Dalat

We weren’t able to book a trip to the Mekong Delta so we opted to head up to Dalat, a town in the central highlands of Vietnam that was popularized during the French colonization because of it’s significantly cooler, more pleasant weather and it’s closeness to the main agriculture belt of Vietnam.

We ended up getting an afternoon flight out of HCMC to Dalat for just $46, which saved us a 6 hour bus ride.

Dalat is beautiful. There was a 30 minute bus ride from the airport into town and the entire countryside was so green. There was an odd mix of banana trees, something that might have been coffee plants, wine grapes and evergreen trees (which looked kinda like redwoods).

We treked around what felt like half the town looking for a hotel last night, and settled on one with some seriously weird sheets. They were kind of silky, as were the pillow cases, so if you moved a pillow you ran the risk of having it slide right off the bed!

Despite the weird beds we were so tired that we slept close to 12 hours but we woke up in time to grab an early breakfast and take a couple hours long walk around some random neighborhoods and then out around the lake to the Dalat botanical gardens.

After that it was a very tasty lunch at a place not too far from our hotel followed by a quick hotel change in favor of some comfier beds.

We spent the afternoon touring first the Dalat Crazy House (which looks like something straight out of a Dali sculpture (Leanne and Miles said Gaudi)) and then the Summer Palace of King Dao, which is a gorgeous Art Deco era bulding.

Our new hotel (Dreams Hotel, highly recommended by Lonely Planet) has a rooftop jacuzzi with a bizarre view of the surrounding neighborhood (your typical mix of old slum sort of houses and newer hotels and businesses).

We’re about to go grab some dinner and I suspect that we’ll call it an early night. We’ve got a 9:30 bus to Nha Trang tomorrow morning, then we’ll head up the coast and check out the sights.

Ho Chi Minh City

We arrived yesterday in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. For having traveled over 17 hours leanne and Miles and I all felt surprisingly good.

HCMC is insanely packed with motorbikes, if Vietnam didn’t already feel like an adventure, crossing the steer would for sure. There are no traffic lights to speak of so you just have to go and maintain a steady speed so the people on motorbikes will know which direction to go to avoid you.

Motorbikes, Ho Chi Minh City

We walked around a bunch yesterday, and went to the War Remnants museum, which had a patio full of old USAF planes, helicopters and artillery guns. The museum was full of photographs and items from the war. It was really sad to see documents from so many of the atrocities that were committed during the war, especially being so much closer to it here.

US Air Force Plane Photos from the Vietnam-American War War Crime

Today we’re going to try to get on a 2 day tour into the Mekong delta. We probably won’t luck out on a billion open wifi networks out there, but who knows!

(posted from iPhone, man does technology rock!)

Paracas and the Ballestas Islands, Peru

I never got around to posting my pictures from the tail leg of my Peru trip. These are all from Paracas and the nearby Ballestas Islands, which have been called the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’ because the islands feature over 160 species of birds (including Penguins!), along with Sea Lions, Dolphins, and seasonally, Whales.

Paracas is a tiny town right on the Pacific Ocean and was, unfortunately, hit hard by an earthquake and the resulting tsunami in 2007. The reconstruction efforts are ongoing, and the hotel I had been planning on staying in was actually wiped out in the earthquake/tsunami. I guess my guidbeook was printed before the earthquake hit!

Despite having split up with my fabulous (and fluent in Spanish) travel companion Elly, I was able to find a good place to stay and set myself up with a ticket on the next morning’s boat tour out to the Ballestas Islands. It was a little cold, and a lot grey, but the islands were amazing none-the-less. There were thousands of birds, and our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the islands. Highlights included the adorable Humboldt Penguins:

Penguins!

And the stunning view of the Cathedral rock formation in the Paracas National Reserve itself. the Cathedral

The rock formation was damaged in the 2007 earthquake. Named the Cathedral, due to the arch formation and the hidden caves beneath it, (viewable here) the arch collapsed in the earthquake, and the caves were filled in by a rockslide.

Interestingly, in the town of Paracas, you can still buy postcards featuring the original arch.

View the full photoset here on my flickr page.

nazca, peru

a Condor in flight

After leaving Arequipa 3 days ago, Elly and I booked a 2 day trek through the Colca Canyon. The bus ride was pretty brtual, 1am departure for a 5 hour trip on dirt roads. By the time we got to the town of Cabanacondor, the altitude was getting to me and I was feeling pretty terrible and ended up staying in town and slept for about 14 hours.

I met up with the group the next morning and we bussed out to Cruz del condor in time to see the amazing condors take their morning flight. The birds were fantastic, as was the canyon itself. I got some great photos of the birds and am really excited to have seen them.

Today I am in Nazca, with Elly and a friend we met during the Colca Canyon trek. We took a bus out to the Nazca lines this morning and saw some of them. And tonight we’re planning a trip to the Nazca Planetarium for a presentation on the history of the lines.

Nazca Lines - Hands

In Arequipa, Peru

at the airport

After a late night series of red eye flights with a stop over in El Salvador I made it to the Lima airport to be greeted by my friend Eleanor, complete with a handmade sign bearing my name.

Our day in Lima yesterday was fairly uneventful and didn´t really include much sightseeing. There were a series of strikes planned throughout the country and we were concerned about the possiblilty of not being able to get a taxi into the airport to get to Arequipa this morning because of the strike, so we opted to stay at the fancy hotel next to the airport instead. It was quite expensive, but ater 2.5 weeks of backpacking on Elly´s end and 15 hours of airports on mine, we were both pretty excited to enjoy the luxury of the hotel´s spa and comfy beds.

It sounds like the strikes were fairly uneventful in Lima though, we probably could have risked it and stayed further out but the risk of missing our flight was more important in the long run. In Arequipa so far there has been much more evidence of today´s strike. A lot of shops are closed and there were rocks blocking the streets on our way into town from the Airport. We were able to get a taxi but had to take some back roads to get to our hostel. It was definitely a bit tense for our driver.

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