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A Leisurely Week in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

by Heidi

December 12-20, 2014

We spent a leisurely week in Ho Chi Minh City, adjusting to the time difference and being back in SE Asia. Now that we have our 12-month-old along for the journey, we are taking it at a much slower pace.

A typical day starts off when Kaisho wakes us around 5:30-6:30am. He normally sleeps until 7:30-8:30am, but his biological clock is still adjusting. We accidentally let his 2pm nap turn into bed time one day, and that made it take much longer for him to adjust to the time. We are some of the first guests to arrive at the breakfast buffet at the Asian Ruby Hotel, around 7 -7:30am.

Breakfast is Kaisho’s favorite part of the day. He likes to eat a little and then run around the hotel restaurant and socialize with his waitress and waiter friends. The hotel is the safest place for him to run around and get his energy out, due to the uneven sidewalks that are almost unusable due to all the parked motor bikes; chaotic streets; and parks where you are not supposed to walk on the grass.

Kaisho with his Friend at the Asian Ruby 3 Hotel

Kaisho with his Friend at the Asian Ruby 3 Hotel

After breakfast it’s time to play in the room for a bit before morning nap. The telephone and mini bar refrigerator are a couple of Kaisho’s favorite toys.

After morning nap we venture out into the heat and craziness to do a little shopping at a market and find a restaurant for lunch. After lunch it’s time to head back to our room to cool off and rest a bit before venturing out one more time for dinner.

One evening we took a stroll to the Saigon River. There were many people socializing, jogging, or taking photos along the river. It reminded us of the Ala Wai canal in Waikiki.

Heidi and Kaisho at the Saigon River

Heidi and Kaisho at the Saigon River

We made sure to take Kaisho to the City Lights Parade before leaving Honolulu, since we were not sure how Christmas would be celebrated in Vietnam, but it turns out that almost every store and restaurant is decked out with holiday window displays, Christmas trees, and lights. The shops and restaurants here actually seem to be much more decorated than back in the USA.

The waitresses at one of the restaurants we ate at even gave Kaisho a Christmas party hat. Here he is in his Christmas aloha outfit by our hotel Christmas tree.

WHAT? Am I just too cute or what?!?

WHAT? Am I just too cute or what?!?

Kaisho loves all the Christmas trees and loves to snatch an ornament to play with. Or as he calls it, “ball!”.

Kaisho Admiring a Christmas Tree at a Restaurant

Kaisho Admiring a Christmas Tree at a Restaurant

Here are some clever decorations at Fast Nood restaurant (cheap and yummy food). Notice the motorbike pulling a bowl of noodles above the chimney.

Christmas Decorations at Fast Nood Restaurant

Christmas Decorations at Fast Nood Restaurant

We have all been enjoying the Vietnamese food. Kaisho especially enjoys ripping into a fresh spring roll.

Kaisho and George Enjoying Spring Rolls at Wrap and Roll

Kaisho and George Enjoying Spring Rolls at Wrap and Roll

There will be more photos and stories to share, as we start doing some sightseeing.

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Posted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, World Travels by Heidi. Comments Off on A Leisurely Week in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

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A hui hou, Hawaii! Hello, Vietnam!

by Heidi

December 13, 2014

Aloha, Hawaii! A hui hou, goodbye, until we meet again! It is time to bid our friends in Hawaii goodbye, but we are sure to be back again, someday. Oahu was the perfect place for Kaisho to spend his first year, but now it’s time for him to see the world!

A hui hou, Hawaii! Until we see you again!

A hui hou, Hawaii! Until we see you again!

George, Heidi, and Kaisho are off on a family adventure! Now that there are three of us traveling, we may change the name of our blog from “Adventures of George and Heidi” to “Live, Travel, Share”. We will keep you posted.

When we first decided that we would travel to Vietnam shortly after Kaisho’s first birthday, I freaked out a little bit. Sure, we had already explored Vietnam from North to South, and had traveled for months at a a time in the past, but taking a newly walking toddler half way across the world? Were we crazy? I worried that during the plane ride Kaisho would kick the seat in front of him, pull people’s hair, run up and down the aisle, yell, and cry. Not to mention the stories I had heard about babies getting sick or their diapers leaking.

I searched for advice online about traveling with toddlers and asked friends for tips about traveling with a baby. I decided to arm myself with a bag full of snacks, a new toy, and a change of clothes for each of us. I also tried to keep in mind the advice that Baby will follow my lead, so the more relaxed I am, the more relaxed Baby would be.

Even with three flights and lay overs in two countries, the trip from Hawaii to Vietnam went smoothly. We departed Honolulu around 11:45am on December 10th. Luckily, Kaisho slept in until 8:30am, allowing us to do a little last-minute cleaning of our apartment. Preparing for travels is always a big endeavor for us, since it requires not just packing, but also getting rid of belongings and cleaning out our apartment. We couldn’t believe that even with giving away, donating, and selling so many items, we still shipped 4 boxes to California. In the future I am going to think long and hard about any purchase. I think the new standard should be, “Will I use it everyday?”. And if not, don’t buy it. I would be happy in our next home to just have tatami mats to sleep on. But back to traveling. We managed to swing by the post office to mail last minute letters, return the rental car, and check in for our flight on time.

Honolulu to Narita

Going through security took extra long, since we had an oversized bottle of coconut water for Kaisho with us and a new employee learning the ropes. Plus, we were carrying two small bags that we weren’t planning on bringing. So along with the 75L backpack, 2 day packs, and car seat, we also had a snack bag, and a small bag with our warm clothing that we couldn’t bring ourselves to put on while still in warm Hawaii. And at the last minute I had stuffed items in the pocket on our Ergobaby carrier and forgot about them until going through the metal detector. “Oh yeah, forgot about that cell phone and roll of quarters in my baby carrier…” Not our shining moment in traveling, but we made it through with all of our belongings, even the coconut water :).

We had selected seats near the back of the plane, one aisle seat and one window seat, and it worked out as we had hoped that no one booked the middle seat between us. So, luckily, Kaisho got to have his own seat and bring his car seat on board. I was hoping for that, not just so he could ride in it for take off, turbulence, and landing, but also so the car seat would not get damaged from getting checked in. Kaisho was tired and easily took his morning nap on the plane. When lunch was being served I debated asking for an extra meal for Kaisho, but being that we hadn’t bought him a ticket and it was United Airlines, I decided not to ask. But, then the flight attendant offered him a meal anyway. Yay! With the humming and motion of the plane, Kaisho fell asleep for his afternoon nap, as well. I paid attention to the time and tried to keep him on his regular schedule according to Hawaii time.

[TMI disclosure, but for those who do EC, you may be interested.] We put Kaisho in disposable diapers for the flight, but I had heard from many other EC parents that they had great success on flights. We had a couple pee misses in the diaper, but for the most part, Kaisho used his Potette Plus seat reducer on the airplane toilet. It helps that the toilet on the plane is little and the paper cups were good entertainment.

Our flight arrived early in Narita, Japan, I think around 3pm local time. Once we got situated at the gate to catch our next flight it was getting close to bed time based on Hawaii time (I think around 8:30pm HST). There weren’t any restaurants nearby, so we ate snacks that we had packed for dinner. Kaisho ran around and greeted other passengers with smiles and waves. It was a good chance for him to get his energy out.

Kaisho Exploring the Narita Airport

Kaisho Exploring the Narita Airport

I'm free to roam!

I'm free to roam!

Narita to Seoul

Our second flight from Narita, Japan, to Seoul Korea was two hours, and I think it boarded around 10pm HST. So once we got on the plane, Kaisho went to sleep for a late bed time and slept the whole flight. I was even able to get him into the carrier asleep when we arrived, but he woke up while going through immigration. George had warned me that it would be cold in Korea, and we were each wearing long pants and a sweater, but I didn’t realize how cold it would be. The first thing I noticed when we touched down was that everyone was wearing winter coats.

The service in Korea was excellent! After we got off the plane, I realized that we had left behind Kaisho’s monkey travel blanket. An employee escorted George back to retrieve the blanket. He then showed us where the elevator was, so we didn’t have to take the escalator. And when we got in the long line for immigration, another employee showed us the express line for families traveling with babies and pregnant women, so we got to skip the entire line! The info counter contacted our hotel and the shuttle would arrive in 10 minutes.. There were only a couple fast food places or 7/11, so we skipped eating dinner at the airport. It was already 9pm local time, so restaurants near our hotel would be closed. Oh, well.

Express Line for Happy Moms at the Incheon Airport

Express Line for Happy Moms at the Incheon Airport

We waited a bit before venturing out into the cold to catch the shuttle. I bundled Kaisho up with two blankets and out we went to cross the street. It was cold (-3 C). We could see our breath in the air. Kaisho was smacking his lips like the air tasted like a Popsicle. It was his first time feeling cold weather. Luckily, it wasn’t too long of a wait before the shuttle arrived and took us to the Incheon Airport Oceanview Hotel. The service at the hotel was excellent and the floor in our room was heated! We were able to take warm showers and get about 6 hours of sleep. If it had been just me and George, we would have waited in the airport for our next flight. But, it sure was nice to get to sleep in a bed.

Overnight at the Hotel Ocean View in Seoul, Korea

Overnight at the Hotel Ocean View in Seoul, Korea

Seoul to Ho Chi Minh City

We took a 6am shuttle back to the airport and checked in at the babies and expecting line, with no wait. We had time to eat breakfast at the food court and let Kaisho run around a bit at the gate before boarding. The flight from Seoul, Korea to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam was around 6 hours, but we didn’t need to break out the snacks or toys. This time there was no extra seat available, but we requested the bassinet seating. We didn’t use the bassinet, but it gave us extra leg room. Kaisho had a little play area at our feet that was about 2’ by 3’. He mostly tried to sleep through the flight, but woke up crying a few times when load noises woke him. We were all tired, but it wasn’t too bad, and the flight didn’t feel all that long.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City mid day on December 12th. We took a metered taxi to the Asian Ruby 3 Hotel in the City Center, where we will stay for the next week or so.

Overall, the trip was relatively painless, and we were not as exhausted as we had expected when we arrived. So far, so good. Here’s to more happy travels with a toddler!

[Side note: Sorry that we never finished posting about our last adventure. We will try to fill in the gaps when we get a chance, since we were keeping a journal at the time.]

2 responses to “A hui hou, Hawaii! Hello, Vietnam!”

  1. Mariana says:

    Heidi&George&Kaisho, It’s great to hear about your adventures again and funny that you’re back to Vietnam where we traveled together… ughh, almost 6 years ago (can this be???) Kaisho will have a great experience living in all those places and among so many different cultures (and especially, I’m really happy to hear you didn’t give up traveling – like so many people with kids – and are taking him along :))) what an inspiration!!) All the best in Vietnam (why Vietnam again? I’m curious…), I will keep following your blog and hope to see you somewhere, sometime… Hugs for all, Mariana

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Mariana,
      It’s good to hear from you! We have been reminiscing about our travels with you and Felipa in Vietnam. Those were good times! We can’t believe it was over 5 years ago. It’s hard for me to even remember a time before Kaisho was born :). We are going at a much slower pace now, but we vowed not to give up traveling once we had a baby. There is a reason we chose Vietnam, but you may have to wait a bit for us to reveal why ;). We hope to meet up with you again, somewhere in the world!

Sigiriya “The Lion Rock”

by Heidi

August 31, 2012

Sigiriya - The Lion Rock

Sigiriya - The Lion Rock

Tips:

  1. Visit the museum.  It’s included in the cost of admission and well worth an hour to learn about the rock before you climb and you probably wont need a guide.
  2. Arrive early as the crowds gathered around 11AM.
  3. Bring water!
  4. Ask for good directions to the car park.  You will meet your driver there and not at the main entrance.

Today we visited Sigiriya, which has been the highlight so far in Sri Lanka. We almost skipped Sigiriya, since there were so many interesting sounding places in the ancient cities section of our guidebook. When we first arrived at the airport in Colombo we stopped by the Sir Lanka Tourism counter and the gentleman there said we had to see Sigiriya. We asked again at our hotel in Anuradhapura and were told it was worth seeing. We highly recommend including a stop at Sigiriya if you visit Sri Lanka. It is expensive, as are most of the sights in Sri Lanka. Foreigners pay USD $30 per person for the entrance ticket.

We got to Sigiriya by our hired taxi, which was taking us all the way from Anuradhapura to Kandy. It was an expensive mode of transportation, costing us around USD $90 for the day, but it allowed us to skip two 3 hour bus rides and save a day that would have otherwise been spent traveling. We normally do not mind long bus rides, but here in Sri Lanka there is no guarantee that you will get a seat on the bus, and standing for a long bus ride does not sound like a good time. The taxi was a large AC van, and we could have fit 4 more people in it, if we had found other travelers with whom to share. The driver also stopped off at other sights between Sigiriya and Kandy, some of which we decided to skip.

Sigiriya Rock up Close

Sigiriya Rock up Close

Sigiriya was quite amazing, on many levels. It is a huge flat-topped rock, jutting out of the ground, 200 meters high (a magma plug from an extinct volcano that long ago eroded away). Just in a geological sense it is amazing. Then there are the historical and cultural elements. The rock, with natural caves and rock over-hangs, may have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Many people believe that there was once a summer palace on top of the rock. Another theory is that the ruins are from what had always been a Buddhist monastery. According to our guide book, monks were using Sigiriya as a mountain hermitage by the 3rd century BC, and it had become an important monastery by the 10th century AD. Whether a palace or monastery, the top of Sigiriya is quite the location to build, with commanding views of the area.

After buying our tickets we walked through the museum, which was better than we expected. At the entrance there are photos showing before and after restoration of the ruins. Then there are TVs playing an introductory video. The third TV, hidden in the back, is in English. There are other rooms explaining the long history of Sigiriya and containing artifacts that were found in the area.

Around 11:30am we started out accent up Sigiriya. It was already quite crowded with many Sri Lankan visitors. The first part leading up to the rock is a water garden, and one of the oldest surviving gardens in Asia. The water works built here in Sri Lanka over a thousand years ago are truly amazing! There were multiple ponds and even fountains, that used to be gravity fed by ponds higher up.

Stairs Leading up to Sigiriya Rock

Stairs Leading up to Sigiriya Rock

It is a bit of a climb even to reach the base of Sigiriya Rock. At the base is a pair of lion’s paws and a stairway, which used to lead up through a lion’s mouth.

Lions Feet at the Base of Sigiriya

Lions Feet at the Base of Sigiriya

Only the imagination can now conjure up what this place used to look like and the past daily life!

Heidi Next to a Lion's Paw at Sigiriya

Heidi next to a Lion's Paw at Sigiriya

Along the stairway leading up Sigiriya there were signs warning of hornets’ nests and telling people to stay calm and not move, in case of a hornet attack. There was even a little shed where people who are allergic to hornet stings could pick up a jumpsuit to wear. As we climbed the stairs we could see huge hornets’ nests hanging off the side of the rock. If there were a hornet attack it would be pandemonium. There would be a stampede down the narrow stairway and probably even people jumping off the side of the rock.

Climbing Sigiriya

Climbing Sigiriya

The higher we climbed the more we had to trust the narrow walkway and hand rail clinging to the side of the rock. It is a lot farther down than it looks in the photo.

Walkway Hanging on the Edge of Sigiriya Rock

Walkway Hanging on the Edge of Sigiriya Rock

Near the top of the rock there was a detour up a spiral staircase leading to some ancient paintings. My fear of heights was really kicking in as I slowly and carefully made my way up the twisting staircase.

Spiral Staircase in the Background Leading to Paintings

Spiral Staircase in the Background Leading to Paintings

In the photo above you can see the spiral staircase in the background. The wall in the foreground contains ancient graffiti, which is a record of some very early written languages.

Ancient Paintings on the Side of Sigiriya Rock

Ancient Paintings on the Side of Sigiriya Rock

The ancient paintings were being protected from sunlight by a fabric drapery. But the guard stationed there saw George’s camera and pulled the drapery aside to let in more light so George could get some clear photos (without flash of course)!

More Ancient Paintings on Sigiriya

More Ancient Paintings on Sigiriya

After about an hour of climbing, we finally reached the top of Sigiriya Rock.

Top of Sigiriya Rock

Top of Sigiriya Rock

There were a ton more people up here than the photos make it appear.  You could spend several hours up here exploring especially if you hired a guide.  However, we had to make it down to Kandy that evening so we only explored for about an hour.

Heidi Enjoying the View from the Top of Sigiriya Rock

Heidi Enjoying the View from the Top of Sigiriya Rock

After we made our way back down the rock and were searching for the parking lot where we were supposed to meet our driver we came across a snake charmer. I didn’t want to get too close, just in case.

Snake Charmer at Sigiriya

Snake Charmer at Sigiriya

If you are an international tourist and arrive by vehicle, you are supposed to meet your driver in a different location than the front entrance.  It is to the left of the rock as you make your descent near the bottom. However, it was difficult for us to find our way.  Luckily, a local saw us looking lost and guided us down to the parking lot.  Near the lot are last chance souvenir stands and places to get refreshments.  In particular, there is a a great smoothie stand where I had a watermelon shake and George had a mango fresh shake.  Both fresh, delicious and perfect for the moment!

 

Posted in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, World Travels by Heidi. Comments Off on Sigiriya “The Lion Rock”

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