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12 Search Results for "bomb"

  • Nagasaki Survivor Nagasaki Survivor

    • From: galtravel
    • Description:

      I was thrilled to be able to attend the 65th Anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing in Japan recently.   This gentleman was standing directly in front of the hypocenter monument wearing a survivor button and pausing in the heat.  The emotion of the place and time and seeing survivors was palpable in the park.

    • 4 years ago
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  • Free Derry - Northern Ireland Free Derry - Northern Ireland

    • From: EdSilveira
    • Description:

      I like having my mind changed. I was going to write "I like changing my mind" but that doesn't give enough credit to the arguments made by others. For instance my position on the death penalty has reversed thanks to discussions with my brothers-in-law and nephews. I ask a lot of questions and try to be intellectually honest when answering other's questions (rather than play the devil's advocate). They may be open to changing their minds. It is with that mindset that we head to "Slash City" the belly of the beast known as the "Troubles."

      Thursday - September 24, 2009 - Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

      What I didn't mention about last night was that during our nice dinner, and interesting chats, we ran some dirty clothes through our washer/dryer. We actually read the instruction manual before we started and found that we were pretty close in our understanding of the settings both in France and in Portugal. What we also learned is that the normal drying cycle is in fact over 3 hours long. Combine wash and dry and this baby is running for 4 hours at a clip. Not to be critical but the capacity of the tub is a couple of t-shirts, 2 socks, a pair of shorts, and some female stuff. Enough about laundry; at least until we get to Italy.

      The plan for today is simple. Drive to Derry/Londonderry, do some sightseeing, have lunch, take the Free Derry tour, then drop Rich and Lu at the car rental office in downtown Belfast. Kat and I then head to Trim (35 kms. outside Dublin) while they spend a few more days in Ireland before heading back to the US. To help Rich acclimate to the driving environment he drove and I navigated (which I found was as difficult as driving). We parked at Quayside and began exploring this interesting city.

      At first blush this small walled city looks a little rundown, but that's not a fair assessment. On this gray-cloudy day, nothing is sparkling. There is a lot of construction going on and that hateful graffiti is all over the place. The people we've talked to are friendly and helpful, and the city is generally clean. First let's straighten out this name thing. Originally called Derry, the colonizing English built a wall around the part of the city that was on the hill and called it Londonderry (Problem No. 1). Expressing no view on who is right or wrong, I will refer to it as Derry because there are 6 less letters to write/type and much fewer than both names with a slash.

      Allow me to oversimplify and butcher some history here.

      When Britain partitioned the island into two independent states within the United Kingdom in 1920, the northern 6 of 32 counties chose to stay British; thus Northern Ireland was born (Problem No. 2). One would have expected that Derry, which lies west of the Foyle River, the natural boundary between North and South, would have ended up part of the Irish Free State (the other 26 counties) but it didn't (Problem No.3). After a lot of fighting, the Republic of Ireland was born in 1949, but Derry was not part of it. There has been trouble ever since (but much less in the past decade). With this as the contextual backdrop we began our exploration of the city.

      Walking the top of the walls is exciting and we had it to ourselves. The names of the gates (Bishop's, Magazine, Butcher, Castle, Ferry-Quay, etc.) make it easy to imagine what it might have been like in 1650. As we passed each landmark Kat would read the description from Rick Steeves' book and we were living it. I was disappointed the IRA had bombed out of existence the tall, 105 stepped tower that was dedicated to Governor Walker - it must have provided a spectacular view. Looking to the east is the river and to the west you look down on a congested area of the city called "The Bogside." Populated mostly by Nationalists (people who argue they are oppressed by the British and want one United Ireland) the Bogside was the scene of most of the demonstrations and fighting. Even way up here some of the buildings still show marks of the conflict. Check out the paint bomb marks on the side of this building.

      While Rich and Lu went for lunch, we passed in favor of visiting the Tower museum which focuses on the history of Derry. It is extremely well done, both informative and interesting. The Celts (from somewhere in central Europe) settled in what is now Ireland, and because Rome considered it too cold to bother with (they called it Hibernia - Land of Winter - think hibernation) left it alone. There were tribes and clans and warriors and fighting aplenty. Ultimately the English colonized it (as they were wont to do), and everything was cool until the locals wanted to take back their country. To give it an hour and a quarter does no justice to the museum. But that is all the time we had.  We rushed to meet Rich and Lu and headed down the hill to the Bogside for a scheduled tour. (On the entire trip, this tour and a timed entrance into the Uffizi gallery in Florence were the only two time sensitive activities we had planned. Otherwise we would have stayed longer in the museum.)

      It was a short walk down the hill and from this new perspective the walled city looks imposing, impregnable and ominous. You immediately feel at a disadvantage, a remarkable change in a short 10 minutes. The Free Derry tour is conducted by  Michael Cooper and run out of the Free Derry Museum. Michael is articulate, passionate, and extremely knowledgeable; everything you look for in a tour guide. He is also admittedly biased. Over the next hour we walked the sites while he gave us the counterpoint to what we had seen in the Tower museum, and learned about the Troubles growing up in the US.

      At the beginning of the tour he made three points and asked us to keep them in mind:

      Contrary to the press coverage the conflict had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with economic and nationalistic agendas. It was advantageous to label it a religious war.

      The population (descendants of the English colonists and Protestant) in the upper city kept the population (descendants of the native clans and Catholic) of the lower city economically depressed by not hiring or trading with them.

      The voting system where a homeowner or landlord got one vote each, and renters (most of the people in the lower city) got no votes, maintained an overwhelming political majority for the people in the upper city.

      The situation came to a flash-point on "Bloody Sunday" in 1972, when marching demonstrators were fired upon by the British military in the streets we were now standing upon. Fourteen unarmed people died, including seventeen year old Michael Kelly, whose brother John works the museum. We passed by some of the murals painted on the sides of buildings. They are powerful and poignant. In 1998 the British government began an inquiry into the actions of Bloody Sunday and the report is due to be released in March of 2010 ... only 37 years later. Huh? We had no time to view the museum (I'll explain in a sentence or two) but you can handle the plastic bullets and "non-leathel" trajectories that were used to maintain order. They looked deadly to me and even if not hit directly with one, a ricochet could be debilitating. It is a sobering experience to take this tour and to see the museum, and one not to be missed.

      To the more mundane. We realized soon after lunch that there was no way we could get Rich and Lu to downtown Belfast to pick up their car before the agency closed. Thanks to Lu's quick thinking and possession of a Europe friendly cell phone, we contacted the agency back in the US and arranged for a pickup at Belfast airport. These arrangements were made by Rich who stayed back at the museum while we went on the tour.

      Derry to Belfast was easy, and the roads are well marked. We did see a couple of signs where the London in Londonderry was duct-taped over. We felt the normal pangs of separation as we left our travel-mates at the airport. It is fun traveling with them, always lively, sometimes contentious, but that's all part of being family. We thanked them, did the huggy/kissy thing, wished them well, and headed south to our B&B (our first) which was located right across the street from Trim castle. A longer than expected drive to Trim caused us to arrive after sundown, and our record of not being able to find places in the dark stayed intact. A minor course correction by a helpful local (right down the road ... across from the huge castle ... you can't miss it) did the trick. Felt like a dope.

      Even at night you can tell this is going to be a good experience. We were greeted by name at Highfield House and we felt instantly at home. Geraldine (our hostess who I had communicated with by email) was not there and sorry she had missed us (she was just returning from France that night), but had reserved room 8 for us, a beautiful room on the ground floor with a view of the front gardens and I imagined, the castle.

      We hadn't really eaten all day, so we headed off to La Scala, a very good Italian restaurant a short walk away. Some food, some wine, a pleasant walk with my honey on a beautiful evening and we were happy. Geraldine was home when we got back, and she is bubbly, lively, and a great hostess. I didn't think I'd like all the "friendliness" associated with staying at a B&B but I was prepared to have my mind changed.

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    • 4 years ago
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  • Lunch in the Swiss Alps Lunch in the Swiss Alps

    • From: RSterger26
    • Description:

      This picture was take as we drove from Zurich down to Milan, Italy. This was a great view of the Swiss countryside. The Matterhorn is about 40 miles from this spot in the far distance. We never made it there because the weather changed about 2 hours after I took this shot. We ended up going hiking instead. However, this seemed like the perfect place to have lunch. So we stopped and ate Italian Cheese, German Salamoi, French Bread and Swiss Pastries. How's that for being diplomatic? By the way, it is Swiss law that all residents must have a bomb shelter. Still have no idea why.  

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 231
  • Fish Trap and Bomb Shell... Mu Fish Trap and Bomb Shell... Muang Ngoi, Laos

    • From: floatinglow
    • Description:

      While trekking outiside of Muang Ngoi in northern Laos, we discovered this proportional arrangment of a woven fish trap and an empty cluster bomb shell.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 242
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  • Lady with Dove Lady with Dove

    • From: joe8211943
    • Description:

      In Nagasaki, in the Peace Park, near the epicenter where the Atom Bomb was dropped, there are statues and monuments that were presented to the city, in memory of those who perished, by nations of the world. This statue was given by Singapore.

    • 4 years ago
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  • Joy of Life Joy of Life

    • From: joe8211943
    • Description:

      In Nagasaki, in the Peace Park. near the epicenter of the Atom Bomb, there are statues and monuments that were presented to the city, in memory of those who died, by nations of the world. This statue was presented by Czechoslovakia.

    • 4 years ago
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  • Door of Sant Felipe Neri Churc Door of Sant Felipe Neri Church

    • From: noreensfl
    • Description:

      I was intrigued by the BOMB marks around this door on Sant Philipe Neri Church in Barcelona.  The bombing occurred during the Spanish Civil War.

    • 4 years ago
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  • Nagasaki: A Trip I Needed to T Nagasaki: A Trip I Needed to Take

    • From: joe8211943
    • Description:

      Statue in Peace Park, Nagasaki, JapanStatue in Peace Park, Nagasaki, Japan

      My choice for a vacation destination usually depends on a country’s photographic opportunities, its food, and exciting, new things to see and experience. My reason for selecting Nagasaki was different  -- it was an attempt for me to connect to my father, who died a few years ago.

       

      An officer in the U.S. Marines, my dad was one of the soldiers who were chosen to go into Nagasaki soon after the Atomic Bomb had leveled the city. A young man in his early 20s, he and his fellow Marines stayed in one of the Mitsubishi factories for several days, soaking up radiation in the contaminated region.

       

      A violin student at Juilliard, Dad dropped out of school and enlisted in the Marines shortly after Pearl Harbor. He never talked much about the experience in Nagasaki, other than to say that he didn’t like to think about the unspeakable horrors he had seen. I remember his telling me, when I was a child, about finding a book beside the road. When he picked it up, it crumbled into dust.

       

      After the war, the government designated him and those other Marines “Atomic Soldiers,” and for years they were monitored for possible illnesses related to the radiation. Fortunately, for Dad, the exposure didn’t have any adverse effects: he returned home after the war and had six more children, and he lived to the age of 82, dying of complications of diabetes. Many of his fellow comrades were not so lucky -- a statistically large number of those veterans developed various types of cancer.

       

      On our train ride to Nagasaki, my wife and I passed through Hiroshima, site of the first atomic blast, on August 6, 1945. Gazing through the window at the buildings and people, I tried to imagine that day.

       

      Our visit to Japan so far had included Tokyo, Nikko, Takayama, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, and Kurashiki. We found the Japanese people to be unfailingly polite, helpful (one lady led us four blocks to find our hotel), considerate of others, and welcoming to us American tourists. 

       

      During rush hour in the Tokyo subway there was none of the pushing, shoving, or breaking in front of others that is found in most large cities -- people formed lines and proceeded to board the subway cars in an orderly, civilized way. We saw no litter, no graffiti, and there were very few police in evidence -- Tokyo’s crime rate is surprisingly low. The palaces, temples, and other sights were as magnificent as anything we’d ever seen.

       

      Our day in Nagasaki began with a streetcar ride to Peace Park, at the epicenter of the atomic bomb’s explosion. We lingered for a few minutes at the wing-shaped fountain that was dedicated to the fatally wounded who begged for water. 

       

      Heading farther into the Park, we stopped to see statues and sculptures from all over the world that were donated to Nagasaki to memorialize the atomic bombing. We passed by the ruins of the concrete walls of a prison where 134 inmates had died instantly. 

       

      At the end of the Park is the Peace Statue: a seated man, 30 feet tall, with one hand pointing up in the direction from where the bomb had come and the other extending outward in a gesture of peace.

       

      A few hundred yards away, the exact epicenter (1500 feet below the explosion) is marked with a black pillar in the center of concentric circles on the ground that signify the spreading waves of death. A black coffin in front of the pillar contains the nearly 150,000 names of all of the known victims of the fiery blast.

       

      The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum pulls no punches. Its photographs and videos of the city before and after the explosion are mind-numbing. Inside, the lighting grows dim and a clock can be heard ticking away the seconds until 11:02, when it abruptly stops. 

       

      Displays show hand bones melded in the searing heat (7000 degrees F.) into a clump of melted glass, remnants of a person’s skull inside a helmet, clothing exposed in the bombing, photographs of dead and dying victims, and video accounts by survivors. 

       

      Other exhibitions show damages caused by heat rays, by the force of the explosions, by fires, and by radiation. It is not a pleasant experience, but, like Auschwitz, it is something that should be seen by everyone. 

       

      Whether or not the bombing was justified, countless innocent lives, young and old, military and civilian, were lost; animal and plant life were destroyed. Visiting this museum is the closest you can come to comprehending the magnitude of the death and destruction of atomic warfare.

       

      I came to Nagasaki and got a glimpse of what my father experienced 63 years ago. By connecting with history, I connected with him.


       

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    • 4 years ago
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  • Statue in Peace Park, Nagasaki Statue in Peace Park, Nagasaki, Japan

    • From: joe8211943
    • Description:

      This 30-foot tall monument in Peace Park, near the epicenter of the Atom Bomb, in Nagasaki, points his right hand to the sky, from where the bomb fell, and his left hand to the horizon, hoping for the future. My father, an officer in the Marines, was one of the first soldiers sent to Nagasaki after the blast.

    • 4 years ago
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  • Travels through Vietnam Travels through Vietnam

    • From: patrickmurphy
    • Description:

      VIETNAM

      The trip began via a boatride down the mighty Mekong River which I caught just outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia which then proceeded into southern Vietnam. It was a fantastic way to enter a country! The 10-person boat passed along the banks of the Mekong River and then meandered through a network of small canals which passed a number of small villages where we were greated by smiling, waving families. We then made our way to the town of Chau Doc on the Bassac River which is part of the extensive Mekong delta. Over the next 4 weeks, I inched my way from south to the north and was able to experience a good cross-section of Vietnamese living, which is more similar to traveling in China than nearby Cambodia or Thailand. Similar to China, the people are very animated (not so quiet) and the sound of load motorbike horns, car horns, and bus horns is non-stop along the highways and city streets. Vietnam has a quite a wide diversity of terrain including endless bright green rice paddies, lively cities, stunningly beautiful coastline, and some great hill tribe villages with terraced hillsides for growing rice. It was a bit strange visiting such beautiful, peaceful areas knowing that 40 years ago it was a much different scene with the "American War" (as it is called here). I wasn't quite sure what kind of reception I'd be given as an American (especially in the north) given the war. I am pleased to report that everyone greeted me with nothing but smiles and helpfulness everywhere I went. The people of Vietnam were wonderful. Similar to Cambodia and much of Thailand, English is widely spoken throughout the country.

      SOUTHERN VIETNAM

      Mekong River/ Delta

      I found the town of Chau Doc to be quite nice place for a "border town." It is clean, friendly, with lots of activity along the waterfront, along with a great, bustling market. From Chau Doc, I made my way south to Can Tho which is mainly known for its great river and canal tours. I took a 6-hour trip on a small boat up the Can Tho River (beginning at sunrise) and visited two separate floating markets which are quite a site to see as there are hundreds of boats (big and small) filled with every kind of vegetable and/or fruit imaginable. The boat ride then veared off the river and made its way through a maze of small canals lined with dense vegetation, coconut palms, and an occasional small village.

      Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

      Until I visited Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), I thought Bangkok was the motorbike capital of the world. Saigon easily wins that title as motorbikes must outnumber cars 300 to 1. It is quite an experience to catch a ride 7km across town on the back of a motorbike darting between cars, buses, and swarms of other motorbikes with the very skilled driver chosing to stop at only one stoplight. Everyone has complete command of their motorbike, whether their 15 years old or 70 years old. In addition to being the main mode of transport for the people, the motorbike is also the daily "workhorse" as I witnessed people carrying ladders, bags of groceries, bundles and bundles of coconuts, TV's, collapsable tables, large water bottles, pigs (live and dead), and even a small office desk. Similar to other areas in SE Asia and China, it is very common to see 3, 4 or 5 persons on a single motorbike. While in town, I went on my own walking tour of the key sights, including the Reunification Palace, the very attractive People's Committee Building, the War Remnants Museum, the Municipal Theatre, the Museum of HCMC, and numerous neighborhoods and interesting back alleys. The tree-lined streets provided much-needed shade from the sweltering heat/humidity and where there were no trees, I tried to find refuge in the shadows cast by the dozens and dozens of powerlines/cable lines strung together above the streets (amazing to see).

      Dalat to Hoi An

      From Saigan, I caught a bus to the attractive mountain town of Dalat which is situated amongst pine trees (who would have thought that there are pine tree forests in vietnam?). It was also a good place to escape the heat and humidity of the flatlands for a bit. I then caught a bus to the very nice beach city of Nha Trang which includes some very interesting Cham ruins/towers on the edge of town and then up to Quy Nhon which also has a large number of fishing boats and nice beaches, but not as many tourists as Nha Trang. My trip from Quy Nhon to Hoi An provided me with another entry in my ever-expanding of "Bus/Van Rides from Hell" chapter of my trip. The 5-hour trip began with 15 people in the 16-person passenger van (I was the only non-local) which then steadily increased to 17, 18, and 20 people along the way... until it reached the apparent maximum of 24 people that can be stuffed into a van. Each bench seat was crammed, with others sitting on the floor, and an old man stuffed in the back with the luggage. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, a couple of passengers decided it was an opportune time to light up a cigarette. It was a brutal trip. The good thing is that in the end I arrived in Hoi An which was definately one of my favorite places in the country.

      Hoi An is a terrific town located on the Thu Bon River and is one of the very few places in the country that was not battered by the various wars over the years. As a result, it retains some fantastic architecture and includes pedestrian-only streets in the old part of town and has been named as a UNESCO world heritage site. I enjoyed spending a few hours of one of my afternoons just siting at small table/chair with a couple of older local ladies drinking the juice of a freshly-topped coconut with a straw and just taking in the sights of the active riverfront market and the loading/unloadign of produce and people out of boats. At night, the town is really a treat with the attractive lighting of restaurants, museums, temples, and various shops (including many silk lantern shops that are very attractive with all of the different colored lanterns lit on the outside).

      From Hoi An, I hopped on a good bus to the city of Hue, which contains one of Vietnam's most famous pagodas overlooking the Perfume River as well as the large Citadel complex which was constructed during the time when Hue was the capital in the early 1800's. The walled complex includes numerous pagodas/temples, museums, the palace, impressive gates, and Vietnam's own Forbidden City with the emperor's residence and state buildings. Tour of the Demilitiarized Zone (DMZ) North of Hue is the "demiliaritzed zone (DMZ)" which marks the old line dividing North and South Vietnam. Some of the heaviest carpet bombing and fiercest battles of the "American War" took place in this area. One of the strangest sights is to see is the many, many round bomb craters now filled with water in the middle of the rectangular rice paddies. I was the only American on tour and given that it was a Vietnamese-run tour, I found it interesting to see a small American flag plastered on the dashboard of the bus, as well as a small one over the local drivers seat. The interesting tour included visits to locations of the Ho Chi Minh Trail (network of trails created by the North Vietnamese to supply their forces to the south), "the rockpile" (key lookout point/command post for the U.S.), the faint remains of a U.S. army base, and the absolutely amazing Vinh Moc tunnels dug by North Vietnamese villagers who lived in them for 4 years to avoid the enemy and keep supply lines open for the North Vietnamese troops.

      NORTHERN VIETNAM

      Ninh Binh /Tam Coc

      Two hours south of Hanoi is a small city of Ninh Binh. The town is an average looking rural city, but the surrounding countryside is just spectacular. A 20-minute bicycle ride southwest to the small town of Tam Coc is a real treat as the scenary is similar to that found in the Guilin/Yangshuo area in China with towering limestone cliffs/karst topography rising from the flat rice paddies, through which is a river filled with boats, some of which are rowed by operators using their feet!!).

      Hanoi

      Similar to HCMC, Hanoi is very, very busy with thousands and thousands of motor bikes, blaring horns, and fantastic street life. I spent most of my time in the historic Old Quarter with its narrow, tree-lined streets, and Hoan Kiem Lake. Sidewalks are absolutely jammed with restaurants spilling out onto the walkways with tiny tables and chairs that made me feel like an NBA player while seated with my knees up to my chin. The restaurants serve tasty dishes of food including Pho (soup) and great spring rolls washed down with very inexpensive bia hoi (beer) and/or rice wine. Besides roaming through the Old Quarter, other sights visited in town included the site of Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, the very interesting temple of Literature, the one pillar pagoda, and numerous other temples and neighborhoods.

      Halong Bay

      East of Hanoi is Halong Bay which is known for having some of the most spectacular scenery in the world with its limestone formations/karst topography similar that found near Nihn Bihn, except that the tower cliffs are in the middle of a bay, which makes for an incredible boat ride. I took a boat to Cat Ba Island for a few days where my very nice six dollar a night room had fantastic view off the bay. There are numerous nice beaches are within walking distance of town and I also rented a motorbike for a day ($3 dollars) to get around hilly/densely vegetated island, most of which is a national park which contains some great hiking.

      Northern Highlands: Sapa & Boc

      Ha Similar to the hillside areas I visited near Ping'an/Longshen in China, the northern portion of Vietnam includes some amazing mountain scenery with small hilltribe villages (such as Bac Ha) and terraced rice fields stepping down the hillsides. The Bac Ha sunday market was really interesting as hundreds of indingenous villagers, mainly Flower H'mong who are easily recognizable with their beautiful, colorful dresses and leggings to buy/sell vegetables, meats, clothes, etc. A few hours west of Bac Ha, is the town of Sapa which is very popular with tourists. It is a very, very attractive town situated atop a mountain with great views (when it's clear...which luckily is was while I was there), and nice accommodations and restaurants. I went on some great hikes down the mountain to some small villages (Cat Cat and Ta Phin) inhabited by the Black H'mong and Red Dzao people.

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
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  • 25 DAYS IN VIET NAM........... 25 DAYS IN VIET NAM.............

    • From: Phamgordon
    • Description:

       

      I left Viet Nam 33 years ago. Three times I visited my homeland, I went alone. My husband refused to come with me. He said the humidity, the water, the pollution in Viet Nam will kill him, and if not, the mosquitoes will be eating him alive because of his Western’s blood.

      When I told him that I would like for our daughter to see the other half of her heritage, he agreed to see Viet Nam.

      The twenty three hours flight from Portland-Seattle-Seoul-Ha Noi in North Viet Nam was full of anxieties. Tears of joy rolled down my face as I watched my husband and daughter sleeping.

      We arrived in Ha Noi around midnight. The thundering-rain and lightning frightened all of us. It was like a bomb went off 10 feet from us repeatedly.

      The next morning we rented a van to my parent’s village. The tiny village hidden deep in a remote rural made it difficult to find, we had to make many stops to ask for directions. My husband and my daughter were instant celebrities once we arrived. They had never seen foreigners before. My daughter being Asian/American, the children surrounded her like she was a movie star !

      For the next five days, exploring the village was an experience we will never forget. We walked the many rice fields, swam in the muddy-ponds, ate fresh grilled piranhas and my husband got a taste of roasted dog meat.

      Like many South East Asia countries, dog meat is considered a delicacy and consumed usually in a happy-like-event.

      Before we arrived to Viet Nam, I had forewarned him so he was mentally prepared for it. He had one small bite. Tried to spit it out but all eyes were on him so he swallowed it with a shot of rice wine. He said afterward, the experience was traumatized.

      Returning to Ha Noi, our local friend gave us a complete tour of the rustic, beautiful Ha Noi. We experienced some amazing dishes that cooked and served right on the side walk. Wonderful foods hot and cold were sold all day and some part, all night. We also dined at the famous Cha Ca La Vong, which was O.K. The best dish we ate in Ha Noi was the spicy curried cow-breast-strips, grilled over the opened-fire, served with fresh veggies & sauce.

      Next day, we booked a two nights/three days tour to Ha Long Bay. The package for each person cost forty five dollars, which included hotel, three hot meals a day and guided tours in Cat Ba Island, the main island in Ha Long Bay.

      We wanted to explore the multi-islands and the floating-villages on our own. we checked out with the local and rented a thirty feet fishing boat for the entire day. They also took us to the popular Monkey Island where we had the whole beach to ourselves to sun bathe and swim, then followed with a scrumptious hot lunch once we got back on to the boat. The total cost for this magical fun filled day for our entire group of seven was $25 U.S dollars. It definitely pays to check with the local first.....

      After a short rest back from Ha Long Bay, we flew West to Da Nang, my birth place. It was my third time seeing my home town, but the first for my husband and daughter. Showing my old house, my school, the opened-market, the beach, where I had grew up was very emotional. Needless to say, my husband and daughter were instant celebrities once again. Every where we went, every thing we did, we were surrounded with children.

      Leaving Da Nang and saying goodbyes to my old friends once again was hard. The children were crying, my daughter was crying. Leaving them behind was heart wrenching, but we had to go.

      We met up with one of our friends from America in Ho Chi Minh city. We immediately left for Ca Mau which was at the end point, East of Viet Nam. The long ride there was rough and exhausted. We had to stay over in Can Tho to recoup before heading back to the South.

      Once we got back to Ho Chi Minh city, the central point of the South, we went straight to Vung Tau and chilled for a few days before going back to the United State. During our stay, we got to taste delicious char grilled rats that lives and eats in rice fields. Our friends also took us to an off the road restaurant that are known for snake dishes. We chose a rattle snake. We were totally surprised and delighted how good it was. The snake-blood mixed with Vodka was not bad either.

      Traveling thru the entire country of Viet Nam took us 25 days. We had slept on cold floors, soft mattresses, creaked wooden beds. We had eaten and seen the bad,the bold and the best of Viet Nam. Sharing this journey with my husband and daughter had been a long awaited dream, now I am completely felt at ease. There will be no tears flying back, only smiles. It is time to go home.... to America.

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
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  • Discovering Normandy and Le Jo Discovering Normandy and Le Jour J (D-Day) sites

    • From: kwalker99
    • Description:

      Easter weekend, 2006:  Our original plans were to fly out of Champaign IL at 2:30 p.m. and arrive in Paris at 8 a.m. with luggage. After local delays and three last-second reticketings of our Chicago-to-Paris flight, the result was landing in Paris at 3:00 p.m. with no luggage and no firm promise about when it would appear. The only thing that went smoothly was picking up our rental car, which took about five minutes.

      The lost day meant we had to scrap our visit to Monet's gardens at Giverny, so we drove straight (sort of) to our first hotel in Normandy. Navigating the autoroutes out of DeGaulle airport was harrowing, especially since our map was in our checked luggage. I had a sinking feeling when I saw the first toll booth and realized that in our haste to escape the airport, we had forgotten to exchange money. That was no problem, as all toll booths take credit cards.

      Honfleur East Normandy:  At sundown, we checked into our hotel in Honfleur -- the Mercure, right on the waterfront -- and realized the wayward luggage was going to be more of a pain than we had expected. A cold wind was blowing in from the English Channel, and all we had were the summer clothes we had worn from home, where it had been 30 degrees warmer. We decided to venture outside anyway, so I donned a red wool blanket as a shawl and we headed to the harbor area. As Mike said, "Everyone will be wearing those now".

      We had a nice dinner (bouillabaisse, the local specialty) at l'Absinthe restaurant. It seemed pricey at the time -- about 70 euros ($84 in 2006) for two dinners with wine and cheese -- but we hadn't seen anything yet. 

      The next morning, we bought two coats, exchanged money and enjoyed a walk around the gardens and harbor in Honfleur, a village that was a favorite of the Impressionist painters.

      In the afternoon, we took a long drive through the beautiful Pays d'Auge countryside, where cheese and apples are a virtual religion. We tried the apple cider and calvados, a very strong apple liqueur, in a big stone barn on one of the many farms that offer degustations (tastings).

      Bevron en auge, Normandy, FranceThe prettiest little town in the Pays d'Auge was the half-timbered Beuvron en Auge, which has one street, two churches and three pastry/coffee shops. It bills itself as "one of the most beautiful villages in France". We were going to be seeing a lot more of those.

      CambremerOne was the delightful Pays d'Auge village of Cambremer, where we stopped for a cafe au lait and a leisurely stroll through its downtown shops and galleries. I couldn't resist taking a photo of le chien, who kept a watchful eye on us as we walked down his street.

      West Normandy & D-Day sites: Our luggage finally arrived at our hotel on our third day in Honfleur. We changed clothes quickly, checked out and drove west to Caen to the Musee de Memorial, a "peace" museum that chronicles the history of war in the 20th century. The main focus is on the buildup to WWII. The most powerful exhibit was a riveting, split-screen film showing the simultaneous unfolding of D-Day events on both the German and Allied sides.

      ArromanchesFrom Caen, we went on to Arromanches les Bains on Gold Beach, where the British landed on D-Day. It was the site of an artificial harbor called Port Winston (Churchill), which was used to offload cargo after the Allied invasion. Old battleships were sunk to create a breakwater, and those who know about such things say it was one of the greatest engineering feats of the War. Sections of the pier pontoons and concrete caissons still remain on the beach and in the ocean. That's Mike in the photo, next to one of the pontoon bridges that spanned the temporary harbor.

      We drove west to an old German battery at Longues sur Mer, where the original bunkers and even the guns are preserved. We had a picnic of sandwiches and apple cider and explored the bunkers and the pretty beach below.

      Omaha BeachThe final stop of the day was Omaha Beach. It's absolutely pristine, with no souvenir shops, no signs, not even a (shock!) payant sign in the gravel parking area. In fact, it was fairly hard to find -- the drive to it was on narrow, twisting roads with very few signs. It's difficult to describe the feeling of standing on that peaceful beach and thinking about what happened right there more than 60 years ago. I could almost see the ghosts, and found myself feeling guilty for enjoying such a beautiful day here.

      La Ferme du PressoirThe area south of the beaches is "bocage country", where every town is named after a shrub, a saint or a river -- or sometimes all three. Our home for the next two nights was outside Villers Bocage at La Ferme du Pressoir, a farm bed-and-breakfast run by a delightful lady named Odile. We stayed in a stone sheep barn (photo at left) that had been converted into a six-room cottage. In the mornings, we walked downstairs and there was Odile in the kitchen, preparing our breakfast and offering sightseeing tips in kilometer-a-minute French.

      We were getting by okay on my high-school French, but Odile and everyone else seemed to talk as fast as the guy in the old FedEx commercial, so I was frequently lost. The French are an ultra-polite people who use merci, s'il vous plait and madame/monsieur in just about every sentence, and they're very patient if you liberally insert those phrases into otherwise bad grammar.

      Le Mont St. MichelOur next excursion was a day trip to Le Mont St. Michel, France's top tourist attraction. I had seen photos, but viewing the real thing was a jaw-dropper -- a village and an ancient Benedictine abbey on a giant crag, rising from a vast tide pool in the English Channel. The tide comes in as fast as a galloping horse, so they say, and tourists have drowned trying to outrun it. If the tide doesn't get you, the steps will. We climbed hundreds of them to tour the abbey, but it was worth the burning thighs.

      Pointe du Hoc, NormandyWe returned to the Normandy beaches to Pointe du Hoc (right), a promontory that was taken on D-Day through the incredible bravery of U.S. Rangers. Three battalions landed here at 7:00 a.m. and scaled the 100-foot cliffs on a mission to eliminate a powerful German gun battery. Only half survived the machine-gun fire and made it to the top of the plateau. The 30-acre site still has the bunkers and bomb craters -- some more than 10 feet deep -- that remained when the Rangers left on June 8, 1944.

      American Cemetery, NormandyLate in the afternoon, we drove to Colleville-sur Mer to the American Cemetery. It's a beautiful, almost mystical, setting on a cliff overlooking the sector of Omaha Beach where the 1st Division landed on D-Day. It was impossible to hold back tears while walking among the 9387 graves there -- reading the names and hometowns and imagining their stories, finding pairs of brothers buried side by side, seeing the flowers placed on random graves by French volunteers.

      La Cambe German cemeteryWe took country roads to the La Cambe German Cemetery, where more than 22,000 German soldiers are buried. In stark contrast to the American Cemetery's bright white crosses and Stars of David, the German graves are marked by black stone crosses, set low in the ground in groups of five. In many ways, this was the saddest sight of all. The atmosphere was somber and eerie, made more so by the fact that it was twilight and we were the only visitors.

      We ended the day in the town of Bayeux with a short stop at the cathedral and dinner at Le Pommier (The Apple Tree). We returned to the Villers Bocage farm very late, partly from confusion about what village we were going to (several other towns in the area have the words "Villers" and "Bocage" in their names). 

      The next morning we headed south to the Loire Valley, then on to the Dordogne and Provence over the next two weeks. Our five days in Normandy, though, would be especially memorable. We enjoyed discovering its beauty and history and its friendly people, who welcome American visitors and seem to have a long memory for the U.S. heroics of more than sixty years ago.

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