Loading...
Start a new Travel Blog! Blogabond Home Maps People Photos My Stuff

Carl's Circuit

a travel blog by GoBlue


Well, after a whirlwind wrap-up in Ann Arbor, we are on the road...I think it is going to take 3 months to recover from all that I am leaving behind in AA, so let's get started!
view all 68 photos for this trip


Show Oldest First
Show Newest First

Northern Thailand--Part 1

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Our first few days in Chiang Mai were incredible. Joc and I found a great place to rock climb about 40 minutes outside the city. We booked transport with some local guides, rented a guide book for the day and Joc, Vivian and I headed out for a great day of climbing on some solid Limestone crags.

The next day we booked a local tour that included an elephant ride (they are huge, powerful, and hungry animals--they also blow elephant snot in your face if you don't feed them bananas on a frequent schedule), trek through two hilltribe villages, a waterfall and bamboo rafting down the Maung River (I think that is what the river was called). Toward the end of the rafting trip we stopped for some swimming and cliff jumping (video and pictures to come soon).

After touring the countryside we stopped at the Wat Suen Dok Buddhist temple for "Monk Chat" where we spent 1.5 hours discussing Buddhism with young monks who were finishing their university studies and wanted to practice their English. So, we got a very enlightening discussion about their religion and they got to practice English--win-win (and also a fantastic experience).

After our first few days in Chiang Mai, it is definitely one of my favorite cities on the trip so far.

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 8, 2007 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Northern Thailand--Part 2

Chiang Mai, Thailand


After a great introduction to Northern Thailand, we set off for a few days of cooking school. I think Joc, Viv and Jennie have all written about this, so I won't spend much time on it. But I will say it was a fantastic few days. If you are a Thai food fan and find yourself in Chaing Mai, I highly recommend the Thai Cookery School (http://www.thaicookeryschool.com/). We had the luxury of spending some time with Sompon Nabnian, the school's owner, and it was a great experience to see a successful entrepreneur in Thailand.

To finish our time in Chiang Mai, we hit the crags for another two days. We enjoyed the climbing destination so much the first time we went, we decided to return for our last two days. Our last day was an adventure on a number of fronts . . .we rented a vehicle and drove to the crag--very entertaining. Turns out by renting a vehicle, we actually just borrowed someone's personal car for the day and paid her for it. Seemed crazy, but it worked. Then during the last hour at the crag, we noticed a large, ominous cloud coming our way and we thought we had maybe an hour before it would start to rain. We actually only had about 20 minutes before an incredible wind and rain storm came through and left us huddling under the bamboo hut for dry warmth (that's right, after non-stop heat for a week, it actually was a bit cool!). However, the rain didn't keep us down. We retreated to a nearby cave-like structure and climbed there till dark. We then drove back to the city in the rain (3rd adventure of the day) and finished our last night in Northern Thailand with a simple meal at a nearby restaurant. Again, I hope to post some pictures soon . . .

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 12, 2007 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Good Morning Vietnam!

Hanoi, Vietnam


After an incredible week in Thailand, good people, good food, good countryside, we have landed in Vietnam . . .

To give you a sense of how I feel about the place so far, I'm going to rank order the cities I have visited so far:

1. Sydney
2. Chiang Mai
3. Melbourne
4. Bangkok
5. Kuta (Bali)
6. Yogyakarta (Java)
7. Hanoi

As Joc mentioned in her blog, we were greeted in Vietnam by both incessant horn honking and getting ripped off (read Jocelyn's blog for the details). In general, Hanoi is a big, dirty, loud city with non-descript food and scenery and aggressive merchants. We recently found out that our friends were ripped off twice in taxis by paying with large bills and being refused their rightful change. It is also not uncommon for foreigners to be required to pay for many things that are free for locals. In general, I get the feeling that we are viewed as a means to making money with little interest in or concern for us otherwise (I mention this specifically because this is not at all what we experinced in Thailand). Long story, short: I'm happy for the experience but will be equally happy to move on earlier than planned . . .

PS - Did any of us mention yet how much horn honking is here? It is indescribably unbelieavable. Think New York city times 200!

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 14, 2007 from Hanoi, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Northern Vietnam

Sa Pa, Vietnam


We are currently in the northern mountains of Vietnam after finishing a two day trek and spending the nights in local villages. It was a great experience, something I will remember for a long time to come. That said, I continue to get the feeling that Vietnamese people are not quite as warm and welcoming as other Asian cultures. However, I may not be getting a representative sample . . . it may be a result of finding ourselves on "tourist road".

The trek we walked is the common trek that most foreigners do when they come to Sa Pa. Jocelyn did this same trek 7 years ago and found no other foreigners on the trail and was not accosted by any village people who were looking to sell their trinkets. Now, however, at times we were literally in a line of people walking the trail and were asked at least 60 times a day "you buy from me?" by a local village person (usually young girl or woman with a baby on her back). Along these lines, the homestays where we stayed were lacking the interaction we were hoping for. I speculate this is an extension of the local people seeing hundreds of tourists a week and not being especially interested in interacting . . .

All that said, there were some amazing positives to the trek. The scenery is stunning. The manner in which every inch of a mountainside is used for either rice or corn crops is amazing, and the simple, demanding nature of farm life was understood and appreciated. Once again, I hope to have some pictures soon to show the beauty.

One of the highlights of the trek was our first night homestay. We were introduced to what the locals call "happy water" (aka rice wine)--the more you drink, the happier you get. There were 5 of us from Ross (Joc, Viv, Ben, Aaron and me) and we were joined by two people from Ireland and the family whose house we were staying in. We thought it would be a glass or two of the Rice Wine (which, by the way, drinks way more like grain alcohol or vodka than wine), but they continued to fill up the bottles and pour the shots. Before it was all done, we had 13 shots (smaller than normal) of rice wine and some beer and Aaron paid the family $10 USD for a duck so we could chase it around the yard . . . enough said (I will elaborate for you poultry lovers out there. After realizing that if we chased the duck they would then kill it and eat it because it would sustain injuries during the chase, we opted for a few pictures with the freaked-out duck instead of a chase).

On our way out of the last village we stayed in, we opted to ride on the back of motorbikes up a dirt road being turned into a paved road. On this day though it rained incredibly hard and the dirt road quickly became an ultra-adventurous mud road! Aside from driving up the mud road on the back of a motorbike, we also stopped twice as the road workers blew dynamite, sending huge boulders into the air. Pretty crazy. What was also somewhat crazy to me were these young Vietnamese guys driving us up what was most likely an unsafe mud road . . . when a generation ago we would have been pointing semi-automatic weapons at each other. In that sense as well as how touristy this area has become so quickly, it is quite amazing how times and places change. All for the better? Again, only time will tell.

All-in-all a great trek with amazing scenery I hope to share soon.

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 17, 2007 from Sa Pa, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Adolescence can suck, kinda.

Hoi An, Vietnam


Well, everyone knows how difficult the teenage years can be . . . I've decided that Viet Nam is firmly in the middle of its teenage years . . . It is not quite the young, developing country that makes one appreciate the difficulties of life; yet, it is definitely not a fully functioning, healthy country (politically, economically, or otherwise). This, I'm learning, can make traveling difficult.

For instance, you will learn from reading all our blogs on this site that we haven't yet met a foreigner traveling in Viet Nam who has not been ripped off (to varying degrees). From a different angle, we also have found it incredibily efficient to book tours to see the country (so far Sa Pa and Ha Long Bay), but with this comes a certain feeling of being part of a large herd. Because of the infrastracture here we have found it difficult to get too far off the beaten path, forget about planning an adventure on our own sans tour guide.

Still, all that said, I have been incredibly happy with my Viet Nam experience so far. Ha Long Bay was ridicuosly gorgeous, great green "mountains" rising out of calm, warm bay water (pictures coming soon). Even Hanoi grew on me after a while, granted for a while there I thought I was going to go the way of my father and also loose my hearing in Viet Nam, but I eventually learned to tune out the constant honking. I also became less concerned with walking into oncoming traffic (because every place I walked there was oncoming traffic of some type).

Now that we are in Hoi An, I'm also finding the Viet Namese people to be more warm and friendly. We aren't exactly off of "tourist row", so I don't think it is purely a result of leaving the heavy tourist areas . . . I can only guess that people in the North might be less welcoming, but I have had such a limited experience here that I couldn't say for sure . . .

So far Hoi An seems like a great place. We saw an amazing sunset as we drove from Danang to Hoi An last night (as a side note, we passed the old US Army base in Danang and I was wondering if my Dad had been to the same place before . . .). Hoi An is a sleepy little town that has over 200 tailors! The ladies who form my traveling entourage were fitted today for various pieces of clothing that will be made from scratch for them tonight and ready to be tailored tomorrow. Pretty cool. The town also has some great restaurants, bars and other shops, making it a great place to spend a few days. I'm also hoping while we are here to spend some time finally uploading some pictures . . .

permalink written by  GoBlue on June 22, 2007 from Hoi An, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Turns out I'm not a very good pool player . . .

Nha Trang, Vietnam


So, since my last post, we have left Hoi An, the tailoring capital of SE Asia. For more on how our tailoring experience turned out, read Joc and Vivian's blog entries. I refrained from spending too much money on the process, but our group as a whole spent a lot of time and money getting "cheap" tailored clothes made from scratch. It is a fascinating and scary process because you have no idea what you are purchasing, but fun nontheless. Aside from tailoring, we spent a wee bit of time at the beach and hanging out at restaurants and local bars. Oh! I almost forgot . . . we also had our first motorbike rental experience in Vietnam. From our previous posts, you might surmise that this was quite an experience. I thought it was fun and no one was hurt, so it was extremely worthwhile.

After leaving Hoi An two days ago, we flew to Nha Trang in a two-engine prop plane. We've since spent a lot of time relaxing--watching Wimbledon in our room, playing pool at a local pub, hanging out on the beach, and visiting local herbal mud baths. (On a side note, I irritated my ankle a week ago by hiking, not stretching and doing back flips off of our junk boat in Ha Long Bay. So, I am looking for a few days of down time to give my ankle a chance to let the swelling subside--almost there). Part of my Nha Trang experience has involved multiple rounds of "haggling" with a local boy over purchasing some of his postcards. He immediately challenged me to a game of pool with the condition that if he won, I would buy his postcards. I knew immediately that because he challenged me to this, there was no way I could beat him. Still, after a number of conversations with this kid (I thought he was 10 or 11, turns out he is just about 16), I decided to play him just to see how good he was . . . the short of the story is I will be sending 10 people a beautiful postcard from Nha Trang, Vietnam (if you'd like to be one of the 10, please send me your address!).

Anyway, after a brief visit to Vietnam's favorite beach town, we are leaving Nha Trang tomorrow morning for a "very Bohemian experience" in the temperate mountain town of Dalat. I'm looking forward to some more beautiful vistas and potentially some mountain biking, climbing and golf, depending what my ankle allows.

I know I've been promising pictures for a while, but we have been struggling to find internet with decent speed that will allow for picture uploading . . . hope it is coming soon.

PS - I met a a 53kg female Rottweiler yesterday named Su Su. She is a large, gorgeous dog who is in way too hot of an environment for how large and black she is . . . still, despite losing a fist full of hair to my hand while petting her, she was happy to see me . . . I miss dogs.


permalink written by  GoBlue on June 27, 2007 from Nha Trang, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

The cool side of Vietnam

Da Lat, Vietnam


Apparently it has been a while since I’ve posted . . . I guess I was preoccupied with physical aliments for a bit, but I’m up and around again (sort of). Well, since Joc and Vivian did a great job of keeping everyone apprised of what we were up to, I don’t have to put a lot of info here, but I’ll just add a quick word for each of the places we visited.

First, Dalat. It was amazingly cool compared to the rest of the country. Where everywhere else we visited was in the 90s, Dalat was in the low 70s (or maybe even upper 60s). This was a welcomed change. The other cool thing about Dalat was the architecture. There were some cafes where we ate that if we looked out onto the street corner it would feel like a little French villa—overall, the landscape was beautiful. Although we weren’t able to climb, it was still worth the trip to this mountain town.

As far as my mountain bike injury, I’m not a young pup anymore. At least that is what my body keeps telling me. The cold I had turned out to be a 24 hour deal, which is better than I can say about my back . . . I stepped off my bike on a muddy downhill in order to avoid running into Joc and as soon as my foot hit the mud it slide while I was simultaneously trying to stop the momentum of my body from going down the hill. My back didn’t like this combination too much and it seized up immediately. The seizing really did some interesting things to my posture, including pulling my right hip forward and to the right of center of my central body line. For a few days if you looked at me, it looked like I had some serious scoliosis.

So, that was Dalat from my vantage point (although close, it wasn’t just the inside of a hotel room).

permalink written by  GoBlue on July 1, 2007 from Da Lat, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

The cool side of Vietnam

Da Lat, Vietnam


Apparently it has been a while since I’ve posted . . . I guess I was preoccupied with physical aliments for a bit, but I’m up and around again (sort of). Well, since Joc and Vivian did a great job of keeping everyone apprised of what we were up to, I don’t have to put a lot of info here, but I’ll just add a quick word for each of the places we visited.

First, Dalat. It was amazingly cool compared to the rest of the country. Where everywhere else we visited was in the 90s, Dalat was in the low 70s (or maybe even upper 60s). This was a welcomed change. The other cool thing about Dalat was the architecture. There were some cafes where we ate that if we looked out onto the street corner it would feel like a little French villa—overall, the landscape was beautiful. Although we weren’t able to climb, it was still worth the trip to this mountain town.

As far as my mountain bike injury, I’m not a young pup anymore. At least that is what my body keeps telling me. The cold I had turned out to be a 24 hour deal, which is better than I can say about my back . . . I stepped off my bike on a muddy downhill in order to avoid running into Joc and as soon as my foot hit the mud it slide while I was simultaneously trying to stop the momentum of my body from going down the hill. My back didn’t like this combination too much and it seized up immediately. The seizing really did some interesting things to my posture, including pulling my right hip forward and to the right of center of my central body line. For a few days if you looked at me, it looked like I had some serious scoliosis.

So, that was Dalat from my vantage point (although close, it wasn’t just the inside of a hotel room).

permalink written by  GoBlue on July 1, 2007 from Da Lat, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Cambodian Delight

Siemreab, Cambodia


Angkor Wat was absolutely amazing. I’m not sure I can say much more than what others have already typed here. I can definitely echo the sentiments that it was way better than expected, and I wish I could have spent a bit more time. After my limited Cambodian experience, I was especially interested in traveling throughout Cambodia. In fact, I almost skipped some of my time in Southern Thailand to travel more in Cambodia, but at the end of the day, I didn’t want to be on the move so much with my back as irritated as it has been . . . I guess it is for another trip. I hope to get some more pictures of the temples here because they were great!

PS – I’m not sure that Joc or Viv mentioned the interesting conversations we had with our Angkor Wat tour guide about the Khmer Rouge brutality experienced in her country in the late 70s. Suffice it to say, I am incredibly fortunate to have been born in the USA where I was never limited to one handful of rice each day, forced to marry a particular woman for breeding purposes or found my grandfather shot because he was trying to feed his family by fishing in a plentiful lake. The Khmer Rouge was an incredibly merciless regime that killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of socialism and creating an enlightened society. Absolutely amazing what some people have had to live through. We are a blessed bunch.

permalink written by  GoBlue on July 4, 2007 from Siemreab, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Enough with the Nam and the Viet

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Finishing up Vietnam. It has been an amazing and educational 3 weeks. Joc and I ran into a chap from Australia the other day who followed a similar path to ours through Vietnam. We asked him what he thought about it and his answer was incredibly accurate and simple: There are a lot of things to like about Vietnam and a lot of things to not like. With that in mind, I thought I’d make a short list regarding my top likes and dislikes:

Likes
1. Scenery was absolutely amazing.
2. Interesting people/culture that have suffered through many years of hardships but are progressing nonetheless.
3. Ability to travel freely and affordably

Dislikes
1. Constantly circling, aggressive merchants
2. Hanoi (specifically the pushiness of people)
3. Excessive honking

This is a very short list, off the top-of-my-head. I’m sure in hindsight there will be many more things that can go in both of these columns.

One quick note on Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City): it was great. WAY better than Hanoi, and if I had the experience, I would have done the Vietnam traveling in reverse, starting in Saigon and ending in the north (This is one of the interesting things about Vietnam. You will inevitably do a lot of things wrong that will cost you time or money or both before “learning your lesson”. However, the chances are you will not encounter quite the same thing again so the lesson is a bit lost. Alas.) Anyway, Saigon is a bustling big city on the verge of becoming a true cosmopolitan city but it is missing the deceitfulness and constant noise (at least to the same degree as Hanoi). So, overall, I enjoyed it immensely more than Hanoi. It was a great way to leave the country, helping my entire Vietnam experience to sit incredibly well.


permalink written by  GoBlue on July 7, 2007 from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Carl's Circuit
Send a Compliment

Viewing 11 - 20 of 28 Entries
first | previous | next | last

View as Map View as Satellite Imagery View as Map with Satellite Imagery Show/Hide Info Labels Zoom Out Zoom In Zoom Out Zoom In
find city:
trip feed
author feed
trip kml
author kml

   

Blogabond v2.40.58.80 © 2019 Expat Software Consulting Services about : press : rss : privacy