Back in Canada

Hi everyone!

Just a little note to let you know that we have been back in Canada since Mid May and we have been living in our little cottage since our arrival in Saskatchewan.  The kids went back to school for the last month and half  and truly enjoyed being away from their parents and seeing their friends again.  To tell you the truth their parents also enjoyed their time without them, however it is too bad that the weather has been miserable.  Darren and I had this romantic idea to go fishing or even walking around the neighborhood  but it rained and rained and rained some more.  We wish we would have stayed in Hawaii perhaps a little longer, however when we left Hawaii we stop in Vancouver to visit our friends Ken, Jennifer, Lexy and Liam Burgess  as well as our friends Tony and Sam and Darren’s coworker Oogie and his wife Stella.  It was so nice to see everyone and was certainly treated like Royalty.  From Vancouver we took the Ferry to Victoria and visited with Darren’s family Dan and Ruth Dempsey.  Again we were treated like kings and Queens.  We loved Victoria, I think I could live there no problem!! We also rented a car from Vancouver to Kelowna to visit Darren’s sister Melanie, her husband Brian, Graeme and Candice.  We surprise Brian for his 40th Birthday Party.

Anyway there is lots to say and Darren is sharpening his pencil to finish this blog and start on his book.

Thank you for everyone’s support and all the great words of encouragement.  The trip was not easy, however it was priceless.  We have learned to appreciate what we have and perhaps live a better life bacause of it.  Anyone interested to do something like this, come and see us or wait for Darren’s book to come out on the bookstore shelves

Lyane

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Hawaii (Waikiki Beach)

Hawaii,

We arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii in the morning of April 12th, after a red eye flight from Hong Kong via Tokyo. Our timeshare place in Waikiki was really nice and was only a short five-minute walk to the beach. The weather was great, but unfortunately, we were all suffering badly from jet lag and the kids crashed all day. Lyane and I tufted it out for a while and went for groceries and for a short walk along the boardwalk, but we soon found ourselves slipping into unconsciousness as well.  The next day the weather was a bit cool and cloudy, but we opted to go to the beach anyway. Strangely, when we arrived at Waikiki Beach, the temperature actually was warmer. Usually, lake and ocean front make the temperature cooler, but in Hawaii the opposite is true. We got settled on the beach and luckily, the kids were offered free floatation devices from some tourists who were on their last day and did not need them anymore. They both floated out into the clear aqua Hawaiian Ocean and almost immediately spotted a large Green Turtle surfacing for air right beside them. Drew and Jessica were very excited to see  it, especially since we had scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, snorkeled in Fiji and Thailand and did not see one stink’en turtle! The kids yelled back at us on shore and we were also offered floaties by this couple we were talking to, and we all experienced more sightings turtles together. It almost brings a tear to your eye, to fly half way around the world in search of sea turtles, only to finally find them at one of the busiest beaches in the world! For free! The turtle we saw was a biggy, and was probably four feet round, followed by a couple other smaller turtles that were two to three footers. We were all amazed at how close and carefree they were, as they surfaced right beside us for a few seconds and then leisurely drift back underwater. It is actually illegal to touch or disturb them, but they were certainly close enough to touch. I think maybe the kids and Lyane did touch one or two.

The next couple of days were not so good. The weather was really quite cool and Lyane’s cold she had caught, got the worst of her and forced her to bed rest for two days. Her coughing was so bad, I took her to the doctor on the second day and she was prescribed antibiotics to fight the virus. While she was resting, the kids and I took it easy, watching TV, reading books and listening to music. It was a good time to rest for all of us, because I don’t think the kids really recovered from their overnight flight and jetlag.  On the fourth day, the weather was still sub-par, but Lyane felt well enough to go out and do something, so we took the city bus to good old Wal-Mart. The kids were in their glory, picking up foods and candy that they hadn’t seen in nine months. That night we walked around and watched a few street performers and got propositioned by the dreaded timeshare dudes. This time, we willingly accepted their timeshare invitation with the motive of acquiring a free Jeep for two days. So the plan was… with our meeting experience, we would cut the timeshare meeting time in half and be driving our free Jeep by 10:30 the same morning. Didn’t work! The company was called Shell Vacations. They  were ruthless! They start off the meeting with a seemingly very nice Shell representative who pretended he was interested in who we were and what we did. But, after about twenty minutes he starts to make his pitch and when he realized that we probably will not going to buy, he started being rude and condescending. Finally, he slammed his book shut and verbally calls the meeting to an end. Good! The next thing we knew, his sales manger is sitting in front of us shaking his head in disbelief that we were to stupid to understand how great of a deal they were offering us. So, for another thirty minutes we tolerated this over confident, pampas ass, as he continuously belittled us and insulted us. Finally, he left in a huff and we were soon sent to another room, for what we were told was an exist interview and customer survey. We sat in the quite room and couldn’t wait to tell their superiors what jerks the rep and the manager was, but of course it was not a survey or interview at all, but yet another “senior” guy giving you a better deal and one last chance to change our foolish minds. We said thanks but no thanks again and we finally got out of there with our jeep rental certificate. Unfortunately, the day was now half gone and we were both stressed out from our timeshare experience. What a bunch of slim buckets! We got back to our room and hustled the kids out the door, and took the city bus to a beautiful beach called Hanauma Bay. The beach was awesome and the water was crystal clear, but the best part about it was the reefs and the snorkeling. The water was nice and shallow and had decent reefs to explore. The tropical fish were plentiful and colorful, but the weather was still cool and the kids wimped out after an hour or so.

The next day, we were finally rewarded with our big red Jeep and our        nightmare meeting seemed like a distant memory. We peeled the rag back and speeded off to explore some beaches, and settled at nice beach called Kailua Beach. The weather had finally smartened up and we enjoyed the sunshine filled beach for several hours, tanning and boogie boarding. Then we headed farther up north to the famous Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline. Both places are world renowed for their largest waves in the world and its world-class surfing. It was incredible to watch the massive waves crash right in front of us. We watched the surfers for several hours and could not believe their high skill levels and their resilience to the punishing massive waves. On our way back, we stopped at the town of Haleiwa that is recognized as the original surf town in the world. It was really a cool little town that took you back in time to the 1960’s.

We drove through the residential part of town and we saw several real old surf hippies that still make their home there.

The following day, we still had our Jeep, so we ventures off to nearby Pearl Harbor to see and hear the history of the naval base and to learn more about that fateful day in June 1941. The best part and most educational for the kids, was the short movie shown before you enter the exhibits. It briefly explains the pre-war circumstances that led to the Pearl Harbor attack and subsequently the declaration of war against Japan. Statistically, the Americans lost almost 3,000 military personal and civilians combined, and the Japanese lost only about 50 military men. Despite early warnings from the radar station, the Japan flew into Honolulu airspace unabated with over 320 aircraft. Most of the US naval fleet was in port and were sank were they sat. The famous battle ship Arizona suffered the most loss of life, and so a new modern memorial has been erected right over top of the massive sunken warship. The nearby US Air Force Base had over 170 fighter planes parked wing to wing out in the open, creating an easy target for the Japanese bombers and virtually all of them were destroyed. Only 14 planes and pilots were able to get air born to defend. They did manage to shoot down a few enemy aircraft and some antiaircraft fire from the ground knocked down a few as well, but the overall battle was in effect a massacre. The majority of the Japanese warplanes flew safely back to their close by Japanese aircraft carriers and sailed home from there. Some of the more interesting artifacts that we saw was the War Memorial, a WW2 battleship, a submarine control room, several types of navel artillery including a one man operated Japanese torpedo that was designed to be launched from a battle ship, then piloted into the enemy’s ship. Apparently, only a few were ever used, but still, what a way to go! They probably were not used much because they couldn’t find any recruits! At the end of the tour, it was really nice that the kids and us got to shake hands with one of the three naval veteran survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack. He was really a nice old man who took a shine to the kids and he autographed and gave them an informal military document.  We got back to the jeep and drove to the Dole Pineapple factory. There we learned about the history of Hawaiian pineapple, their growth cycle, and how to select a good one. We surprised when they told us that pineapples were not native to Hawaii and were in fact imported to the Hawaiian Islands from South America, most likely Brazil. Other than that, the tour was really poor. The plantation factory portion actually shut down and moved to another island in 1996, and so all that is left on site is the pineapple crops themselves, a few junky old harvesting machine, and a giant store to buy pineapple products. There was also this expensive little tourist train we took that looped around the plantation grounds for about twenty minutes and virtually showed tourists nothing. We actually saw more interesting stuff when we finally left and drove through several large pineapple plantations and through a very pretty mountainous part of the island.

Lastly, we stopped near the north shore to a spot that is well known for its

Turtle population. When we arrived, there were tourists standing on the beach peering into the water, trying to catch a glimpse of a turtle. We walked down closer to the water and we did see a couple of small turtles, but they were hard to see and it was certainly not nearly the same experience as we had with the ones at Waikiki Beach.  The weather that day was again rainy and cold all day and so after the turtle visit, we drove back to Waikiki and returned our beloved red jeep.

The next day, the weather finally turned warm and sunny and so for the next three days, we just beached it while the kids surfed. The time went by quickly and we all tried to excel our Hawaiian suntans. Then our last day crept up on us and with hot weather and blue sky we left the beach to board a plan for Vancouver. It is always hard to leave a beautiful place like Hawaii, but it was a little easier this time because we were all excited to get back to Canada. Farwell Hawaii.

Three new posts in two days!!!

Hi,

Our computer is now working fine, thanks to the Apple store in Honolulu, so I have been able to add 2 months os travel to the blog, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

We have a million pictures, but it will take time to get back into the swing of things and post them.

We leave for Vancouver today from Honolulu! It will feel good to be back on Canadian soil. We will be home in less than two weeks!

Enjoy

Hong Kong & Tokyo

Hong Kong & Tokyo

We arrived in Hong Kong on April 8th in the evening and took the airport bus to a downtown hotel on Hong Kong Island. The hotel was actually more of a hostel with a single room with four clean single beds and a decent size bathroom. Hong Kong accommodations are very expensive, so this little place was very suitable and cheap for our short four day stay. The next day, we got up early and took the “Tally”, the oldest mode of transportation in Hong Kong. The Tally is a really cool, slim double Decker bus looking thing that runs on tracks like a trolley car. Many of them were colorful, and most of them were painted with the latest popular advertisement. After the short nostalgic ride, we got off and road up the longest out door escalator in the world to the top of a mountain. It really wasn’t very impressive because the escalating stairs were not consecutive and so every thirty feet or so, the stairs ended and restarted with another upward escalator. We had lunch up there and then walked to the Peak Tram that rides further up the mountain, and over sees the Hong Kong Islands. You couldn’t see much because it was pretty foggy that day so we didn’t stay up there long. That night we took the remarkably efficient underground metro train to the Ladies Market to the neighboring Kowloon Island, and to my horror, I soon realized that our shopping days were not quite over yet. The kids spent hours looking at more touristy junk and tried on popular knock off cloths. Lyane even got in the act and bought a purse, while Jessica was not to be out done and bought a Volcom belt buckle.
On our third day, we attempted to find this cheap clothing mall, but downtown was too busy, so we went back to the ladies market for “more shopping”. The next night, we took in the fantastic outdoor laser show, that projects lasers across the amazing Hong Kong skyline, which is accompanied by music. On our final day in Hong Kong, we took an incredible 5.7 kilometer long cable car called The 360 up to a touristy town on top of yet another mountain. It was so high that when we were actually walking around in the clouds. We even had to navigate through the thick fog to find the main attraction, which was a giant Buddha that sat on the peak of the mountain. When we finally found the site and climbed two hundred stairs, it was so windy up there, that little kids were getting blow off their feet. Jessica and Drew got a big charge out of that and started posing for pictures in the high winds. The highlight of the day for the kids was the purchase of the biggest candy floss any of us had ever seen. After the long ride down the cable car, , the kids wanted to go back, one more time, to the massive Night Market to spend the last of their money on cheap cloths.
It was another long night of shopping, and Drew and Jessica really went to town buying, jeans, hoddies, sweaters and more T-shirts. It was so cheap it was hard to stop them. Next, we walked by the famous fortunes telling booths, but we did not participate. After that, we made our way back to the hotel, because we had to get to bed, so we could get up and catch an early morning flight to Tokyo.
We liked Hong Kong and its stunning skyline, but really the city is all about shopping, eating, and obviously business. The tourist component of the city is OK, but I thought a little lacking. They do have a Disney Land their, but it is pretty Mickey Mouse (pardon the pun) compared to the North American ones. The cities transportation options are very impressive and fun to ride.  We were proud to say that in the four days we visited, we took every mode of transportation the city offered, including bus, taxi, train, tram, cable car, trolley car, ferry and the subway. The subway the most impressive and is very efficient. Some even travel under the ocean between the islands.
We landed in Tokyo in the early afternoon and we had 6-hour window before our next flight to Hawaii. Downtown Tokyo was about an hour away by fast train from the airport, so we had to decide if we wanted to see it or just sit at the airport. We decided that, we would probably never have the opportunity to see Tokyo again, so we went for it and purchased fast train tickets for $200 bucks for the four of us. It was pretty neat as the modern train speeded down the track! When we got there, it was about 10 degrees Celsius and pouring rain and so we elected to hire a cab to tour us around the city. The first disappointing information we received from our taxi driver was that we were not in city center of Tokyo and it was still another hour away from the train station. However, we were fortunate that it was cherry blossom season and the city was bursting with colorful blossoms everywhere. The driver was a really good guy, and spoke enough English to tour us around. The city was very clean and the people all seemed to be we dressed. Everyone had an umbrella and hustled across the busy streets. He drove us around the Japanese Palace, the legislation Buildings and through a nice temple park.  It was difficult to appreciate the sites looking out of a window of a cab in the pouring rain, and before we knew it, he dropped us off at the train station and we were back on the speeding train to the Tokyo airport. That was the fastest $250 bucks I ever spent, but the experience was really neat and we were glad we did it. We all agreed, that Japan is somewhere we would like to return to because it is so different and provides a real cultural experience. The Japanese people are very unique and interesting. Hopefully, one day, we will get back.
Off to Hawaii!

Vietnam

March 20th

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam on March 20th. When we arrived at our hotel, we were pleasantly surprised with our newly renovated accommodations at the IPeace Hotel in a downtown district called Pham Hgu Lao. The hotel was a cool skinny eight-story building that stood alone in the middle of a narrow touristy street. It was mid-day and very hot and we were tired from our early morning travel from Thailand, so we just cranked on the air conditioning, climbed into our beds and watched TV all day, until we fell asleep for the night. The next day, we were excited to rendezvous with our friends from Canada, Jan Wood and Chris Brown. They had traveled Cambodia and came across the border to meet us in Ho Chi Minh. They arrived by bus early afternoon and we spent the remainder of the day swapping travel stories and drinking beer.

On day three, morning came early and we all jumped a tour bus to visit the Mekong Delta. The Delta is where the great Mekong River expands and ends and acts as an important area for the Vietnamese to grow and transport rice. We took a tour boat to the Tan Thauch natural canal in Ben Tre and floated down a cool narrow canal with a pole-powered boat manned by an older Vietnamese lady. Next, we were taken to an area where we sat and tasted local tea mixed with local Vietnamese bee honey and some fresh lime. It was very good, and Drew gulped down three or four cups with in a couple of minutes. Then they brought out the good stuff and we had a small spoonful taste of Royal Bee Jelly. None of us had ever tasted it before, so we were a bit reluctant, but it was pretty good. Then we were moved to another area and we were served a variety of locally grown fruits, such as Dragon Fruit and Jackfruit. While we ate, we were entertained by three very talented local Vietnamese ladies who sang old traditional songs, accompanied by three musicians that had a guitar, a banjo looking thingy, and a weird keyboard. Interestingly, the singers soloed their own traditional song and each one was uniquely different from the other, but all very good. Next stop was an outside Coconut candy factory and we watched the entire process of the making of the taffy like candy.  At the end of the production line, we got to taste some fresh warm candy followed by a candy counter where at that point, you were almost obligated to buy. Then the adults on the tour were herded to a bar for a sample of local rice and/or banana wine. It was really odd and strong tasting, and ended up served as a good warm up for the next served sample of local hooch. This strange looking booze was in a normal 40 once clear bottle, but inside was this cloudy golden liquid that was full of booze-embalmed creatures, like cobra snakes, black scorpions and a whole bunch of other smaller disgusting bugs and stuff. It looked awful and indeed it did not disappoint and tasted awful. Still, all the men sucked it up and pretended it was good.

On our fourth day in Hanoi, went to the highly recommended Remnant War Museum, were we learned a lot about the history of the country of Vietnam and about the Vietnam War, that is actually called the American War in Vietnam. Vietnam’s troubled history began along time ago with Chinese rule that lasted over a thousand years and ended with a Chinese defeat 938AD. Over the course of the next 500 years, the Vietnamese people were somewhat independent, but constantly defending further attacks from China and new attacks from the then powerful Mongolians. Then in 1859 the French invaded Vietnam, (known then as Indochina) and the result was, the King was forced to sign a 70 year colonial agreement with the French in 1883. In 1945, Vietnam claimed independence, but the French were not ready to leave, so they extended their colonial rule, which consequently led to war. After years of fighting, the French were defeated and driven out of Vietnam in 1954. In 1955, the country then split in two; the communist North and capitalist South Vietnam. By this time, the Americans were heavily involved and they stepped up their involvement and support of the democratic South Vietnam. War became eminent when South Vietnam president Ngo Dimh Diem violated the Geneva agreement by not calling a democratic election. The result was the eruption of civil war in 1965. The following next ten years would be a hellish war that saw the Americans, drop twice as many bombs as they did in WW2. The museum was well displayed with thousands of war artifacts and graphic information. The external museum had actual war machines used in the Vietnam War, such as US tanks, aircraft and helicopters. Throughout the site, Vietnamese was vets and deformed victims sold books and DVD’s about the war. Inside the museum, we read the details about the spraying of Agent Orange. It was designed to clear and kill the dense jungle to make the enemy more visible for the Americans. Allegedly, it wasn’t until years later that it was discovered that the chemical also caused cancer in those exposed and later birth defect in the children. Apparently, compensation for this atrocity is still in the international courts today. The War ended in 1975 with the North invading and overtaking Saigon with a dramatic tank crashing of the Imperial Palace gates in Saigon. We visited the palace and saw the two original leading tanks that are on display in front of the palace that act as a symbol and reminder of the war and the North’s victory. Later that year, the re-united communist country renamed Saigon, Ho Chi Minh. Today, the country remains unified under the rule of the Communist Party.  Anyway, no matter how accurate my interpretation is, the museum was remarkable and informative from a Vietnamese perspective.  At the end of the visit, Drew purchased authentic dog tags and a cigarette lighter at the gift shop once belonging to a fallen American soldier. I almost asked him not to purchase them, but then I thought, at least they are real souvenir, and not just more tourist junk. And I hope that the artifacts will remind him of Vietnam and the tragedy of the American War. Right now, from Drew’s perspective, he just wanted the Zippo lighter and the fire damaged dog tags!

The next day we continued our historical war tour by visiting the Cuchi Tunnels located just 60km northwest of Saigon. These famous 300-kilometer long, three level underground tunnels were actively used by the Viet Cong during the French and American wars. The tunnels were designed and constructed to hide from the enemy. In the mid 1960’s, they were expanded and further utilized to shelter them from the constant American artillery bombings. We learned that the Vietcong were not necessarily Communists from North Vietnam, but were often common civilians simply fighting against the Americans occupation. The Vietcong were hard to identify because, they were farmers and commoners by day and un-uniformed gorillas by night. They obviously did not have the sophistication or might of the US, so they used any means possible to fight back and survive. Some of the more interesting gorilla tactics used included, the retrieval and salvage of undetonated American bombs. They would drag them underground to their make shift factory and hand saw the bombs in half to extract the gunpowder to make landmines. They also made several different types of nasty homemade jungle traps made out of sharpened bamboo. The unsuspecting victims would step on and fall into the hidden trap that was full of jagged bamboo sticks causing severe injury or death. The tour guide demonstrated several different types of these clever traps. One of our favorites was the swinging door trap that was rigged to the inside hut door. When the door was swung open from the outside, a multiple sharpened bamboo stick trap would swing down and skew the unsuspecting intruder. To ensure effectiveness, the spikes were double hinged, so that if the intruder tried to grab the top of the frame to stop its swing, the bottom portion would continue to swing forward at an even higher velocity and finish the job. Brilliant! Another clever trap was called the souvenir trap, which was made out of scrap bombshell metal, shaped into a hollow cylinder riddled with barbed fish hooks. It was then buried just beneath the surface and camouflaged with leaves and dirt. When the unsuspecting enemy stepped on it, their leg would sink into the trap and the hooks would penetrate and lodge in their leg. It was nicknamed the souvenir trap because it was portable and could not be removed in the field, so soldiers would be taken to the hospital for its surgical removal, hence leaving them with a souvenir.  Next, Drew was chosen to demonstrate a descending climb into a tiny 22-inch tunnel entrance. He barely could get down there and it made you realize how small the Vietnamese people really are, and subsequently how safe they were in these underground tunnels. Since the end of the war, the underground tunnels have been enlarged for visiting fat tourist experience. I gotta tell ya, it still isn’t very easy! However, we struggled through and we were able to see the amazing fully functional facility, complete with kitchen, weapon room, hospital room and even a library. We were shown how the smoke from the kitchen was the diverted. Several long ventilation pipes run hundred of meters away from the stove, and exhaust in the jungle or under a rock pile, so the enemy could not easily find them. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese army was a formidable army that was the direct uniformed opponent of South Vietnam and the American armies. These northern guys were well-trained military soldiers with heavily supplied arms from their Russians allies. They fought their battles conventionally and independent of the Vietcong, but it was well known that they often worked together, since they both shared the same common goal! In conclusion, by the end of the war in 1975, three million Vietnamese were dead, including two million civilians, and the Americans casualty list was over 58,000 soldiers. The estimated cost of the Vietnam War was a whopping 639 Billion US dollars that was largely due to the extensive American bombing campaigns.

Then it was back to the fun. We were taken to a near by firing range, where tourists could choose from a variety of military guns and shoot war them. There were some pistols you could shoot, but most people selected the AK47, M16, or the 30 or 60 caliber machine guns. I thought about shooting the big honkin 60 caliber (Rambo) machine gun, but it was a little too expensive at 10 bucks around, so I went one step down and chose the 30 caliber

machine gun instead. Lyane and the kids were not supposed to accompany me to the shooting range, but the soldier at the gate didn’t care and allowed them in anyway. In retrospect, it was serious but kind of funny too, to see the three of them standing no more than five feet away from me, anticipating the shots with their cameras ready and in hand. I was supplied ear protection, but they were not and when I squeezed the trigger and blasted 10 rapid fire shots without pause, the three of them stood there shocked, stunned and temporarily deaf! I guess in all the excitement, I didn’t consider the gun’s ring and as I said, the soldier dude didn’t care and may have even enjoyed it.

After returning to Saigon, it was so hot, we all agreed it was time to retreat to the coastal beaches, so we jumped a bus and headed north to the beaches.  Other than the extreme heat, we relly liked Saigon. We will forever remember it as a big friendly city of 11 million people. Not once did sense danger and we never experience any conflict with the humble citizens of Saigon. They are truly nice people. Thank you to the great staff at the IPeace Hotel and to the helpful restaurant guy named Hi. Even the desperate street merchants were nice, especially the persistent older man that followed Jessica for five days and finally sold her a pink hammock for $2.50. But the ever lasting memory of the city will be the tens of thousands of motorbikes buzzing down the streets with multiple passengers or oversized cargo on them, like lumber, propane tanks, pipe, bottles, or bulky vegetables bags. W will never forget the day we saw these two young guys doubling on a motorbike, dangerously weaving in and out of traffic with a six-foot high pane of glass wedged between them. Now that was dangerous!

Later that day, we arrived at a touristy beach called Mui Ne Beach. We found a nice little place right on the beach with a second story balcony over looking the China Sea. Our travel buds, Chris and Jan got a really cool little beachfront cottage hanging right over the sea and was less than 200 feet from ours.  Mui Ne beach is world reknowed for it’s perfect thermal winds that attracts thousands of Kite- surfers every year from all over the world. We talked to this old guy from Hawaii and he said he was one of the pioneers of Kite-surfing and he proclaimed that Mui Ne is the best place in the world. It is quite a sight to see. The surfing area is probably no longer that three kilometers long and there is literally hundreds of kite-surfers everyday sharing this quaint phenomenal beach. From a distance, they look dangerously close together, but when you get closer, you see their limited space and their level of skill. Drew and Jessica were excited to try it, but were disappointed when they discovered that lessons were $45 an hour with a minimum of five hours of dry land training before attempting a solo surf. They both thought you could just harness up and sore with the wind and waves, but obviously, it wasn’t quite so easy. Our first night, we all got together on Jan and Chris’s ocean front deck and watched thousands of lights appeared in the distance, and we all thought it must be an island or peninsula. The next morning we were told that lights was not land but hundreds of night fishing boats, fishing for squid. The distant lights were the powerful beam lights the boats point in the water to attract the squid. There were so many boats one has to wonder how there can possibly be enough quid in the sea to sustain that large of a catch every night! Amazing. Early the next morning, I watched a different style of fishing. At sunrise, hundreds of little round boats called, “Tumes” float off the shore to net fish. They are cool little single manned vessels that look like a giant coconut shell that are cut in half. The single paddle of the circular boat is harnessed to the side and the fisherman propels the boat with a strange tight circular stirring motion. Remarkably, the boat moves along pretty well. I have never seen anything like it. They then throw light fishing net into the water and attempt to catch small fish. It’s a though way to make a living and I saw several fisherman bring in their nets many times empty. I talked to one local girl fisherman who had been out for about four hours and she had about thirty little finger size fish and a dozen or so tiny crabs that she was going to feed her family breakfast with. I don’t know how many were in her family, but I could see her grand parents sitting on the steps of her hut waiting for her return. Every meal they eat is served with rice, so I guess the amount of catch determines how much rice has to be cooked. I didn’t talk to her long because her English was very limited and my Vietnamese was worse. I was also getting embarrassed with the situation because she was about twenty years old, fishing in her bra and panties! She didn’t care.

On our third day in Mui Ne Beach, we took a half-day tour with a local driver and jeep while Chris and Jan followed behind us on their rented motorbike. The first stop was an incredible fishing port that docks thousands of beautifully colored fishing boats. This impressive port was one of the most picturesque sites on our entire trip. Next stop, we traveled to Vietnam’s famous white sand dunes. It was really cool isolated area that was like being in the desolate desert of Saudi Arabia!

The kids were excited to rent dune sliders, (like a crazy carpet) and slide down the steep hilly white sand, but were quickly disappointed when it really didn’t work very well. The hill was steep, but the resistance of the sand slowed them down to the point of a crawl.  After a few attempts we left in a hurry, because it was extremely hot and the high winds were peppering us with fine sand. Next stop was the nearby contrasting red sand dunes that were as impressive as the whites. It was so hot that Drew, Jan and Chris decided to go and stay in the shade while Lyane, Jessica and I trekked up the heavy hot sand. We were greeted at the foot of the dunes by about a dozen of the local kids, who offered us their guide services and the rental of their sand sliders. We asked them how much it would costs, but they ignored us, and we all joyfully walked up the hot sand dunes, holding hands, laughing and singing with them. When we got to the top of the red dune, the local kids prepared the flat sled by loaded up the surface with wet sand and then sitting Jessica on top. The weight of the wet sand on the carpet was the trick and Jessica went speeding down the steep red dune laughing and screaming all the way down.  The local kids insisted that Lyane and I to try it, but we repeatedly refused and we headed back for the jeep with the local kids in tow. Again, on the way back, the kids were happy and playful, but when we got back to the jeep the business side of the kids reared its ugly head. After much discussion and argument, we gave them six or seven bucks for Jessica’s single slide, and it still wasn’t enough. As we drove off, we could still hear them yelling and screaming at us for more money. Bad little buggers! Lastly, we drove to this really weird shallow stream and trekked along it for about two kilometer. At first it seemed a bit bogus, but after a few hundred meters in, it was pretty cool. The rock and sand formations were very unique and we took several pictures of the terrain. At the end of the stream was an unimpressive waterfall that we played around in for about five minutes and then we headed back. It sure was an excellent and really cheap tour, only costing us twenty dollars each for the whole day. It’s no wonder you see so many young people traveling Asian countries like Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. It is so cheap, they can virtually live off 8 to 10 bucks a day in comparison to Europe where 8 bucks wouldn’t even get you a hamburger! Anyway, after we returned to our hotel and we all went swimming in the ocean right in front and happily got tossed around by the five foot waves. It’s really scary to do with your kids, but they were very confident in the water and enjoyed the wave challenge immensely. That evening was Earth Day, so we went over to Jan and Chris’s beach front to celebrate and watch the Vietnam coast house lights turn off. Jan was particularily excited when the turn off the lights hour struck, but was disappointed when not one single light (except ours) turned off! It was kinda funny, but sad as well, so we all had a half-hearted laugh about it and celebrated anyway.

The following morning, we rented a SUV and driver and drove about four hours north up the coast to the touristy town Nha Trang. In Vietnam, it is recommended that when you hire vehicle you hire a local driver too, because the cost is the virtually same, and

because the driving in Vietnam is very dangerous. There were several close calls along the way with semis, buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and lots of people walking, all going in different directions and all jostling for a piece of the two lane highway. It in truth is really indescribable. Fortunately, we arrived in Nha Trang safe and sound and rented one of hundreds of cheap hotel rooms in the area for twelve bucks a night. We dropped our luggage in our rooms and headed for the six-kilometer long beautiful Nha Trang Beach. The waves were an incredible seven feet high that crashed violently into the shore. The water was nice and clean, and the people that were playing in it, were just getting hammered by the massive rolling waves. The kids watched the show and laughed hysterically at the oceans victims and couldn’t wait to try the waves themselves.

We held then off that day and the next day, we all went to the beach and tried our luck in the large crashing waves. The kids and Chris did really well in them, and I did alright, while Jan got a little beat up, and poor Lyane got the worst of it and ended up getting washed up on shore head over heels. It too was kinda funny, but at the same time a little scary. You really have to be careful out there, because there are no lifeguards and waves are deceivingly dangerous. The biggest annoyance on Nha Trang beach was the relentless beach vendors. At first it was kinda neat because they had some unique things, like fresh boiled lobsters, locally made jewelry, post cards, weird fruit, flat bread, and even massage services. But after a while it got old and they were constantly harassing us. They were not rude, but they just didn’t take no for an answer, and repeatedly said in corny broken English: “Cheap price for you”, “Happy hour”, “Just for looking. “ Just for looking alright! If you showed any interest, at all, in an item, they would stay with you and bug for hours!

Our last day in Nha Trang, we took a city tour and did a little shopping in the local market. The market was huge and was well sectioned into categories of local products, such as food, hardware, clothing and souvenirs. Like the street vendors, bartering is a way of life in Vietnam and we found it very confusing to negotiate because the currency exchange rate is $1800 Vietnam Dong to $1.00 Canadian dollar. We finally got smart and went on the Internet, and made a make shift currency conversion chart on a piece of cardboard. Then we were good! The down side of that is sometimes you get a little carried away and end up haggling over pennies. It’s a tough game that you are forced to play, otherwise, they will rip you off ten fold!

Then came the night terror train.  We entrusted the purchase of or first class oven train tickets to Denang, with our sneaky hotel clerk. We arrived at 10pm to Nha Trang station to catch our train. When it arrived, there was much confusion on where to go and we ended up being the last passengers to board. Suddenly, the train staff was frantically yelling at us to hurry up! We followed the clerk’s panicked eyes down the narrow oncoming track and saw another night train speeding down the track right towards us. Chris, Jan, Jessica and Drew were log jammed into the steps of our train while Lyane and I stood desperately outside the train with the train staff yelling at us and pushing us aggressively in the back into the train. The problem was, that our luggage was too heavy for the kids to lift up the stairs of the train, so Chris and Jan had to reach over top of them to help. Honestly, just like a Hollywood movie, we all fell forward on to the floor of the train with our luggage sprawled all around us and the oncoming train whizzed by a second later. We then collected our luggage, (and nerve), and struggled down the narrow hallway to our assigned berth (train bedroom). When we arrived at the room, the door was locked, so we had to find a train clerk to unlock it. He unlocked the door and swung it open, and over his shoulder I could see a bunch of people scrambling around the berth. The train clerk immediately knew what was going on and he harshly chew out the violators and they quickly exited the room. After they left, we realized that these were not the first class accommodations we had paid for and maybe not even second! Inside the birth there was supposed to be four soft beds for the four of us, but instead, there were six congested hard beds with still three people sleeping in two of beds. We had a quick meeting out side the room and realized there was nothing we could do, so we hoisted our oversized luggage into the tiny room and organized it the best we could, but we still ended up sleeping with most of our luggage. Drew and I slept on the top coffin like bunks with no more than six inches of breathing space from the ceiling, and Lyane and Jessica slept in the middle bunks with the majority of the bags. Below them our new roommates consisted of a mother and her baby in one lower bed and a strange lady in the other lower bunk. As the night slowly progressed the strange lady in the lower bunk started waking up and opening the berth room door, making noise and letting in the hallway light. We began to retaliate and close the door from our top bunks and then she would return and angrily bark back at us in Vietnamese. What a long night that was. The morning did come, and we exited the train without incident this time and caught a cab to our next accommodation just outside of Danang called Hoa’s Place. The hostel was recommended for back packers in the Lonely Planet travel guide, so we thought we would give it a try. Upon arrival, the place looked a little substandard, but the little Vietnamese man owner named Hoa greeted us with a welcoming smile and spoke really good English. It sure wasn’t the best room we have ever stayed in, but Hoa was a first class businessman that knew how to take care of his customers. Our room was clean, but small with only a box spring for a mattress to sleep on. There was no night security and our room had only a crappy single pop type lock on it. The upside was that the room only cost $7 dollars a night to rent and in the evening, Mr. Hoa severed a delicious smorg style dinner every night for under, 3 bucks! Hoa also had this giant self-serve cooler of ice cold beer that customers were encouraged to help themselves to on a gracious system. Everything purchased at Hoa’s was on the gracious system and customers were responsible for their own billing by way of a tick sheet. The beer was so cheap at only 45 cents a bottle that you have to assume that Hoa learned many years ago that not too many people would cheat the system. This little operator is an amazing guy who stays very busy in amongst existing and growing stiff competition. He was basically full every night, while most of the larger hotels were operating at about 50% capacity. The beach and ocean was only a couple blocks from Hoa’s Place and it was nice, but not fantastic. The ocean water was shallow with rough choppy waves and the setting wasn’t as appealing as we were accustomed to. The one great thing about the beach was that the local beach merchants were few and far between and predominately only sold traditional items like jellyfish cakes, snails, and this bun like thing that had a half cooked pigeon eggs in the middle. Lyane ate one, but no body else did. At the beach bar, we meet this older American guy who came to Vietnam with the US Army in 1965, and he virtually never went back home. He talked very little about the war or why he never returned home and we never pressed him to elaborate. He was a very interesting intelligent man, married a couple times to Vietnamese women and  who was obviously now an alcoholic who  lives mostly alone. He had been married three times to Vietnamese women and new the language and culture very well. The culture of Vietnam was his favorite subject and he didn’t mind sharing some of it with us. I did ask him why he chose to live most of his life in Vietnam and he replied, simply because the Vietnamese are the nicest people in the world. There is no question that there is some merit to what he says. They truly are very nice people. He was a very interesting dude and I felt fortunate to meet him and I felt I understood more about Vietnam than any other country I had visisted.

The next day, Hoa arranged for a driver (who did not speak a lick of English) to pick us up and take us on a mini local tour. The first stop was a place called, Monkey Mountain, where we took several more pictures of a yet another giant Buddha statue, a Buddhist temple and a bunch of cool statues. Further up Monkey Mountain was an abandoned American airfield and some in active radar equipment. It was very weird and eerie. The city of Danang was a dividing line in the Vietnam War between the north and the south, and therefore there is a lot of war history there. On the way back from Monkey Mountain, we spotted an abandoned military aircraft hangers sitting amongst the major hotel development.  It seemed so strange to see it sitting there still intact while demolition was going on all around it. You would think that the enemy military buildings would be the first be removed, but there they sat! The construction and development going on in the Danang, China Beach area of Vietnam is astounding. They are really throwing up a lot of big hotels and are obviously banking on and expecting a lot of company! The next stop was a centuries old town called Hoi An. Hoi An is the gem of Vietnam with historical architectural influenced by several different cultures who visited and inhabited this little port town. The first to arrive in Hoi An to trade with the Vietnamese were the Chinese and then later the Japanese, and finally the French, that colonialized the area it in 1845. Amazingly, during the Vietnam War, both sides, agreed not to bomb Hoi An and so fortunately it remains as an important historical town and virtually looks as it did it hundred years ago. One of the big tourist attraction in Hoi An, is the 15th century Japanese built covered bridge. The exterior has been preserved and still has beautiful Japanese hand carved wood. The bridge flooring is arched and is also wooden. At each end of the bridge astrological statues guard and symbolizes the year the bridge was started and finished. At the beginning of construction, two dogs stand guard and at the other end, the astrological monkeys symbolize the year of the bridges completion. The town’s other claim to fame is the shopping. There are thousands of retail type shops, including over 500 tailors. These skilled tailors can make custom-made suits for men or women for 50 bucks and up in less than three hours. The town also has several shoemakers who can make any kind of shoe or runner you can imagine. Jessica and Drew were ecstatic when they found out they could design and customize their own knock off brand name shoes. Each of them customized two pairs each, and picked them up complete the very next day. Drew designed and purchased a pair of snakeskin (fake) skate shoes and a second pair of purple and yellow LA Lakers high tops, while Jessica designed her own pink and black Nike high tops with a green swish and selected some funky gladiator strapped shoes. We continued to stroll around the old town for a few hours, constantly warding off street merchants, until we came across these two really cool little old Vietnamese ladies that were selling bananas. They immediately caught our attention with their traditional outfits and their conal hats. They looked like twins or at the very least like sisters, and they both had to be 80 years old or over, and stood no higher than 4 feet tall. We bought some bananas off them and asked if we could have our picture taken with them. Although their English was very limited, they quickly obliged by grabbing Jessica and hanging their long stick, double basket banana carrier on her and stood themselves on each side of her. As I positioned myself to take a good picture of the three of them, the one old lady called out the picture instructions in English, “1,2,3… lovely” It was so cute! They didn’t know much English, but they obviously knew the tourist picture drill.

On our last day at Hoa’s place in Danang, we decided to take a short fifteen walk to an ancient temple site, located right behind him on the mountainside. Good thing we did, because it was amazing. The caves were full of centuries old marble and rock Buddha statues that were hidden away in the mountains crevasses. We explored for a couple of hours and then visited the industrious marble town below. Here, hundreds of craftsmen chisel out massive marble stones into giant fabulous statues all with just a hand chisel, skill saw and a power grinder. Then it was time to return to our place and say goodbye to our travel companions of ten days. Chris and Jan were not in a hurry and decided to stay in Danang a little longer, while the clock was ticking for us to complete the tour visit the north, before we had to leave the country. It was great to travel with them, and the kids really enjoyed their company. Thanks guys!

We landed in Hanoi on April 3rd evening and took a cab to the city centre a long hour away from the airport. It was late at night when we arrived to our downtown hotel and our first impression was a not great. It was dark and rainy and there were a lot of seedy looking people milling around the narrow street. Most noticeably, was the loud and drunk young back packer, who were staying in nearby cheap hostels. Anyway, we braved it out and hurried down the road with our awkward luggage to our hotel. Once again, we were relieved and pleasantly surprised at how nice the hotel was on the inside and how helpful and friendly the staff was. When we entered our room, we were surprised to see that the room had a PC. The kids were happy to see that, but were quickly disappointed because Face Book is prohibited in Vietnam and subsequently, could not be accessed. The next morning, we poked our heads out of our room and onto the streets and we were relieved that the city looked friendlier in the daylight. It didn’t take long to realize that downtown Hanoi is a very busy and congested city. We were really surprised at the number of tourist milling around the core area known as The Old French Quarter. The streets were crammed with shops and mini-markets and the sidewalks were blocked by thousands of parked motorcycles and scooters that forced pedestrians on to the streets of swarming traffic. It is estimated that there are six million people in Hanoi and over two million motorized bikes. Crazy! To add to the confusion and congestion, local people cook right on the sidewalk as well. They cook with these open fire barbeque lie stoves that is heated by an unusual looking charcoal pellet. Then they place these little short stools everywhere in hopes of attracting customers. The amazing part is, it all seems to work in some sort of organized chaos and to be honest, it was kinda fun! In the middle of the city, there is a nice lake (the city’s name Hanoi means city surrounded by a lake) that is really pretty at night, with colorful lanterns and fancy lights all around the lake’s treed perimeter. Just down the street from our hotel was a stunning 17th century French Catholic Church called Saint Joseph. The first morning we walked by it, there seemed to be a lot of activity and Lyane got excited when she realized it was Easter Sunday morning! We ran back to our hotel and got the kids and we attended a French Easter Sunday mass.  Don’t forget that Vietnam was French occupied from the late 1800’s until 1945, so there is still a lot of French influence in Hanoi. When we entered the massive church the Sunday service was in full swing and much to our surprise, it was packed with French (France) people, with a significant Vietnamese minority as well. The priest was Asian, and assumed to be Vietnamese who spokes very good clear French. It was really nostalgic experience!

The next day, we took a three-hour road trip tour to a beautiful rural place called Tam Coc. There we climbed aboard a small rowboat that was rowed ironically by a French speaking elderly Vietnamese women. Lyane was again tickled pink. The old women rowed us up this amazing river system for about an hour, past these incredible odd shaped rocky

mountains and peculiar land masses. In the flat areas of the land, famers were busy at work in their rice fields. It was nice to get out into the country and it was the most beautiful part of Vietnam we had seen. Unfortunately, the euphoria of the tour came to an end when the river system ended into a widened area where there before us was an army of floating boat merchants with more tourist junk to sell. I tell ya, the merchant thing and tourist junk gets really annoying after a while, but you have to always remind yourself that is the way these poor people feed their families. There are few jobs in Vietnam and these merchants put in long days everyday without a day off in hopes of making a little bit of money.

Late that afternoon we returned back to Hanoi and walked through the crowded local market. We had walked through many big city markets before, but this was the first time that we had ever seen barbequed dog for sale! The kids were shocked and totally disgusted by the site of the cooked dogs that were displayed with their tails sticking straight up in the air and their mouths shaped to show their grinning teeth. Eating dog is an ancient Vietnamese practice and is believed to bring good luck to those who eat it. If it is any consolation, the dogs are farmed animals like cows and pigs and they all look the same. So in other words, you can’t go to the market and buy cooked Poodle or barbequed Wiener dog. At least not at the mainstream markets. After the market, we went for dinner and had a variety of meat to eat. Drew had chicken, Lyane had pork and Jessica and I had beef, which sparked a long discussion with the kids about discretionary animal meat consumption. It was an interesting conversation as they both tried to defend the dogs inherent right to just being a pet, all while justifying the slaughter and consumption of chickens, cows and pigs!

After dinner, we had to beetle back to our room because we had to get up early and we took another tour to one Vietnam’s top tourist attractions called Ha Long Bay. For the second day in a row, the bus ride was long and took about three hours. We arrived at a port and boarded a replica turn of the century Vietnamese sailing boat for an over night stay. Aboard the vessel were 16 other tourist and 5 crewmembers. We sailed through several more remarkable odd shaped mountain/island type structures, protruding out of the open sea. We then docked on this island and toured this incredible vast cave that was inhabited by humans over 4,000 years ago. Inside the cave were ancient artifacts that were only discovered by the French in the early 1900’s. Then it was back to the ship. The crew enthusiastically tried to encourage the next scheduled event of jumping in the ocean off the boat. To save the event from total failure, Jessica and Drew volunteered, and they hesitantly and dramatically jump off the side of the boat into the shallow cold water and quickly swam back on board. Night fell and the crew of the ship turned on a bright nightlight at the back of the boat and supplied us with some fishing rods to try and catch squid. We all gave it a try for a while, but soon grew tired of the lack of game. The kids didn’t give up though and kept fishing for hours. Later, they came running up to us in a state of panic and we thought they must have caught the illusive squid, but much to our disappointment, they wanted us to know that the neighboring tour boat had just dumped its ships garbage into the water. We came down to investigate, and sure enough there was garbage everywhere floating on top of the water. There were disgusting tied plastic bag waste, paper and cardboard wrappings, bottles, and raw food waste all floating around boat. It makes you wondered how many of the thousands of tour boats dispose of their garbage this way and how much longer can the ecosystem withstand the waste before it collapses and turns into a giant cesspool. Ironically, days later, I was reading a global tour guide that was reporting on the top ten endangered ecosystems in the world and Hal Long Bay, Vietnam was ranked number seven. Early the next morning all the garbage had disappeared off the waters surface and it was time to go kayaking around the bizarre islands. Drew and I partnered up and Jessica and Lyane teamed up and we followed each other through the islands and we paddled through the interesting floating towns. One town is fairly large and even has a floating school. Then it was back to shore and back on the boneshaker for another three hours back to Hanoi. On the way back, I had an interesting conversation with our tour guide about life in communist Vietnam.

He was about 25 years old with a wife and no children yet, living and supporting his and her parents. He explained that there is no old age pension in communist Vietnam, so it is common practice for the children to support their parents when they are old and can no longer work. He, himself, works two jobs just to make ends meet and he was so tired he could barely stay wake on the bus. I asked him how much sleep he gets and he estimated about four hours a night or less. He angrily spoke out against the corrupt Communist government in Vietnam to me. He told me that the reason he has to work two jobs is because the government does not have a minimum wage control. And because unemployment is very high, private businesses abuse and grossly underpay their employees. The majority of the business owners are rich Vietnamese governmental officials or wealthy Vietnamese citizens who made their money outside of Vietnam and have returned to invest and capitalize on the situation. This condition has created an extreme imbalance of rich and poor in the country and he believes that a revolution is eminent. The population of Vietnam is approximately 90 million about 70% of that are very poor rice farmers. The government does not involve it self with the regulation of rice production and the vitality of the famers. The farms are left to their own survival tactics and sell harvested rice for what ever they can get that day to the local markets and various big businesses. Farmers work very hard and their life expectancy is very short only averaging 65 years of age. You can see then young and old in the rice fields that grow right up to the edge of the highway, bent over weeding and fertilizing their rice fields from early morning until dusk.  Traps are set in the rice fields to capture snakes and rats and are subsequently served for dinner that night. He also explained that, Vietnam is very rich in oil and coal, and is the government’s main source of revenue. The majority of the government’s expenditure goes to maintaining the army. He does support this spending because he believes it is necessary because of the growing tension with neighboring Chinese.  Apparently, the government does hold elections every four years, but according to him, no one votes because it is fixed anyway. And to that point, it is illegal for the people of Vietnam to have any form of demonstration or protest. Individual public complaining about the government is dangerous and you will be thrown in prison.

I really did sympathize with this guy, and I think that most of what he told me was true. When the tour came to an end, we gave each other an emotional manly hug and I wished him good luck. What I should have wished him was a miracle! He was certainly not the only one that we met that didn’t have the same story. The employees at our hotel slept on the floor together on a dirty old mattress in the middle of the hallway. Taxi drivers tell of long hours with no days off. Street vendors try and sell piddly little items like used books and three dollar sunglasses with out a sale for days on end.

In conclusion, we really did enjoy Vietnam and we all learned much about it. We will miss the many really nice people we met there, and we hope and pray that things do get better for them all some day soon. Goodbye Vietnam. Hong Kong next!

Thailand

As we began decent into Pucket, we could see the beauty of the region, with clear blue water and thousands of beautiful odd shaped Islands. We then took an hour cab ride to our apartment, located just a half a kilometer from the world famous Patong beach. Our apartment was outstanding and had a beautiful swimming pool right outside our door with the ocean just on the other side of the road. The apartment was a large two bedroom with kitchen and a large deck. We unpacked our bags and walked down the hill to the 5 kilometer long Patong beach, where there was a bee hive of activity with thousands of people basking in the sun. The kids immediately ran for the wavy warm ocean water and didn’t come out for a good two of hours. Then, we continued up the beach to the Patong coastal shopping area. The shopping district is massive with thousands of tourist shops, with knock off purses, T- shirts, ornaments, jewelry and anything else you can think of. We finally made our way down the famous Bang La Street, known for it’s party central reputation. It certainly did not disappoint, as there were bars everywhere with lots of action. Some big bars hire local Thai girls or in some instances Boygirl to entice customers to come in by dressing them in short skirts, while they danced like Go Go Girls on a raised platforms with the music blaring out. Other bars use the live music attraction, while others sell you on the street with the old two for one coupon. It’s really crazy! While we were in awe in our surroundings, all of a sudden, these young Thai guys surrounded us and began placing Iguanas all over us and demanded 5 bucks for a picture and their efforts. Drew and Jessica had reptiles all over them and welcomed the picture offer, so we negotiated a better price for the session. Our next unexpected encounter was a group of about a dozen shehes or boygirl. Shehe(s) are young male prostitutes, that look and dress like female prostitutes. Genetically, Thai people, males and females, are usually small with fine features and virtually look the same. Apparently, Thai males don’t have the predominant Adams apple other races do, and with long hair and occasionally a boob job, it is practically impossible to tell the difference between male and female prostitutes. A guy told me that you can tell their gender by looking at their three middle fingers. Apparently, women’s two fingers beside their middle finger are equal in length, while a male’s are unequal. He said, if that is not good enough for ya, you may have resort to the old absolute crouch check. Jessica was particularly interested in the shehes, and claimed to know which was which. Surprisingly, Drew is still too young and couldn’t care less one way or another.  After all the excitement, we returned back to apartment and realized our little walk turned into a seven-hour adventure and it was already 2am!

The next day, we got up late and took a swim in our most excellent swimming pool and then we went back downtown for more bizarre action. Unfortunately, we got sidetracked and sucked in to a time-share presentation. The hook was a scratch and win card. We humored the aggressive sellers by scratching a card and low and behold we were one of few who won a guaranteed major prizes. All we had to do, it attend their presentation for an hour and collect one of our major prizes, which was guaranteed to be either a Panasonic laptop or video camera, $5000US cash, or one of two all inclusive holidays. We knew it was more probably a scam, but the kids wanted to collect the electronic prize, so we agreed to go. The company told us it would only take an hour, but it turned into three hours and of course we ended up winning the trip, which was a vacation back to Thailand with the same timeshare company. All you have to do is pay is your airfare back to Thailand and book no sooner than four months from the date of prize. Brutal scam! Lyane and I were mad and the kids were disappointed. It was a huge waste of time, but I think the kids learned something valuable from it. After we got out of there, we shopped around some more and the kids were happy when they got temporary tattoos. After dark it was time to head back to our apartment and Drew waved down the coolest Tuk Tuk (small taxi like vehicle) he could spot. It had great yellow paint, ground effects lights, fancy interior lights in the cab and the whole nine yards. It was a fun ride back and it was great to ride home in style.

Day three, we hired a brand new 10 passenger van complete with driver and tour guide to tour us around the island for a measly $30 bucks Canadian. The first stop was weird, because we visited this baby elephant that was just living on this busy street with his trainer. He was a really cool little guy who performed tricks for us, such as playing the harmonica, sitting and smiling while posing for pictures, and his best trick, snatching money out of our hands with his trunk. That was good entertainment for 100 Thai Baht or $3.25 Canadian dollars. Our next stop, and main objective was to visit the Phuket zoo, and get our picture taken with the tiger.When we arrived at the zoo, we were told that the monkey show was about to begin and it was not to be missed, so we rushed to the performance. The monkeys performed a routine monkey like show that we have all seen before, but all the same, we never seem to never get tired of. The cool part was, after the show the trainers brought the monkeys back out, and people could hold the monkeys and have their picture taken. The kids held a tiny baby monkey in their arms, while an adult monkey stood on their heads posing for pictures.  Right outside the monkey stage was a huge old Orangutan that people could get your picture taken with. It was awesome, but concerning because there was little supervision and you could pretty much do what ever you wanted to the poor old ape. We were one of the kinder customers and we held his human like hand and gently scratched his balding head. He seemed to appreciate the affection, as it was probably a nice change from all the little bratty kids. It was a really cool, but sad experience because when you where holding his hand and looked in his eyes, you could feel the connection and his sense of despair. Man, they are so human like! We then moved on to the crocodile show where the human performers were the attraction, as they harassed giant docile crocodiles into snapping at them. One extremely fit croc performer actually picked up a really big crocodiles and carried him around the stage for all to see. Next, we headed for the tiger sanctuary to get our pictures taken with the large cat. When we arrived, we were surprised to see the tiger was not caged, but instead loosely chained to a flat shaded platform. The first trainer we saw was the famous one-armed guy that appeared with the same tiger on one of our favorite television show, The Amazing Race. The staff was great and took multiple photos of us all with the tiger. I have to confess that the event seemed very dangerous! After all, putting your arm around a giant strange tiger, while a one-arm trainer pokes it in the chest, so it roars for the pictures, does have its risk! What a rush though! You could feel the big roar come from within the tiger and it was hard to stay cool. After the big cat photos, we got to hold and bottle feed the female tiger’s three month old kitten. That was an amazing experience for us all, as the kitten sucked on the human like oversized baby bottle. Then the kitten started getting a little too playful and started play biting and scratching Drew. We could all see that Drew was getting scratched up and getting bit scared, but the trainers just stood there and let it happen. I had to actually grab one of the staff to get the baby cat off Drew. Fortunately, the wounds inflicted by the kitten did not break his skin, but Drew he was superficially all scratched up. Next, I got to hold the little bugger and he bit me in the thigh. Fortunately, I had jeans on and again the bit did not break skin. I couldn’t believe it! The staff was so impartial to it all. After the zoo, we stopped at a cashew factory where we saw and learned about cashew growing and production. Cashews nuts grow in a large tree that produces a fruit looking thing with a hard covered tasty cashew hanging from it. The hard outer shell is like an acorn, which is then opened one nut at a time by a factory worker with a manual punch machine. Then the exposed nut goes to the processing department were it is washed, dried and seasoned. Next, they move along conveyor belt to a large viewable glass room, where they are hand packaged by several nutty employees. The finished product is then placed on the store shelf located twenty feet away and ready to be sold. Now that’s fresh! Cashews are one of my many weaknesses and we ended up buying quite a few different flavored types. Like a child, that night, I ate them until I was sick. Next stop, was a pearl factory and we learned about all about pearls and oysters. The pearl store we visited claimed to have the largest pearl in the world. I can’t remember how big it was, but it was about the size of a BC cherry.  Our next stop, was the Koh Si Re Gypsy village where we strolled down a stinky fish market. I guess the idea of this stop, is to get tourist to buy more junk to support the Gypsies. Mostly, they sold seashell stuff and more tourist ornaments. We decided to pass on the market tour and instead take a walk through the Gypsy village that was hidden behind their tourist shacks. There was saw the real gypsies and we were shocked to see just how poor they really were. It was definitely an eye opener for the kids, and a reminder to us as well just how lucky we really are. On the ocean side of the market there was a port and several hundred of the unique Thai long boats buzz around the bay. The boats are long skinny motorized vessels that have a long driveshaft that extend some fifteen feet into the water behind the boat and back to the propeller. The driver can pitch the propeller up and bring it right out of the water or down he can pitch it down deeper speed. Our last stop of the tour was at a famous sunset place called Cape Phromthep. Every evening, thousands of people gather to watch the amazing Thai sunset. It was great evening and a fantastic sunset.

Our last day in Phuket, we took a three island boat tour to Phi Phi, Khai Isand and Maya Bay. The first stop was Khai Island, where we were transported to shore by the traditional long shaft Thai boats, and lead to a small ocean bay to snorkel. We all thought it was going to be a substandard expedition, but when we got there, we were pleasantly surprised! The water was crystal clear and there were thousands of tropical fish frenzying over the bread the tourist were feeding them. It was unbelievable! I have never seen so many colorful tropical fish in one place. The kids saw that and they were the first ones in the water from our group and Lyane and I were not too far behind. It was a great family experience and together we saw a variety of amazing fish, including a big ugly pink eel hiding in the rocks that ended up swimming right through my legs! Drew screamed underwater, because he thought the eel was going to bite me! Fortunately, I didn’t see it happening, but I knew there was trouble, so I just anxiously propelled myself the hell out of there. It sure scared the hell out of me. The next stop and the highlight of the excursion, was the absolutely beautiful Phi Phi Island. That was, without question the most beautiful place that we have seen on our trip to date. The island itself was relatively small, but the beach is beautiful complete with incredible towering cliffs guarding it on either side. The beach sand was your typical perfect white powder that you would expect to find in any paradise and the water was crystal clear to match. Passengers on the tour were given the option of relaxing on the beach, or staying in the bay and snorkeling. The split was about half and half, but of course, having children, snorkeling was the unanimous choice.  The kids were the only ones that didn’t wear a life jacket, so they were easily the first ones in the water again. I stayed back for a few minutes to video them in the incredible paradise. Lyane and I then put on our life jackets and paddled long the surface of the water, while Jessica and Drew dove down to the ocean floor about 20ft to touch the yawning giant clams. The crazy buggers would stick their hand in the clam’s mouth and trickle it’s senses until it would slam its mouth shut. The kids are so brave and skilled in the water that Lyane and I can’t really do much but watch and hope they don’t get hurt…..or worse!!! Anyway, they survived and together we saw a large school of spectacular parrotfish and this weird needle nose fish that looked like an arrow. The kids also saw a big yellow angle fish swim right by them. Then it was back on the boat to our last destination, Maya Bay. There, was a cool little village that had tons more tourist shops with the same old junk we had seen so many times before, so we instead opted not to go and we again toured the nearby local village and their people. Next the boat sailed by a place called Viking Island, where thousands of Swallow nests reside and are retrieved by local people. The men risk their lives by scaling up the step cliffs on shaky homemade bamboo ladders and scaffolding. Their reward is the bird saliva made bird nests that sells for $4000 US dollars a Kilogram to the local restaurants, who in turn make Bird Nest Soup and sell it for between $25 to $40 a bowl.

The next day we left for the nice northern city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. We got settled in our room, and went downtown to the Saturday night market. The atmosphere of the city was very pleasant and much quieter than Phuket. The next day we hired a tour company to take us to the famous Golden Triangle area. The triangle is a geographical area that borders Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (or Burma). The Mekong River splits into a Y and acts as a natural border for Thailand and Burma, while the main part of the river separated Thailand and Laos. This area became very famous in the 60’s and 70’s when opium evolved as a very popular illegal drug and was know as black gold. More on opium later. Our first stop was the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp where we first met and feed the elephants sugarcane. Next they paraded down to the water and we watched them get washed by their trainer in the river. It was rather entertaining to watch, especially when the elephants all strayed their trainers with water from their trunk. Then we were ushered to a stage area, where the elephants and the trainers re-enacted the Thai logging industry, that was no longer exists since 1972. The Elephants played a key role in the industry and their primary function was to drag heavy cut logs from the forest and stack them as well. It was pretty cool to observer their brute strength and amazing intelligence. Unfortunately, since 1972, most Thai elephants are unemployed and are only tourist attractions. It’s interesting because elephant training is a life long commitment, and the trainer and elephant are practically inseparatable, so obviously the training method has changed from laboring to performing. The last performance of the day was elephant picture painting and surprisingly, they could really paint! Only two of dozen elephants painted and their paintings sold for 20 bucks apiece before we could even enquire. Then it was time for the ninety-minute elephant ride. The trainer steers the elephant by sitting on the elephant’s neck and head and then picks passengers up at this high loading station. The elephant is steadied and two additional passengers are mounted in a double wooden bench saddle right behind the trainer. We then trekked through the jungle and down the river on the gentle giant and then returned back to camp for departure to our next destination the ancient Chiang Dao Caves. More than 500 years ago, these caves in northern Thailand were inhabited by Burmians tribal people who built beautiful this beautiful temple and worship area that you can only imagine or see in movies. The details and the architecture were stunning and you had to wonder how in the world they were able to create this magnificent temple deep inside this cave. Many times the answer to these ancient questions is usually the same…….”they had time!“ Then we traveled further north to bed down at a town called Thaton. The hotel was the nicest in town and we realized that the tour package we purchased, was a little bit higher class than we were used to. That evening from our hotel room’s deck, were watched several young people partying in the river right in front of us in inner tubes, while ancient temples illuminated above them as night fell.

The next day it was an early start and a short drive to Mae Salong to visit the Padong “long neck” tribe amongst other tribes. After about 50 kilometers, we turned off the main highway and started down a rough gravel road until we arrived at the village. When we arrived, we were all shocked at how these tribes live. They were the farthest removed people from society, we had ever seen. They are actually tribes from Burma that had walked across the border to Thailand in order to immigrate.  The government actually allows them to live into their country by compounding  them for 2 years into  their society by assimilating them. The Padong Karen tribes  are known as the long neck people because the women stretch their necks by wearing brass metal rings around their necks. They start wearing them very young and add new rings every year to maximize the neck stretch. At 28 years old a human is fully grown and so therefore, no more rings are added after that. This is not tourist gimmick!  The Padong people are still the same in tradition and culture as they were 500 years ago. They were very nice people and we took several photos of them with us. We also bought handmade Chinese Silk scarves and a teak wood carving from them. Teak trees are native to northern Thailand and The Padong people have capitalized on its popularity. Two females at separate times played guitar and sang a song. Both were extremely good and we recorded both performances that we will cherish forever. As I said, the tribe is made up of Burmese decent people, but within the community, there were actually four very different tribes with unique culture and language, all living in the same small village and managed by the same leader. The most dominant and recognizable tribe was the long neck Padong.  Another unnamed tribe has gapping holes in their ear lobes and another had funny looking hats almost like a Shriner’s hat and weird red colored teeth. The forth tribe was not insight. Because we were the only tourists in the village, it was a weird and sad emotion, like when you leave a loved one in the hospital. You know they are going to be OK, but yet you feel you shouldn’t leave. They seemed happy enough and they were very nice, but they were obviously poor and were very much alone and isolated.  Anyway, our next stop was in the town of Mae Song that has the reputation as growing best green tea in the world. We sat down at this little counter and this nice Thai lady came out and prepared our tea from scratch. We drank three types of tea, Green, Jasmine and Ginsing. As a non-tea drinker, I was impartial to the best tea in the world claim, but Lyane said it was and so, it must be. She was so impressed that she purchased a whole bunch of different kinds. When we get back home, we will have to have a tea party.

Chiang Saen is an ancient temple where one of the traditions the kids did, was to place gold fleck on the Buddha statue for good luck. They placed their gold square in a unique area of the statue and hope to return someday to see is it is still there. We learned that a Stoupa is an ancient Cambodian spiraled temple adopted by the Thais that populates most northern Thailand. Over the last 500 years,Chiang Saen city has been completely abandoned twice and re-built three times. Thailand was ruled by Kings, pre 1800’s, and for some superstitious reason the city was either re-vitalized or abandoned. Some interesting trivial facts about Thailand are that, it was never colonialized by Europeans or anyone else. Some say it was because the country acted as a buffer or border for other colonialized countries ruled by different lands. Others believe it was because the Thai kings were superior in foreign negotiations. The second belief sounds unlikely, but it may have some merit to it, because years later, Thailand was able to keep peaceful relations with both the parties in the first and second world war and avoid being attacked.

Our next stop was the Opium museum. There we learned how to grow, harvest, process and consume opium. I just hope the kids treat this visit as informational and not as a business opportunity! It is believed that Thailand is the only one of the three countries that does not grow poppies in the Golden Triangle. Laos and Myanmar still do. We learned that it takes about 3,000 poppies to produce a KG of opium. We studied the various stages of the poppies life cycle and learned when and how to extract and prepare the drug. It is really not that easy and you have to wonder who the heck figured that out! We even, held the equipment used to smoke the opium. We now know, for best results, to lie down and tuck your feet to your chest, light the opium and start smoking! One of the coolest displays was what was believed to be a Thai Kings paraphernalia, was an ancient pure silver opium set complete with, several silver pipes and bongs, a head rest, and even a silver mat to lie down on. We learned the word “Bong” is a Thai word meaning Bamboo Cylinder pipe. We also learned that the legal medical drug Morphine is derived from opium and so it the famous addictive Heroin. In conclusion, the museum was very interesting was well displayed. I thought the kids really learned something constructive, even though it was about drugs! Next, we hopped in a long boat and speeded across the Mekong River to Donsao, Laos. It wasn’t a very long trip, but at least we can now say that we have been in Laos. We got off the boat and the little Laos kids were there to greet us with their hands. Laos is a socialist country that seems to be very poor, and has only recently opened its borders to foreigners and tourism. There is a lot of construction going on along the Laos border, including a brand new spectacular Chinese owned casino. We were then led to a shopping area where the locals sold everything from moonshine booze and cigarettes, to phormaldehyded bottled cobras and tarantulas to cheap tee shirts and big bladed illegal knives. Of course, Drew wanted to buy a knife, but instead settled for a t-shirt. We then jumped back in the boat and headed for the most northern Thai border town of Mae Sai. It seemed to be a typical Thai town, except that it shares a border with Myanmar. Myanmar is again a socialist country like Laos, but is ruled by the government with an iron fist, and seems more like a dictatorship. We stood at the Thai border and watched with interest, the tight security of Myanmar allowing people in and out of the countries. A little girl Burmese girl about seven years old carrying a month old baby, stuck her hand through the heavy gauged fence and asked Jessica for money. We were all shocked to see this poor little girl, carrying this practically new born baby around like a rag doll, so all we could do is reach into our jeans and give her a little money. We stood and watched her for a while and she eventually made her way back across the Myanmar border. It was truly sad. Tourists can go there for a day, but you have to leave your passport at the Thai border and return before to Thailand before the border closes at 6:30 pm. It is very eerie. Our guide said, he had been there a few times and it is no big deal for tourists, but he said it is very scary and strict for the Burmese citizens. The reason why the countries name was changed from Burma to Myanmar is because the countries leader is superstitious and believes in astronomy and he had a vision to change the name. Spooky eh?  We then got back in the tour van and our historian buff guide, Jack explained some things about the Buddha religion. Buddha was a man born a Hindu prince, 2500 years ago. Buddha started his own beliefs based on the ultimate goal of enlightenment. He was not a god but a man and Buddhism is a way of life, not a religion. He believed you could reach ultimate enlightenment by in eliminating temptation. Monks who worship Buddha follow four main commands of no stealing, no sex, no killing and no alcohol. Monks do not necessarily become monks for life and many Thais become monks only to leave the monkhood to pursue something else. However, once you commit to the monkhood, you must stay in the discipline at least three and a half months and abide by all Buddhist rules. They only can eat twice a day, only eating breakfast and lunch. They obtain their food by getting up early in the morning and collecting food from the general public. The food they collect most be enough for both meals. Monks all have shaved heads and wear long orange cloaks. It’s really weird to see them all walking around and asking for money.

Thailand’s agriculture consists of rice, tobacco, cashew trees, corn and fruit such as mango and tangerine. The entire time spent in the north of Thailand, it was extremely smoky and our guide explained that it was because some Thai farmers but mostly Myanmar continuously burn their crops, spewing smoke for weeks into the air. It’s really bad.  Thai authority is pretty intense and we witnessed several police roadblocks were they were searching vehicles for drugs. Our next stop was another temple in Wat Phrakaew, Chiangrai, were one of the two largest jade Buddha statues reside. The interesting part of this stop was that the jade was purchased from Canada. Our last stop was Wat Rong Khun where this unbelievable newly constructed white and glass temple. Only the pictures can do this place justice, but it is amazing. The guy who designed and financially backed the temple is a famous rich forty-year old Thai artist that has made millions of dollars from his artwork. After the temple the tour was over and we were dropped off at our hotel mid-afternoon. We didn’t have much time left in Chang Rai, because we were to fly to Bangkok really early the next day, so we went for a walk around town and ended up in a traditional Thai message parlor. Jessica and Drew got foot messages and Lyane and I opted for the traditional full body message. All of us really enjoyed it, but mine was particularity exotic. At one point, I was sitting up at the edge bed and she put her legs around my neck, from behind, and messaged my neck with her thighs. It felt good and professional, but still, it was a little embarrassing.

The next morning, we were all limbered up and ready for our flight to big Bangkok. We landed at the massive, Bangkok airport and taxied through the twelve million population city, to our really cool downtown apartment that we had rented online. On the way, we noticed that there were literally thousands of colorful bright cabs of orange, pink, red, blue, green and yellow. We thought the pink ones were the coolest, so we always tried to wave down the pink ones. Cabs in Bangkok are unusually cheap and were often the cheapest mode of transportation for the four of us. We were a bit concerned visiting in Bangkok because political demonstrations were heating up with an opposition party known as The Red Shirts. As usual, the events were all over the news and appeared to be quite dangerous, but after being right in the thick of the demonstrations it was actually quit peaceful and well organized. They did however, really snared up traffic by blocking major street arteries with their 150,000 supporters. As well, some of the cab drivers refused to take fares around the demonstration areas, so we were forced to use other modes of transportation. On night, we hired a really cool pimped out Tuk Tuk and the guy maneuvered his way through miles of traffic and got us home in quick fashion. Drew was really impressed and now wants to buy a Tuk Tuk. For those that don’t know, a Tuk Tuk is like a three- wheeled golf cart with a motorcycle engine. The next day, we attempted to take a taxi to Bangkok’s Grand Palace. We had read online that the city is so large that sometimes taxi drivers get lost. Well this guy was lost. We wanted to take a water taxi to the Palace and he could not speak a bit of English and had no idea where the dock was. We finally got frustrated with him and got out of the cab and ended up walking all the way to the Palace. When we arrived at the Palace’s entrance, the guard told us that it was a holy day and it was not open to the public. He was very sympathetic and gave us alternatives we could do in the area. He waved down this Tuk Tuk dude and negotiated in Thai a price. He then asked us if we wanted to go on a tour with this guy for about four hours for $50 Baht or $3.50 Canadian. We all looked at each other in disbelief and jumped into the machine. This Tuk Tuk took us everywhere and showed us several touristy sites, like the huge 300 ft lying Buddha, the famous white Bubbha and, who can forget the white Buddha. But it was all too good to be true, and he finally came clean and asked us if he could take us to a couple of places that he gets commission from. He was a pretty nice guy and we really didn’t have anything else to do, so we said sure. The first place he took us was a tailor shop. We all entered into the nicely air conditioned shop and for about fifteen minutes, listened to the salesman’s spiel and left. Our driver was extremely appreciative and headed for his next drop. He pulled up to this classy gem factory building, and we were immediately greeted with a cold drink and a friendly smile from a well dressed young women. The first part of the tour, the guide shows you all the different types of precious gems and the gage of hardness, starting with the hardest gem, the diamond all the way down to the softest. Then we watched the gemologists working and grinding stones to make jewelry. Then it was off to the big show room where all the cool jewelry was. We didn’t plan on buying anything, but we were told that the week we were there was the only week in a year that the public can actually buy from the factory. Lyane was particularly interested in the variety of raw sapphire stones and eventually bought some, while Drew was memorized by the pearls and bought some for investment purposes. When we returned to our Tuk Tuk, our driver was again very happy with us, because his commission for bringing us to the factory was a full tank of gas for his machine. The average working Thai does not make much money, so a tank of gas was a pretty big reward.

The next day we got up early and visited the now open to the public Palace. We decided to hire a walking talking guide and he explained some history of Thailand and the history of the palace. The palace was built in 1782, when the city of Bangkok was established under the rule of King Rama 1. The kings lived in the palace until 1946 and since then it is only used for special royal ceremonies and as a tourist attraction. The one square mile palace property is home to hundreds of fantastic dragon statues. We learned that the Thais believed dragons to be fierce and evil, but their ancestors were able tame the dragons and used them as guards to protect their sacred temples and buildings.  One of the most amazing attractions at the palace was the mystical Emerald Buddha. This ancient large jade Buddha was discovered in 1434 in Chiang Rai and was covered in plaster. Someone noticed that the nose of the figure had a green tinge and scrapped more plaster away and discovered the entire statue was made of what they thought was emerald, but was actually jade. Since it’s discovery, the legend of the Emerald Buddha has seen it change locations no less than eight times, including 226 years in Laos from 1552 to1778. Another interesting site was the Buddha mural, recognized by the Guinness Book Of Records as the longest mural in the world. It was great to have a guide for this part, because he was able to translate the entire story of the mural that tells the story of Buddha’s life. The mural stretches down three long walls and depicts humans and super powered monkeys fighting evil demons. According to legend, if it wasn’t for the super powered monkeys, the humans would have conquered by the demon’s and be destroyed. The mural is very detailed, and multiple images are painted with real gold paint. We left the Palace and took a long canal boat and looked at all the old houses that live along the banks. It was pretty cool to see how the people live along the banks of Bangkok. We then went shopping at this giant shopping center called MKB and everyone spent money on more clothing and stuff.

On our last day, Drew decided he “needed to go back to the MBK shopping center to purchase downloaded games on his PSP, but we told him that it was near impossible to return because the Red Shirts has Bangkok crippled with major artery street blockages. He insisted he must return and offered to pay for motorbike transportation there and back from the mall. He and I hired a bike and driver and tripled to the mall. The traffic was very heavy, but the bike taxi, weaved his way through traffic there and back in less than an hour. It was amazing because, the rest of the traffic was literally at a stand still. He loved it and I have to admit, it was pretty fun! The next day, we set our alarm for 5am to fly to Vietnam, but we slept in and just made our flight by seconds. We were over an hour late and the taxi we hired to pick us up was still waiting for us!

Thailand was a great experience and we will always remember its awesome beaches, nice people, cheap shopping, great food, amazing ancient temples, beautiful Phi Phi Island, the petting of the tiger at the zoo and the unique Shemales in Pucket.

Good Bye Thailand

Thailand (2 weeks), Vietnam (3 weeks), Hong Kong (5 days)….

Hi everyone!

We are a bit on a stand still with the pictures and the blog.  Lyane boobooed with the computer and the pictures and now everything is frozen.  We are presently in Hong Kong and yes it is a busy place.  They say it is the busiest place on earth, I would have to agree.  We are leaving tomorrow for Hawaii and looking forward to some R & R before returning HOME.  Our budget  did  not allow us to visit Beijing, South Korea and Japan, and I have to admit we are getting home sick and extremely tired of living out of a suitcase.  It will have to be another time, I guess! We should be home around May 15 and looking forward to seeing everyone.

The McClellands