Showing posts from December, 2011

10 Days in Vietnam...planes, trains and automobiles!

I am not the sort of person that orders a hamburger when I travel.  Honestly, I have never liked them anyway so why not experience the food that local people are eating?  But this morning I am questioning that decision.

Day before yesterday we decided to take a boat excursion so the family could snorkel and everyone could fish for their lunch.  The wind blew but it didn't seem to dampen anyones spirits as we baited hooks to fish then donned snorkel masks to leap off the boat and paddle around rock to see Angle Fish in Vietnam waters south to Phu Quoc Island.

The fish was cooked in the kitchen of the boat by a woman that cleaned up after we had eaten  (Note:  I was sick last night!)  But it was worth the experience and everyone seems to be just fine.....

I also am all about the details...a prison on Phu Quoc Island held captured Viet Cong for the French and then the Americans.  We drove by the prison walls and the memorial site when the Vietnamese prisoners were held.  Many died d…

Grandchildren, Vietnam and Swimming!


Trader Joe's Perfect Dripless Candle Discontinued

I know you have been looking for these candles but were disappointed when arriving at the store.  Here is the letter I received from costomer relations at Trader Joe's. (Previous article)

 Barbara,1. Our Trader Joe's Danish Dripless Candles have been discontinued due to slow sales in all of our stores. Our TJ'S White Danish Candles were only available in specific Midwest and East Coast stores due to a limited amount of stock found in our warehouse.
2. These products are specifically manufactured for us, therefore they are not available under any other name at any other retailer.
3. Trader Joe's and it's private labeled products are privately owned, therefore we follow a very strict disclosure policy along side our suppliers. Due to this policy, we do not disclose any of our supplier information.
Many thanks,Nicki K.Customer RelationsTrader Joe's

A day on an Island...Phu Quoc, Vietnam

I want to let you in on a secret…writing about our travels here Vietnam and in China can be very difficult.  In some cases, a VPN service is necessary to do some of the most innocent things.  For example, access to Facebook and Twitter or even 4Square can be blocked because someone has abused the privilege of connecting with the world.  In the United States, we call that freedom of speech but out here in the rest of the world it doesn’t work that way.  What is is!
I am writing now on a word processing program because the internet service here in our resort is “sketchy” this morning.  I don’t know if it is the ocean breeze or the fact that the guys are connected to the net so they can watch Green Bay play Chicago.  Anything is possible.

Night before last we had dinner on the beach with the owner of the resort, his wife and son along with residence from 20 other rooms. It was a gala affair.  
We took a taxi out to the night market last night and ate dinner cooked on charcoal grills in …

Traveling with Grandchildren in the Far East!

We are now on Phu Quoc Island just off the island of Vietnam and Cambodia.  My husband and I are traveling with our son's family and his friend.  We had 4 children in tow....10, 8, 4 and 4.  We are staying a resort called Cassia Cottages.  There is no TV nor is there a "recreational director" to amuse the children.   This resort is rated #2 on Trip Advisor for the island.  I can see why.   Everything is really, really perfect!

I am not as experienced at this type of travel as my son's family is so I did expected there to be some difficulties.  Food choices, things for children to keep them happy and a general need for entertainment seemed to lurk as possible obstacles to be over come.  As it turns out, there are no problems.  The reason may be that these people know how to pull this off without a hitch.  Here are some things that I have observed.

Sharing a two bedroom suite with another family makes things very affordableAn ipad for each child fills enough of the tim…

5 Great Ideas for Holiday Fun with Grandchildren

The winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year not for the lights, the presents, or even
the copious amounts of food that are hallmarks of the season; they are truly wonderful because of the
time you get to spend with your family. And if you’re going to have some time with your grandkids this year, you may be racking your brains to come up with some activities that will keep them entertained.

So here are just a few ideas that will help you to connect with your grandchildren and make some
wonderful holiday memories.

1. Outdoor fun. You don’t necessarily have to labor at building a snowman or taking your
grandkids skiing in order to enjoy the brisk weather. Take a stroll at twilight to check out the
holiday lights and decorations in your neighborhood or consider some good old fashioned
caroling to get everyone in the spirit of the season. Then come home for some hot cocoa by the
2. Holiday crafts. If you have some time on your hands, you and the kids can spend it cre…

10 Things about travel in Vietnam..2011

Do not worry about not speaking the LanguageTaxi service is very good and not a problem.You do not need to be fearful for your safety.The cost for food is ridiculously low.The food is delicious but if you want to pretend you are back home, you can probably order food just like mom cooks.If you suffer from celiac disease this is the perfect place for you.  Food can be very salty so ask for no salt if you need to.Travel with hand cleaner even though the accommodations are very clean.Drink lots of water before and after the plane flight.Carry small packs of kleenex...and do not put toilet paper or kleenex in the toilet.Always bargain with the people on the street and remember that store owners have a set price. Offer half what they ask but you will pay 1/3 less usually.  If you cannot afford the price just walk away but remember that if you touch an item or look closely, the vendor will think you are going to buy.  Expect to be beckoned in to the stall...get over the fact that you ar…

Vietnam...Selling to the Tourist from Hanoi to Sapa

Well, campers, out here where the rubber meets the road things are always happening.  You can read the travel books about Vietnam till the cows come home but until you have actually have the shoe shine man take your shoes away from you you don't know a thing.

I have aways found that no meant no in most languages. However, in the far east, the shoe shine guys are polishing your shoes as you walk down the street...even in China. No has no meaning for them.  I have pulled my foot away many a time and have even walked around with shoe polish all over my shoe because I escaped.  But this time I did not get away.  My shoes were polished, repaired and even resoled as I looked on helplessly.   My feet were slipped into slippers and I leaned against a building waiting for the guy to finish.  When the calculator came out and the price was quoted I gasped but nothing we said would make him go away.  It seemed even worse because the Dong is 21,000 to each $1. I told my family they woul…

Travel Viet Nam...Getting to Sapa

We are here in Sapa, Vietnam with our family and their friends. It has been foggy and cool since we arrive at 5 am Sunday morning. We came from Hanoi on the train and traveled overnight in a sleeper car. It was a very basic train ride with 4 berths per room and extremely hard beds. We slept in our clothes and partied in the halls until we could no longer stand. We are traveling in a group of ten people. Just normal stuff, you know how it is!

This is not easy...train travel is what it has always been.  But, in this case it was the only way to get from there to here.  In our group, I was the only one that had never actually had a sleeping berth on the train.  I have learned that traveling at night on the train is hard.  But, in the end we managed a few hours of rest.  
After we were rousted from a deep sleep at around 4:45 am and struggled to let our legs to move, a porter yelled through the car door "GET OFF THE TRAIN NOW".  So we did.  Our group loaded onto a van and then t…

Good Morning Viet Nam!

I don't know if this is normal but in this neighborhood everyone is jarred awake at 7:00 am.  Loud music plays over speakers that hang over the streets and alleyways so communication with the citizens is always possible...I think. My daughter-in-law says they do this in Japan too.  Music, followed by morning announcement greets each day.  Who knew!

We are staying in the Hanoi Gecko Hotel in the heart of the city near Hoan Bien Lake.  Small hotels, hostels surround the area and vendors, restaurant owners live and work on the street.  Everything you have ever seen or heard about this city is true...then multiply it by ten and you are almost there.

The core of the city here feels very small.  I don't know if there are other areas like this or not.  Traffic does not adhere to any rules that I can see.  A teaming mass of humanity moves at a snails pace in a small space.  There is no center line and driving on the left or right side of the road is okay.  Everyone just takes the pat…

A Day In China...Yes, bigger is better in Shanghai!

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A A Day in China: A glimpse at the two sides of China!

Oh my gosh...there really are two sides to China...a real working man's China and a luxurious expat/successful citizen China. I know, you heard that before, but this is the way it is out here where the rubber meets the road!  The choice you can make as an expat will be which China do you want to live in or are you wise enough to stand with one foot in both?  I, personally, prefer to straddle the line between the two.
Yesterday, for example, we got on the subway system here in Pudong (eastside of Shanghai) at the Science and Technology museum terminal.  We traveled across Shanghai, changed train lines, were pushed and instructed by local people to finally arrive at the Chinese glasses market.  A market for eye glasses and opticians filled one floor of a very large building.  YEH 3 Optical (?) has every kind, color, quality of eye glasses you could ever want...and I mean every kind!  We wander through the vendors and selected one for no logical reason.  For us the idea that no one …

A Day in China...getting around in Shanghai

The first day we arrived here in Pudong (east Shanghai) we went to out granddaughter school for special Christmas events and a writer's workshop in the 2nd grade.  One of the delightful sidelights for these school visits is listening to expat teachers talk about their homes, families and their experiences here in China.  I love to see what they do when they are not being a "teacher".

One young teacher told about her father visiting recently.  She said he was  afraid to leave the Shanghai links here where our son lives.  He had gone out the wrong gate one day and was faced with guards that did not speak English.  They would not let him back in.  It frightened him to be locked out.  You have to understand what that would be like.

The links provides shuttle to several stops over here on the east side of the Shanghai metro area.  A grocery store, park, metro station are jumping off places for what you would like to do.  We were given this similar experience when we were here…

A Day in China...It's the "people's" road!

Note:  This is the third time I have spent an extended period of time in and around the Shanghai area.  In this city that claims to be the largest in the world, the wonders would never end, at least not for me. 
It is the "people's road" I remind myself.  I get the feeling that in this communist country, the population has learned to ignore or disregard anyone that would try to hold the upper hand.  They walk down the middle of the road with total disregard for their safety slowing traffic to a stand still with an attitude that says we are sharing the "people's road".  Not even a big truck is better that a small person...we are all equal!  

The full meaning of this way of thinking hit me yesterday when we were driving in a rural area west of Shanghai.  As we turned on a wide boulevard paved with concrete, we were faced with two lanes covered with rice drying in the sun.  Farmers camped on the road to guard their harvest and people raked the rice by hand or pu…

A Day in China...communication is not easy!

This is not as easy as it was six years ago when I wrote my very first blog post! We are in China again and the bigger the access to the Internet gets the harder it is to communicate with people that live outside the country. That is just the way it is. We arrived here in Shanghai last Thursday late in the afternoon. The air quality may be so bad that the private school my grandchildren attend might limit recess to the indoors. The temperature lingers at around 40 f. It is Sunday here. We went downtown for brunch at the Westin where we ate as opera and chamber music floated across the room of 200 expats. When we stepped outdoors and loaded on the van, women carrying Louis Vinton bags stood waiting for taxis. When we left the hotel we pulled onto street with clothes drying on poles outside windows. The juxtaposition of the extreme modern and ancient still amazes me.  Driving down that same street I clicked photos as fast as I could so I could look at them again to see the World F…

10 Easy Smartphone/iphone Apps I use for Traveling!

Image via Wikipedia AroundMe Icon

Traveling using your iphone or Android apps can make all the difference.  You can struggle to get the information you need or you can get smart and make your smart phone work for you. You can get along without them but it will not be as easy.  Really!
Google Maps  Even though we have a Garmain for our car, I still find myself going to this wonderful app on my iphone.  I can find my location, enlarge the map to see the streets nearby and get directions along with the map showing my location in relationship to my destination.  I can even type the name of a store like Safeway along with the name of the city I am and it will show me all my available choices in relationship to where I am located at the moment.  We have gotten very dependent on this tool.AroundMe  Have you even just wanted to get some food but couldn't seem to located the restaurants nearby?  Here is just what you need.  You click on the app and find the category your are looking for (g…