ellensagh

Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia 2017-18

We are off and not running! Going to slow down and enjoy this 28 day holiday. Thankful for the ride to the airport and this last picture we can send the kids. It’s 4pm Christmas Eve and hardly anyone in Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport except service workers who are mostly visible minority.

Look out the dark plane window and say, “Now that’s a city” seeing Los Angelas in lights as far as the eye can see with lots of reds and green Christmasy lights added. Into the airport, notice the line ups are for the following food chains: Panda Express, Starbucks, KFC and not so much for the Hermes, Harley Davidson, Gucci, Coach and Channel. We tour them and I wonder if people buy. They must or they wouldn’t be there. Saw a Quantas plane so big hard to believe could stay in the air and then we are on one just like it with around five hundred Asian people.

Attempted sleep and probably did as much as I do at home during the twelve hour flight to Tokyo. Wasabi, roasted seaweed compliment the noodle vegetable chicken dish; Greek strawberry yogurt with perfectly formed melon, cantelope and pineapple is breakfast. I don’t do yogurt so have Bob’s banana from last night’s dinner when left LA. It’s 5:03 am. At 25,000 feet; light enough to see the strips of land that make up Japan. We’ve gone 5000 miles since leaving. Turbulence throughout the flight. Jostled side to side; like being in a big boat. Sunrise in Tokyo with an incredibly good cup of coffee . Fancy international airport with the usual Cartier, Tiffinay & Co, etc., etc. We sat and learned about Japan from a TV; people drive on left side of road, farm oysters and cultured pearls, have bull fight festivals that have an eight hundred year history. Mountainous cycling paths are blue painted strips on the road.. A bull fight can last two hours. Machu Pichu style farming for potatoes and vegetables for feeding a family. Craft shops creating art with painting techniques that have been handed down generation to generation over hundreds of years. A young Japanese pitcher and hitter has just been paid millions drafted by LA Angels

Incredible meals given out on our six hour Nepean Air flight Tokyo to Hanoi. In Hanoi in a room in airport with more than a thousand people in line to go through customs. Goes okay. A little over thirty hours since left home. We know we need to change $100. U.S. To Dong but not sure how much we’ll get. A guy in line tells us will be about $400,000 for a taxi. Another guy says we’ll get about two million for $200. U.S. Dollars. Taxi has a Buddha statue on dash. He says he’ll take us for $400,000 to our hotel. Honks all the way. It’s humid. I have to take off my jacket.

All cement looking buildings. Some new but so many look unfinished. Lots of motorcycles. Some are loaded down with more than five or six boxes. Traffic unbelievable. Hotel (only three nights booked before we left) nice, comfortable. Guy gives us a map, ideas to go see a night market so we do. Near misses as motorcycles are within inches of our bodies. Feel the air on our faces, arms. Get a tuk tuk ride. Supper and Bed.

Not sure if phone connected on wifi. Round plug ins. No English on TV. Leave bathroom light on to have hot water. Who knew? Up too early. Tried watching Yoga and 5 am movie called ED TV.

Traditional Vietnamese breakfast of rice noodle soup with chicken or beef. We have a buffet selection as well with orange juice, ham and cheese. What I thought was bread was pork. We order an omelet. They write Enjoy Your Meal in a sauce of some kind around the edge of the plate. Napkins on the table arranged like lotus flowers. Outside three shops in a row have similar product.

First night not comfortable standing gawking at anything. Was overwhelmed by the sights and the noise of it all. On a tour today 8:30 am; of Hanoi. Find it challenging to walk across the street to get to the tour van we booked amidst 18-20 motorcycles traveling at at time at about 25-30 km hr going every which way – all honking. Plate glass window office building and right beside it; cardboard and tin up against the windows; so much looks like a fire hazard, wires hanging all over.

We see a Confusious temple, lacquer ware factory, the Mausoleum where HoChiMin’s body lies in state. It has been since his 1969 death. We see Hanoi’s West Lake which is a fresh water preserve that has to be protected.; then a Buddhism temple where monks graveyard was a big deal. Tour guide put money in the shrine and took his shoes off; was very reverent. Told us Bill Clinton spent time in Canada rather than service when talking about what they call the American War; which I had previously only heard referred to as Vietnam War.

Heading to another temple and told to be on high alert re our back pockets. Love the bamboo trees; the lotus pagoda we see. Lunch out. Papaya salad, chicken and fish, lemongrass and mixed vegetables, watermelon to finish. A tour of a ceramic factory with hand painting everything. Six stories of production at least; a new building and no heat; and today it’s cool that all workers are in wintry type coats. Three story houses built all over; no side windows so must be expecting houses to be built up against them as are many places.

We go to the Confusious temple first university. Built in 1000? Vietnam has 92 million people ( I even checked on google when I got home as it seems a small land base). THURS DEC 28/17 – Bob has a broken blood vessel in his eye. Looks bad. We had good sleeps. Staff at hotel helped us book a one night boat cruise, another nights stay in a different hotel in town, three nights in Ho Chi Min (formerly Saigon) and even helped us book a flight there. Have a free day. May be cloudy and rainy but it’s warm Lots of singing and whistling from the people around us; like at breakfast; the servers, chefs and same down the streets. No newspapers, TV’s or book reading that I’m seeing but lots on their phones. Everyone seems to have one.

All in rain gear outside. Products covered up on the motorcycles with plastic and bungee cords. We sat a a child’s table and chairs eating our evening soup; Bob’s knees as high as the table. We spent nearly the whole day walking. It is so beautiful, rain or not. By the Lake. A Water walk. TukTuk ride to the army museum. Bob wants a picture where Anthony Bourdain stood showing the world what the Vietnamese think re U.S. We sat two stories above the street for a lunch at a five corner street. Unbelievable chaos. Bubble jackets are the in thing I tell Bob. Five of seven people have them on. We were lost about two hours. Scared shitless is an expression that fits re traffic sometimes.

Women seem to be on an equal basis I thought; streets of hardware, then streets of silk; streets of spas; tour shops beside hotels, your backpacker streets, then a street of auto parts. Women do a lot of work. Army Museum yesterday. US killed 80,000 Vietnamese; wounded 200,000 for what? I’m dreaming about a family in a shelter, running across field in the dark; I get through; Bob catches pant leg. I get it undone. Up and brushing teeth with bottled water.

It’s Friday Dec 29/17 – Going on a cruise. Halong Bay. Staying overnight. We found a Bistro Restaurant last night. All sales of beef on the menu. Breakfast just before checking out of hotel, where we can order four kinds of eggs, fried, scrambled, omelet, or boiled; pancakes, french toast and full buffet with orangy/pineapple juice?/ thick black coffee. French bread and pastries, sliced beef, three kinds off fish, sweet potato, lettuce and cucumber in a vinegar dressing as well as rice noodle soup, beef, chicken, melon, fried rice, fish dish with banana and honey on side.

VISA trouble. US Visa card blocked when go to pay hotel bill. Used Canadian. Made a phone call to Visa and an email comes in; lucky we had a phone to resolve it we think. Had an experience at one of the restaurants where they swiped the visa twice and told us that is common practice. We tried to say no; and they were not having it. (when back home, our statement says $7.80 was charged once.)

Anyway, Visa says okay to try again. Do we want to?

We are up high in a tour bus to get to Halong Bay. Can hardly stand watching the near misses in the traffic. We are on a clothing street and then a food street as we go to hotels in area to pick up passengers who are on same tour with us. Women street vendors with neck yoke, carrying pineapple, vegetables, flowers; loaded down to put it mildly. Who stayed up all night; preparing those? The wreaths and displays on streets are just beautiful. We talk equality issues again. Bob points out women are serving and men are sitting down at the little tables. What we are seeing. It’s 8:47 am; water is being passed out as we drive by a school. Kids are playing badminton. Pass a fifteen story cancer hospital.

Twenty five year old Denny is our tour guide; single he tells us and the people with us are from Malaysia, France, India, Korea, U.S and us Canadians. He suggested we should have a lesson on how to cross the road; then went on to say easiest way to remember the money exchange is $500,000 dong is $23.50 U.S; 200,000 is $9.50 and $100,000 is $4.50 so realize our taxi of $400,000 was $18.00 U.S. Our bus takes out in the country; see the pink flowering trees, bananas, fields of unsure what, vegetables I presume with scarecrow type things with purple raincoats standing guard. We see some landscaping places, a mall in a town and then notice the litter and trash amount along the side of the highway is really extreme. Water buffalo are in the fields. Horse and a cart along the side of the road. Rail containers on flat decks are in front of the bus. We pass a field of goats. We move through a whole town that seems to be live market day. Containers of water hold fish, meat as in pork and beef are cut up laying out in the open. All kinds of fruit and vegetables. A back hoe is shoveling up dirt right beside it all.

Bob’s eye is not looking better. Now passing rice patties and vegetable plots. Women hunched over doing something. Detour onto rough road and hit head on widow. Someone is doing dishes in the middle to side of road and see them throw away their water. Someone else welding with no goggles on. Two hours into trip stop at a marble factory. There are disadvantaged children completing cloth stitching silk paintings that are amazing. We use the water closet.

Graveyards are out in the country every few miles. Used to have big families but now law says two children only. One big sow is being ridden through town on back of a cyclist in a crate. Charcoal and Gas used to fire up a power station. Denny shows Bob and I his scars; tells of a power station accident where he was burned and another died. He changed jobs.

We are onto our boat and off cruising through the islands of Halong Bay. The whole room of our cabin is teak; shower is in middle of bathroom above the toilet Have a tour of a fish farm, the cultured pearl development is explained and we could have bought many colors of them. We were not on the most expensive cruising boat which was about $1500. US per night. Our first evening meal was morning glory squid after we had hiked 435 steps up to top of Ti Top Mountain. My heart was racing earlier as we stopped our boat; got into small boats and climbed half way up a mountain; to go into a cave; as we entered and it was narrowing and narrowing to get into; I didn’t think I could do it but did and then it opened up to magnificent stalagmites and whatever they are all called. It was beautiful and glad I experienced it. We ended up back on the boat for a sunset party and we probably spent the most money from the whole holiday on a $27.00 US bottle of Australian wine. It was good.

The lights of the cruise boats when all was dark made Halong Bay look like a little city.

Our evening meal also came with fruit first; then a cucumber and carrot salad, seafood soup, the steamed fish, cabbage and shrimp with dragon fruit last. Shocked that we slept so well. Never felt like we were on water. Up and did tai chi on deck with Bob and six others, ending standing in a line, each of us giving the person in front of them a massage. This was a small boat with only eight cabins. Bob’s breakfast tea is sweet; my coffee warm. A warm wind as we say good-bye to the gay English couple we met who were headed off to Monkey Island. I gave Canadian flag pins to the eight and ten year old Malaysian girls we shared meals with. We spent another few hours floating between the fifteen hundred islands of Halong Bay; a mythical magical type experience. Bob and I took part in a cooking class making Vietnamese spring rolls and back to the sun deck till lunch. when Bob said it’s ridiculous the amount we are eating.

We came back to Hanoi through late rush hour traffic; changed hotels and found rose petals on the hotel room bed. We were able to get a phone charger and hook up wifi; Bob successfully puts picture of us from the boat on facebook. We get enough of an English TV channel to say it will be 38 degrees when we get to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow.

Longest night on record; dreaming non stop and fitful waking all night. My body as if been beaten, calves so tight, hard to walk; spasming. Is it still from that cave experience? Fear stored in the muscles? I’m not dehydrated.

Sunday New Year’s Eve – 7 am car here to take us to the airport; they packed us a breakfast; we checked out and the US Visa worked.. They told us to go have breakfast while we waited for airport car ($15.00 US) and $40.00 hotel room; beautiful one at that. So good asked for that phone charger as was able to text kids that all is well. All good there too so that is good. Woman who checked us into hotel last night at 7 is still there this morning at 7.

Sunday outdoor markets are going strong at 7 am. Hundreds of the largest rubber maid type buckets full of flowers, and wreaths about 2-3 feet diameter all made up. Bob said sixth day without sun; been warm enough; if it looked like this at home; would be cold.

In Hanoi Domestic Airport, Viet Jet $100.00 US to go on the 2 hour flight from Hanoi to Saigon. Two hours from North to South Vietnam and 92 million people. Amazing. Going from 20 degrees to 30 degrees. In HoChiMinh, traffic not as extreme but all in holiday mode. We booked two tours. Tobacco must be cheap as long cigarette butts all over. Lots smoke.

In a huge food market. Spring roll lunch. Backpacker crowd here versus the adventurous type tourist in Hanoi. This is more an upscaled world in comparison. Americanized. Called Times Square where having the New Year’s Eve Celebrations that are in full progress. Bands and entertainment all over. Band full blast in the darkness. I try to take a video of high towers with a helicopter pad on the side. Nothing this tall in Phoenix. My feet hurt from walking so much. Way more helmeted motorcyclists here but lots of kids on them with their parents and they don’t have any.

Ordered seafood conger for New Years Eve. Not sure what it is and would not order again. Salad comes too and not sure how safe that is. With soup, the veggies are boiled. Bill comes and $360,000. for our meal with each o f us having a glass of wine knowing $500,000. is $23.50 US. Made a laundry list for it to go out tomorrow.

NEW YEAR’S MORNING: Incredible buffet as we sit outside among greenery about 15 stories up over Saigon. Hear a rooster, motorcycles and Celine Dion in the background. Thirty here and minus thirty six in Saskatoon. Face time messenger or something with the kids. Worked wonderful. Ho Chi Minh tour. Twelve million people here; seven million motorcycles. Independence Palace where South Vietnamese President surrendered American War. Saw war room, bunkers and helicopter pad, where it was bombed. Bob takes a picture of the torture and interrogation rooms and I want to take pictures of art. Notre Dame Cathedral is our next stop as French occupied for one years 1850`s – 1950`s. Now only one party, the Communist Party. We mostly hang around a woman from the Muldives (works in a bank in a democratic country) and a man from Taiwan( oil chemical worker in a democratic country as well but he said his country is too free).

War Remnant Museum with the Press Photographers Gallery.-Stories of horrible truths. I cry and I still cry a month later. Had a tour of a coffee factory. Weasel coffee where coffee bean shit out of a weasel is most expensive coffee and the one the guy from Taiwan buys as he likes good coffee. $25. US dollars for I think a pound. Tour a Buddhist Pagoda.

New Year`s Eve in Saskatoon we have just come home from our City Tour on New Year`s Day and go out looking for food. About eighty twenty year olds are sitting on child`s little red plastic chairs; out on the street outside at a restaurant; all on their phones. We go back to the Food Market; Pad Thai Shrimp. Good! Again, all twenty to thirty years olds around us. I ask Bob what we`re doing here. He says,`This many eating, we can’t go wrong.“ Visa failed twice. Trying to book a Cambodian hotel.

We learn Cambodia uses Riel for currency. $500,000. Riel = $100. US A boat would take 5-6 hours and would cost $15.00; to fly would be one hour. Took two full hours to book the three night hotels in Cambodia for later this week. Went down to the market to eat and to a tour place to get a Mekong Delta tour booked; they would not book hotels; so walked back to hotel and played badminton with two girls in the park on the way home. Bob and I getting a little testy; not bad though.

Went out at 7:30 pm for the recommended REAL Vietnamese food. Fifteen workers in this restaaurant. Chaos as people come in and ordered from like pans of items. We don’t know what to order; girls does not speak English. We point. Finally a guy helped us along and chose four dishes and rice. One was hot and spicy. Two beer were $40,000.and total bill was $131,000. which was about $7.00.

We walk home the long way; every few properties is a security guard. They seem to be watching motorcycles; all dressed like security; we wondered if they were part of a make work project and someone told us they were for tourist’s benefit. Didn’t make sense to us. When I had walked out of my hotel, the security there had stepped out; grabbed my purse off my shoulder and put it around my neck. As we’re walking, we see all the garbage has been put out on the edge of the street for pick up during the night maybe. Glad we see no rats. Going to bed early as have a seven am wake up call to go see the Cu Chi Tunnels. What I read about them, I’m not going in them.

Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018 Slept sound. Contemplating smells, sights, sounds. Sweet orange blossom smell, luscious greenery, hibiscus all over, the whole dining area is greenery. Seeing the blood dripping; the horror of the photography from the war museum; the after effects of agent orange. The impact from the bombings, the mangled corpses. Traffic and roosters and I’m grateful I can hear, see, touch. And smell when so may here were forcibly affected for generations. Tour guide said distrust and anger is whats left. Bob commented how hard it was to see a Vietnamese person in the photograph holding a machete over another Vietnamese person.

I am having stomach issues over this I think and I don’t think it’s the food.

There are two three foot wide pink lily floral arrangements in the lobby as we leave for our tunnel experience. Such beauty with breakfast fit for royalty as my mother would say and even bigger than yesterday which I thought was so big because it was New Years Day. Construction across the street. Three bricks just fell from second floor just missing a motorcyclists head.. There is a pulley system happening where a guy puts about sixteen bricks in a wire basket and sends them up to the fifth floor. I could see another guy filling a bag with forty bricks`; hoisting them on his shoulder and carrying them out of sight. Back breaking work.

On our way to the tunnels, go through different part of city along a canal and there are flowers here on both sides of road; newer buildings but again, three to eight stories high. About fourteen feet wide and twenty feet long, and no windows on side; all side by side; some have mosque looking top to them; others a .balcony. All our hotels have been similar style; narrow and no windows.

We see a motorcycle accident and guide on bus says 30,000 people died each year in motorcycle accidents. He tells us Feb 16, 2018 will be Chinese New Year and a thousand years ago, Chinese occupied Vietnam. Holland, Italy and then French occupations; Catholic French in 1854 fought and occupied till Americans showed in 1965.

Started explaining the CU CHI tunnels (worth a google search); level of tunnels were three, six and nine metres. Bob went down more than one, just a little hole to get into one; and a small, small space to crawl through and I walked on top of the land through jungle like more than a half block once and more than a block once to where he would be coming out. Was not a great feeling and some people started; and started having panic attacks and had to back out. Others were just soaking wet perspiring with fear by the time they came up.

We saw what a B-52 bomb crater fall out still looks like and if we wanted to pay money we could have shot machine guns and as we walked the jungle staying on paths due to land mines; listening to rapid machine gun fire that hurt your ears and we had just seen a video of what their lives had been like and we heard from survivors where families were split up; some on the communist side and some south; helping the American gi`s by day and going into tunnels by night, I felt sickened. Tour guide told us of an American General who befriended his brother, telling him what time the bomb would drop;to get the hell out of there, and he`d have time to tell the village and all villagers left at midnight till next morning. Six am the bomb dropped and no bodies. He talked about his heart being half and half; half capitalist and half communist; was an engineer and a teacher during the war and ended up saying to us, actually he had been a spy.

As we left and went through the smaller villages, saw how many are living. Some in tarped shanties. Thatched rooves , rubber tree farms and see like a cattle feedlot inside a town. Then there would be a real fancy place next to it. Think wherever you go, there are the haves and the have nots. The new bus driver we have does not know the road and missed a stop and turned around. The guide got out and bought us all some tapioca in coconut milk.

Hour and half bus ride home and then we walked to a Hong Kong type restaurant with about twenty aquariums of live fish. Had best tasting soup yet. A whole roast duck just rolled by our table. All staff have on red or navy shirts and blouses; like royalty outfits. We order a crab dish,find out is $890,000. which is $40. US so change our minds; two more ducks go by and Bob says, “That’s pretty impressive.”

Checking out Wed Jan 3/18; wake up call late and now tour company late. Will miss this ten star breakfast with the huge outdoor room where two walls are plants floor to ceiling and this is on the ninth floor and one whole wall is for viewing Saigon. Some of the greenery is in blossom; and so glad we are seeing that and having face time with grandchildren; when it’s hard to get the amount of horror pictures, images and stories from in the jungle out of my mind; like where Viet Cong tunnel fighting, seeing the torture traps, hearing the machine gun roar, pop,pop,pop all over; land mines and grenades made from bombs dropped but not exploded and the land mines are still maiming and killing here. I could not sleep much last night; or was it seeing Bob’s face after he came out of the first tunnel.

Or was it feeling the fear of all around me. Hearing the descriptions of bodies laid on the road for all to see. Communist dead found and buried. South Vietnamese not. Tour bus comes. Bob and I are on the bus that was fifteen minutes late. I ask him if he knows where we are going and what we are doing and he says no. Neither do I. Know it’s a Mekong Delta three day two night tour and when it’s over, we will end up in Cambodia. We make sure we have everything including our passports. WOW. We didn’t take the time to read up on it. Be in the NOW.

We see or learn about tapioca, peanuts, rubber, sugar cane, local beer is Saigon Special. Coconut everything. Boat ride and told to keep our fingers in and think that was humour but not sure as they talked about alligator farms and honey bee farms. Said if I would eat limes and honey, I could sing better. Named ten kinds of fruit ; only two I could not picture what looked like was dragon fruit and durien; the latter smells like shit and people are asked not to bring into hotels, etc.

On a boat on the Mekong, go to a recycle coconut and bamboo fibre place where they make charcoal as well. Used the water closet and stay the night at a town called Can Tho. Tour guide talks lots and says he has no health coverage, fifty percent of his income goes to his parents; he said country getting more open minded but women still should not be smoking, no drinking; boys can not be gay. He talked about the crazy driving, accidents, each year 10,000 people die. Spoke of police corruption, they stop scooters and if you’ve got an extra $35., might not be detained as long. He tells us many police with Mercedes and BMW’s and to be a policeman, he said pay a captain.

Average income is $400. US a month. He said from 1975-95 was all govt controlled and then when Clinton came over, opened up the market and more private control; and now you can own land; today more of a free market and spoke of how the internet changed lives. The land; they harvest rice three to four times a year and right this minute outside are beautiful green rice fields. He spoke of the American war as being for control of the South China Sea; shipping allies for oil and gas and he was only saying Saigon; not Ho Chi Minh.

He was into Family First; spoke of longevity in his family; eat at home, garden vegetables, chicken, music, laundry was hand washing, live on a do it yourself basis, cook, wash and sell vegetables at market; kids work; now said kids ask for too much.

We’re on a twenty person boat and he tells us we are 100 km from ocean and 200 km from Cambodia. We stop at a place where they make hard candy out of coconut. They also use all parts of the coconut for other things they would be happy to sell us.. So much litter by dock where we jump off. Go up ten to fifteen stone steps; no railings. Litter galore; I question why they don’t hand every tourist a plastic glove/bag and give out a free piece of candy. Ahhh. Bob wanted a snake skin bracelet but questions whether he’d get it across the border. We get back on boat; it’s a slow boat and we watch boat after boat of tourists seeing all the fruits, vegetables and rice being loaded on barges for export. See barges of rice husks. Motor quits on the boat. Filling it with gas or diesel in the middle of the water. Guy pumps and pumps and gets it going while the tour guide does a Titanic rendition in the front of the boat.

In a Pomelo Grove eating lunch. Pink juice is made from the fruit. Outside temperature is thirty degrees; glad for the shade. Back in boat; taken to a smaller one called a sanpan. Bob and I, another couple with cane hats on our heads go through mangroves and told again, keep hands in boats. Get out somewhere for tea, where there is a bee farm, honey in our tea; and here told that if we have small quantity of honey every day; keeps you slim and your immune system up; Bob sees a dog being cut up.

We can’t eat. Musical interlude of their folk music with five instruments; all male veterans; mostly disabled; and two female singers and the music sounded familiar to mef. If I would have had a guitar or piano, I would have loved to play with them. Our tour guide had a guitar and played lots in the boat; but would mostly play contemporary U.S. type music.

On a bus, on our way to new hotel for night, Bob and I buy bamboo/coconut fibre underwear and socks from a place looking for foreign investment. Back on bus, guide puts on the 1975-79 WAR video saying wants us to know what really happened. Saw a tennis court out the window; young boys playing while bus is passing everyone on the right side. On the movie, losses are US one to Viet Cong ten. Sun is setting over a house on stilts.

Wed, January fourth, we are on boat at 6:30 am. Off to floating market; Bob heard the gong bath immersion from 4- 4:30 am. He said a torture test; waiting for the next gong. We are hanging around an Australian couple who can not believe Bob is turning seventy. We were on our own for supper night before and we left the hotel, where we had to leave our passports,walked a few blocks north ? Then turned left, and and a few blocks later; going north again, I asked Bob, “do you know the name of the hotel, or the street it’s on?” NO. We were so tired, we went and ate and then headed back and found the hotel, that had the most amazing painted yellow flowering tree on the glass door. I so loved seeing that door, I took a picture of it this morning.

This place or city we are in; Can Tho;we are going out to the floating market where a thousand canals are leading into the Mekong Delta; It’s the Business Centre; with real daily life; locals in floating houses; do their washing and tanks come fill their boats with drinking water; the people have five to ten days off a year when it’s Lunar New Year; one week they are outside this town and the next week another town. They collect fruit, vegetables; come back next week; and they’ve been doing this for a hundred years; not touristy; this is how they live; connected to the farmer’s and the gardeners.

We had the choice to get up and be out in the floating market at 4:30 am but chose to sleep in. Had our omelet, French bread , coffee and a cucumber cut and displayed on our plate in the shape of a heart and were on the boat out at the market by 6:45 am. .Learned Thailand is number one in exporting rice and Vietnam second. Tour guide joke of the morning on the open air boat, “Is the air con okay? Turn it on more? “ Today we have life jackets on; yesterday no one did except me. Forty seated on this boat. Water lilies with purple flowers all over the river. This market is the largest in the world. Selling pineapple and plants and each boat has a pole at the front of boat with the pineapple or whatever they are selling so people know. One pineapple is $1.00.

A drone is floating overhead. It’s like a great malecon of lights shaped like the moon all the way along the river for miles. Gravel and silt piles along river for loading on barges maybe. A huge newer building that says “Welcome to APEC: Food Security in Response to Climate Change.”

Bob attempts picture of a woman barbequing meat in bottom of a little wooden boat as she pulls along side our boat trying to make a sale. Went to a factory restaurant to learn how to make rice paper and rice noodles; down one of the thousand canals. Tour guides been playing guitar non stop and a guy from Holland asked for fifteen minutes of peace; saying “let’s enjoy the river.”We stop at a barbeque garden. We walk the garden, take a picture of the rice field in the distance and then fascinated by the barbeque. We eat snake and snail, fish on rice paper and plum leaves with lettuce and cucumber; compliments of a Vietnamese couple . We watched them pick up live snakes, stun them, throw them in the fire; cook them live on sticks.” We took a picture of the menu: rat, frog, bird, snail, fish, snake, chicken, shrimp,pancake all 30K – 50 K except the snake which was 50,100 or 150.

We were not going to eat anything and ordered 2 Saigon Specials (beer) and then sat beside this Vietnamese young couple in their thirties; she being an ESL teacher; he in a trade maybe; language still a barrier and they were eating the snake and snail dish and really wanted us to attempt it so we did.

Before we did that, when we had our walk in the garden, saw larger black butterflies larger than a small wren; and Bob had a dip in the mud as he took one wrong step off a path; but was able to find a brush to clean his shoes. We left there headed for a thousand hectare mangrove forest sanctuary; where I didn’t appreciate the tour guides instruction to someone getting in a boat to sit down and shut up. There was many many things great about his tour guiding and he was so great sharing information with children that were about eight to ten years old. Ironic that today, he comes to me asking if I will write a review on trip advisor for him so he will get $10.00 US.

Hotel room on this Mekong Delta tour, sign in room says if a man and woman are staying in same room, they are to provide a copy of their marriage certificate to hotel desk.

Today saw a funeral procession headed down the street; assuming it’s Catholic from cross and garments. From bus, see a man scattering seed in rice fields. Three months till harvest we’re told. Tour guide sharing that from 1978 – 1989 the Kamer Rouge took over this area. The landscape changing to mountainous and temples all over. It kind of looks like a tour in Australia but a world of difference to what is being talked about; in Australia it was about koala bears and the trees and here it’s about someone’s head being machetted off in the killing fields.

We actually get on the backs of motorcycles with no helmets to go about half a mile. Guide shared this being a make work project for homeless veterans;those displaced due to war, for them to make money from tourists. Suggested we give $20,000. each. They drive with me bouncing on back to where we saw hundreds of egrets, ducks and other birds in the sanctuary where Bob, I and another guy are in a little boat; where we paid another person; this time a woman for paddling us all through the green algae covered mangroves where every so often was like a deep pink lotus looking flower.

Back on the motorcycle to bus which was sitting beside a field of tapioca had just been harvested; laying on tarps, some being bagged for pick up and export; looked similar to yam or potatoes;or ginger maybe. On way back to a new hotel, guide tells us more about Vietnamese family life; saying all have phones; eight of ten families own a karaoke machine and this last night he arranges twelve of us meet for a traditional supper. Four kinds of meat in pots of boiling soup and vegetable. I have a good sleep till stomach issues. Is it the food or too much to process. Bob fine. We’re eating the same. Sunrise from fifth floor. Check out 6:30 am. On boat on way to fish farm. I’m only one wearing a life jacket.

See a floating wedding boat after the floating fish farm; which cost $70 000- $100,000 US to buy. They export Basa Fillets to Canada. Use the brains, head and bones to feed new fish. Head to a weaving factory; bought a silk shawl and a teeny bag for Sierra. That ends our three day on the waters of Mekong Delta with each night going back to a hotel and it also ends our time in Vietnam.

On a power speed boat for a five hour trip to Cambodia. Knowing in an hour and half will cross the border and we’ve heard stories that sometimes it is not easy to do. Feels similar to a plane, six seats across with aisle down the middle. Sitting down looking out windows but I have a window seat and like that I can see both sides of the Mekong River as we go. Man takes our passports, a photo of each of us and $35.00 US dollars. One hour and fifteen minutes and the hundred people on the boat told to get off; and go wait in a waiting room; not told why; so we change our money as Bob says okay to have $100. too much but not okay to be a $100. short. There are two Cambodian border checkpoints. The second one we waited half an hour; then Robert Spencer’s name was called and told he could go back on the boat. I was sent to a line and asked Bob to stay not too far away. I had to be fingerprinted, have my passport stamped and then okay to go. Boat handed out a paper bag lunch and water. I was really happy to see a ritz cracker.

Continue down this three quarter of a mile wide river for three more hours. More jungly. Pagodas or temples being redone. More industry can be seen in the cities on side of river; seems more modern or up to date. Huge bridge spans the river.

CAMBODIA: In Pnem Penh; saw three one legged men in one hour. One asked for money. One monk asked as well. Settle in the hotel we booked online ourselves. Went out to relax over a glass of wine and Bob tried the Angkor beer as we sat across from the promenade along the river. Then we walked the same. They have an exercise program with all the outdoor things similar to Saskatoon.

Mixed up on my days a bit. Write in my journal; think it’s Saturday Jan 6/18. Last night went to the night market and a whole block had like carpet or cloth on the ground; with food vendors around and live music; lots of wares, clothes. Tuk tuks are different; two wheeled carts hooked up like a 5th wheel to a motorcycle. Would be size of an open air car hooked to a motorcycle.

Money is different. $1. US dollar is $4000. Riel . Draft of local beer is sixty five US cents. Geckos all over but not in our fancy $45. US hotel room. Our charger from home works here and all my email came in on the phone last night. Haven’t looked at anything; have been on messenger with the kids all the time and that is working great. Stomach not so great for three days now. Something weird with my left hip; like it’s burning to the touch; bigger than hand size. Weird as if bitten or burnt.

Water heater in with the shower. We can’t get hot water. During supper sitting outside, constant requests from little kids; even eight years old and from people with amputated legs. Constant begging challenging. Woman with naked child. Didn’t see this in Vietnam. Totally different.

Next morning, realize as if like I had a fever and it broke last night. Bed linens soaked.

8 am headed for the Killing Fields. See Royal Palace on the way. All french architecture with balconies. Monks in orange garb around the temples as we go by the Buddhist University. At one intersection I count about 25 cars, 40 motorcycles, 7 tuk tuks, 1 bus and a police check stop on the other side of the street. Our tuk tuk driver just put on his helmet as he told us police ahead. Counted 24 dozen egg flats of 36 being carried on back of a motorbike while we wait. Thinking back to hotel. We like it but Bob nearly has to kick in the beautiful wooden door to get it open. Sign in Tuk Tuk: “Please you Look. Take care belongings. Your Safety. Our Proud.”

More westernized here. Sign on vehicles: “Tell me how I drive. Email”. Go by a suburb that looks western. Cross a river into country. Royal University of Cambodia. Old green coca cola bottles refilled with ??? Gas? And being sold along the side of the road. See a sign: “Seeing Hands Massage by Blind People.” The school we go by has walled in classrooms, no windows, no playground equipment; as if we are driving down back alleys. See about an 8 year old boy carrying a one and a half year old. Never see cats; only dogs.

Killing fields are too painful to write about except to say I cried and cried by about stop # 4 of the audio tour and could hardly deal with what I was hearing. There and at the S21 High School that had been taken over and used for torture, categorizing, photographing before killing people. Could not stand all I heard and saw. Bob said can’t process it all. Too much. Never saw so many skulls in my life. Say one in four died in ’79. I didn’t even know about it. Three million genocide. I was twenty five years old. Rest of the day was a blur; know we had pad thai in a Russian market. Think we also bought a bus ticket to Siem Reap for a few days from now.

Sunday Jan 7/18. Hard towels in this hotel. Slept better but now as if bug bites all over back of legs. My stomach is still dicey. Some huge gatherings of some kind in the city here; on TV; but nothing in English. Bob blew a flip flop so found another pair for $3.00.I feel burdened today; too much emotional shit yesterday. Classy breakfast room; eight dishes and fruit besides. No meat; first time toast. After tonight have no hotels booked. Do have bus ticket out of here. Hair in better shape from the humidity. Kids have flu or something with fever back home; more than a little worried about that.

Bob is able to book 4 nights 4 star hotel in Siem Reap for $180. US as people around us saying we need at least three days for Angkor Wat. Paid a woman to take her picture as she pedals a bike with hundreds of teddy bears of all sizes. The amount of teddy bears she is hauling around way bigger than a huge car. Want to send to granddaughter. How things have changed since traveling a few years ago. At that time we would use internet cafes to stay in touch with home.. There are none anymore.

We go for a riverfront walk. See a 6-8 year old girl in charge of a several week old baby in a carriage. She runs all over. Bob thinks she is only 5 or 6; but we talk to her and she is eight. We pass a wat where people are buying candles, incense, live birds, flowers; they wash their feet before going into pagoda where four guards are on duty and take their offerings. There are thousands of birds there for sale. 40 -60 in double decker cages. We walk on and a ferry is being loaded with cars, motorcycles and people that are all in the same line.

Went to the Central Market after spending some hours at the National Museum. 500 BC to present. Bob’s sandals are giving trouble. Bob is a shopper; now has bought four t-shirts; I haven’t found any clothes or anything else for that matter that I like better than what I own. The Central Market has about six ways going out from a middle food market; with each area out having different product like electronics; or pharmacy; jewelry. The markets are so jam packed with product; we have to be so careful not to lose each other.

Met a 42 year old chartered accountant from London backpacking on own. We ordered ginger barbequed pork and received chopped up chicken; bones and all. Could not eat. The guy we met was interesting as he was a camp counselor outside Phoenix at one time in his life, Later that day, we went to the FCC or Foreign Correspondent Club and ended up running into a couple we had spent three earlier days on the Mekong River. Good to catch up. During our supper, the songs Have You Ever Seen The Rain, Halleluiah and Country Roads type of songs being played.

Monday Jan 8/18: Long challenging night of dreaming that Bob and I get separated while traveling. I tell Bob I am finding this trip more challenging than any other trip I’ve been on; and think it’s due to the amount of trauma history re wars I’ve been seeing. Stomach is still an issue but better and left hip burning still going on and still wonder what that is about. Leave on a13 seat passenger van at 9 am; no wifi on bus. As leaving the hotel; find out there was a roof top restaurant; and a sky lounge;we didn’t even know about it; we only used the up scale breakfast bistro on the 2nd floor mezzanine. Didn’t use the fancy housecoats either. We were there three nights and seems like one. Everything is so interesting.

As we drive out of Phen Penh, we see outdoor stores of teak furniture, party favors, tire shop, a coffin store,motorcycle repair store beside a cement statue place where a horse is as big as the bus we are in. Out in the country and realize the country of Cambodia is ten times more westernized than what we saw in Costa Rica two years ago.

Now we see miles of sand. Some places are mounds of sand covered in grass. We are out in the suburbs and it looks like all rural is moving into cities. Fruit stands take up half a city block. Very pretty. Look like flower stands; like the pink dragonfuit. I saw my first mosque. We passed a pagoda complete of about 40 buildings; I think like a monastery. Not as much litter, squalor or poverty on this five and half hour bus trip to Siem Reap. We see coconut thatched roofs on these houses on stilts. A double lane divides a great highway. Many times we see beautiful green rice fields with lots of white egrets ; then could be going by orchards, groves of trees and notice lots more bush in camparison to rural Vietnam.

We get a fifteen minute break while my grandson and I are texting. Back on the bus and notice the young man in front of us has a severe case of bed bug bites. Makes us both itchy seeing it. Monday at 11 am, a gate is across the road as a school is emptying out. Bicycles and hundreds walking and walking both ways. An ambulance is only thing that goes through during this time. We rarely see ambulances or hear sirens compared to what we hear in Arizona or Saskatoon area.

We have easy listening music with an Irish sound. The voice singing seems out of place but not. Different landscape. Like farming or hay country. Have to stop as a cow is walking slowly across the road. Lots of cows out in the fields; no fences. Pole fences by the houses that are on stilts and all these houses on stilts have satellite dishes attached.

Had a great meditation. Bob is sleeping. Woman on a cellphone talked on it most of the way; sometimes putting the other person on speaker phone. Many on bus have been working. One more rest stop; mango fruit snack seems to be fruit snack of choice for most passengers. Now each stilted house has own driveway with a haystack beside it. Usually there is a miniature Buddhist pagoda in yard. Inside bus says Maximum speed 90 km/hr. Speed Pay PC (Police Cambodia I think?) and there is a nine digit phone number.

Three pm we pay $5.00 to the tuk tuk driver and settle into the Riviera hotel which is by a river. Reception at this hotel met us with juice. We find out we are four kilometres from Angkor Wat. We head for a late lunch and the menu is inside a children book; mine is a Dr. Seuss one and Bob’s menu is inside a Golden book about a Scruffy Tug Boat.

Our hotel room overlooks a pool; so we go for a walk by the river; then a swim. No, Bob goes for a swim; my body can not stand the cold. My body is in tough shape and I know I’ve lost weight. We walk later that evening; finding another foreign correspondence club; then a fine arts tour; and realize there is lots of fancier, cleaner, more organized upscale markets here than what we’ve seen previous. My skin is reacting to every bite; like I’m hypersensitive. Had to wear leggings as mosquitoes out in the evenings at the supper places we visit.

Wondering how our little grandchildren are doing in Mexico. Hope okay. I think how this next generation is traveling more than previous.

Tuesday January 9, 2018. Last night we bought $640.00 air travel tickets to Malaysia. Hope worth it but all is as it is. Could not find anything I wanted to eat for breakfast so settled for French toast. Spent day at Angkor Wat. $15.00 US for Tuk Tuk all day and $37.00US for each of us to get in to the national pride tourist attraction. Many locals want our money and also want to practice their English on us so I learn lots about their families and their culture; customs, etc. I ask why the young woman throws water on all her silk scarves she’s selling in her market stall and she answers that it’s like a blessing; sending good fortune to herself and others.

The days are much easier; not such a frenetic pace as we wander around these temples or wats I guess they are called. Tremendous to look at and walk upon, around and over and in and they are fourteenth century built. Amazing craftsmanship. There is forest all around this area and through out this forty kilometre area of Angkor Wat.

Hot, humid, tropical feeling and smells. A bright sunny day. I need a hat each time I step out of the tuk tuk that is all white and red and reminds me of royalty. It is about twenty five degrees at nine am. SRALAOU TREE what we are seeing; looks human as it rises around and through the wats. These trees reminds me of the giant redwoods but it has like roots that are above ground

In some things the Cambodians are so far ahead of everyone else. We were one of about 300 arriving in a line to buy tickets to Angkor Wat and other wats for the day. They gave us a ticket with our photo on it in less than three minutes (Photo was so no one else could use the ticket). The all day walks up and down and round and over the wats was amazing.

I felt fine; stomach good all day. The tuk tuk driver took us at end of day to show us where he lives; a room for five people; his wife, daughter, her husband and a four year old granddaughter; very close to where his business of giving rides on tuk tuk and where his wife and daughter can run a street vending place where they sell breakfasts and lunches. I gave a Canadian pin for the granddaughter but the tuk tuk driver wanted it so bad; gave him one; which he lost and I gave him another one; as he was so worked up about having one. When we paid for the day for the first day, he explained where he’ll park as he will sleep in the tuk tuk overnight with a mosquito net over him and he wants our business again the next day.

Over plus thirty tonight sitting at outdoor restaurant where orange mango chicken is going to appear shortly. Think I successfully posted three pictures on face book while Bob had a swim. A relief kids are okay; did I say that already. Saw beautiful green budgie or parakeet type birds in forest. A bit of a language difficulty here; received double order of spring rolls instead of half. Excellent French wine. In Saigon there were six to eight security guards on both sides of the street; every street; here a different type of police presence During our meal we see a police car, then a police jeep type vehicle and a walking policeman.

At our lunch today, tuk tuk driver could not be found and restaurant owner came to let us know they were feeding him in the back and we should take advantage of the hammocks. I did. Bob lays down on a built up bed looking kind of thing with a mat and pillow. He fell asleep with this box type of thing being on the side of a restaurant out in the country; relaxation at it’s finest.

.Wed Jan 10/18 Last night Bob was able to book a beach resort hotel in Penang, Malaysia. Biggest moment was when face time ring went off and kids are doing fine in Mexico. So good to see them. I have lots of fear. Now thinking of Leigh (Bob’s nephew’s heart surgery; will send a message. Did. Now I have bites on my hands, hips, and ankles. Bob none. Louise Hay would say fear.

Breakfast at this hotel. Seventeen different warming trays or whatever they are called like rice/noodles, pancakes, spaghetti and meat sauce, seven different breads, five different cereal yogurt selection, salad with ten fixings to put on it; lots of fruit but pineapple only one I recognize. Soups with some kind of nuts to add to it; an omelet making station. Juice, coffee and tea with song “I believe in Angels” in the background or I guess it’s “I Have A Dream”.

I am ready to cry with gratitude for all I have in life. We are in elevator and door opens as Bob giving me a kiss; still makes me laugh. Bob is a walking target wearing t-shirts he bought here as lots rush him to sell him more things when we are out and about.

Our walk along the river; down side streets till near lost and I need a bathroom bad and in end, took a picture of this yellow and purple ??? nice French maybe architecture villa/hotel or bed and breakfast that had no people inside servicing the big entrance room; but I could see a bathroom; so asked Bob to stand on guard while I used it. On our walk heard a braying loudspeaker for what we didn’t know, and then chanting going on; and when I saw the white chairs I thought a wedding happening; but Bob saw the funeral wagon with a coffin. Passed the Vocational Drop In for Vulnerable Youth which advertised a shelter for pregnant women with case keeping, cooking, laundry, security guard education, health,and sewing,

We also walk by a massage place with seven people; looks like younger locals, laying back having massages with six of them on their phones. Much more recycling going on here than any place so far. Mothers with helmets; babies not on these flying motorcycles; going probably 35-45 km an hour. Hard to tell age of men detailing cars; could be 15, 30, or 80 year old men; they seem so little and ageless.

After last night’s rain, air seems so much fresher. Nice breeze today. Our two hour morning walk ended with us meeting a tuk tuk driver who said his father was Chinese and Cambodian mom. He filled us in on Cambodia population being fifteen million; Siem Reap one million people and Phem Pen one point five million and how many still live in the rural areas.. Many, many Chinese people are here; live here and we notice hotel is full of Chinese tourists.

He really wanted us to and he persuaded us to see the Killing Fields in a different area on our Do Nothing Day. ( Eight thousand died to the fields where he took us). Then we went to an artisan shop where they employ people with disabilities. I bought a US $20. back pack as wanted a small one for water and my purse, as felt vulnerable having a strap around my neck when for years I’ve always used a backpack. We left that place and next place we went as I’m walking around, the strap of this backpack broke so went back and they fixed it and supposedly reinforced the rest; not one of my better buys.

We did a traditional Cambodian lunch; ginger chicken ( no bones) and fried vegetables, very good; back home and meditate.

Next day we are in the forest again, reminding me of rural Nova Scotia. No idea where you are but very beautiful. See a horse and cart and we are in the tuk tuk bouncing down a road. We see five more wats all kilometers apart; all surrounding a huge lake where some places we walk across swinging bridges to get to them. No safety standards but the scenery is bonsai like looking trees and lotus looking flowers reflected in the water. Interesting sights and sounds with all kinds of tourists from all over the world arriving in tuk tuks and buses and people trying to sell us things and the amputee veterans are our age or younger and playing music and looking for donations.

A little girl continues to try selling me ten bamboo bracelets. I tell her I may after we come back from the next wat walking experience and when she sees me looking for her, the joy on her face was so priceless. I buy after we discuss and she explains her money compared to Canadian money and we talk about her schooling; how she does this in mornings and school in afternoons. I paid her in Riel and and gave her more than the about thirty five cents Canadian she wanted for the bamboo bracelets. When I give her a Canadian pin; I then have six more children asking for same. When we leave, we see these same kids across country in the next little town where they are in uniform heading to school.

Volleyball nets and poles cross a sandy type soil. Same with soccer pitches. Kids are all smiling and everyone seems happy. We see four foot by four foot high ant hills on the way to the landmine museum started by a Canadian. Half the landmines are still out in the country. When a child finds one, can take up to two years for a bomb squad to get there because of the prevalence. The museum is also an orphanage and a school for kids who have been maimed.

A girl who works at museum is being married today across the street. It’s the third day of the wedding and will go till ten tonight. All the women guests are dressed like bridesmaids dress in Canada. A young twenty six year old man told me yesterday that six hundred and fifty were at his wedding; a two day affair; was given $6000. US equivalent by his guests; by the time he paid the rentals of all; he had $250. US left; been married two months and working in the artisan shop where employment for disabled happens.

Countryside different today as we are in the tuk tuk thirty eight km from Siem Reap. Dirt road for awhile which is like red sand. Now in a thatched roof restaurant; sharing lunch and a big beer. We’ve seen more temples or wats today; built between ninth and fifteenth century; with blocks of stone about 1-2 feet wide and high. Amazing architecture. Thatched weaving here in restaurant is amazing too. Owner whacking a coconut with a cleaver. Saw women clearing ditches with machetes and wooden rakes and a lot of them picking bottles. It’s hot. There are fans hanging from every pole in this restaurant. We are sitting on red plastic chairs. The beef we order comes with real shaved ginger. We recognize about two of the seven fried vegetables but very good.

We go to one more wat; again different than the last; then try to retrace our steps to a different wat as we want to find a certain painting but can’t find the one that kind of said it all. We do buy a painting in remembrance of our wat experiences. Home. Paid laundry and taxi to airport for tomorrow. Walked out to a back alley transformed into restaurants and art galleries. Called Pub Street. Choose a meal. It’s been a great DAY! People from Holland who we met on our Mekong Delta tour just come up and shook hands with us. We have not had a better meal than right now; and that, with two beer, a glass of wine and appetizer and still under $20. US.

JANUARY 12/18 – MOVING ON TO MALAYSIA

At Siem Reap’s new airport – one hour to check in as had to have a departure visa; then $5.50 US for a tea and coffee. We did not choose the Burger King, Star Bucks, Dairy Queen, Levi’s, Duty Free or the many Cambodian souvenir shops. Sitting there said to Bob, I could call this the Cambodian Cleanse as seven of nine days had stomach issues. Glad that part is over but could visit Cambodia again. People kind and hospitable. Bob and I separated first time for three hours by twenty two seats on a plane. No free snack or drink or anything on this plane. They spray down inside of plane with an aerosol can as we are landing.

Painful as we are over one hour in customs immigration line to get into Malaysia and then didn’t have to fill out any paper. Asked for my boarding pass. Asked Bob nothing.

We ate something like a curry samosa but egg and syrup were part of it called a Roxibaker; this is for under $5.00 US in Kuala Lumpar airport. Raining outside as we wait an hour for next flight to Penang. Have the Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort address ready for a taxi driver are. We are thinking we could be in Greece as landing at this airport we see white houses going up the hill. Change US dollars to Ringett and it’s $55.00 Ringett for the taxi for 25 km. Driving on left side of road as we pass armored vehicles and tanks display; then get into jungly terrain with viny hillsides both sides of road. Back into Butterworth or Georgetown rush hour traffic; trying to look at a map; not sure where we are; sit in a traffic jam and city built on a hill so as we get going; we are always on a slant. Architecture completely different; people have individual satellites on each apartment besides individual air conditioners.

See a sign that says hampers and flowers are the best gift; then a store for face veils; and a swastika on a building with the sign: The World Red Swastika Society. The Cerebral Palsy Children’s Association is next door; then KitchenCare Concept store, Optimax Eye Specialist, United Methodist Church, Penang Free School, Digital Library, Mosque to the left, soccer game happening. The trees are ten to twelve feet wide at the base. Pass the Ramakrishna Ashram and next door a sign “ Run with Shades in Support of Domestic Violence Survivors. Next door is Tropical Spice Garden store as we are in slow 5:00 traffic. Girls school beside a casket company. A graveyard is next that is not well taken care of. Not seeing any walkers or bikes and few motorcycles. Lots of building happening and looks like all high rise condominiums.

We are on the twenty first floor. Ocean view. Balcony. YES. Sitting on the beach. Ordered a Malaysian Satay Chicken in a peanut sauce. Appetizer. Mouth wateringly good . Tennis court on second floor. Hope we can play. I order mango juice as we talk about the different views from the hotel. Four exact same thirty story towers about a block way; brand new. Beautiful to be sitting outside. Warm. Biggest room we’ve had yet. We’d been booking online first time in our lives through booking.com and now had to pay $10 ringett and $3 ringett taxes for something more per night and sometimes language barriers and we’re just not sure what we’ve agreed to when checking in but all seems okay.

Cab driver told us where we are there will be no restaurants around except Arabic; and when we asked at desk, they said two Arabic restaurants across street. We’ve seen a lot of what we presume are Muslim women with head coverings; many with Burkas. Decide to stay and eat at this hotel. I am only Caucasian woman in restaurant. A Caucasian man is with a woman who is wearing a Burka as well as a woman who I think is Malay. Takes me back to when I was seventeen years old living in a Malaysian family in the city and when the male of the household took me out to work on his rubber plantation next morning and introduced me to his second wife and children, it was a shock to my system or systemic thinking.

Such ominous clouds over ocean when we came, I had to take a picture. Dark by about seven pm. Now 8 pm awaiting our food; not ordering from buffet which has five ornamental saguaros which don’t make sense to me????Funny feeling when we don’t know what we are eating as we ordered from a picture. Squid was one said waitress. The others are vegetables. I don’t recognize.

Saturday; sitting on balcony. Sun trying to shine. First time breakfast not included in our experiences. Will hit the beach shortly. Hopefully tennis. Although very relaxing staring at the ocean. Forty to fifty dots of fishing boats out there. Here to my right are red roofed homes going up the mountainous landscape. I thought we were going to the city Penang. It’s a province I think and we are in a beach town. Great video chat with grandchildren last night; great sleep, all so good.

Found a restaurant called Baa Baa Black Sheep with all these cute stuffed sheep all over. An Americano coffee. Bob had pork chicken sausage; I went for straight bacon. It was so good. Sitting outside under a yellow flowering tree with sheep decorating the plant pots. English paper to read.

Back in hotel remember yesterday’s wisdom of the day in elevator, “You will be treated by others how you treat yourself.” Today, “Good day or bad day; today is a day; up to me to make it good or bad.”A beach walk. Way bigger than imagined. Bob and I had our inaugural tennis games. Three sets; near tie breaks each one. Now laying by the ocean listening to the surf and the birds. They have a version of the turkey vulture. First time there’s a Holy Quaran and a Holy Bible in a hotel bedside table.

We walk at least a mile to find a place for dinner that was what was okay for us. Other restaurants, no one seemed to be in them, except roosters or workers even though it was after six pm. Had boneless sweet and sour pork with mixed vegetables in oyster sauce. Took a picture of Bob as they brought him a big beer and this teeny juice glass with it. Started raining as in downpour; waited quite a while; then we made it back okay; little damp but not bad. First time we went without ponchos. We stopped in a table tennis school where little kids were getting lessons. A ten year old was doing footwork exercises under instruction that was amazing. We are not comfortable that no one is walking in the area we are in. We are the only ones.

Sunday booked the final hotel for next week. Right now waiting for a hop on hop off bus. Hate the six by six foot grates on the sidewalks that are so scary to step on as they are tippy and there is a long way down underneath them. Maintenance does not look good and no wonder no walkers. Took a bus downtown instead with the help of a retired architect born in Singapore, educated and married there; moved to Scarborough, daughter and grandson in Canada, his mother still in Penang. He oriented us on the bus and some suggestions for downtown. Found a free shuttle service for the Quey and ferry terminal area. We walk some interesting streets of market goods and a lunch of noodles, prawn and duck egg; like a pad thai for $7. ringett. Mosques, temples and church are all in close proximity to each other. The guy shared with us that for political reasons kids leave Malaysia for work and do not return.

$2.00 Canadian got us thehalf hour ride downtown and with over four hours wandering after the free shuttle around the downtown; we had a tennis ball shopping find so ready for tomorrow. In the busiest, most interesting mall infrastructure I’ve ever been in. I’ve been in West Edmonton Mall once or twice; but this was totally different. Bob said reminded him of Hong Kong malls; so high end and millions of people are in them because there is that many people. We notice that the shops outside the mall are closed on Sunday and signs say restaurants are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Get back to the hotel tired but content as found a book library. We have spent lots of time talking about all we saw in Vietnam and Cambodia. This trip was Bob’s bucket list; his wonderings for years how the Vietnam War, the Killing fields of Cambodia could have happened in our generation. Mine was about revisiting a country that shaped my life. I was on a culture exchange program with Malaysia when I was seventeen.

We found a Bulgarian fine dining experience close to the hotel. Next day asked young guy if this is winter or summer and he said all same year round. Thirty high; twenty three or four at night and exception sometimes rains a bit more than other times. International school next door. Lots of young people and soccer or basketball going on we can watch from our balcony.

Monday I have a stiff and sore upper back, neck and shoulder going on probably from hanging on to straps above our heads for the bus rides when we were standing up; being jostled around not knowing where we are going and a full bus of people. Bob says he’s fine. I was able to sit down for twenty minutes of the ride. Glad we are having great sleeps.

Go for a walk after reading a heart throbbing book and come to a Flamingo Cafe where songs of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina , Tennessee Waltz, then a big band song, then Country Roads and Five Hundred Miles accompany our breakfast. Nearly all women in full burkas. In three days saw our first what could be an American couple sitting on the beach. Would not have noticed the para sailing happening if Bob wouldn’t have called my attention to it. Happening in tandem. Amazing the skill to bring it in where they want. No spotter in boat. Woman in burka type scarf and full dress, second one to go.

Beach day all day besides our tennis. How great was that! Walked a long way for supper. Just finished when the monsoon rains hit. Ponchos to the rescue. Gritty sand hard on flip flop feet. A bit soaked but okay.

Tuesday smells fresh this morning and warm on the balcony. Slept in; sun half way up the sky. It’s a beautiful view; the hillside and the ocean stillness. Last night Bob and I had a glass of wine and our first ever game of scrabble. He won.

I had a dream our granddaughter is trying to get to us. Great breakfast again. Changes a holiday having phones. Feel more connected and yet busier in some ways. Sitting in the pet zone of the restaurant. No one had any pets. Reading newspaper this morning and mention of Trump tweets, and realize Trump was never mentioned once in Vietnam or Cambodia; and first time we heard of him here. I go on to read about the Malaysian monarchy, whether crypto currency will fail,finding more humane way to rid places of rats and these are places we are in right now. Is that why I always have my feet up? I keep reading and see how forty years later this country is similar to ours in that women make less money for same work as men, not as many women in positions of power and authority and they like us, are attempting to change that.

They still have the death penalty here and lashes. Back at beach, reading two books at once; one about five women who never dreamed they could be doctors or writers or anything outside wives or mothers. Other one set in 1965 when it was announced there are no homosexuals in Ireland. Woman I meet in eleveator is from England who has been coming here for four years explains to us that the three women in burkas with the one male are the overseas lucky ones showing up in Malaysia for the weekend; and come down to the beach late in day after scantily clad set is gone.

Tennis. Wow is it hot on the court. About 35 degrees, thank goodness for the breeze. Bob and I decide to leave, jump on a bus and go to an area a guy told us was worth seeing. Guerney Drive and we have a long walk by the sea, order local street stall food; a noodle prawn dish to share. Bob has to be careful as I’m getting good with chopsticks. We go on to see Buddhist temples and shrines; sleeping Buddhas and then standing Buddha’s. Saw a temple to honor Shiva. Saw one vape shop in Malaysia, none in countries before this. No charity or second hand clothing shops in all three countries that I saw.

Street food in all three. Bob sees old and new; from one extreme to another. Highrises galore and more being built and tin shacks along the street. Clothes on the balconies to high end magnificence.

WED Jan 17/18. My daughter sends birthday wishes and says the hospital home lottery tickets are our birthday presents and when Bob says “NOT”, she wants me to give him my talk on receiving. Had a good talk with Warren and talked about the books I’m reading.

Read the thirty plus page commentary for Abdual Yung Ali’s English translation of the why’s and how’s of translating the Quaran to English. Interesting. Have not been able to get into it further. Was intriguing to be in three Buddhist temples and how much women are held in high regard. One temple was a big columbariam based on donation.

My birthday day; involves great coffee prior to fancy waffle with fruit to end breakfast; look forward to a tennis and beach day and Bob mentioned he’d like to take me to a revolving restaurant at Strait’s Quey we saw from afar yesterday. Our conversation revolves around senior living nowadays; go go; to go slow; then no go. Just saw a five to six inch gecko on floor ten feet from me; feet are now up on table braces.

Tried the Quoran again. All about divine judgment and then opened the Bible of the Gideons to the chapter, “And I will bring him to judgment.” Did some warrior like yoga poses before tennis. Will have to work to get back my yoga flexibility. How easy it is to get out of a habit. Was seventeen when first introduced to daily meditation and yoga. Bob let me win the last tennis game I think. Beach was beautiful. As were the kids and my grandson’s calls.

Left on bus for the marina, lighthouse and shopping complex. Now own a birthday tailored gold skirt I’ll probably wear the rest of my life as it will go anywhere.

Beef tenderloin with a deluxe scalloped potato type dish. Bob says the peppercorn sauce was the best part but for me the hot chocolate fudge brownie with ice cream a mouth watering ending. Met a young Bangladesh couple working in Malaysia who have applied to go to Canada and won’t know the result till June. I think he told us Bangladesh has 137 million people and have 637,000 Rahinga there as humanitarian gesture and can not afford to have them.

Loving all the birthday wishes that came in. Does not take away my sadness at my aunt of 100 years is in palliative care. Another day of humidity where clothes don’t dry and hair softer than been in a year. Love the conversations we’ve had with young people. They see Trump as a business guy.

Taxi driver taking us to airport expanded on Malaysia as we head to a different state. He studied as he wanted to change from a professional job to a taxi driver, originally being from Indonesia. He told us Malaysia has thirty million people with three million being foreign workers. He says Malaysia made up of 57 % Malay, 24.5 Chinese and 10% Indian Malay. He said foreigners are in all those expensive condos. Architecture here is British Colonial. He said more Muslim all the time and Islamic country declared a few years ago.

He said the cruise ship we saw each day is a casino ship that takes you out to international waters for the day to gamble. He spoke of every household having two to three cars as public transport is not good. Said that is why 150,000 vehicles a day are on the bridge from Penang to mainland. One bridge is 13 km and China built a second 24.5 km one recently but first one is used by 85% of cars and second only 15%. The 2nd one built for next 10-15 years as expecting manufacturing growth; traffic jam on that first bridge every day; and is why he leaves 6:30 am to be at work for 8. He said Malaysians drive on right like most of Commonwealth. This man is a 45 year old single man who said he went to a fortune teller twice who said don’t waste his time or money looking for a mate.

Intel, Motorola, Bosch power tools and medical devices, and AMD are all names out in this industrial area. $1000. ringett is minimum wage; used to be 4-500 a short while ago and underemployment is happening right now. Young people migrate to mainland as property there is 40-50 % cheaper and hence the traffic tie up on bridge as they come back to work these Penang factories. I see McDonalds, KFC, and he shares Tesko as #1 grocery and gas as convenient, prices reasonable, parking free.

He said right now Chinese schools big; 80% of Malays going are learning Mandarin. Disciplined schools and their mathematics programs top notch; emerging markets and if can speak Mandarin, you get a 50% pay raise. He continued saying 70,000 Malay children are studying in Chinese.

We check in at the airport; have a McDonald’s breakfast and wonder if this is last squat toilet?

$26.00 Ringett breakfast divide by four is the way I’m still thinking. I”m feeling sad our trip is near over. Although, reading this morning’s paper about the sexual harassment laws just being put in place and there is still is a question here suggesting problem is how much skin is being shown, tightness of dresses and length of skirts.

We are in rows one to five and are considered VIP’s. Not sure how that happened. Can keep our water through security and we don’t take our shoes off. Air Asia has been the top world airline for nine years. Up close and personal with many women with full burkas. Eyelash extensions, coach purses and gucci sunglasses, meticulously made up and all receiving meticulous attention from their partners who they hold on to.

Landing in Petrujaya, another Malaysian state, see all the palm trees planted in varying stages of growth; all in square lots, irrigation canals. Palm oil export is big here. Quiet ride to our hotel after three taxi drivers did not want to drive us. I can make assumptions why. I think it was me being observed requesting direction to the taxi administration instead of the male and it could be me with shorts on above the kneethat had the refusal all over it.

And now we are in the fanciest hotel we’ve been in yet; debate taking a picture of the chandeliers, and laugh as realize not the place you’d normally go in with backpacks. Three orchid bouquets on check in counter. Booked a Kuala Lumpar city tour. Found a mall, ordered Pad Thai and lips and mouth burned for the next hour at least. Bob’s eyes watering. Security guards are all over the mall.

Walked around a brown lake to a bird sanctuary. Hotel next to a bird sanctuary; neat to see at least thirty blue herons on one treed area. Back to the mall area to a TGIF restaurant to have a beer. We are in an alcohol free state. They tell us we’d have to find a 7-11 or a big city mall. Anyway, we just got back to our hotel before the thunder, lightening and pouring, pouring rain. On and on; so we stay in for rest of afternoon. We talk to a security guard by hotel. He, from Katmandu, Nepal is here on a three year contract. We are able to order a drink at the hotel with our evening meal. Drink more than the food. Supper $175.00 Ringett. Things we don’t understand. 9:30 at night is when people start arriving in the hotel restaurant for the food. This hotel is part of the University; College of Computer Science and Engineering.

Next morning the guy who shows up to be our guide says grew up in IPOH, where I’d lived for a month with a family in 1974. He came to Kuala Lumpar (KL) twenty two years previous and raising a family of five. The sun is out as we come into KL from the south through a twenty gate toll station. He explains how the economy has totally changed in last five years as we see lots of mega tower construction.

A side road takes us away from bumper to bumper traffic. See a Muslim cemetery and although he commented that Friday is the busiest day as Muslims all get off work to go to Friday prayers; he was adamant this is not a Muslim country. He being Indian Malay and the Indians came to Malaysia two thousand years ago. He goes on to tell us now there are thirteen States, one Federal Territory with population being 31 million with approximately 1.2 million foreigners.

Our first stop was the old King’s Palace built in 1928 and then saw the New King’s Palace of 2014. The new one cost 800 million with 38 rooms and open to public once a year on Ramadan.. The House of Parliament was a big white square building. Was happy to get a tuna/tomato/lettuce and egg sandwich as there was no breakfast with our fancy hotel and it is already eleven am.

We saw the new light rail system and beautifully landscaped grounds as we traveled around the city seeing the Asian Gardens around the National War Memorial honoring 1914-1918, 1939-1945 and 1948 -1960 when independence was achieved.

Met a woman in her fight against communism in China as she told me persecuted for practicing Falun Gong and wanted me to pass information on about www.faluninfo.net.

Saw Lake Gardens, jogging trails, botanical gardens, and large children’s playground. Headquarters of the police station followed, then a butterfly garden and largest covered park with four thousand free flying birds over 23 hectares with two hundred species. National bird there is the hornbill. Saw an orchid and hibiscus garden.

We did not go to the Royal Malaysian Police Museum of 1807 or the brand new Islamic Art Museum. I recognized the headquarters of the old Railway Museum and the train station I’d been at when I was seventeen years old. We did spend time at Independence Square that used to be British Cricket Club with a croquet field and now is is the Royal Club. National sports in Malaysia are badminton, soccer and squash.

Our guide let us know he’s been a state champion mostly for running; sprinter 4×100, relay, 100, 200 and long jump. He shared that his daughter; a runner; won a scholarship allowing her to be in health care; his son in last year in high school; another daughter studying to be a nursery school teacher with goal to have own school, oldest wants to start own travel company. Another is studying engineering as father who is our tour guide says this is his full time job but he is also an electrical engineer. He tells us his wife has heart issues; been home for eight years; used to be a nursing lecturer. At our next stop he shows us a picture of his family in native dress going to temple. His twenty two year old son is a big, big man.

They have a library for adults and a library for children. Old City Hall buildings from 1800 are now used by Theatre companies. We were told Kuala Lumpar’s name meaning is where two muddy rivers meet; and where big ships came from all over the world. As we were touring, we learned the Day of Prayer for Muslims was this day; Friday; from 12 – 3; so employers now give Friday off; so not so much absenteeism.

He also explains the many free bus and hop on/hop off bus systems we are seeing are government teaching the taxi drivers a lesson for taking advantage of foreigners. Shell gas station we see he tells us is owned by Petronas (local petroleum company of the sea on the east coast.) He spoke of the ringett dropping; political situation worsening; how foreign security protecting against terrorism, wanting us to know that Malaysia has safe water and street food; that they supply water and vegetables to Singapore.

We did a stop at a Chocolate Factory and were surprised that they are the third largest exporter of chocolate in the world after Belgium and Swiss. Told we could buy chile chocolate for those people we don’t like. Then a stop at a Batik Factory, beautiful sarongs and paintings, with a man’s shirt being about $400 ringett or $100. US dollars.

We heard about the history of the 88 floor twin Petronas Towers in KL; and when we were under them seeing the 44th floor sky bridge that connects the two is quite awe inspiring. Shopping at ground to fourth floor, four to forty forth private and forty forth to eighty eighth is Petronas Petroleum.

Conversation turns to oil and gas being main industry; then palm oil, rubber and medical supplies. Sixty per cent of the tropical rainforest untouched he says and then answers our question as to why every petro station has a sign WASH STATION. People are washing hands and feet prior to Friday prayers. He said Indians wash legs and feet and take shoes off to go into temple. Said Chinese don’t. He estimated only 50 per cent fasting for the Ramadan month long festival when near hundred per cent say they do. Wonder if it’s the similar to new generations hardly going to churches.

We go by the Stadium hosting the Asia Cup for Soccer. See about twenty cranes with all the buildings being built. Heading back to state of Petrojaya which he said is basically second largest government place after KL; but that if you are of Chinese or Indian descent, don’t expect a government job as they only hire Malays.

20/01/18 -4:30 am wake up call and we’re downstairs and there is Uber taxi and a cab waiting for us. We had double checked that the hotel had ordered us a cab and obviously language challenge, they ordered another one. They were very good about it. We had tried to go to bed early knowing we have thirty hour travel in front of us; but Bob had to get up, dress after eleven pm to go out in the hall to ask laughing, excited women in ceremonial dress; like royalty gold and purple dresses; like all made up for tv or a wedding or graduation ceremony or something. Bob’s |”Can you quiet it down please?” worked.

Up at 4 am; to my son’s message that my one hundred year old aunt had died the night before. In the taxi to the airport, a funny feeling when it’s dark and you can’t see or read the language on the signs and not recognizing any airport signs. No picture of a plane for a half hour at least and then we’re there and it takes a half hour to check in to get to the right boarding gate. Pretty fancy airport . First class bathrooms compared to some we’ve been in. Great bagel and cream cheese.

Bob said ready to go home. I’ve been grouchy last few days so guess I am too. Pictures in bathrooms. “Please remain seated for entire performance.” Another round of security clearance and then in next bathroom a sign with a message app saying; “Let us know if dirty, wet, smelly, faulty; what matters to you, matters to us and others. If we smell smoke, we assume you’re on fire and we will break down the door.”

This last security had to take shoes off, no water, coats off and we haven’t had that since we left the US. We are going to be heading to Tokyo and I am not feeling as bad when I notice Bob’s frustrations, grouchiness goes from zero to eight in a few seconds when the money exchange closes as he gets to the window.

The meal on the plane gives choice of Japanese or the Spanish omelet we chose. Has a hot tomato like my Mom’s home canning. Loved the pineapple and the white fruit with black seeds which I’ve seen for four weeks and still don’t know the name of it. There is so much to learn in this world.

Bob has twenty minutes sleep already. We didn’t get a lot for last few nights as extreme thunder and lighting storm between two and four am. Both of us are reading and sharing with each other two great books and deciding who we will share them with. Served a lemon lime refreshing drink. Ask about the white fruit. It is dragon fruit. Japan drives on left side of road as well.

We had FOUR minutes to spare after security prior to boarding for LA. We are talking sleeping arrangements as plane not full and we have a big space to ourselves for this ten hour flight from Tokyo to LA.

Bob and I have different cuisine experiences as he tries Saphoro Beer with chicken and curry and I white wine with Japanese seafood. Delightful cheese. Watch how deftly chopsticks used by others. We get vegetables we’ve never seen with our suchi. Hagen Das vanilla ice cream great ending.

I used one whole little journal book for this writing and so much not said; how much I love and appreciate Bob and the ten years we’ve lived together. My children, how precious they are and three grandchildren; can it get any better? How beautiful that we were able to see them on our phone so often this trip. We talk maybe New Zealand some time. Will we do that?

$100 yen equals $130. US so the necklace I like would be $5000. US dollars? Not sure. Will leave that right where it is. A cold, dingy part of Los Angelas airport is not fun after been traveling twenty four hours. I figured out our cost with airfare for the 28 day four week trip to be $6500. which is $3100. less than an arranged tour was to be. We did a phone face time with granddaughters from LA; and all is well as we board the plane for Phoenix.

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