"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, oh Lord..." Psalm 19:14

Saturday, October 31, 2009

And the winner is...#1 Halong Bay

Okay, so you're maybe tired of hearing about Vietnam by now (sorry, I haven't traveled much, hehe), but I have one more place to share about...Halong Bay!

It's actually one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World." What that title means or exactly who decided it, I have no idea. But it sure sounds important. :)

Again, the weather didn't particularly cooperate, but still...over 1,000 mountainous islands towering over the deep sea below? Yeah, pretty spectacular to say the least.

Not only that, but we got to enjoy it all from the comforts of The Classic Sail, our fabulous little "junk" boat thing. And to call it a "junk" just doesn't do it justice. :)

We were so stinkin' blessed on this little outing, because The Classic Sail was amazing, and we had the boat all to ourselves -- aside from a lovely Spanish couple on their honeymoon!

The rooms were beautiful -- and the beds so cozy!

And the meals were over the top! Course after course of unbelievable food...fresh sea food and even this vegetable bouquet Heidi is showcasing here.

I guess I just didn't expect such wonderful accomodations. It's not like we spent that much money, and you just never know what you'll get for what you pay.

Anyway, the Halong Bay cruise was certainly the highlight of our trip. We spent one night aboard the boat and even got to kayak around and swim and tour a huge cave too!

Check it out...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#2: Sapa

Ahhh, here we are in the lovely little mountain village of Sapa, Vietnam. We loved this place! Maybe it's because we finally got to wear sweatshirts and socks, can you believe it? Or maybe it was the charming little cafes and shops all over. Or...could it have been this beautiful view right outside our hotel room?

Well, to be honest, that view only lasted one morning (the joy of coming during the rainy season). But for us, even that was such a treat. We spent three days and two nights here, hiking and shopping and eating, hehe.

We met many women from the hill tribes of Vietnam. Flower Hmongs, like this lady below, and Black Hmongs, and Red Daos.

At first, we enjoyed these overly friendly women. They eagerly posed for pictures...

And as we hiked the trails, they even held our hands.
(Okay, maybe not so heplful, but kind anyway.)

Yep, all to swoon us into buying some of their handmade crafts.

And then, it was like, we couldn't get away from them. They followed us down the street...and even peeked through restaurant or store windows with their goods in hand.

By the time we left, we were haunted by little voices calling out...

"You buy from meeee?!"

"You promise!"

Rain and stalking tribal women aside, Sapa was absolutely beautiful. We so enjoyed relaxing together and taking in the fresh mountain air.

Here are some other Sapa highlights...

Monday, October 26, 2009

The countdown continues...

#4: Hanoi

This, my friends, is where it all began. We landed in Hanoi on Friday night and really only spent Saturday here, walking the streets and touring the city. I think I mainly enjoyed the break from Bangkok's crazy traffic and overcrowded streets (remember, I'm a small-town girl at heart!).

This is a photo of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, which is where the first university in Vietnam was established. It was also a great spot for photos (lots of red doors, gotta love 'em). I guess the turtle is a symbol of nobility and good luck in Vietnam...so people like to come up and rub their little heads. :)

One last thing to mention. Check this out. This is what happened when we befriended a couple little girls selling postcards on the street. Yeah, before we knew it, a whole crowd had gathered. Who knew we were that interesting? Hehe...

Here are some other shots of our time in Hanoi...

#3: Meals and Wheels...or something of the sort

Number 3 on my "Top Five" must be shared by two rather unrelated things (sorry to combine). This section is dedicated to the very eclectic varieties of food and transportation we encountered on our journey. To start, our means of travel...

We went by train.

(...and could never quite regulate the temperature. Needless to say, not our favorite.)

We went by boat.

...which you'll hear much more about later!

We even went by bus, taxi, plane, and motorbike (not to mention, by foot of course!). It kept the trip moving (quite literally), and kept things interesting too! I won't even try to count up our hours of travel time. I think it's best not knowing. :) At any rate, onto food...

If you're like me, you maybe didn't remember (or never knew) that Vietnam was occupied by the French for...a long time. I'm sure the Vietnamese people are glad they're gone, but I kind of appreciated some of the things they left behind. Cafes, for instance...and baguettes. What a treat! (Good bread is not something you find on every corner in Thailand, you see.)

Here we are below, at one of our favorite little cafes we stumbled upon -- "Baguettes and Chocolates"...and yes, it surely lived up to its name!

French fries with chopsticks? Only in Vietnam!

And, of course, the Vietnamese food was unbelievably good as well. Pho (noodley soup), fresh spring rolls, and our favorite...boon tick neung (a.k.a. bowl of yummy goodness -- order it next time you're out for Vietnamese!).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vietnam's Top Five

Kristi, Heidi, and I escaped our flood-covered lands and ventured off to Vietnam last Friday night. And, you know, I expected it to be good...maybe even great...but the trip was really just phenomenal. We got to see so many different parts of Vietnam and its culture -- all packed into one crazy week!

In fact, there's just so much I want to share, I've decided to break it up into the "Top Five" highlights of our fabulous trip. So, without further ado...

#5: Ho Chi Minh City

One thing you must know: the people in Vietnam love their motorbikes. They were everyhere! And even when it rained, they just pulled out their ponchos and carried on. Ho Chi Minh City was actually the last leg of our journey (which is probably why I didn't take as many pictures...). We flew in from Hanoi on Thursday night and left Saturday night, leaving us two short days to shop and explore. And that we did!

We visited both the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels while we were there. The museum was filled with photos, quotes, and statistics on the Vietnam War that, of course, seemed rather anti-American. But I felt compelled to look beyond that and see the message they were trying to convey. And it's true, some of those things should have never happened. Ever. It was sad to see the many faces of the war and better understand the loss and destruction...on both sides. As for the tunnels, wow. We were just amazed by the brilliant strategies of the Vietnamese soldiers. We got to tour the tunnels a bit, too, which was really neat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feels like home...

And I don't just mean the rain.

Though, I guess you could say that's part of it. Over these past weeks, I've found lots of little things I miss. You know, like the feeling of lush carpet between my toes...or taking a stroll through Target...or the joy of wearing sweaters on a crisp, fall day. Sigh. So when I see the clouds roll in and as the downpour begins (and as I throw on my rain jacket!), it's kind of...comforting in a way. Familiar. Wet. Just like home. :)

I say that lightly, but the truth is, I am feeling more and more at home here. It's so nice falling into a routine, getting to know people better, and watching "new" finally become "normal." And while there certainly are things I miss, I'm growing a deep appreciation for this place. Mainly it's the people. I'm inspired by the people I've met -- the teachers I work with, the missionaries in the area, the Thai friends I've made. I feel so welcomed and cared for here.

(Sorry, I meant to post this before I left for Vietnam, but my Internet connection was having issues!)

On a serious note, the floods were actually pretty bad in our area, entering many teachers' homes and giving us an EXTRA long October Break! Thankfully, the waters have receded, and it looks like life and ICS will finally be back in session tomorrow.

Here is just a peek at our lovely flood days...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

ballets and breaks and bugs...in Bangkok

Here we are after an Italian ballet we got to see this week. Because we've had some bad luck with taxi drivers as of late, I think we spent more time in the taxi than at the ballet, hehe...but the evening was still a real treat. (We even had pasta for dinner and gelato for dessert, to carry on the Italian theme!)

Other happenings this week:

  • I booked plane tickets for...Vietnam! A couple friends and I are headed there for October Break. (We get a week off, which is just perfect for a little traveling. :)

  • We're amazed by the many disasters that have struck Southeast Asia this week. It's like all around us here! By the time the "storm" hit Bangkok, it was more like a light rain. In Social Studies class, my students and I took some time to talk and pray about all that's happened. It blessed my heart to hear their sweet prayers for all those involved. May we continue to pray.

  • Look who I found in my bathroom! Luckily, whatever bug spray I bought works fabulously. He didn't stand a chance, poor lil guy.