Car delivery today in Phuket…Continuation of the ox cart rides for Viking Mekong River cruise passengers…Two videos and photos!

Tom’s video of the oxen along the bank of the river early in the morning.  Second video below.

This morning at 10:00 am an employee of Gregory’s (our Phuket property owner), brought us the rental car. For the excellent price of THB $9000, US $258 for our entire stay we’re pleased with the older car. We’re hoping the pouring rain will stop and we can end our six day stint indoors.

Tomorrow, we’ll include photos of the “used” car and photos we’ve taken while out and about proving the weather improves enough to get out. At the moment, there’s thunder and lightening. 

The second bedroom in the Phuket house which we haven’t used.  The en suite bathroom contain the Jacuzzi tub.

We’re anxious to head across the island to purchase beef and groceries.  Beef is not popular in some parts of the world that hold the “cow” as holy based on religious beliefs and is not fit for human consumption. 

Many religions and cultures throughout the world consume a vegetarian diet. However, many Thai people include beef in their diet, although it may not be readily available in some of the local grocery stores and markets.  

Yesterday, four housecleaners appeared at the electronic gate at 9:00 am to clean the house. Letting them in via a wall switch that slides the electronic security gate open, they all entered, sharing their names as they graciously bowed to greet us. 

The Jacuzzi tub in the second bedroom’s en suite bathroom.

All we remember of their names as they hurriedly entered is that two of the four had the same name, not unlike the two Katuks in Bali, whom we’ll see again soon. 

Only one of the four cleaners spoke a little English, but they had no trouble knowing what to do and required little coaching from us. They maneuvered  efficiently and quickly through each room, obviously with a familiar routine they’ve implemented in the past. 

Today’s pouring rain.  As soon as it stops, we’ll head out. If it continues throughout the day, we’ll wait until tomorrow.

When the Jacuzzi tub’s water supply wasn’t working correctly, they immediately contacted the maintenance guy. I believe his name is Bo. Within minutes he arrived to make the repairs and an hour later he was out the door with the task completed. 

Although using the Jacuzzi may be an excellent idea at this time, it’s been so hot in the past 24 hour I haven’t been motivated to use it. With the amount of water and energy required to use the tub, I may only use it once in a while providing I notice some added improvement from doing so.

The opening in the wide electronic sliding security gate.

We’re still remaining mindful over the excess use of air con and continue to only use it only at night in the master bedroom. During the day we’re doing fine without AC. After becoming accustomed to heat and humidity in Bali and living in hot climates throughout the world over these past years its not different here in Phuket.

We can’t help but giggle over how, in our old lives, we’d never have tolerated this heat and humidity without turning on the whole house AC.  How much we’ve changed over this period of time!

Occasionally during the day, I rest for a few minutes in the bedroom using only the overhead fan to keep me comfortable. We keep the bedroom door shut at all times to keep out the mozzies and flies for better comfort at night.

Now on to our continuing Mekong River cruise posts with today’s story, a continuation of the ox cart rides. We’d yet to share today’s two videos we are now able to post with a strong WiDu signal here in Phuket.

I’d have loved to join in on the ox cart ride under different circumstances.  But after seeing the carts and the sitting positions required of the riders, we both knew there was no way I could have participated.  

I encouraged Tom to join the others but he decided to stay behind with me when the carts were intended for two passengers and he’d have to ride alone. That wouldn’t have been that much fun for him. Its the idle chatter and shared experiences that make such an activity memorable. 

They reminded us of the buffaloes in Bali although oxen are smaller with shorter horns.
Instead, we stayed behind attempting to get online to post the day’s story and photos. As mentioned in an earlier post, the WiFi signal on the boat was extremely poor, worse than we’d experienced on any cruise in the past. 

It was only with the assistance of thoughtful cruise director Enrico who encouraged me to sit at his desk using his computer, connected to a wired network, that made it possible to upload any posts at all while on the ship.  We realized how frustrating this must have been for our worldwide readers who, at times, didn’t see a new post for days.
As the ox cart participants piled into the carts, many seniors older than us, we were thrilled to be able to take today’s included videos. Of course, it would have been more exciting to be able to do a video while in a cart, but we did the best we could under the circumstances.
The staff shoveled this path the prior night to ensure passengers could make it up the river bank.

Later, many passengers explained the bumpy nature of the ride making us feel grateful we’d made the decision to stay behind. Adding the extreme heat and humidity to my already difficult condition, always made the tours more challenging regardless of their general difficulty.

We enjoyed watching the white oxen hanging out on the bank of the river on the prior evening, early in the morning and again when they were hooked to the wagons seemingly content with their occasionally required tourist trek. 

Off they went on a 40 minute ride..

As we watched the oxen for quite awhile, we noticed the gentle interaction between the handlers and the oxen, as they were rubbed and petted as one would lovingly pet a dog or cat. It was comforting to see. With a cart driver for each cart carrying a pair of passengers we didn’t see any rough treatment used to get them moving.

By 11:45 am, the passengers were back on board and by noon, the ship’s anchor was raised and we cast off for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, another historically interesting stop in our journey along the Mekong River which we’ve already included in prior posts.

With more stories to share, we’ll continue along this path with a few more cruise posts as we add more and more on Phuket as soon as we get out.

Have a beautiful day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 28, 2015:

One year ago we spotted this package of crocodile meat in Australia priced at AUD 15, USD $10.91.  ext time we’re in Australia, we need to try this. For more details, please click here.

Part 1…Exotic foods and shopping in Cambodia and Vietnam…Did we eat insects? An issue in Phuket?

Kong took this photo of Tom and a tarantula!

First, we begin our post with a few points regarding our stay in Phuket.  With 37 remaining days on the island, we want to make the very best of our time here considering my current circumstances. 

After analyzing the higher cost of taxi service here, we reconsidered the possibility of renting a car. As it turns out a short trip for shopping will cost approximately THB (Thai Baht) 700, US $20 with more for sightseeing and dining out.

The kitchen is spacious and relatively well equipped. We certainly appreciated the size of the refrigerator, the drip coffee pot and the double sinks.

As a result, the kindly local owner of this house, well aware of high taxi fares, offered us a rental car for the balance of our stay for a total of THB 9000, US $256. Gregory will deliver the car on Thursday morning, the first day we’ll need to use it.

It’s an older car, but has AC, seat belts and works well which is fine. For our local exploration and shopping this will be fine regardless of how old or worn this car may be.

As for our past day, we were a little worried when there was no running water yesterday afternoon.  Within minutes of reporting this to Gregory, two workers arrived at the house, spending several hours repairing the issue. This reminded us of similar issues we’ve encountered without water and electricity in less developed countries throughout the world.

We dine at this table.

There’s a bottled water dispenser here, which would have seen us through the night if necessary. Unfortunately, the water quit while Tom was in the shower after soaping up. 

When he appeared in the living room, covered in soap, I suggested he take some bottled water to get the soap off until we had water again. He did so, but felt dirty and sticky until hours later when the water was working and he was able to finish his shower. 

We won’t be using this sofa, preferring to spend time in the living room. Photos will follow tomorrow.

We postponed dinner when the workers were attempting to resolve the issue right outside the dining room door. Finally, they were done. The water was running again and we were able to quietly enjoy our meal, most of which we’d prepared earlier in the day. 

Here are a few more photos of the house taken from the listing here.  We’ll be back with Phuket photos as soon as we get out and about later this week. Thanks for your patience.

Back to the Mekong River Cruise: With all the heart wrenching photos we’ve shared over the past many days, we decided to lighten it up a bit and share some food photos we’d taken over the 17 days we spent in both Cambodia and Vietnam.
First off, I must espouse the virtues of the popular Vietnamese soup, known as “pho” which is pronounced as “fuuuuur” in Southeast Asia not the commonly pronounce “Foe” in Vietnamese restaurants in the US and other countries throughout the world.
Delicious pho without noodles.

In my old life before my special diet, pho was a favorite Vietnamese soup which I often enjoyed with son Greg at a local Minneapolis Vietnamese Restaurant. At that time I was able to have the wide noodles added to the delicious broth along with the vegetables and basil. 

In Cambodia, they don’t use basil but other types of greens. In Vietnam, depending on the region, basil is an available option to be added to the delicious soup at one’s option. 
Everywhere we traveled in the 17 days, I tried the pho, (without noodles) often for breakfast instead of eggs or as a first course with dinner. I was never disappointed although the flavor of the broth varied from region to region. Many other passengers raved about the pho along with me anxious to try it at each new location in our journey.
The server passed this plate of appetizers…tarantulas, tiny whole frogs and crickets.
One night at dinner on the cruise, we were served insects as a first course.  Unfortunately, to add to the less than desirable taste, we discovered that such creatures are usually marinated in a sugary broth to enhance the flavor and/or dipped in flour before frying. Had this not been the case, I’d have happily tried any of these.
Tom, on the other hand, took a few small bites making some awful faces after doing so. Many passengers opted for the full experience eating some of each of the items presented. 
Eating a variety of insects including grasshoppers, crickets and small frogs is an inexpensive source of protein for citizens throughout the world. Of course, it was the tarantulas that captured our attention the most.  We were only served these items on one occasion on board the ship during our travels.
I made up this plate for this photo although I never took a bite since they’re soaked in sugar to make them more palatable.

The remainder of the meals on both on the ship and at a number of restaurants included in the cruise/tour were varied and overall excellent. Most of my meals were good, especially on the ship although, a few restaurants had a more difficult time often presenting me with overcooked steak, boiled fish and steamed bok choy for a bland and unseasoned meal. 

We had such a great time dining with our co-passengers, food became of little importance to me. Tom, on the other hand, fully enjoyed most of his meals, especially when they included bread, potatoes and sweet desserts.
Tom took a few small bites.

Tom gained back 10 of his recently lost 20 pounds in Bali but now since our arrival in Phuket he’s already rapidly dropping those pounds by eating homemade meals befitting my way of eating based on what we were able to find at a local market.

Even I had gained a few pounds since I wasn’t used to eating three times a day. I’m feeling good to be back to my regular intermittent fasting regime, no longer hungry all the time from eating too much, too often, although I totally stayed on track of acceptable foods during the 17 day period. I’ve since lost the few pounds.
Food is a huge appeal for travelers, many who dine two to three times each day. Most parts of the world offer their own unique style of cuisine that makes dining out irresistible. 
A tarantula leg was resting on my tooth making me look like I was missing a tooth in this goofy photo.
Being able to experience tastes of the spices and methods of cooking becomes appealing and interesting for me as well. Southeast Asia provided a number of options that fit my criteria at times with some adjustments by conscientious chefs and cooks who made considerable efforts to enhance my dining experience. Kong took personal responsibility for each of my meals to ensure they were properly prepared.
Tom ate his fair share of local meals along with “western” options found on many menus. With warnings from Kong about street food, we stayed with the foods offered on the ship, the three hotels and the several restaurants where we dined.
Overall, it was a great dining experience and look forward to our readers enjoying the many photos we’ll share over the next few days. Our list of future stories and photos will continue in days to come as an adjunct to our daily quips on life in Phuket, Thailand.
Be well. Be happy. Eat insects when available. I guess.
Photo from one year ago today, July 26, 2015:
A beautiful bouquet already made by nature at the Cairns Botanical Garden in Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Final photos of Cu Chi Tunnel and more amazing Vietnam photos…

Our current private vacation home in Rawai, Phuket, Thailand.

Over these past few days since our arrival, I’ve since discovered that rest seems to be the best treatment to improve my condition. This doesn’t mean lying in bed immobile. But it does mean two things; one, not a lot of walking and two, not bending at the waist over short countertops and sinks. 

We’ve yet to use the pool with rain these past few days but will soon.   Interior photos will follow over the next few days.

As a result, there’s been no point in sightseeing or even taking a walk in the neighborhood. As yet, we haven’t taken any photos in Phuket or, in the house. We’ll make every effort to take photos soon. 

We’d love to be able to dine outdoors, but the masses are fierce at dusk.

Unpacking in a less tidy manner than usual, the house in now a little cluttered with our stuff since I can’t bend over to organize and it doesn’t make sense for Tom to move everything to enable me to take the photos.  

Examples of clothing worn by the Viet Cong.

As a result, today we’ve added a few photos of the property from the listing as shown and we’ll add more as we go along. In several days, we’ll be getting out to take photos of the area and a few of exquisite beaches in this area. Phuket is known for its beautiful beaches, clear blue waters with hundreds of smaller islands.

Map of the vast coverage of the Cu Chi Tunnel.  In the basket in front of the map is a hand tool used to dig the miles of tunnels.

Actually, we’re enjoying it here considering our circumstances. We’ve figured out which fans to use to keep us comfortable in the rooms where we don’t use the air con. Plus, having screens has made a huge difference in keeping us from feeling closed in.

Booby trap. Scary.

With two English speaking news channels we’re able to remain up-to-date on US and world affairs and with a flat screen TV we can plug in the HDMI cable to watch a movie or favorite TV show at night after dinner, not unlike evening activities of many citizens throughout the world.

Tom tasted a ration used by the Viet Cong made of coconut, seeds and sugar, compressed into a crispy stick. He said it was surprisingly palatable.

Sure, I’m chomping at the bit to get out but having angst or frustration over our current circumstances would only add stress. As always, we’re making the best of our situation, smiling and laughing throughout the day in our usual playful lighthearted manner. 

The vent for the underground kitchen within the tunnel emitting smoke a distance from the location of the kitchen to prevent enemy attack.

We have no doubt that within a month, I’ll be fully recovered as it improves a little each day, especially now with this new less active plan. Tom helps me with chopping, dicing and cooking along with all household tasks.

This was actually a live person in a slightly below ground bunker making uniforms and other gear used in the tourist center which also served as an example of how clothing and gear was made during the war.

We’d hope to process the Indonesian passport while here sending our passport to the US by registered mail for processing and return. It was a flippant thought. There’s no way we’re willing to be a foreign country without our passports in our possession, even if only for a week. If we had an emergency and had to leave suddenly, we’d be in big trouble.

At first glance we wondered why these tired were cut into piece. Kong explained how the old tires were used to make sandals for the Viet Cong.  See photo below.

Instead, once in Bali after the 24th day, again we’ll do the three day Lovina run (two hours of driving each way, each day) to the immigration office. There’s simply no other option than this bothersome task other than to leave the country and re-enter.  That would require airfare for two and a round trip of the four or five hour harrowing drive to Denpasar and back. The Lovina option is the more logical decision.

These are the sandals that were made from old tires worn by the Viet Cong.
Underground area for making bombs and booby traps.
With hundreds of photos we’ve yet to share from Vietnam, our photos and stories continue. I deliberated over posting three days of photos from Cu Chi Tunnel but based on the huge number of hits we’ve had, one more day of the remaining photos may be of interest to some readers. 
Kong illustrated a booby traps that targeted a soldier opening a door in two ways.  Horrible.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue with all new Vietnam photos, many locations we visited but have yet to describe. We look forward to seeing you visit us here again.
More items used in booby traps, made on site by the Viet Cong.
Have a healthful and meaningful day!
Photo from one year ago today, July 25, 2015:
The Australian Brushturkey, also called the Scrub Turkey or Bush Turkey freely roamed the Cairns Botanical Garden which we visited one year ago today.These turkeys are not closely related to American turkeys. Click here for more details. For more of our photos from the botanical garden tour, please click here.

Part 2…Most awe inspiring tour yet in Southeast Asia…Cu Chi Tunnel…Tom’s brave although short exposure to the tunnels…

Tom is sitting at the table in a meeting room bunker with several mannequins and two other passengers standing behind him.

As mentioned in a prior post, we’re continuing to include photos and stories (when applicable) from our cruise/tour to Vietnam. Earlier we’d posted photos from Hanoi, Vietnam, and a few areas in Cambodia.

Two Russian MIGs which was used by the North Vietnam Air Force.

The bulk of the photos we have yet to share are from Vietnam during the roughly 11 days we spent in the exotic country. We both agreed we could hardly jump to Phuket, Thailand now, leaving this important information behind.

US Huey helicopter.

As for Phuket, thus far we’re becoming adapted to yet another house in a foreign land. Nuances such as finding outlets that work for our adapters, location of light switches which is very different from country to country (in other words, walk into a room and there’s no light switch nearby upon entering) figuring out TV systems and remotes, turning on the oven (never a simple turn of a dial or two) is all a part of the process.

Rocket launchers on helicopters.

This house has eight doors we need to lock at night. Much to our delight and surprise, there are screens on the six sliding doors, causing free air to flow through the house each day. 

One can only imagine how dangerous it was flying these helicopters during the war.

Each area of the house has an air-con unit, but in an effort to be mindful of power usage, so far we’ve only used the one in the bedroom at night along with the overhead fan. It’s hot and humid here, so much so that in our old lives in the US we’d have had whole-house air-con on day and night. 

US artillery pieces and two jeeps.

We sweat it out in 85% to 90% humidity which is uncomfortable at any higher temps. With a floor fan that doesn’t quite reach us (due to lack of outlets), with an overhead fan in a vaulted ceiling, the breeze is minimal. 

Viet Cong hammock with a tarp.

Overall, we’re managing fine. Last night we made our first meal in months, roasted chicken parts, green beans, and salad with a cheese plate for dessert. We made enough chicken for two nights.  All we’ll need to prepare for tonight is the salad and green beans. 

US  rocket launchers and cluster bombs.

Tom will assist me in the chopping and dicing. Bending over the short countertops in brutal at this point, but is often an issue when in most countries the population is much shorter than we are and countertops are made to accommodate their stature, not ours.

Above ground table and benches for dining or meeting.

The house is lovely, well maintained with nary a worn or old amenity. There’s no dishwasher, clothes dryer, large pans, or mixing bowls, but we found a two-liter pitcher for our iced tea and there’s an electric drip coffee pot. 

Horrifying bamboo spikes in ground booby traps. 

There was no ground coffee at the market (only instant which we don’t like) with only ground espresso. Each day we’re testing using different amounts to correct the flavor to our taste.

Another view of a booby trap.

Included in the rent is a house cleaner every Wednesday and Saturday. We passed on yesterday’s cleaning since we’d arrived the prior night and didn’t need it. We’ll keep it tidy in the interim, as we always do.

Surgery bunker sign. Can we even imagine how dangerous surgery was at this location?

Today, it’s raining, which is expected to continue throughout the day. We’ve yet to use the pool.  There are no steps leading into the water, only a ladder at the deep end. I can’t imagine how I can manage the ladder at this point, fearful of twisting or turning the wrong way. We’ll see how it goes.

Viet Cong surgery bunker.

We’d considered renting a car, but with my need to rest, a driver will be most logical over these remaining 39 days. We can go shopping each week at a reasonable cost for the taxi and he’ll wait while we shop.

Notice the sweat on Tom’s shirt. He was soaked after crawling through the narrow tunnels. This larger opening was a welcome relief.  Some of the tunnels and openings were enlarged for the benefit of tourists.

Dining out will come once I’m feeling up to it. In the interim, there are numerous “take away” delivery services that have roasted chickens and salads that may work for us a few times a week.

Now, we continue with our tour of the Cu Chi Tunnel after Part 1 included photos of Tom tackling a few of the narrowest portions of the tunnel, entering at one narrow point and exiting 10 to 30 meters later at another opening.
If you missed that prior post, please click here.
Entrance to a narrow tunnel which was also enlarged.

The bus ride to the location was about an hour outside of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) requiring we backtrack to return to Saigon later in the day for the two-night hotel stay at another Sofitel Hotel, the least favorite of the three Sofitel Hotels included in the cruise tour. 

The trip from the ship to include the tour of the Cu Chi Tunnel, a stop for lunch, and the return drive extended over an eight hour period with about five hours riding on the bus. It was a long hot day but we were excited to visit the tunnel which we entered in the Ben Dinh area.

Tom took this photo while climbing out of a narrow tunnel by turning around after he’d already crawled through this spot.

With the tunnel extending as follows:

“The 75-mile (121 km)-long complex of tunnels at Củ Chi has been preserved by the government of Vietnam,[3] and turned into a war memorial park with two different tunnel display sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. The tunnels are a popular tourist attraction, and visitors are invited to crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnel system. The Ben Duoc site contains part of the original tunnel system, while the Ben Dinh site, closer to Saigon, has tunnel reconstructions and some tunnels have been made larger to accommodate the larger size of Western tourists. In both sites low-power lights have been installed in the tunnels to make traveling through them easier, and both sites have displays of the different types of booby traps that were used. Underground conference rooms where campaigns such as the Tết Offensive were planned in 1968 have been restored, and visitors may enjoy a simple meal of food that Viet Cong fighters would have eaten.”

Included today are some of the best remaining photos we’d taken during the tour of the tunnel. Please check back tomorrow for the balance of the photos.

We’ll look forward to seeing you then!

Photo from one year ago today, July 24, 2015:

Once inside the long, narrow Mangrove Boardwalk in Cairns, Australia we walked deeper and deeper into the marsh never encountering other visitors. For more details, please click here.

When we arrived at the airport in Bangkok…Final cruise expenses at end of post…More cruise/tour photos…

Tom pointed out this jumble of power lines at an intersection in Saigon.

Yesterday morning, we left the hotel in Saigon at 6:45 for the 30 minute drive to the airport amid rush hour traffic. The previous evening we had our final meal together as a group at a local restaurant after which we hugged goodbye to the many new friends we’d made on the Viking Mekong River Cruise.

 Vietnam is a communist society resulting in the government owning all land regardless of its location. As a result, most structures are narrow such as this property.

Most of all, it was hard to say goodbye to Kong. He far exceeded any of our expectations as the finest tour manager we’ve worked with since beginning our travels so long ago. 

Based on our late departing flight out of Saigon after a mass of confusion at the overly busy and somewhat disorganized airport, it was unlikely we’d arrive in Phuket at a decent time to be up to be able to post. As a result, our last post was short.

Kong pointed out the number of motorbikes in the roundabout.  There are over 6 motorbikes in Saigon (Ho Cho Ming City) for a population of 10 million.

At the airport in Bangkok Tom found an ATM getting enough Thai Baht to last a week. For BHT 10,000, the exchange rate is US $286. We stopped at McDonald’s for a quick bite to eat figuring it could be late until we have a meal. I had a boring meat-free salad without dressing and Tom had a burger and fries.

Another view of the roundabout.  These photos were taken during a quiet time of the day compared to the busier rush hour.

On the way to the villa we made a stop at a market in the village. We were both exhausted from the prior poor night’s sleep and the long trip, making finding items on our list difficult if not impossible.  

Without a single English speaking person to be found in the market, we encountered a kindly young employee with a translation app on his phone with little success in the translation making sense to him.

One business after another in tight spaces.

As it turned out the largest market in the area has no beef for sale.  For protein, they carry fresh chicken, pork and fish sitting atop big chilled tables. We usually have beef a few times a week, so we’ll have to come up with another plan for those meals. Nor did we find any roasted chickens.

Many females wear masks and are fully covered. One would think this was to prevent illness when in act Vietnamese women vehemently avoid darkening skin from the sun. By their standards, the whiter the skin, the better, according to Kong.

We never had dinner last night. We were so tired, food was the last thing on our minds.  By 8:30 pm, we hunkered down in the air conditioned bedroom on the comfy bed determined to stay awake until 10:00 pm. 

Refreshed and renewed this morning, we unpacked what we’d use here as we became familiar with our new house in Rawai, Phuket, a cozy little town which appears to be a mix of the old and new. 

Temples are interspersed among more modern areas.

Soon, we’ll get out to see what’s around us. Unfortunately, I still need time to heal my injury being a little less active. With all the strenuous tours during the cruise, I never really had time to rest, which seems to be the most helpful at this point. 

Amid the historical buildings are skyscrapers such as this newer building.

Yesterday, after the busy travel day at the two airports with tons of walking I almost reached 10,000 steps on my Fitbit which was way too much. Today, will be a relaxing day other than preparing our first meal since April 14th. Tom literally waits on me, helping with everything I need.

The house? Its a lovely as we’d anticipated. Please free to check out the online listing by clicking here which has some excellent photos without the clutter of our stuff scattered around the house.

Many shops include products appealing to tourists. Many travel to Vietnam from all over the world to shop.

We’ve yet to take our first Phuket photo. With the tinted windows on the van on the drive from the airport to the villa, we had no opportunity to take photos. Nor did we feel up to walking right now.  In the near future we’ll get out to visit points of interest and to share many new photos with our readers.

At an intersection.

For now, as mentioned in a prior post, with hundreds of photos remaining from the cruise in Cambodia and Vietnam, we’ll continue to include photos we hope you’ll find interesting.

These huge clocks could appeal to tourist shoppers.

Here are the expenses from the Viking Mekong cruise/tour:

Expense US Dollar Vietnamese Dong
Cruise fare  $          6,597.00  $  147,068,781.00
Airfare –Singapore to Hanoi  $              830.00  $    18,503,424.00
Hotel in Hanoi  $           2,029.70  $    45,248,674.00
Taxi   $                 98.00  $       2,184,742.00
Laundry  $               140.00  $       3,121,059.00
Wifi   $                      $                   
Groceries  $                      $                 –                        
Dining Out  $                12.00  $           267,519.00
Clothing  $                22.00  $           490,452.00
Tips  $              725.00  $      16,162,629.00
Total  $        10,453.70  $    233,047,280.00
Avg Daily Cost-17 days  $              614.88  $       13,708,664.00

Tomorrow, we continue with Part 2, Cu Chi Tunnel with many more fascinating and informative photos of this historical site. Now that we’re settled we’ll be posting consistently around the same time each day. 

Kong explained that locals have tougher stomachs to tolerate street food while tourists often become ill.

We’d like to thank all of our loyal worldwide readers for “hanging in there” with us during periods of no WiFi and during my continuing mention of my current condition. We appreciate each and every one of you, no matter where you may be.

Have a fabulous day!

Photo from one year ago today, July 23, 2015:

One year ago, in Cairns, Australia we had no trouble finding a shopping mall with only a few turns required off the main highway into town. For more details, please click here.

Vacation rental horror story…More horrific news for tourists to Bangkok…

The drive to Smithfield Regional Park which we visited yesterday was pleasant. The day started out sunny quickly changing to clouds and sprinkles.

Each morning as I begin the day’s post, we turn on the news to see what’s happening in the world. This morning, we were shocked and devastated by the news of a bombing close to the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand which was crowded with tourists at the time, killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 120. The full story and videos may be seen here.

As we discussed over the past few days, one can never be too careful. We’ll be in Thailand a year from now and since I’d been there in the past (before Tom), I felt there was no need for us to stop in Bangkok, a highly congested city plagued with crime. Instead, we’ll be flying directly to the island of Phuket.

We didn’t stop at the bungee jumping spot (spelled this way in Australia as compared to bungee in other countries). 

Sadly, Phuket wasn’t safe for tourists in 2004 when it was hit by a devastating tsunami killing over 5000 people, many of them tourists staying in oceanfront properties along the exquisite beaches.

With caution in mind, the beautiful vacation property, we selected is a few miles from the ocean. Also, with prices high close to the beach, we had two reasons to stay inland a bit. We’ll visit the beaches at our discretion. 

Many of the trails are designated for mountain bikers requiring a quick jump to the side when a biker appears.

The story Tom discovered a few days ago, spotted in the New York Times newspaper reminded us once again that the reality of booking vacation rentals online presents certain risks in itself. 

Of course, this particular story is an isolated case. A similar situation could easily occur in any apartment building complex anywhere in the world, whether it was a vacation rental or a long term apartment rental.

We stopped and talked to a pair of mountain bikers who’d stopped by the check out the trails before bringing their bikes back for the miles of trails.

Here’s a portion of the story and a link to the balance you’ll find by clicking here:

“Airbnb Horror Story Points to Need for Precautions

Early in the evening of July 4, Micaela Giles’s mobile phone started sounding alerts, and a series of messages straight out of a horror movie began scrolling down her screen.
Her 19-year-old son told her that his Airbnb host in Madrid had locked him in the fourth-floor apartment where he was supposed to be staying and removed the key. The host was still there, he said, rattling knives around in the kitchen drawer and pressing him to submit to a sexual act. He begged his mother for help.
When she called Airbnb, its employees would not give her the address and would not call the police. Instead, they gave her a number to the Madrid police and told her to ask the police to call the company for the address. But the number led to a recording in Spanish that kept disconnecting her, she said, and when she repeatedly called back her Airbnb contact, the calls went straight to voice mail.
According to her son, Jacob Lopez, he was sexually assaulted that night. Eventually, he persuaded his host to free him. He returned home to Massachusetts and is in trauma therapy.”
The remainder of this story continues here.
As shown in the remainder of this story at the above link, Airbnb was unsure as to how to handle this situation.  Hopefully, by now, some new procedures are in place that may have averted this horrible situation by prompting the police to the property immediately. This never should have happened.
We walked into the park for awhile, eventually turning back when we realized the trails weren’t as suitable for walking as opposed to mountain biking.
We’ve used Airbnb a few times, but have shied away from it since they require the full amount of the vacation rental paid at the time of the booking as opposed to paying a deposit and paying the balance at a later date. Supposedly, they are revising this policy to make it more user friendly, which would make it more appealing to us.
This is one of the reasons we don’t like renting apartments as many travelers prefer, finding the cost of an apartment less than a condo, townhouse, or single-family home. The proximity of public transportation and access to popular tourist site is highly appealing to many travelers.
The sky was overcast when we arrived at the park.

Younger travelers often prefer to be in the hubbub of the big city. For us, a suburb or the country is ideal for us, as is the case living here in Trinity Beach with a current population of under 5000. 

Even, the bigger city of  Cairns, 20 minutes south of Trinity Beach, has a population of 156,000, not a huge metropolis by any means. Tom always says, “The closer you get to tall buildings, the more likely to find crime, poverty, and increased risk.”
At points, the trail was cleared of debris, but at other points, mountain biker enthusiasts would be in for quite a ride.
Our style of living tends to keep us away from tall buildings as much as possible although we’ve encountered our fair share over these past three years. As for the above traveler’s experience, traveling alone in a big city, he fell prey to greater risk based on location and circumstances.
In reality, there are definitely certain locations and circumstances that add to the risk of crime for tourists.  With all of our precautions, we could easily be a target in the most seemingly innocuous locations.
In the US these shops are referred to as auto body shops. Here in Australia, they are called smash repairs. We love the differences!
Luckily, for us, we find the most joy in our travels in quieter less populated locations far from tall buildings.  However, exposure to increased risk may be unavoidable such as the case of our upcoming river cruise in Vietnam where we’ll be staying in hotels in big cities and dining out for a few weeks before and during the cruise/tour. We chose to take these risks although the likelihood of an incident is relatively slim.
Also, the fact that we don’t visit nightclubs and seldom visit bars added to the fact that we seldom wander dark streets at night adds another layer of safety.  Had we been younger, these types of venues may have been more desirable. We both easily recall the fun times we had “nightclubbing” in our younger years. 
I don’t drink alcohol at all (health reasons) and Tom has little interest in having a cocktail other than when we’re on a cruise (along with partaking in the vast array of foods he doesn’t otherwise enjoy). This fact alone, generally keep us out of bars and the resulting higher risk scenarios of leaving the bar and walking to one’s car or grabbing a taxi at night in the dark.
As we exited we spotted this site which appeared to be used for dumping the debris on the trail.  We’ve found parks in Australia to be well maintained.
Are we the typical overly cautious senior couple?  In some ways, we are. But in other ways, adventure which may include a certain degree of risk, is the highlight of our lives and some of our best experiences. 
As for how we’ll handle vacation rentals going forward? We’ll handle the booking process and eventual occupancy, in the same manner, we have thus far, with a degree of caution coupled with an expectation of a good outcome.
Have a good day!
Photo from one year ago, August 17, 2014:
 While in London (and Paris) we had no choice but to walk the streets at night (we were in fairly safe South Kensington) or grabbing a taxi to return to our hotel in the dark. Spending an entire month in these two large cities left us with no option other than to dine out for every meal. This photo was of a sign posted at our reserved table at Andover Arms in London, one of the best restaurants we experienced in our travels. Please click this link for more photos of our fabulous meal and evening.

Part 2…The gap is filled!…

The house in Phuket, Thailand was built around its private pool.

With the decision and full payment made for the Viking Mekong River cruise next July our next decision was to decide on where we wanted to stay for the remaining 41 days until we return for our second leg in Bali, we perused the map and literally 100’s of vacation homes in the countries we were interested in visiting.

The dining room overlooking the pool.

Based on a 10 day gap in the itinerary prior to the cruise which we’ll fill with a hotel in Hanoi with an excellent opportunity to tour the city and the duration of the cruise, we had 41 days yet to fill after the cruise ended and before returning to Bali.

There are several areas to lounge by the pool.

When considering vacation homes, the close proximity to the location before and after is usually a huge factor along with an attempt to get the best possible property for the best possible price with the amenities that are important to us.

Most often, close proximity to the ocean when possible has been a driving force.  However, as we searched for Southeast Asia, oceanfront and ocean view properties were through the roof.

An additional seating area in the dining room.

We asked ourselves this question, “Would we be willing to forgo an ocean view for a mere 41 days to be living in a beautiful house with a pool, in brand new condition with all of our favorite amenities and with an opportunity to drive a short distance to the ocean at will?” 

Our answer was “yes” especially when it would take us to a new country we’d yet to explore together, Thailand, a country I’d visited 30 years ago BT (before Tom).

A modern kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

The island of Phuket, Thailand suffered a tremendous loss of life when a tsunami ravaged the island in 2004, a story that was heard around the world. We recall watching the devastation on the news, hearts breaking over the horrific stories told by those who were thrust into the disaster and miraculously survived, many losing loved ones or seriously injured.

This might have been a good spot for countertop dining.  But, from what we’ve seen throughout the world, that concept is not always popular.

It’s been over 10 years since the devastating tsunami and Phuket has been rebuilt to become one of the choice islands in the world to visit. My fond memories of its wonderful people and the astounding beauty of this special place surely was instrumental in my suggesting it to Tom, as we searched for the ideal property for many hours.

Sipping a cup of coffee while lounging in these chairs in the morning will be easy to take.

Finally, we landed on this home that is more than befitting our needs and wants to give us a chance to visit yet another country on our worldwide journey. Yes, there are other countries in Southeast Asia that would have worked for us, but Phuket stood out among the rest.

Here is the link to the listing of the house we chose in Phuket, Thailand.

View of the living room with a flat-screen TV and hopefully comfortable furniture.

We’ll rent a car during our stay enabling us to explore, shop in the outdoor markets, and see the points of interest. Many who visit Thailand often visit Bangkok (on the mainland) as I did years ago. With the congestion, traffic, and noise of the big city, we’ve opted to stay away and will choose a flight directly to Phuket.

Alternate view of the living room.

During our expansive search, we attempted to find a vacation home in Vietnam but were unable to do so at a price in line with our budget. They were either very inexpensive apartments in the center of the cities or outrageously expensive massive homes in the countryside, neither of which worked for us.

Both bedrooms have king-sized beds and overlook the pool.

It was at that point we began perusing the bordering countries, any of which would be easy to navigate and with affordable flight fares. We’re confident it all will work out well.

Master bedroom alternate view.  Both bedrooms have en suite bathrooms.

Enjoy these photos today that we “borrowed” from the property owner’s listing on TravelMob, a newer vacation home rental site we’ve only recently utilized, owned under the umbrella of our favorite HomeAway site which owns many of these types of websites. The property owner, Gregory, has been wonderful to work with, and based on reviews he continues to provide excellent service throughout the rental period.

Jacuzzi tub and separate walk-in shower in master bath.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with a very special story of an event that literally brought tears to our eyes with a sense of joy and a feeling of awe that we’re excited to share.

Outdoor dining.

                                                 Photo from one year ago today, July 6, 2014:

The mountains and hills of Madeira were often shrouded in dense clouds, creating a magnificent scene, one we never failed to notice. For more details, please click here.