We had heard mixed reviews about Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam's most famous natural attractions. The negative reviews were that it had become too "touristy," too busy, too competitive. The positive comments were about how beautiful it was, how unique, a "vision of ethereal beauty." (Lonely Planet.) We decided that if we were going to go to Hanoi, we had to go to Halong Bay. One of my travel companions, Polli, did a lot of research and it was thanks to her, I believe we had a good experience.
In our planning for our trip to Vietnam, Hoi An came up again and again, as one of the "favorite" places to travel to in Vietnam. We agreed this would be on the "definitely go" list. In the travel articles, there always seemed to be a qualifier, it's great, but touristy. Hello. We are tourists. But I get the point, when you go to a different country, you are supposed to want an "authentic" experience, i.e., not "touristy". I hope I can say this in the future, but in Hoi An, there is a blend of authentic encounters and an appreciation for us, the tourists. On the airplane, I had a conversation with a nice Vietnamese woman and she said even Vietnamese people like to travel to Hoi An.
Some of my classmates in my tango class in Guam decided to go to the first Manila Tango Marathon, and I took the "step" and made arrangements to go as well. I didn't know if I was ready, but they kept encouraging me. I'm very glad I went. Not only was it a fantastic event, but I also enjoyed being in Manila, the Makati area specifically.
Our time in Bangkok was a bit of a mixed bag, some good shopping, some good eating, and a bad experience. Because of the end of the one-year mourning period for the former king, most of the notable sites here were not open. But I had read that one of the Wats were open, and we thought we hired a car to take us there. The concierge at the hotel had arranged it. We had a bit of a "miscommunication," as we kept going farther and farther away from Bangkok.
There is no better way to spend your birthday than to be with friends and do your favorite things. Of course traveling is one of my favorite things, but also taking a cooking class. I found this one, Thai Secret Cooking School, based on Trip Advisor reviews (5 stars), and it was a good choice. There was only 5 of us in this class, which made it a plus for us.
Here was our plan for where to stay. We wanted to have a place reserved for when we first got there, but wanted to leave it open to other possibilities once we got there. This was a good idea. This hotel, Yaang Come Village Hotel, was well-reviewed and we went to look at it while we were exploring. It is completely on the opposite side of Chiang Mai from where we first stayed. It is also a hotel, rather than an AirBnB, so we got the hotel experience too. And this place is worthy of the good reviews.
This day was a perfect tourist day from morning to evening. When we were planning this trip, we knew we wanted to be in Chiang Mai for the Sunday Walking Street Market. Since it started at 4 pm, we had all day for other things. I had read somewhere that in this city of temples, if there is one temple you should not miss, it is Doi Suthep. The photo here is a pano taken from there.
Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple in Chiang Rai, is a strange and striking sight to behold. It is definitely a tourist attraction with many details, and I wish I had known more of the symbolism of all the pieces when I visited. But here it is. The picture above shows the main temple, which you arrive at by crossing a bridge of the cycle of rebirth. Inside the main temple, different from traditional Buddhist temples, are murals, with modern representations of good and evil. I did not see any! But supposedly, Elvis and Spiderman were depicted.
The original intent was to go to Thailand so that I could take a day trip to Singapore to retrieve my ukulele that I had forgotten in my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur. Once we started to plan the Thailand trip, it was not going to be that easy to go back to Singapore, mostly because of time. It all worked out in the end, but that is a story for another blog. Glad we decided to go mainly to Chiang Mai. It is a great little city, more relaxed than Bangkok, and you didn't feel like everyone was trying to get money from you.
I guess you know I love butterflies. That's not so unusual. I think it's a thing that a lot of people can relate to, the beauty that comes from its unlikely beginning stages, the lowly "worm". But, for some reason, I get all giddy. So, this was definitely a highlight.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.