A Travellerspoint blog

Hanoi's street scene is craziest I've ever seen

The Beaux Arts Presidential Palace was built as the residence of the Governor General under French colonial rule; today it's used as a guest house and reception facility for foreign dignitaries

The Beaux Arts Presidential Palace was built as the residence of the Governor General under French colonial rule; today it's used as a guest house and reception facility for foreign dignitaries

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum is modeled after that of Lenin; we visited on Monday when the mausoleum is closed; we were told there are often long lines to view the body

Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum is modeled after that of Lenin; we visited on Monday when the mausoleum is closed; we were told there are often long lines to view the body

The 1980 statue of Lenin was given to Vietnam by the USSR; Ho Chi Minh met Lenin in 1922; I wonder what the Vietnamese people think of Lenin today

The 1980 statue of Lenin was given to Vietnam by the USSR; Ho Chi Minh met Lenin in 1922; I wonder what the Vietnamese people think of Lenin today

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the 7th century; 5 million tourists a year visit Hanoi but it's not the easiest city to see

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the 7th century; 5 million tourists a year visit Hanoi but it's not the easiest city to see

Our hotel is easily the narrowest hotel I've ever stayed in!; the building is very deep but only about 10 feet wide which isn't all that unusual here

Our hotel is easily the narrowest hotel I've ever stayed in!; the building is very deep but only about 10 feet wide which isn't all that unusual here

Ngoc Son Temple was beautifully lit at night; Hanoi is sometimes dubbed the Paris of the East for its French influences with tree-fringed boulevards, more than two dozen lakes and thousands of French colonial-era buildings

Ngoc Son Temple was beautifully lit at night; Hanoi is sometimes dubbed the Paris of the East for its French influences with tree-fringed boulevards, more than two dozen lakes and thousands of French colonial-era buildings

Hanoi's neo-Gothic St. Joseph's Cathedral was inaugurated in 1886; public admission is only permitted during Mass so tourists don't have access to the interior

Hanoi's neo-Gothic St. Joseph's Cathedral was inaugurated in 1886; public admission is only permitted during Mass so tourists don't have access to the interior

It's a shame we missed Trump in Hanoi last week; Hanoi is situated in Vietnam's Red River delta, nearly 90 km (56 mi) away from the coast

It's a shame we missed Trump in Hanoi last week; Hanoi is situated in Vietnam's Red River delta, nearly 90 km (56 mi) away from the coast

Hoa Lo Prison Museum is better known as the Hanoi Hilton; most exhibits relate to the prison's use up to the mid-1950s focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France

Hoa Lo Prison Museum is better known as the Hanoi Hilton; most exhibits relate to the prison's use up to the mid-1950s focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France

John McCain was the most famous American prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton; there was a nice presentation on some of the other prisoners and their life after imprisonment

John McCain was the most famous American prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton; there was a nice presentation on some of the other prisoners and their life after imprisonment

The Hoa Lo Prison complex was originally much larger; in 1994, 80% o the prison was destroyed to make room for a new high rise complex

The Hoa Lo Prison complex was originally much larger; in 1994, 80% of the prison was destroyed to make room for a new high rise complex

Turtle Tower was built in 1886 in Hoan Kiem Lake; Hanoi is the most affordable international destination in TripAdvisor's annual TripIndex report

Turtle Tower was built in 1886 in Hoan Kiem Lake; Hanoi is the most affordable international destination in TripAdvisor's annual TripIndex report

2019 is the year of the pig and the VIetnamese follow the Chinese calendar; from 1010 until 1802, Hanoi was the most important political center of Vietnam

2019 is the year of the pig and the VIetnamese follow the Chinese calendar; from 1010 until 1802, Hanoi was the most important political center of Vietnam

In the Old Quarter each street typically has all of the local merchants of a particular item; we saw Toy St, Paint St, Coffee St, etc.

In the Old Quarter each street typically has all of the local merchants of a particular item; we saw Toy St, Paint St, Coffee St, etc.

Tran Quoc Pagoda is the most visited pagoda in Hanoi; it was constructed in the 6th century and lies on a small island in Truc Bach Lake

Tran Quoc Pagoda is the most visited pagoda in Hanoi; it was constructed in the 6th century and lies on a small island in Truc Bach Lake

One reason it's so difficult to get around in Hanoi is people sit down to eat street food and motorcycles use them as parking lots; I found it better to walk on the edge of the road

One reason it's so difficult to get around in Hanoi is people sit down to eat street food and motorcycles use them as parking lots; I found it better to walk on the edge of the road

The Temple of Literature; the city is usually cloudy and foggy in winter, averaging only 1.5 hours of sunshine per day in February and March although we had better weather than that

The Temple of Literature; the city is usually cloudy and foggy in winter, averaging only 1.5 hours of sunshine per day in February and March although we had better weather than that

The 200 year old flag tower is a symbol of Hanoi; the tower was one of the few ancient monuments that the French colonists did not destroy

The 200 year old flag tower is a symbol of Hanoi; the tower was one of the few ancient monuments that the French colonists did not destroy

Hanoi has about 7 million people which is second most in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh City which lies 1720 kms to the south; just trying to cross the street was a life and death challenge

Hanoi has about 7 million people which is second most in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh City which lies 1720 kms to the south; just trying to cross the street was a life and death challenge

The War Memorial is a monument which commemorates the sacrifice of courageous men and women during the Vietnam War; the design is a fusion of traditional Vietnamese and modernist architecture

The War Memorial is a monument which commemorates the sacrifice of courageous men and women during the Vietnam War; the design is a fusion of traditional Vietnamese and modernist architecture

This area runs along the Red River; there was a very upscale area we saw on the way to the train station that looked similar to Western cities

This area runs along the Red River; there was a very upscale area we saw on the way to the train station that looked similar to Western cities

I couldn't believe there was a Popeye's in the Hanoi airport; over three-quarters of the jobs in Hanoi are state-owned and Hanoi has in-migration controls which allow the city to accept only people who add skills to Hanoi's economy

I couldn't believe there was a Popeye's in the Hanoi airport; over three-quarters of the jobs in Hanoi are state-owned and Hanoi has in-migration controls which allow the city to accept only people who add skills to Hanoi's economy

The Vietnamese currency is the dong; 1 USD is currently worth 23,200 dong so the bills are all very large denominations

The Vietnamese currency is the dong; 1 USD is currently worth 23,200 dong so the bills are all very large denominations

Tran Quoc is the oldest pagoda in Hanoi; it's located on a small island in West Lake; since 2014, Hanoi has consistently been voted in the world's top ten destinations by TripAdvisor

Tran Quoc is the oldest pagoda in Hanoi; it's located on a small island in West Lake; since 2014, Hanoi has consistently been voted in the world's top ten destinations by TripAdvisor

I loved this road that has mosaics that go on for 4 miles; developed on the occasion of the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi, it is the world’s largest ceramic mosaic and was awarded a Guinness World Records certificate

I loved this road that has mosaics that go on for 4 miles; developed on the occasion of the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi, it is the world’s largest ceramic mosaic and was awarded a Guinness World Records certificate

This humble, traditional stilt house is where Ho Chi Minh lived intermittently between 1958 and 1969; you can't go inside but you can see inside at furnishings and mementos from Ho's life

This humble, traditional stilt house is where Ho Chi Minh lived intermittently between 1958 and 1969; you can't go inside but you can see inside at furnishings and mementos from Ho's life

The Ho Chi Minh Museum opened in 1990, a hundred years after the birth of Ho Chi Minh; I went early to avoid the crowds but wasn't very successful at that

The Ho Chi Minh Museum opened in 1990, a hundred years after the birth of Ho Chi Minh; I went early to avoid the crowds but wasn't very successful at that

The One Pillar Pagoda was built in 1049 and is dedicated to the goddess of mercy and protector of children, Quan Am; the pagoda is included in the ticket for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex

The One Pillar Pagoda was built in 1049 and is dedicated to the goddess of mercy and protector of children, Quan Am; the pagoda is included in the ticket for the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex

According to a recent ranking by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hanoi will be the fastest growing city in the world in terms of GDP growth from 2008 to 2025

According to a recent ranking by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hanoi will be the fastest growing city in the world in terms of GDP growth from 2008 to 2025

This group is not at all unusual as whole families crowd onto a single motorcycle; it's winter for the local with highs of only 75 but I was still sweating in just t-shirt and shorts

This group is not at all unusual as whole families crowd onto a single motorcycle; it's winter for the local with highs of only 75 but I was still sweating in just t-shirt and shorts

Our group attended a traditional water puppet show; photos don't do justice to the constant honking and madness of Hanoi's streets

Our group attended a traditional water puppet show; photos don't do justice to the constant honking and madness of Hanoi's streets

The Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius, was founded in 1070; six years later this was the site of Vietnam's first university

The Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius, was founded in 1070; six years later this was the site of Vietnam's first university

Motorcycles are the most common means of getting around; bizarrely they go in every imaginable direction including the wrong way on one way streets

Motorcycles are the most common means of getting around; bizarrely they go in every imaginable direction including the wrong way on one way streets

Posted by RNRiggins 08:52 Comments (0)

Coron, Philippines has your deserted island waiting

Bulog Dos Island; it was chaos every morning as guests had to wait an hour or more before the bangkas departed; with the excursions going every day it was perplexing that things didn't run more smoothly

Bulog Dos Island; it was chaos every morning as guests had to wait an hour or more before the bangkas departed; with the excursions going every day it was perplexing that things didn't run more smoothly

Large green sea turtle; there seems to be a great variety of coral species here while I saw the same fish species over and over again

Large green sea turtle; there seems to be a great variety of coral species here while I saw the same fish species over and over again

My camera seems to take great photos of clownfish but I can't get shots of other species that are as distinct; I wonder if the camera picks up the bright colors and then auto-focuses

My camera seems to take great photos of clownfish but I can't get shots of other species that are as distinct; I wonder if the camera picks up the bright colors and then auto-focuses

This unique cushion sea star has short arms and an inflated appearance and resembles a pentagonal pincushion; this species is found in the warm tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region and comes in a wide range of colors

This unique cushion sea star has short arms and an inflated appearance and resembles a pentagonal pincushion; this species is found in the warm tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region and comes in a wide range of colors

Banul Beach; a woman on my day trip was from Copenhagen and was childhood friends with Caroline Wozniacki (she said Caro was competitive even back then but very friendly)

Banul Beach; a woman on my day trip was from Copenhagen and was childhood friends with Caroline Wozniacki (she said Caro was competitive even back then but very friendly)

I had not seen razorfish before so I really enjoyed watching them as they floated around; when threatened by larger fish, the razorfish darts away to a nearby sea urchin or staghorn coral for protection

I had not seen razorfish before so I really enjoyed watching them as they floated around; when threatened by larger fish, the razorfish darts away to a nearby sea urchin or staghorn coral for protection

This looks just like a rose underwater but is the egg ribbon of a Spanish Dancer nudibranch; the eggs are preyed upon by fish, especially moon wrasse

This looks just like a rose underwater but is the egg ribbon of a Spanish Dancer nudibranch; the eggs are preyed upon by fish, especially moon wrasse

In Coron the fishing industry experienced a boom (literally) during the 1970s up to the 1990s which gradually dwindled due to illegal blast and sodium cyanide fishing

In Coron the fishing industry experienced a boom (literally) during the 1970s up to the 1990s which gradually dwindled due to illegal blast and sodium cyanide fishing

Olive leather coral; this common, colorful soft coral currently has 166 species in the genus

Olive leather coral; this common, colorful soft coral currently has 166 species in the genus

The islands around Coron are very mountainous and uninhabited; I've met lots of Filipinos who now live in other countries but have come back to enjoy a vacation with their relatives who still live in the Philippines

The islands around Coron are very mountainous and uninhabited; I've met lots of Filipinos who now live in other countries but have come back to enjoy a vacation with their relatives who still live in the Philippines

After Finding Nemo, global clownfish sales increased 40% fr the aquaria trade; the Philippines and Indonesia are the worlds top exporters of wild-caught marine fish, supplying 85% o the trade

After Finding Nemo, global clownfish sales increased 40% for the aquaria trade; the Philippines and Indonesia are the world’s top exporters of wild-caught marine fish, supplying 85% of the trade

Red bubble-tip anemone with barely visible clownfish; this is the only red anemone I have seen

Red bubble-tip anemone with barely visible clownfish; this is the only red anemone I have seen

Scarlet crinoid (aka sea lily); this species feeds on detritus, phytoplankton and zooplankton caught by means of a sticky substance on the arms

Scarlet crinoid (aka sea lily); this species feeds on detritus, phytoplankton and zooplankton caught by means of a sticky substance on the arms

Coral branching out from the wall; every morning little kids would be down at the bangkas selling water shoes, waterproof iphone cases and water

Coral branching out from the wall; every morning little kids would be down at the bangkas selling water shoes, waterproof iphone cases and water

It's hard to tell in the photo but this coral is pink and yellow and one of the few species I've seen with pastel coloration; I couldn't figure out what type of coral it is though

It's hard to tell in the photo but this coral is pink and yellow and one of the few species I've seen with pastel coloration; I couldn't figure out what type of coral it is though

I'm assuming these are closed sea anemones; they are the only ones I've seen so I wonder why they would be closed (anyone know?)

I'm assuming these are closed sea anemones; they are the only ones I've seen so I wonder why they would be closed (anyone know?)

Light blue chromoproteins in the growth margins of a Montipora coral; there are no decent beaches around Coron on Busuanga Island

Light blue chromoproteins in the growth margins of a Montipora coral; there are no decent beaches around Coron on Busuanga Island

Banul Beach; island time here is very confusing as I was told my excursion van would pick me up at 8am and the van actually arrived at times ranging from 7am to 9am!

Banul Beach; island time here is very confusing as I was told my excursion van would pick me up at 8am and the van actually arrived at times ranging from 7am to 9am!

Pincushion sea star; found in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, this unusual species of starfish creates its own little habitat by providing shelter for small shrimp that hide under it

Pincushion sea star; found in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, this unusual species of starfish creates its own little habitat by providing shelter for small shrimp that hide under it

Banul Beach on Coron Island; Coron is part of the Calamian Islands chain which is known as an adventurer's paradise

Banul Beach on Coron Island; Coron is part of the Calamian Islands chain which is known as an adventurer's paradise

This colorful parrotfish was definitely the alpha in this group of fish as they were feeding; they were so loud you could actually hear them munching on the coral

This colorful parrotfish was definitely the alpha in this group of fish as they were feeding; they were so loud you could actually hear them munching on the coral

Large table coral; the Coron airport is 45 minutes away but a shared van ride only costs $3 (the drivers all act like they are grand prix competitors)

Large table coral; the Coron airport is 45 minutes away but a shared van ride only costs $3 (the drivers all act like they are grand prix competitors)

Coral ledge jutting out from side of wall; similar to Vancouver, Coron isn't on Coron Island but on Busuanga Island while Coron Island is just across the strait

Coral ledge jutting out from side of wall; similar to Vancouver, Coron isn't on Coron Island but on Busuanga Island while Coron Island is just across the strait

Acropora abrotanoides (I couldn't find a common name); these are large formations that can be 10 feet across and grow in warm, shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific region

Acropora abrotanoides (I couldn't find a common name); these are large formations that can be 10 feet across and grow in warm, shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific region

Posted by RNRiggins 05:52 Comments (0)

Disney meets Instagram at unique Ba Na Hills Park, Vietnam

The 490 foot, pedestrian Golden Hands Bridge is the most famous attraction at the Sun World park; at 1500 meters above sea level it's significantly cooler here than down in Danang

The 490 foot, pedestrian Golden Hands Bridge is the most famous attraction at the Sun World park; at 1500 meters above sea level it's significantly cooler here than down in Danang

The nicest thing about the peacock flower garden was people couldn't walk through it; you could actually get a photo without 20 other people in it

The nicest thing about the peacock flower garden was people couldn't walk through it; you could actually get a photo without 20 other people in it

The main complaint people on TripAdvisor had with the park was the large crowds; our experience was made easier with a tour guide who whisked us from one sight to the next efficiently

The main complaint people on TripAdvisor had with the park was the large crowds; our experience was made easier with a tour guide who whisked us from one sight to the next efficiently

The Ba Na cable car, opened in March 2013, holds the world record for longest non-stop single track cable car at 5,801 meters (3.6 miles!) in length

The Ba Na cable car, opened in March 2013, holds the world record for longest non-stop single track cable car at 5,801 meters (3.6 miles!) in length

The Golden Hands Bridge opened in June, 2018 and has become world famous; you can't just drop by to see it since it's inside the park and you have to take a long cable car to reach it

The Golden Hands Bridge opened in June, 2018 and has become world famous; you can't just drop by to see it since it's inside the park and you have to take a long cable car to reach it

I was looking forward to seeing the St. Denis Basilica but it's not quite finished and will be a hotel; in Paris St. Denis is where most of the French royal families are buried

I was looking forward to seeing the St. Denis Basilica but it's not quite finished and will be a hotel; in Paris St. Denis is where most of the French royal families are buried

There are relatively few attractions at the park, unlike Disney; the focus here seems to be creating photo ops to appeal to Asian tourists

There are relatively few attractions at the park, unlike Disney; the focus here seems to be creating photo ops to appeal to Asian tourists

The wine cellar was originally built almost 100 years ago by French colonists; they constructed a resort here to be used as a leisure destination for French tourists

The wine cellar was originally built almost 100 years ago by French colonists; they constructed a resort here to be used as a leisure destination for French tourists

This 27 meter high Buddha looks out over the property; in Danang I saw the University of Tourism which should teach students better English skills to complement their graciousness and desire to be helpful

This 27 meter high Buddha looks out over the property; in Danang I saw the University of Tourism which should teach students better English skills to complement their graciousness and desire to be helpful

The Golden Hands Bridge was voted by TIME magazine as one of the Top 10 Best Destinations of the World 2018 and admired by The Guardian as the world’s most impressive pedestrians’ bridge

The Golden Hands Bridge was voted by TIME magazine as one of the Top 10 Best Destinations of the World 2018 and admired by The Guardian as the world’s most impressive pedestrians’ bridge

The top of the mountain is set to resemble a French village; surprisingly, there are few souvenir shops since, unlike Disney or Universal, they don't have any licensed characters

The top of the mountain is set to resemble a French village; surprisingly, there are few souvenir shops since, unlike Disney or Universal, they don't have any licensed characters

There's a tradition in Vietnam to take pre-wedding photos which are then shown at the wedding; there's also a party hosted by the groom's family followed the next day by a party by the bride's family

There's a tradition in Vietnam to take pre-wedding photos which are then shown at the wedding; there's also a party hosted by the groom's family followed the next day by a party by the bride's family

Bizarrely, there were tons of stairs at this new park with no accommodation for wheelchairs, strollers or luggage; also, most of the staff spoke little to no English while most of the guests spoke no Vietnamese

Bizarrely, there were tons of stairs at this new park with no accommodation for wheelchairs, strollers or luggage; also, most of the staff spoke little to no English while most of the guests spoke no Vietnamese

We rode the one pseudo-roller coaster but it was pretty tame by US standards; you could accelerate or brake but many of the Asian girls were afraid to accelerate which slowed everyone else down

We rode the one pseudo-roller coaster but it was pretty tame by US standards; you could accelerate or brake but many of the Asian girls were afraid to accelerate which slowed everyone else down

The natural beauty of the area was evident with this waterfall view from the gondola; except for the peak, the mountains have a beautiful canopy of foliage that has been left untouched

The natural beauty of the area was evident with this waterfall view from the gondola; except for the peak, the mountains have a beautiful canopy of foliage that has been left untouched

To recognize the strength of the Buddhist culture, the park has several pagodas and a replica monastery; these attractions weren't crowded since they were at the peak of the mountain

To recognize the strength of the Buddhist culture, the park has several pagodas and a replica monastery; these attractions weren't crowded since they were at the peak of the mountain

Fantasy Park was like a big Dave and Buster's; the first funicular in Vietnam is scheduled to get visitors to the mountaintop in just 90 seconds when it opens

Fantasy Park was like a big Dave and Buster's; the first funicular in Vietnam is scheduled to get visitors to the mountaintop in just 90 seconds when it opens

We were told that 60% o the visitors are from Korea; the ticket price of about $35 is considered way too expensive for the average Vietnamese family

We were told that 60% of the visitors are from Korea; the ticket price of about $35 is considered way too expensive for the average Vietnamese family

Fantasy Park, located in the castle, is Vietnam's largest indoor game zone (it was on 3 levels); the castle also has Vietnam's first wax museum which we skipped (it cost a little extra)

Fantasy Park, located in the castle, is Vietnam's largest indoor game zone (it was on 3 levels); the castle also has Vietnam's first wax museum which we skipped (it cost a little extra)

There are at least 5 huge hotels under construction at the top of the mountain as well as a couple at the bottom; currently it would be quite dead after 5 pm with only hotel restaurants and bars open

There are at least 5 huge hotels under construction at the top of the mountain as well as a couple at the bottom; currently it would be quite dead after 5 pm with only hotel restaurants and bars open

The Year of the Pig was readily apparent everywhere you turned; we took an organized excursion from Hoi An which cost about $56 and included admission, transportation and a buffet lunch

The Year of the Pig was readily apparent everywhere you turned; we took an organized excursion from Hoi An which cost about $56 and included admission, transportation and a buffet lunch

For four years in a row from 2015 to 2018, Sun World Ba Na Hills was bestowed the accolade of Top Tourist Resort of Vietnam by the Vietnam Association of Tourism; I haven't noticed much competition in this category

For four years in a row from 2015 to 2018, Sun World Ba Na Hills was bestowed the accolade of Top Tourist Resort of Vietnam by the Vietnam Association of Tourism; I haven't noticed much competition in this category

By Asian standards, the park is probably quite nice but it lacked the attention to detail that you'd see at a Disney park; for example, almost all of the signs were only in Vietnamese despite the vast majority of guests not speaking the language

By Asian standards, the park is probably quite nice but it lacked the attention to detail that you'd see at a Disney park; for example, almost all of the signs were only in Vietnamese despite the vast majority of guests not speaking the language

I've wanted to visit the Golden Hands Bridge ever since Jeff Fisher sent me a photo of it (knowing that I was planning to visit Vietnam)

I've wanted to visit the Golden Hands Bridge ever since Jeff Fisher sent me a photo of it (knowing that I was planning to visit Vietnam)

More than a million tulips brighten the park this spring; we had two Dutch girls on our tour and they lamented that they'd flown halfway around the world to see more tulips

More than a million tulips brighten the park this spring; we had two Dutch girls on our tour and they lamented that they'd flown halfway around the world to see more tulips

The park has more than 30 restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisine options; our ticket included a buffet lunch but, after reading the mediocre reviews, I opted to skip it to see more of the park

The park has more than 30 restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisine options; our ticket included a buffet lunch but, after reading the mediocre reviews, I opted to skip it to see more of the park

I was born in the year of the dragon; there is a championship golf course and luxury hotel at the base of the complex near Danang

I was born in the year of the dragon; there is a championship golf course and luxury hotel at the base of the complex near Danang

There were different shows every hour on the small stage but we never sat down to watch one; wisely, all of the rides except the roller coaster are indoors so you can visit in the rainy or super hot seasons

There were different shows every hour on the small stage but we never sat down to watch one; wisely, all of the rides except the roller coaster are indoors so you can visit in the rainy or super hot seasons

The dragon with a disco ball in its mouth was attention grabbing but we didn't have time to ride the bumper cars; the lines weren't that long since everyone was outside taking photos

The dragon with a disco ball in its mouth was attention grabbing but we didn't have time to ride the bumper cars; the lines weren't that long since everyone was outside taking photos

Our group had a couple from Latvia, two Dutch girls, a girl from London, an American woman who has spent the last 4 years living in Ecuador, two guys from Turkey, a couple from Malaysia and me

Our group had a couple from Latvia, two Dutch girls, a girl from London, an American woman who has spent the last 4 years living in Ecuador, two guys from Turkey, a couple from Malaysia and me

The climbing wall was huge but wasn't very difficult; the kids preferred being inside where the games and rides were (all were free with the cost of admission)

The climbing wall was huge but wasn't very difficult; the kids preferred being inside where the games and rides were (all were free with the cost of admission)

Posted by RNRiggins 04:33 Comments (0)

Halong Bay - spectacularly crowded but uniquely beautiful

The view of Halong Bay from the peak of Ti Top Island; Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the number 1 tourist destination in northern Vietnam

The view of Halong Bay from the peak of Ti Top Island; Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the number 1 tourist destination in northern Vietnam

The macaques were very entertaining but largely ignored the tourists except when they got too close; they knew the kayakers couldn't get onto their island

The macaques were very entertaining but largely ignored the tourists except when they got too close; they knew the kayakers couldn't get onto their island

Kayaking into Ba Trai Dao lagoon was the highlight of my visit to Halong Bay; there is no camping or other accommodation on land available in the bay

Kayaking into Ba Trai Dao lagoon was the highlight of my visit to Halong Bay; there is no camping or other accommodation on land available in the bay

The Chinese tourists were constantly taking photos and acting like they owned the place; they would not queue and were often pushy and irritating

The Chinese tourists were constantly taking photos and acting like they owned the place; they would not queue and were often pushy and irritating

The chef on our boat made fish nets out of large Vietnamese carrots; it was unreal watching the precision required to create such a perfect work of art

The chef on our boat made fish nets out of large Vietnamese carrots; it was unreal watching the precision required to create such a perfect work of art

In Vietnamese, Ha Long means descending dragon; dragons play a prominent role in Vietnamese culture, and the most popular legend has it that one such creature and her children descended from heaven to defend the Viet people from invaders

In Vietnamese, Ha Long means descending dragon; dragons play a prominent role in Vietnamese culture, and the most popular legend has it that one such creature and her children descended from heaven to defend the Viet people from invaders

Hardly anyone was swimming in the water but we had 5 brave souls venture into the water on Ti Top Island; it was at least a nice cool-off after hiking up the hill

Hardly anyone was swimming in the water but we had 5 brave souls venture into the water on Ti Top Island; it was at least a nice cool-off after hiking up the hill

The port area of Halong Bay was non-stop construction as local companies take advantage of the tourist boom; most boats go out at noon one day and return noon the next day

The port area of Halong Bay was non-stop construction as local companies take advantage of the tourist boom; most boats go out at noon one day and return noon the next day

Halong Bay is a 4 hour drive from Hanoi but a wonderful escape from the big city; Vietnam needs to better manage the thousands of boats on the bay to preserve this unique destination

Halong Bay is a 4 hour drive from Hanoi but a wonderful escape from the big city; Vietnam needs to better manage the thousands of boats on the bay to preserve this unique destination

The macaques would come down to the water line to look for mollusks to eat; there were large macaque families present at different places around the lagoon

The macaques would come down to the water line to look for mollusks to eat; there were large macaque families present at different places around the lagoon

There were thousands of people waiting to kayak or take a rowboat but we were able to bypass the line; Halong Bay was just way too crowded!

There were thousands of people waiting to kayak or take a rowboat but we were able to bypass the line; Halong Bay was just way too crowded!

Most of the limestone monoliths had no beaches but Ti Top Island had the largest (and most popular) beach we saw; I read where there is coral around the bay but didn't see evidence

Most of the limestone monoliths had no beaches but Ti Top Island had the largest (and most popular) beach we saw; I read where there is coral around the bay but didn't see evidence

We could either opt to kayak or to go on a boat that would be rowed for us; both options were about $10 but the kayaking allowed us to better explore the lagoon

We could either opt to kayak or to go on a boat that would be rowed for us; both options were about $10 but the kayaking allowed us to better explore the lagoon

Halong Bay has an area of around 600 sq mi, including 1,969 islets, most of which are limestone; the evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate

Halong Bay has an area of around 600 sq mi, including 1,969 islets, most of which are limestone; the evolution of the karst in this bay has taken 20 million years under the impact of the tropical wet climate

This view at the top of Ti Top Island was the best in Halong Bay; the bay was probably fantastic 20 years ago before mass tourism arrived

This view at the top of Ti Top Island was the best in Halong Bay; the bay was probably fantastic 20 years ago before mass tourism arrived

At night, Halong Bay seemed like a floating city with the many boats all lit up; the boats ranged from barely seaworthy to luxurious with ours in between

At night, Halong Bay seemed like a floating city with the many boats all lit up; the boats ranged from barely seaworthy to luxurious with ours in between

Ti Top Island is named for a Russian cosmonaut who came here to visit with Ho Chi Minh; the island crowds bore a striking resemblance to Grand Central Station at rush hour

Ti Top Island is named for a Russian cosmonaut who came here to visit with Ho Chi Minh; the island crowds bore a striking resemblance to Grand Central Station at rush hour

In February 2011 a charter vessel sank, killing 12 people; witnesses said a plank simply tore away from the vessel's side; adding to worries about shoddy standards and un-seaworthiness, another vessel sank just 2 months later

In February 2011 a charter vessel sank, killing 12 people; witnesses said a plank simply tore away from the vessel's side; adding to worries about shoddy standards and un-seaworthiness, another vessel sank just 2 months later

The acrobatic jumps of the macaques made us nervous but they never missed a branch; the food on our boat was excellent and professionally presented

The acrobatic jumps of the macaques made us nervous but they never missed a branch; the food on our boat was excellent and professionally presented

Located inside Bo Hon Island, in the middle Halong Bay, Surprise Cave is considered the most magnificent cave in the bay; it can hold 1000 people but is a dead cave

Located inside Bo Hon Island, in the middle Halong Bay, Surprise Cave is considered the most magnificent cave in the bay; it can hold 1000 people but is a dead cave

The monoliths had intricate designs with arches, caves, lakes and unique shapes; I tried to imagine the bay with blue skies and turquoise waters

The monoliths had intricate designs with arches, caves, lakes and unique shapes; I tried to imagine the bay with blue skies and turquoise waters

One of the benefits of visiting Surprise Cave was this great view from the exit; one problem is there aren't enough activities for the masses on the tour boats so the few that exist are overcrowded

One of the benefits of visiting Surprise Cave was this great view from the exit; one problem is there aren't enough activities for the masses on the tour boats so the few that exist are overcrowded

Our cabin was better than I expected but the ship was pretty worn; our group had the ship to ourselves which was ideal since many would not have appreciated our karaoke performances

Our cabin was better than I expected but the ship was pretty worn; our group had the ship to ourselves which was ideal since many would not have appreciated our karaoke performances

The view of Surprise Cave as we approached; the name arose as early visitors were surprised at how large the cave was as they went further and further into it

The view of Surprise Cave as we approached; the name arose as early visitors were surprised at how large the cave was as they went further and further into it

We went to Surprise Cave when it opened at 7:30am to avoid the many other tourists which made our visit more enjoyable; most of the caves in the bay are, wisely, not open to the public

We went to Surprise Cave when it opened at 7:30am to avoid the many other tourists which made our visit more enjoyable; most of the caves in the bay are, wisely, not open to the public

There are multiple pearl farms in Halong Bay so we stopped to see how the pearls are made and had the opportunity to buy expensive pearl jewelry

There are multiple pearl farms in Halong Bay so we stopped to see how the pearls are made and had the opportunity to buy expensive pearl jewelry

Vietnam is one of the most important places on earth for primates, with at least 24 species, many of which occur only in Vietnam; Vietnam holds 5 of the top 25 most threatened primates species globally

Vietnam is one of the most important places on earth for primates, with at least 24 species, many of which occur only in Vietnam; Vietnam holds 5 of the top 25 most threatened primates species globally

I thought this looked like a huge boulder had just tumbled out of the middle of the monolith; I found it surprising that so many in Vietnam speak little to no English, even those in tourist jobs

I thought this looked like a huge boulder had just tumbled out of the middle of the monolith; I found it surprising that so many in Vietnam speak little to no English, even those in tourist jobs

There were hundreds of boats all headed out into Halong Bay at the same time;  all of these boats contribute to the bad pollution and hazy skies

There were hundreds of boats all headed out into Halong Bay at the same time; all of these boats contribute to the bad pollution and hazy skies

The scenery was spectacular but I was extremely distressed at the large amount of trash and pollution in the water; I never saw any fish or signs of aquatic life

The scenery was spectacular but I was extremely distressed at the large amount of trash and pollution in the water; I never saw any fish or signs of aquatic life

World Monuments Fund included the bay on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, citing tourism pressures and associated development as threats; the goal of watch-listing is to promote strategies of responsible heritage-driven development for a sustainable future

World Monuments Fund included the bay on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, citing tourism pressures and associated development as threats; the goal of watch-listing is to promote strategies of responsible heritage-driven development for a sustainable future

It looked like an entire new city was being built midway between Hanoi and Halong Bay; there were brand new freeways and lots of growth in this area only 3 hours from the Chinese border

It looked like an entire new city was being built midway between Hanoi and Halong Bay; there were brand new freeways and lots of growth in this area only 3 hours from the Chinese border

Halong City is the gateway to Halong Bay; most Asian tourists prefer to stay in hotels and just go out into the bay for day trips; the Chinese are also buying up real estate to get their money out of China

Halong City is the gateway to Halong Bay; most Asian tourists prefer to stay in hotels and just go out into the bay for day trips; the Chinese are also buying up real estate to get their money out of China

A growing number of tourists are skipping crowded Halong Bay and going to equally alluring Lan Ha Bay; I would have opted for either a longer trip or a trip to Lan Ha to avoid the masses here

A growing number of tourists are skipping crowded Halong Bay and going to equally alluring Lan Ha Bay; I would have opted for either a longer trip or a trip to Lan Ha to avoid the masses here

In 2012, New 7 Wonders Foundation officially named Halong Bay as one of New Seven Natural Wonders of the World; the drive from Hanoi took us past lots of rice paddies

In 2012, New 7 Wonders Foundation officially named Halong Bay as one of New Seven Natural Wonders of the World; the drive from Hanoi took us past lots of rice paddies

Posted by RNRiggins 01:24 Comments (0)

Boracay - one of the best beaches in the world!

Almost all visitors arrive to Boracay by flying into Caticlan airport which is tiny and on Panay island; you then take a trike to the ferry for the 15 minute bangka crossing and then another trike to your Boracay hotel

Almost all visitors arrive to Boracay by flying into Caticlan airport which is tiny and on Panay island; you then take a trike to the ferry for the 15 minute bangka crossing and then another trike to your Boracay hotel

Boracay is the top tourist destination in the Philippines with more than 2 million visitors a year; the magazine Travel   Leisure has ranked Boracay the best island in the world

Boracay is the top tourist destination in the Philippines with more than 2 million visitors a year; the magazine Travel + Leisure has ranked Boracay the best island in the world

Definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen; fortunately, the Philippine government is working hard to improve the island and keep it a fantastic destination

Definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen; fortunately, the Philippine government is working hard to improve the island and keep it a fantastic destination

Willy's Rock is one of the most photographed spots on Boracay; it's a tidal island with a statue of the Virgin Mary atop steps carved into the volcanic rock

Willy's Rock is one of the most photographed spots on Boracay; it's a tidal island with a statue of the Virgin Mary atop steps carved into the volcanic rock

Typical scene along the main road in Boracay; I think the island needs to halt new hotel construction until it's infrastructure can catch up with all of the growth

Typical scene along the main road in Boracay; I think the island needs to halt new hotel construction until it's infrastructure can catch up with all of the growth

Wonderful shaded path past all of the establishments facing the sea; it's great that there is no road (and no traffic and noise) near the beach

Wonderful shaded path past all of the establishments facing the sea; it's great that there is no road (and no traffic and noise) near the beach

The island is only 4 sq miles yet handles millions of tourists and is also home to 33,000 locals; almost all of the visitors I saw were Asian with just a handful of Aussies

The island is only 4 sq miles yet handles millions of tourists and is also home to 33,000 locals; almost all of the visitors I saw were Asian with just a handful of Aussies

Typical alley that goes from beach to main road; you have to traverse dirt stretches like this even to reach the nicest resorts that are oceanfront since there is no road along the water

Typical alley that goes from beach to main road; you have to traverse dirt stretches like this even to reach the nicest resorts that are oceanfront since there is no road along the water

With perfect sand, clear waters and great weather, Boracay is an ideal family beach getaway; the island is incredibly photogenic to the point where it seemed more people were taking photos than enjoying the beach

With perfect sand, clear waters and great weather, Boracay is an ideal family beach getaway; the island is incredibly photogenic to the point where it seemed more people were taking photos than enjoying the beach

February is the ideal month to visit before it gets too hot; the dry season is limited to February-May while even then brief showers can occur

February is the ideal month to visit before it gets too hot; the dry season is limited to February-May while even then brief showers can occur

The nicest thing about Puka Beach is that it is free of development; that doesn't keep tons of boats from visiting but it helps

The nicest thing about Puka Beach is that it is free of development; that doesn't keep tons of boats from visiting but it helps

Puka Beach; after the island reopened to tourists in October 2018 not all business establishments were allowed to reopen and tourist influx is still being controlled

Puka Beach; after the island reopened to tourists in October 2018 not all business establishments were allowed to reopen and tourist influx is still being controlled

The first day I did an island hopping cruise but the islands typically visited were still closed for clean-up so we went to Puka Beach, 2 crowded and forgettable snorkel spots and to an overcrowded and trash-filled beach on Panay for lunch

The first day I did an island hopping cruise but the islands typically visited were still closed for clean-up so we went to Puka Beach, 2 crowded and forgettable snorkel spots and to an overcrowded and trash-filled beach on Panay for lunch

I only spent 4 nights on Boracay and would have enjoyed staying longer to explore less crowded parts of the island; away from White Beach, there are relatively quiet areas to escape the crowds

I only spent 4 nights on Boracay and would have enjoyed staying longer to explore less crowded parts of the island; away from White Beach, there are relatively quiet areas to escape the crowds

View from my very nice hotel; like everywhere I've been in the Philippines, you have upscale properties squeezed together with locals living in very primitive conditions

View from my very nice hotel; like everywhere I've been in the Philippines, you have upscale properties squeezed together with locals living in very primitive conditions

The average low temperature never drops below 80 degrees; in the dry season that doesn't feel too bad because of the lower relative humidity

The average low temperature never drops below 80 degrees; in the dry season that doesn't feel too bad because of the lower relative humidity

I saw how crowded the dive boats were and opted to pass; with sandy beaches I wondered if the diving would be worth the time involved

I saw how crowded the dive boats were and opted to pass; with sandy beaches I wondered if the diving would be worth the time involved

The flat, wide beaches of Boracay are great for long walks or runs; the sand is super fine and there are trash patrols who try to keep the beaches clean

The flat, wide beaches of Boracay are great for long walks or runs; the sand is super fine and there are trash patrols who try to keep the beaches clean

Puka Beach gets its name from the shells that used to be harvested here; now they are virtually gone but women still sell the shells along the beach

Puka Beach gets its name from the shells that used to be harvested here; now they are virtually gone but women still sell the shells along the beach

Puka Beach; this beach is on the north side of the island and is supposedly quieter than White Beach except when dozens of island hopping boats all arrive at the same time

Puka Beach; this beach is on the north side of the island and is supposedly quieter than White Beach except when dozens of island hopping boats all arrive at the same time

The island is pronounced with a long i at the end (rhymes with high); the sun is fierce here which is why many Asians have long sleeves and/or tights on

The island is pronounced with a long i at the end (rhymes with high); the sun is fierce here which is why many Asians have long sleeves and/or tights on

Black-banded sea krait; the island has extremely limited grocery stores with few fresh items and the only cereal being Corn Flakes

Black-banded sea krait; the island has extremely limited grocery stores with few fresh items and the only cereal being Corn Flakes

There are plenty of posh resorts on the island, away from the masses, which often have their own private beaches; before taking a bangka or ferry to the island you have to go through a security screening

There are plenty of posh resorts on the island, away from the masses, which often have their own private beaches; before taking a bangka or ferry to the island you have to go through a security screening

This is Crocodile Island which lies just off the southeast coast of Boracay; it does look like the profile of a crocodile but the island was closed when I visited still undergoing clean-up

This is Crocodile Island which lies just off the southeast coast of Boracay; it does look like the profile of a crocodile but the island was closed when I visited still undergoing clean-up

The wide beach that runs the length of the west side of the island is called White Beach; to help with where things are along White Beach (there are no addresses since there are no roads), there are 3 numbered boat stations

The wide beach that runs the length of the west side of the island is called White Beach; to help with where things are along White Beach (there are no addresses since there are no roads), there are 3 numbered boat stations

Note the name of this nice restaurant!; sorry Donald, but I never saw anywhere on the island with your name on it

Note the name of this nice restaurant!; sorry Donald, but I never saw anywhere on the island with your name on it

The island hopping tours all seemed to stop at the same spots to snorkel so you were constantly having to move for boat traffic; the water was deep and there wasn't much to see

The island hopping tours all seemed to stop at the same spots to snorkel so you were constantly having to move for boat traffic; the water was deep and there wasn't much to see

Tourists have destroyed virtually all of the nearshore coral but supposedly efforts are underway to repair some of the damage; even the coral in deeper waters wasn't impressive

Tourists have destroyed virtually all of the nearshore coral but supposedly efforts are underway to repair some of the damage; even the coral in deeper waters wasn't impressive

There are quiet beaches on the island such as Diniwid Beach; it looks more upscale and may not even have roosters!

There are quiet beaches on the island such as Diniwid Beach; it looks more upscale and may not even have roosters!

This was one of the island's more popular hotels which burned down last year; given traffic congestion on the island, I wouldn't expect great response time from fire or ambulance services

This was one of the island's more popular hotels which burned down last year; given traffic congestion on the island, I wouldn't expect great response time from fire or ambulance services

During peak season (Dec-May) the winds blow from the east and White Beach is smooth as glass while windsurfing is popular on the east side of the island; during rainy season the situation is reversed

During peak season (Dec-May) the winds blow from the east and White Beach is smooth as glass while windsurfing is popular on the east side of the island; during rainy season the situation is reversed

Six bar wrasse; like the rest of the Philippines, there are roosters everywhere (and they are constantly loud) and a cockfighting arena (what is the attraction?)

Six bar wrasse; like the rest of the Philippines, there are roosters everywhere (and they are constantly loud) and a cockfighting arena (what is the attraction?)

Crystal Cove is normally a stop on the island hopping tours but was still off limits; I feel like I should be able to distinguish which Asian country people are from but I'm still struggling

Crystal Cove is normally a stop on the island hopping tours but was still off limits; I feel like I should be able to distinguish which Asian country people are from but I'm still struggling

Posted by RNRiggins 19:50 Comments (0)

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