Saturday, December 29, 2012

NZ drives and Queenstown

Yesterday I drove from Franz Josef to Wanaka. I started by getting up at 4:00am to make it to Lake Matheson in time for the sunrise. This was pretty cool... although it was a cloudy day.

I lucked in during the hour walk around the lake because the rain held off. I'm glad I did the walk... and got some beautiful pictures from the back end of the lake... Mount Cook and Fox Glacier are reflected like a mirror in the lake... it is one of the most photographed spots in New Zealand! Lenny gave me a good heads-up to get there for sunrise, before the wind picks up and creates ripples in the water.

WELL, I did NOT love the early morning walk. Alone. In the woods. I'm really good at creeping myself out. I'm glad that it was actually lighting up... but I also had my head lamp on that I bought in Sa Pa, Vietnam from a lady on the street. I just walked at a good pace and crunchd an apple that I had brought along.

I made it to 'Reflection Islamd' without being caught by the Boogie Monster... took a bunch of photos... and then enjoyed the return walk much more than the first half. I passed one guy on the trail when I was almost back to the cafe area and my car... other than that, I was the only one at the lake up early!

I stayed and had breakfast at the beautiful cafe... and then hit the road at 9:00am. Lexey, thanks for the recommendations for the chai and salmon pesto bagel! Mmmm.

Wow. What a drive! I remember thinking that all of Lenny's photos from New Zealand look like postcards.. so incredibly beautiful... and this drive was no exception.

I stopped at a bunch of waterfalls along the way as well as pulling to the side of the road numerous times to take in the views! Rolling landscapes, crystal clear lakes, and just pure beauty... the entire way!

I arrived in Wanaka just after 2:00pm, checked into the hostel... walked around town a bit and was happy to crawl into bed early.

Wanaka is a cool town... Very resorty. A TON of Kiwi teenagers are in the area for New Years... I read in the guidebook that they flock here at this time... and it's the truth.

The hostel's common area has a beautiful picture window overlooking the lake with The Remarkables behind... they are an awesome set of mountains.

This morning I got up and drove to Queenstown for the day.

WOW! The epic driving adventure continues!

I drove over the pass on the Crown Range Road. Wow. Wow. Wow.

The views of the mountains and valleys were spectacular. Lenny told me I must drive over the pass and I can see why. The road is hairpin turn after hairpin turn going down the other side!

Queenstown is a cool area. Very 'happening' for the holiday!

I took the gondola ride up to a lookout view over the lake, The Remarkables, and on and on. Gorgeous.

I also did the luge ride! It was a lot of fun. And long! I appreciated that it was a true adventure of a ride down the luge!

I lucked in AGAIN with the weather! I might not be so lucky in the next day or two but that's ok because I have really had amazing weather so far this trip.

Two German girls are in the hostel room with me tonight and they said that they just spent two rainy, cloudy days in Franz Josef and the heli hikes on the glacier were canceled because of the weather! So different from my two days in FJ.

This morning was super gray and rainy... Once I got into the car however, it cleared up and just sprinkled here and there on the drive to Queenstown.

The entire time I was in Queenstown it was clear, sunny, and just some clouds in the sky.

On the way back to Wanaka I took the longer route, which goes through a bunch of wineries! Also a beautiful drive. It seems impossible to NOT have a gorgeous drive in this country. It did rain more on the way back... I think it was the first time I had to put the windshield wipers on higher than low. But now, again, the sun is out :)

Franz Josef Glacier Hike!

I'm so glad I spent the money to do the Ice Explorer glacier hike in Franz Josef! The hike included three hours on the glacier, a helicopter ride to and from, AND a free pass to the hot pools for the day.

The helicopter ride was my first. It was only about 3 minutes each way but was really, really cool. There is a tiny spot set up on the ice for the helicopters to land... and somehow they do it. If it is too cloudy, however, the helicopters can't do the flight and the hikes are canceled. Our guide told us that in October they only were able to send up 12 groups. There were at least quadruple that number of groups yesterday alone.

I learned from Mel and Ben that saying I "lucked out" is actually a negative... and I must say that I "lucked IN" to refer to something good... Which does make more sense I suppose.

SO... I really lucked IN with the weather I had in Franz Josef the past two days! Mostly sunshine and warm. Unusual for the area!

I just wore one layer of long sleeves under the jacket they provided... but I was happy to have their thick wool socks, mittens, and hat too! We also wore crampons on our boots to help on the ice.

Our group's guide, Chris, was great. He was friendly, chill, and very manly... carrying an ax as he led us along and helping to clear a pathway and cutting steps to climb. It looked like hard work but I think he was really just playing around like a kid in a sandbox... well, frozen icebox.

We saw blue ice... which I learned all ice really is but once the sunlight reaches it, the ice loses the blue color. I loved the blue ice... it seemed to glow from within.

There were spots where a black hole formed... usually water was dripping down... kick some ice pieces down and they sound as if they just fall and fall. NOT something you want to fall down!!

We literally had to climb under and through a tunnel at one point. And another spot, we had to scoot forward with the same for forward, leaning against a wall of ice on one side because it was a super narrow opening only big enough for one foot on the ground and surrounded by really tall ice walls on both sides.

Overall... I loved it. Very cool. Definitely something new for me. We didn't do any strenuous hiking really, and I wish we could have hiked more... further into the glacier, but it was awesome.

After getting something to eat after the hike, I put my swimsuit on and enjoyed relaxing in the hot pools!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

on the LEFT!

Other than driving my mom's car here and there over the course of four days last June, I have not driven a car in over a year and a half!

Now, on this adventure in New Zealand, I am renting a car for my first time ever... driving in a country I have never been to before... and driving on the left for the first time ever!

So far I have been continuously telling myself to concentrate, take my time, ...and enjoy the scenery. (For those of you who know me pretty well, you can hopefully envision the little smirk on my face as I type that last bit. Hehe.)

I walked outside the tiny Hokitika airport yesterday afternoon, opened the passenger door to the little, red Toyota Corolla to put my purse in... and there was the steering wheel.

Whoops! Ok... I can do this.

I slowly began making my way out of the airport... and realized I was driving on the right hand side! No, no, no... Left, left, left.

I should be sitting near the middle of the road.

Ok, got it.

I pushed the handle for the indicator when I was going to make a turn... and the windshield wipers went on! Ha! ...Other side.

...I remember Lenny doing that for a while when he moved back to the States after living in New Zealand for a year.

Good thing my dad mentioned learning the signs for the one lane bridges. They are pretty clear ONCE you know about them. I'm also glad that I could practice watching Ben drive on the North Island last week.

Ben and others on the North Island kept telling me I would love the South Island but it is different from the NI. I finally asked in which ways... and Ben is right... the SI is not as green.

There is still a lot of green... But not as much. It's all more brown.

And the water is BLUE. A blue like I've never seen fresh water to be. It is turquoise in some parts!

Ben and my brother were also right that there are not a lot of cars on the road! There just aren't a lot of people on the west coast in general. It's great. The automobiles that I do go by are mostly camper vans.

Ben said that in total there are about 4 million people in all of NZ (not including tourists, which at this time of year, would raise that number a bit!)... Crazy to think that when I believe there are about 10 million in HCMC alone!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

panoramic hike, NZ

I enjoyed the morning around Franz Josef today... The entire town is about 4 or 5 blocks. I picked up groceries for meals, window shopped, actually shopped, took photos of the incredible scenery, and sat at a cafe with my book and a latte! Perfection.

The hostel I'm staying at, Glow Worm Cottages, has wifi for $3 per day, which is great, but this area is so remote that it's not a great connection. I attempted to Skype with my family in Colorado but they mostly sounded like robots. After a number of tries, I headed out in the car for a little hike.

Reading the FJ map last night, I saw a great hike that was said to be an easy 30-minute walk... Great! I couldn't find that hike though... But did get to the location of two other hikes listed. One was an hour and a half, and the other... Three and a half hours. Whoa. Ok. The one hour and a half hike sounded great. Hehe.

I do enjoy a scenic hike... But anything over two or three hours has got to be marvelous... And I would prefer to not be alone on it.

The hike was in Okarito... About 30-minutes drive from FJ. This area had... Well, about 12 houses, a cafe, and some kayaks for rent.

Starting the hike, I felt a bit uneasy... Heading into the forest alone just didn't feel great. I was walking along a pathway over a swamp to the edge of a forested hill, err actually it was more of a mountain. I reminded myself that my brother Lenny did multi-day hikes when he was younger than I am now... On his own in NZ! The walk wasn't said to be super strenuous, other than having quite an uphill climb overall... So I knew I should be ok.

I'm so glad I did it! I'm feeling rather proud of myself now and accomplished for the day. I went at a steady-but-leisurely pace and enjoyed myself. There was a path the entire time and it was through the forest, however, I could hear the sea the entire time and was rewarded with views now and then.

Reaching the top was very worth the walk! There was a 360 degree view... I could see the Tasman Sea, the Okarito Lagoon, and in the distance was the Franz Josef Glacier! Very cool.

The hike was listed as one hour thirty minutes but I made it back to the car in one hour ten minutes... Feeling good and with an almost empty water bottle!

Tomorrow morning I head out for the helicopter ride to the glacier and then the Ice Explorer glacier walk... Super excited. Included with the walk are the FJ hot pools! So I plan to go to those in the afternoon.

Oh, and on the drive back, I did find the original hike that I thought I would do. I'm glad that I missed it on the way out and decided to go for another! I must have been really tired last night while looking at the map because the easy 30-minute hike was just a flat walk through the forest with some mountain views... I noticed this when I was re-reading the map, trying to find it. The hike I ended up going on is the description that I wanted to do! So all worked out well : )

North Island to South Island, NZ

I have been in New Zealand about a week now and am currently at the domestic airport to leave the North Island and adventure along the West Coast of the South Island! I will fly from Auckland to Hokitika, with a stopover in Christchurch. I'll be renting a car in Hotikita and driving up to Franz Josef from there. ...I keep reminding myself to drive on the LEFT! ...Watching Ben drive this past week, I think the most difficult for me will be turning... And roundabouts.  :P

This past week was great! My brother Lenny's friends, Ben and Mel, are awesome. The three of them lived together in Hamilton while Lenny was here for a year... Almost ten years ago now.

We went on mini hikes (my kind of hiking!) to absolutely gorgeous views of water, towns, and landscape. We went to a number of serene beaches... Often we were the only people on the beach... And always, Ben would say it was the most beautiful beach in New Zealand!

Yesterday, for Christmas Day, we were at Ben's parents' house. They live on a farm and it was gorgeous. Over 30 people came for dinner! It was fun... I really enjoyed the family time. Everyone was so welcoming, I felt like a member! It made me realize that even though I have wonderful friends in Vietnam, I don't get 'family time'.

We got up fairly early this morning and stopped by one of Ben's family member's house for a visit. this man, John, has been to Canada 3 times now... traveled all over... and even been to my hometown area in Rochester, NY! so we stopped by for coffee/tea and a tour of his farm. he has two donkeys, a horse, two dogs, and a cat.

From there, Ben and Mel dropped me off at the bus station in Thames this morning... I caught a bus to Manukau and then on to the airport. ...Aaaaaand now I am finishing this post up after the flight to Christchurch, then another flight to Hokitika on a teeny tiny plane seating 19 people, one on each side of the aisle. I've just mastered the roads well enough to make it safe and sound to the hostel in Franz Josef. YEEAHHH!

I will be posting more specifics and many pictures once I am back in HCMC.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

made it to Tairua!

I am currently in Tairua, New Zealand.  : )

The 7-hour layover in Bangkok, Thailand was actually kind of nice, as I had a latte and read most of the John Grisham book I had brought - The Broker.

We were taking off from Bangkok to Auckland about 40 minutes behind schedule... Not bad... But as soon as the plane began to pick up speed there was a (not-so-good) sound and the speed cut out. We were told an engine blew... Thankfully before we took off! We then had to taxi back to the airport and sat on the plane for an hour and a half while it was checked over. THEN we were told we needed to switch to a new plane and were bused back into the airport to sit and wait.

We ended being four hours behind schedule... But I would rather everything be safe and good-to-go for the long flight (any flight, actually). From there, everything was smooth and I arrived into Auckland yesterday afternoon.

Ben, a good friend of my brother, Lenny's, when he lived in New Zealand, picked me up at the airport and we drove about two hours to Tairua. Ben and his wife, Melanie, are renting a house in Tairua... A really small town on the east coast. The house is great... It is set on a hill and overlooks the harbor!

After a shower (bliss after 27 hours of traveling!) the three of us went to dinner with Ben's brother and his wife. Mmm my first meal in NZ was fish and chips!

This morning we took a drive to a nearby beach called Sailor's Grave. There really is a sailor's grave there... As one drowned back in the 1840's. the beach was really pretty but it was overcast and still pretty cool so, other than their cute dog, Charlie, none of us went in the water.

From Sailor's Grave we drive to Cathedral Cove. Beautiful spot! There are numerous islands off the coast... It reminded me of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Ben and I walked the 30-minute hike to the actual 'Cathedral Cove'... Very pretty... Pictures to come once I get back to Vietnam. (Mel didn't hike, as she is just 4 days away from her due date with their first baby!! Very exciting... And they are amazing for hosting a guest at this time.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

hen gap lai Vietnam

Well, goodness. I think Vietnam is telling me to leave for a bit... good thing I am off to New Zealand for two weeks!

A week (or two?) ago my bike decided to turn off mid-turn... and would not start again.

I called the Yamaha shop, two guys came out and fixed it on the spot. I did bring it back to the shop later that afternoon and they did some kind of 'flush' thing to it. I'm also now putting the 'good' gasoline in it each time.

Well... today the same thing happened to the bike (at least I was not driving this time, however!).

I could not get the bike to start; a parking guy from a nearby shop was helping me. ...And then we gained two onlookers.

The parking guy finally got his bike and motioned for me to get on the back... one of the onlookers got onto mine and we literally pushed him down the street and around the corner!

They dropped me off here...

A little street shop for motorbikes. Two guys set to work... amidst both of them smoking cigarettes non-stop and taking a break every now and then to have a gulp of iced coffee.

These two were awesome. I people-and-scooter-watched on Hai Ba Trung... saw the guts of my motorbike... and was back on a running bike in an hour! ...All for 100,000 dong (or... $5.00 USD). Perrrrfect.

Now let's hope the bike continues to run!

There were more bumps throughout the day... but I'm off to the airport in a few to head to Bangkok and then on to Auckland. I appreciate HCMC giving me nudges to leave for my holiday instead of trying to just shove me out.

Hen gap lai Vietnam! / See you again Vietnam!

Khoi Thom mexican dinner

Kat, Laura, and I went to Khoi Thom for dinner this past Friday night. I really enjoy it here... one of the only places to get good Mexican food in the city... they often have live music... and it's a joy of colors!

facebook friends

Things just got real.

...By request, I am now Facebook friends with my tailor!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

DAM SEN water park!

The best way to kick off the start of a 3-week holiday from work?? ...A day at the Dam Sen water park! Located in District 11... the park is still very much in the city, yet once you are inside it feels like a retreat far away.

For all my fellow WaterWorlders in Denver, CO - you must come to Vietnam so we can have a day at Dam Sen!  :P  ...there are even many of the same rides... Boomerang, Turbo Racer, Storm, (of course) the Lazy River... AND there's a zipline!

And having an entrance fee of less than $6 USD makes all the more fun! Careful though, they are very strict with their rules... no denim, no khaki, no shirts, and no zippers on back pockets. We got stopped a few times... D'Oh!

Before heading out to Dam Sen - Nick, Jen, and the music teacher at the middle school - Kevin, and I all met up at the new L'Usine on Le Loi St. We had a delicious lunch and finished with deeelicious cupcakes!

We took a cab... Kevin followed along on his motorbike since he lives out that way. The taxi driver noticed we had a friend tagging along and was very sweet... waiting and honking when Kevin almost missed a last-minute turn we made.

I was going to take photos in/around the park... but my camera decided to stop working after the photo below. D'Oh! ...Less than 24 hours later, I've already purchased a new Canon Powershot... I actually found a true Canon reseller in the city... and wanted to just get it taken care of before departing for New Zealand in two days.

HUUUUGE dragons made out of CDs lined the entrance! There is also an amusement park in the same area as the water park. ...Talk about a day 'o fun!

4 P's Pizza

The best pizza in Saigon is definitely at 4 P's Pizza in District 1! I love it... the building is gorgeous, it is tucked back in a little alley, and the food is awesome.

A group of us had a great dinner at 4 P's last week before the AIS music concert.

This is the downstairs... the upstairs is great too! 
And they've just added on to either side within the building... there is now a bar area next door

The name card for our reservation even had a sweet handwritten note on the back!
Well done 4 P's, well done.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Market!

I love, love the Christmas Market at the bubblegum pink church on Hai Ba Trung that sprouts up sometime late Fall.

Last year Sarah and I went (that post can be seen here - Christmas Before Thanksgiving)... and this year I stopped by one afternoon to load up on things for my Secret Pal (...I had my good friend Elizabeth! ...and she's a Christmas fanatic, so that was fun).

bookmas tree

Happy Holidays!

We've created another Bookmas Tree in the AIS Middle School Library this year... I'm pleased that this year's tree turned out more like a tree than a Book Bush like last year's.  :P

The students love it... but of course now many happen to want a book within the tree (or just want to play Jenga with the books in the tree!). Hopefully each year I'll get better and better at this.

recent realizations / reflections / random thoughts

This evening begins my three-week Winter Break! Happy holidays everyone!

I depart Tuesday morning for two weeks in NEW ZEALAND.

...And below, I figure I'll share some recent realizations/reflections/random thoughts...

  • I have geckos living in my apartment. I'm ok with that. This afternoon a mouse ran across my bedroom. I'm not so ok with that. ...but it's definitely better than a RAT, which this city has plenty of!
  • Sometimes after weaving my way through a crazy-busy intersection, I say aloud: "Yikes." ...Realizing I'm lucky to have made it through without a bump or two. Then I remind myself to pay attention and alert... defense is just as important as offense when driving in Ho Chi Minh City. ...And accidents happen when a driver ('eh em'... me) becomes too comfortable / cocky. Focus. Focus. Focus.
  • I saw a lady wearing white skinny jeans today... the bottom of each leg was cuffed up... and the inside material was leopard print. Amazing. I wish my dad had been on the back of my bike at the time... I know I could have counted on him for a loud "RAWRRR" in reference to the animal print!
  • I left an entire dish of untouched Indian food in the fridge at school. D'Oh! ...This is worth a trip back during rush hour.
  • After picking up my Indian food... and putting my helmet on to leave school, a guard came up to me and said, "Stah-seeya?!" I was worried! I turned around and he then said, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!" It was incredibly sweet. I am always spouting various Vietnamese words and phrases at the guards... but they don't often talk to me... and never in English. It sounded like he has been practicing... just like I've practiced to say chuc mung nam moi (happy new year).
  • I still, and will always, dislike the drivers that install car horns onto their motorbikes. Really?! ...Not needed, sirs.
  • I love my students. I wore my glasses (the ones from SEE Eyewear in Denver, CO... not the Vietnam locals) to school for the first time today and had comments from many surprised students... a few of my favs: Josh - "Whoa. Hipster." Keiny - "I like your glasses Ms. Stacia!" and Lisa - "You are so creative." Loved it. ...I think the creative comment was because I had two sparkly snowmen with Santa hats hanging from the frames! ...Just gettin' festive!...
  • I will never be ok with men (ok, women too but mostly men) digging up their nose... hocking a loogie onto the street while driving... or peeing out one pant leg on the side of the road. Please keep your bodily goobies to yourself. Thank you.
  • I love, love, love the holiday season in Ho Chi Minh City! They love to celebrate! Christmas, New Year, and the Tet holiday all fully take over the city in elaborate decorations and sparkling lights... all going up at this time.
  • The Tet flowers are hanging up along Dong Khoi and Le Loi streets!! Gorgeous. And I recently learned that the Dong Khoi flowers are yellow for the south... and the Le Loi flowers are pink for the north (pictures and more to come on that soon...).
  • Ready or not, I'm up for a new massive adventure soon! I've let my school know that I plan to move on after this school year (when my two-year contract ends)... both an exciting and nerve-wracking position to be in... looking for a new job / location abroad. 
  • With just 6.5 months left in Vietnam, I am most definitely feeling the need to soak up what time I have left here. Certain moments make me almost choke up... and wonder why I would ever leave this place!? ...Such as spending less than $5 USD for fresh flowers that cover my entire apartment, having my choice of beautiful cafes everyday, living in a gorgeous apartment that is cozy and feels like 'home', having wonderful friends in my life in Vietnam... and the list goes on. I'm one lucky girl. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

than lan in my helmet!

Leaving school in the afternoon, I found this little guy in my helmet:

Cute... but I'd rather not have a than lan in my helmet for the ride home... thinking of him scurrying down my neck then puts the vision of a bad accident into my head and that's just not needed.

WELL... as I unhooked my helmet from near the boot of my bike, the than lan crawled under the mesh! Goodness. I didn't know how to get him out... and he didn't seem to want to come out.

I stood there for a bit... another teacher came out and laughed with me but didn't know how to help... other than saying maybe I could flood him out with water. (And then have water dripping down my face / neck from the soaking wet helmet the entire ride home, haha.)

After a few more minutes, I was still standing next to my bike, holding the helmet by the chin strap at arm's length, trying to decide what to do about this silly predicament... and our Dean of Students found me. I told him there was a than lan in my helmet... buuut then, of course, I don't see the than lan!

I wasn't sure if the little guy jumped out or what... but I didn't see him anymore.

I tried to tell the Dean of Students that I really wasn't crazy... there WAS a than lan in there before... gave it another check... and then put it on, got onto my bike, and left school for the day!

But of course this story isn't over yet, right?!

...I stopped at an ATM on my way home ...and as I came out to get back onto my bike, the same little than lan ran out the visor of my helmet and jumped onto my bike's exhaust pipe!

He WAS still in my helmet the entire ride to the ATM!!! Little stinker.

Thank goodness (for him AND me!) that he stayed put, hidden in the helmet, on the cruise from school to the ATM.

...The little, crazy things that happen in Vietnam.  :P

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

prescription glasses in Vietnam!

I figured I would try having a pair of prescription glasses made and see how they turned out.

WELL... even if the glasses didn't turn out well... I think the photo above makes it all a success!

But really, the glasses turned out pretty well! No, they are not the yellow ones above... those were just part of the eye test. The prescription on the glasses is somewhat strong (too strong) and I have heard of others going through the same issue with glasses they've had made in Vietnam (both HCMC and Hoi An). Overall, however, I'm happy with them... especially since they (frames AND lenses) came to $20 USD total. WIN!

pretty lake views, Hanoi

I took the photos below while riding on the back of Ms. Hue's motorbike in Hanoi... they turned out surprisingly well in my opinion! It was a gorgeous ride along this lake... (not sure which lake this is... or where in the city we were at this point... but I liked it!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ride to Bat Trang, videos

I enjoyed the ride from Hanoi out to Bat Trang a lot! Below are a couple videos... seeing the homes was interesting to me... and just getting out of the city.

a few videos - Hanoi, Vietnam

Below are a few short videos taken from the back of a motorbike... I especially like the second one, cruising along the mosaic wall.

this is what a librarian looks like

I recently submitted my photo to the blog: This is What a Librarian Looks Like.

Looks like my photo was accepted and published! There are even a bunch of 'Notes'!

The link to my photo is here.

I'm pretty proud of this... because I'm pretty proud to be a librarian.  :D

Monday, December 10, 2012

my NZ trip in MAPS

I am stoked for my upcoming trip to New Zealand!! I depart one week from today!

A lot of research (and emails / phone calls with my brother who lived in NZ for a year) has gone into planning my trip's itinerary. ...I want to do it all!

My plan is... to spend my first week on the North Island with Lenny's good friend, Ben, and his family. I'm excited to be with them for Christmas. They live in Auckland (magenta marker) but have rented a place in Tairua (light blue marker), which I'm really excited to get to.

The day after Christmas I will fly to the South Island... into the Hokitika airport (yellow marker)... to rent a car and drive up to Franz Josef (red marker). I'm really excited about Franz Josef! It sounds like a great little town... and I've booked a helicopter ride / glacier hike!!

I will then drive a lovely scenic route to Wanaka (dark marker), stay a few days... and go to Queenstown (green marker) on New Years Eve. ...Then fly back up to Auckland on the 1st and fly out on the 2nd! I have a day's layover in Bangkok and have booked a hotel there... I'm excited to get out into the city for a bit on my way back to HCMC. Fun, fun, fun.  :D

Below are some Google Map screenshots showing my trip:

New Zealand from Vietnam...

My mom made a great point last year when she told me that if I ever wanted to get to New Zealand... now would be the time, since I am so much closer to NZ while living in Vietnam than I would be from the States!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

sneaky than lan...

A part of my life here in Saigon that I realized this morning would be quite unusual for my family and friends back in NY and CO... is waking up to little things in my apartment all moved around many mornings.

...Last night I could here dishes lightly clanking against each other after I was in bed.

It's the sneaky THAN LAN that is my housemate!

I know I have at least one small lizard living with me lately... there are probably more.

This morning the dried chilis that I keep in a little cup with my dishes were out of the cup and behind my plates!

A few days ago I found the little than lan taking the shape of a corner in the bathroom:

waterpuppet video - Hanoi

A little piece of the waterpuppet show in Hanoi (these are the Sa Pa puppets!)...

view from Holiday Hotel Sa Pa

The beautiful view from the back of my hotel room at the Holiday Hotel Sa Pa...

thumbs down to the restaurant!

The tour we were on while in Sa Pa brought us to a small, local restaurant near the train station before we were able to board the train. The restaurant turned out to be... below par to say the least. Elizabeth and I think this might be the culprit for both of us getting really sick at the end of our break too.

(You have thought vegetarian pho would be quite safe... ?!)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

gate details... when I have a house...

I've been learning to have my 'home' be wherever I am living... in a way, 'home' is inside of me and follows me wherever I go. This was hard for me at first when coming to Vietnam and being so far from my family and 'home' in the States.

As compared to 'home'... when I get a 'house' of my own... I would love to have some pretty details like the ones shown below - very pretty on a front gate!

walking around Sa Pa

...more from my walk to the right from the hotel...

Ha! ...I love this...

A cafe with a view!