My An Loc Mission

With this gift I REMEMBER you! RIP!! 24FEB71
With this gift I REMEMBER you!
RIP!!   24FEB71

It’s Friday morning and I’m on my way to breakfast, to organize my memorial offering and find my way to The Spot!!

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The breakfast menu
The breakfast menu

 

This is a  big adventure, I’ll tell you!

These lovely ladies helping me complete the mission!!
These lovely ladies helping me complete the mission!!

 

 

 

 

 

The lovely ladies at the hotel called a hire car for me at 10am…

It is now 10:40 and I’m back in the hotel having a beer!!

Having completed my mission!!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Here's the map with the location of the mission: 11 39.562 N 106 36.646 E I found it!! Quite easily actually!!
Here’s the map with the location of the mission:
11 39.562 N
106 36.646 E
I found it!! Quite easily actually!!

The bar is playing the baroque Classic: Johann Pachebel, Canon in D major! (one of my absolute favorites, even if my classical music

Exactly the right spot!! The second taxi driver I had took quite a crazy route to get to "The Spot" and thought that I was completely out of my mind running into the middle of the road with my flower basket!!
Exactly the right spot!! The second taxi driver I had took quite a crazy route to get to “The Spot” and thought that I was completely out of my mind running into the middle of the road with my flower basket!!

knowledge is pathetic!)

How does that happen ????  It is has been a very emotional day!!  The bar music is inspirational and melancholy!!

And I’ve done what I came to do!

There wasn't much traffic but An Loc / Binh Long ? Is quite a large city now!
There wasn’t much traffic but An Loc / Binh Long ? Is quite a large city now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I left my frangipani basket at the corner of QL13 and No Trang Long!!
I left my frangipani basket at the corner of QL13 and No Trang Long!!
Time for a Heini OR two !! It is 11am on a very emotional day!! The bar music is inspirational and melancholy!! And I've done what I came to do!
Time for a Heini OR two !! It is 11am on a very emotional day!! The bar music is inspirational and melancholy!! And I’ve done what I came to do!

Thought for the day:

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NEVER do this!!!

This lovely sales lady just said, "You are very lucky!"
This lovely sales lady just said, “You are very lucky!”

I had an absolute heart attack Tuesday afternoon when, after tooling up and down Dong Khoi street all day …. I got back to the room
AND
I did NOT have my PASSPORT in my Australian Aboriginal designed bag!!!

I use the bag for passport wallet and hotel key and put it in the chain strap shoulder bag with phone/ camera

I have everything else!!
Ran around like a nut back to souvenir shop across the street where I got shot glasses ….

Turns out I left it on a chair when I took a picture of the restaurant folded napkins!!!
Panic OVER!!!

Look at that beautifully folded napkin!!
Look at that beautifully folded napkin!!

Arrived An Loc Hotel and Spa

Fruit and croissant course
Fruit and croissant course
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Asian foods course
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Fried eggs with bacon, chicken, spring roll and baguette; pawpaw garnish
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Another delicious breakfast DESSERT??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I left HCMC after another amazing breakfast. It was, however, very crowded and they had a hard time actually finding me a table! The foods are always the same … But also different!

  • After my pawpaw pineapple watermelon warm croissant course I had:
  • Vermicelli stir fry, Bok Chou, begger’s purse and roast chicken ( with 6 baked beans)
  • Fried eggs, bacon , baguette, chicken pawpaw garnish
  • I tried one little dessert cake – a citrus cake and a to die for cream puff!!

No Brie, no tiramisu, no broiled tomatoes, no pho

THE DRIVE TO AN LOC – It’s 2 pm Thursday and I’ve just arrived at the An Loc Hotel and Spa on the main route QL13 just a few miles from the Cambodian border!

Coming out here, my overpriced Grand Hotel organized driver said two things:

1- My business has NEVER driven anyone to An Loc before! It is very famous from the American war!!

2- This area is very poor!

It’s a two and half hour drive on a divided toll highway! There wasn’t much traffic once we got out of the city!  Almost the entire road was lined with grimy little shops, Gigantic factory entrances for multinational companies from Korea, China, Germany…, there were three large war memorials, a huge new mall, a couple pagodas, an amusement park, eventually a few rubber tree plantations.

My deluxe non smoking room is quite posh!! I wonder who usually stays here?? It's in the middle of nowhere??
My deluxe non smoking room is quite posh!! I wonder who usually stays here?? It’s in the middle of nowhere??

Right now there is a massive swarm of dragon flies outside my second floor window!

I am ready to try to figure out what’s next. The current front desk staff does not speak English!

 

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View from my bedroom window
Beautiful view of the highway!
Beautiful view of the highway!

Wednesday in HCMC

The HUEY is much smaller than I thought and there was no separation between the pilots and the crew!
The HUEY is much smaller than I thought and there was no separation between the pilots and the crew!

 

The door gun
The door gu

 

 

Wednesday morning breakfast – To start papaya, pineapple and watermelon with a fresh, warm croissant.

This then followed by:

  • A cheese omelette with baked tomato
  • A Baguette with Brie;
  • Asian dim sum and fried noodles;
  • A green tea cake with whipped cream, garnished with strawberries;
  • A heavenly tiramisu.

All with hot tea!!

After all that food I waddled to the War Remnants Museum with my free ticket in hand.  The War Remnants Museum was very well done – the pictures of a useless and wasteful war are all spinning in my head!!!

My fruit course with croissant! The white slice with black seeds is Dragon fruit, the round halve is passion fruit, watermelon and pineapple with Vietnamese coffee!

 

I was most impressed with the exhibition about the photojournalists that lost their lives while trying to document what was happening during the war! Their photographs are amazing, iconic,  classic images of the American/ Vietnam War!

The exhibit included biographies, quotations expressing their emotional involvement in what they were recording and in many cases, their last photographs! Powerful!

  • A Henri Huet photograph taken at Quan Loi, 1965. It could just as surly be the crash I am here to remember from February 1971! RIP brave heroes
    A Henri Huet photograph taken at Quan Loi, 1965. It could just as surly be the crash I am here to remember from February 1971! RIP brave heroes

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    The hotel are organizing my journey to An Loc via a couple of tourist sights – Can’t wait to see what it will cost!!

    I’m looking forward to the dance performance tonight, it will be my first in a communist controlled environment???

So it’s Thursday morning  – Well it is finally happening – I’m leaving for An Loc in my expensive hire car!!

Only 3 more hotel nights !!  The end of my trip is coming to a close FAST!!

 

I Ate PHO ….. For breakfast

Pho ... Made to my exacting standards " just a little please, beef!" By a delightfully smiling breakfast chef !! She was so happy that I like Pho for breakfast because she taught me it was delicious
Pho … Made to my exacting standards ” just a little please, beef!” By a delightfully smiling breakfast chef !!    She was so happy that I like Pho for breakfast because she taught me it was delicious. I tried 3 sauces! The fish sauce tastes like the bottom of a dirty aquarium!!
Complementary fruit: bananas and dragon fruit
Complementary fruit: bananas and dragon fruit
My phone works!
My phone works!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few pictures of the Ancient Wing of the Grand Hotel and breakfast.

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM  (thanks for reminding me, Pat!)

It was a very long day getting from Bukit Lawang, Northern Sumatra to HCMC, Vietnam via the Crew Hotel at KNO airport (Kualanumu – Medan) and a five hour stop in transit lounge Bangkok (Don Mueang) airport .

I love HCMC and the Vietnamese culture already!! So mellow and gentle compared to crazy Medan!!

I’ve just arrived but have glimpsed the Notre Dame Cathedral, some lovely parks, the Opera ( I’ll try to get a ticket for the Mist dance performance!). I feel like I am in Paris!! A city that I just adore!! So I feel safe and ready to explore…..

I am a spoiled brat, however, just sent out my laundry, and found the insanely expensive airport private pick-up The Best Thing Ever!!!

It’s 10:45 am here and there is lots to do and see, with rain forecast for the entire day.
I want to walk around not be stuck in a car!!  Don’t think I need to be in a boat on the Mekong river all day either!!

With shopping, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Vietnam War era stuff to see right in HCMC… That’s enough

I sent out a lot of laundry again,  with it being SO hot everything gets wet and smelly fast!!

This city makes me happy ( remember… I used to fly to Paris for my birthday weekend!!)

My room in the ancient wing, accessible by classic 1930s era French lift!! Fantastic. The ceiling must be 10feet high! Huge window that opens onto a not-too-noisy, one way street!
My room in the ancient wing, accessible by classic 1930s era French lift!! Fantastic. The ceiling must be 10feet high! Huge window that opens onto a not-too-noisy, one way street!

 

 

 

 

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Next Stop HCMC

The drive from Bukit is second to none CRAZY.  My driver was excellent – Swerving left, moving right – Into the other lane – avoiding livestock,  wildlife, people,  assorted third world vehicles, buses, trucks full of palm oil seeds, police, vendors…. Ah the third world!!

I don’t seem to be able to keep an Internet connection which is driving me nuts!!!  to make up for it I’m sitting in the lobby restaurant having Indonesian spicy chicken noodle soup and the SMALLEST/ most expensive BinTang of the trip.  Great view of planes taking off and flying right over the place.

This place is state-of-art mechanized!!
I couldn’t figure out:
*    How to make the elevator work
*    How to use the Conservation Asian water flush system in the Lue, or
*    How to open the door to the room to get out!!  That one is a bit scary!!!

The hotel took 200000 ” deposit ” and reluctantly handed it back to me this morning!!  So now … I’m swimming in marginally worthless Indonesian rupiah!!  Another long travel day ahead!!!

3:20 am
Made it to the airport.
The baggage check isn’t open!!
As my friend Patricia says, “good morning VIETNAM!!”

9:00 am Sunday
Starbucks in the transit lounge of the old Bangkok airport Don Mueang
Pretty hopping place – It’s huge!!
A bit crumbly but it seems to work.
If my bag arrives in HCMC I’ll be delighted!!
Anyway next flight at around 2:00 pm.  Boarding at 1:10 pm.
Once again I’m hunting for a gate!! ( nothing listed yet!)
It’s a sunny day in Bangkok

6:00 pm Monday
Enjoying a Grand Cocktail at happy hour in the Grand Hotel Saigon.  My bags all made it to the same destination as myself.

There is a fierce thunderstorm !!!  I am watching the thunderstorm from the rooftop bar.

When you get to ANOTHER COUNTRY
It’s a whole new ballgame!!

Everything is different
No more crazy little straws for the cups of water!!!

French is the second language ( like Iran)
The music keeps singing  – “Je t’aime ”   I love you!!!

I am staying in one of the old original suites, which I have the pleasure of paying addition $10 per night to secure.  I really did not want to end up in one of the ‘new’ rooms in the box built behind the original Parisian hotel.
I also have to contend with a crazy little Parisian hotel lift!!
I AM LOVING it.

Things I saw in Sumatra

Dunkin Donuts is celebrating 30 years
Dunkin Donuts is celebrating 30 years
The orange bus, cars and people all blocking the road!
The orange bus, cars and people all blocking the road!
Palm oil plantations, many gigantic palm trees in perfect monoculture rows!
Palm oil plantations, many gigantic palm trees in perfect monoculture rows!
Looking for "Palm oil" nuts?
Looking for “Palm oil” nuts?
Sidecar motorcycles for hire
Sidecar motorcycles for hire

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I started to write down just images from the 4 hour drives to and from Medan / Bukit Lawang.

I also tried to capture a few telling pictures about ” the life” in Northern Sumatra….

Sumatra and the Orangutans

Sunday 12:30 am ….. The only way to see ORANGUTANS was to TREK…..
So I had to TREK!!  But it was worth it!!
We saw a mother orangutan and her daughter playing in their nest up in the trees and then swinging and hanging around in the branches!!

Yes…. I also saw birds, snakes and interesting vegetation (ferns, two kinds of chocolate, rubber trees dripping milky white sap into funny little cups…) and yes ….. I saw primates (there are 8 species in Northern Sumatra) including ORANGUTANS!!!  We saw 4 different kinds of primates including a solitary big grey guy just strolling up the path!! He stood on his hind legs, decided we were too big and to many to mess with, and instead walked around us in the jungle and then continued up the path.  Nice monkey encounters and great plants

AND best of all:  YES ..  I saw

The sign in the jungle announcing the national park entrance
The sign in the jungle announcing the national park entrance
Along the river guess you really can't see the bridge??
Along the river guess you really can’t see the bridge??
A lychee-like fruit
A lychee-like fruit – Rambutan
Can you see the bridge?? The other one washed out in the most recent floods
Can you see the bridge?? The other one washed out in the most recent floods
And then there was rain in the Northern Sumatra tropical rainforest!!
And then there was rain in the Northern Sumatra tropical rainforest!!
Passing through the rubber trees
Passing through the rubber trees
That's a chocolate bean pod, I think!
That’s a chocolate bean pod, I think!

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Being all orange and furry, you would think that ORANGUTANS would be easy to spot .... But unless they are moving ....not so much!
Being all orange and furry, you would think that ORANGUTANS would be easy to spot …. But unless they are moving ….not so much!

… a mother and baby Orangutan!! Impressive!! Wonderful!!! Worth ALL of the effort to get here!!

At first the baby was rustling around in the treetop leaves that are her nest, throwing leaves around! With the mother hanging out on a nearby branch watching the Trekkers going by…

Then the baby put on a real show … Swinging in the branches, climbing on mom, and doing feats of strength … Hanging by one hand for a very long time and then hanging by one foot for a very long time!   Adorable

Another group of tourists had food ( a no no, but what are you going to do!!) so they came very close and ate cucumber and rambatams (red hairy little round fruit with a big seed and white flesh – a bit like lychee.  The mom just put the whole thing in her mouth, spit out the husk and then spit out the seed …. I think she gave a couple of pieces to the baby, because the people feeding only fed the mother …

A once in a lifetime thing!!

Nando, my Sherpa!, very politely asked me “You don’t do this very often, do you??”  We went very slowly!!  And the uphill steps were dreadful!! Treacherous for me with slippery mud, uneven surfaces, roots to trip you up, huge trees fallen across the way, and did I mention mid-day tropical rainforest heat!!

I didn’t go at the optimum time of day, but my viewing was delightful, and shared with only two other teams.  A couple with huge cameras, and a woman from Adelaide on her way to Sri Lanka.

In preparation for the trek, I had walked down to the bridge and back the day before and had a small beer at the hotel on the other side. ( mind you … At that point, IT absolutely WAS NOT trekking warm-up, because I still thought that I could watch a feeding!!)

Nando pointing to the baby, while she performs a"feat of strength!"
Nando pointing to the baby, while she performs a”feat of strength!”
Feeding is a no-no but being that close to these precious creatures is special
Feeding is a no-no but being that close to these precious creatures is special
Crazy uneven concrete step ms to get to the bridge
Crazy uneven concrete step ms to get to the bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bridge steps were difficult AND that round trip was an adventure for lazy me!!.

After our trek, I bought my guide, Hadi, and my “stick/Sherpa”, Nando, beers in the same place.. We were all happy for a refreshing beverage.

Back at my abode and I am now watching it RAIN in the Rainforest (at 5:10 pm).  We are having a pretty impressive thunder storm at the moment with more of that monsoon like downpour!!  Plus thunder and bright lightening.  It’s a great storm! The electricity is out!

Clouds keep rolling in so that more and more of the jungle side of the river is disappearing and turning white!!

It looks wonderful AND every time I think I have never seen it rain THAT hard …  it rains HARDER!! And the thunder and lightening gets louder and brighter!!  The perfect end to a day of TREKKING!!

Borobudur in the rain

The top layer of Borobudur. There is a seated Buddha inside each "bell", sadly many are decapitated.
The top layer of Borobudur. There is a seated Buddha inside each “bell”, sadly many are decapitated.
Storm clouds brewing
Storm clouds brewing

I made arrangements after breakfast/lunch/ world wide morning food tastes, to have a driver take me the hour drive to Borobudur, the largest Buddhist stupa in the Southern Hemisphere!

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It's a pretty long walk to get to the base of the stupa and then MANY, off sized and irregular stone or wooden steps at the EAst, West, North and South directions
It’s a pretty long walk to get to the base of the stupa and then MANY, off sized and irregular stone or wooden steps at the EAst, West, North and South directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole day was amazing! The stupa is SPECTACULAR! The rain came down in a torrential downpour!! An absolute monsoon! But it didn’t matter! As a result of the rain, there was nobody else there! And with cloud cover at noon, it wasn’t even HOT! ( trying to find the good in the day, wasn’t very hard!! Just followed the delighted little boy jumping into the puddles!)

I did need to buy something DRY for the hour long trip back to the hotel BUT that proved to be a challenge for a couple of reasons:
1- with the downpours, a lot of the shops were closed
2- most shops don’t stock garments for female giants like myself!!

I finally found the one dress that would fit me, trying it on in the rain, over my wet clothes in the middle of the market stalls!
I now love my blue batik Borobudur design mumu !!!
But where to change from the wet stuff into the dry dress.. And when?!
I found the driver in Parking A right where we parked. He drove over to the Toilet, a small building guarded by a couple of guys who were charging ladies money!!
I ran in saying “no toilet” and proceeded to discretely remove my wet blouse, put on the dress, when it covered my knees, I dropped the wet trow and left!!
A little girl, waiting, was wide eyed watching the whole process… Does she have a story to tell!!
It’s all good!!

On the walls of the lower levels, there are reliefs depicted the life of Siddhartha, the Buddha. These people are cleaning!
On the walls of the lower levels, there are reliefs depicted the life of Siddhartha, the Buddha. These people are cleaning!

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She helped me with the dress, he suggested that I try the biggest one they had!!
She helped me with the dress, he suggested that I try the biggest one they had!!
Instead of a Tshirt ... I got a batik mumu!!
Instead of a Tshirt … I got a batik mumu!!

A trip to the center of Yogja

I discovered a grocery store!! The REAL price of water! I discovered a grocery store!! The REAL price of water!

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My waiting SPOT
My waiting SPOT
This is the drop off and pickup spot!! If I had noticed that crazy empty sign post, I would have known EXACTLY where I needed to be at noon! But using the important travelers code, NEVER PANIC! It all worked out just fine!!
This is the drop off and pickup spot!! If I had noticed that crazy empty sign post, I would have known EXACTLY where I needed to be at noon! But using the important travelers code, NEVER PANIC! It all worked out just fine!!
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A perfume shop.
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Fresh, raw eggs in the grocery store. The clerk said she didn’t understand English but we were able to figure out that in fact those eggs ARE raw!!

016/07/image-157-300×225.jpeg” alt=”So much digging along the side of the road! It’s very challenging walking!! Being under the covered walkway works better, even if there are so many vendors!” width=”300″ height=”225″ class=”size-medium wp-image-344″ /> So much digging along the side of the road! It’s very challenging walking!! Being under the covered walkway works better, even if there are so many vendors![/caption]

Can you say
DUMB as DIRT!!
11:30 am

I got the 9 am free shuttle from the Hyatt that went straight down the street for 25 minutes (as in, it’s that far to get back there!) AND then dropped us ( 8) people off on the side of the road!! The guy drew a dot on the map for me to show me the pickup spot!! SO I figured I was good to go!!

WRONG WRONG WRONG!!
I have no idea WHERE the pickup spot actually is!!   Fortunately I have 20 minutes to moan about it before I have to start looking for some stupid car this a piece of paper in the back window saying “HYATT Shuttle!!”

I Remember how in India it was impossible to figure out where you were for the first few days because the landmarks you picked out MOVED!!
Well it’s kind of like that!!
The whole D A M N street looks the same!!
I don’t know if the “spot” is BEFORE the bus stop or after??!?!
Is it BESIDE the chicken sculpture in the middle of the road or after it!?!

The driver will have my room number SO I’ve positioned myself in the shade on a comfortable seat of yet-to-be-installed sidewalk tiles with a couple of other guys all using cell phones!
The sweeper people are working hard.  A guy with a funny broom and a trash bin on wheels went by and I got up to throw my empty water bottle away … SOME young Asian boy with a big black back ……….. took my spot!!

I told him to move!!

He didn’t … So I sat down right next to him!

Eventually he moved!!
11:50!!
Big loud
Call to prayer chanting, very loudly but I can’t tell from where!!
Being at the Hyatt is interesting. I don’t even know if they change shuttle vehicles based upon the reservations!! I’m not even sure what I’m looking for!!

ANYWAY

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Here’s a map! I marked where the hotel is and where the driver marked, the SPOT!!

My walk down the street was a grand adventure….
The real prices for things is incredibly cheap!!
I went into one shop and ended up inside a huge mall with a grocery store “like target” in the basement, a Car dealership on another floor.
I didn’t buy anything but I tried on a sale priced outfit that was only $18. ( very pretty hooded cape thing, think little red riding hood!).
Not a single Borobudur statue anywhere… That rain yesterday was very bad for business!! And tourism!!