodging was quite expensive in Palau and it's not even high season (December - April)

Giant field of lettuce coral; in 2006, Palau's capital moved from Koror (the largest city) to the town of Ngerulmud (population only 250!) on a neighboring island

Giant field of lettuce coral; in 2006, Palau's capital moved from Koror (the largest city) to the town of Ngerulmud (population only 250!) on a neighboring island

My favorite finless shark; in World War II, Palau was used by Japan to support its 1941 invasion of the Philippines, which succeeded in 1942

My favorite finless shark; in World War II, Palau was used by Japan to support its 1941 invasion of the Philippines, which succeeded in 1942

Juvenile golden trevallies serving as pilotfish for grey reef shark; the trevallies eat leftovers from the shark while also eating parasites off the shark

Juvenile golden trevallies serving as pilotfish for grey reef shark; the trevallies eat leftovers from the shark while also eating parasites off the shark

This bluespotted grouper resting on lettuce coral waiting for the annual spawning festivities to begin; Ulong Channel was where the first Western explorer became shipwrecked and discovered Palau in the process

This bluespotted grouper resting on lettuce coral waiting for the annual spawning festivities to begin; Ulong Channel was where the first Western explorer became shipwrecked and discovered Palau in the process

Spotted eagle ray and grey reef shark; grey reef sharks are often curious about divers when they first enter the water and may approach quite closely (yes they did!), though they lose interest on repeat dives

Spotted eagle ray and grey reef shark; grey reef sharks are often curious about divers when they first enter the water and may approach quite closely (yes they did!), though they lose interest on repeat dives

Titan triggerfish; during World War I, the Japanese Empire annexed the islands after seizing them from Germany in 1914

Titan triggerfish; during World War I, the Japanese Empire annexed the islands after seizing them from Germany in 1914

There weren't many sea fans, but those we saw were huge and very colorful (at this depth, unfortunately, most everything looks blue)

There weren't many sea fans, but those we saw were huge and very colorful (at this depth, unfortunately, most everything looks blue)

Yellow-mask angelfish; along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947

Yellow-mask angelfish; along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947

Truly giant clams!; Palau was the most expensive destination I visited on this trip with flights, hotels and activities all being quite costly

Truly giant clams!; Palau was the most expensive destination I visited on this trip with flights, hotels and activities all being quite costly

Large brain coral; I lucked out with perfect weather for my 8  days in Palau (the rainy season should be starting soon)

Large brain coral; I lucked out with perfect weather for my 8+ days in Palau (the rainy season should be starting soon)

Bicolor angelfish cuddling; during World War II, the United States captured Palau from Japan in 1944 after the costly Battle of Peleliu, when more than 2,000 Americans and 10,000 Japanese were killed

Bicolor angelfish cuddling; during World War II, the United States captured Palau from Japan in 1944 after the costly Battle of Peleliu, when more than 2,000 Americans and 10,000 Japanese were killed

The endangered pineapple sea cucumber; sea cucumbers contain saponins, which can help regulate cholesterol metabolism as well as supposedly lessen the development of obesity, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes

The endangered pineapple sea cucumber; sea cucumbers contain saponins, which can help regulate cholesterol metabolism as well as supposedly lessen the development of obesity, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes

Grumpy grouper; the country of Palau doesn't have a single stoplight but does have pretty awful roads which keeps drivers from going very fast

Grumpy grouper; the country of Palau doesn't have a single stoplight but does have pretty awful roads which keeps drivers from going very fast

Grey reef sharks feed mainly on bony fishes, with cephalopods such as squid and octopus being the second-most important food group, and crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters making up the remainder

Grey reef sharks feed mainly on bony fishes, with cephalopods such as squid and octopus being the second-most important food group, and crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters making up the remainder

I tend to pay more attention to the fish but some of the coral formations were quite unique and in an array of bright colors

I tend to pay more attention to the fish but some of the coral formations were quite unique and in an array of bright colors

Festive parrotfish; having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty from the US in 1994

Festive parrotfish; having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty from the US in 1994

Pink anemonefish; Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product derived from foreign aid

Pink anemonefish; Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product derived from foreign aid

Giant field of lettuce coral; Palau citizens do not require a visa to enter the United States and do not have a limit on the length of stay; they also don't need a work permit to work in the US

Giant field of lettuce coral; Palau citizens do not require a visa to enter the United States and do not have a limit on the length of stay; they also don't need a work permit to work in the US

Moorish idols; Palau is one of the least populated countries in the world with only Nauru, Tuvalu and the Vatican less populated

Moorish idols; Palau is one of the least populated countries in the world with only Nauru, Tuvalu and the Vatican less populated

Posted by VagabondCowboy 16:07 Comments (0)

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