A Travellerspoint blog

France and Germany

sunny 25 °C

Colmar, France

We had to pass through France to get to Frieberg Germany so spent the night in Colmar. It was a great decision. We arrived late so just had dinner and then checked into the Colmar hotel which was lovely, clean modern and comfortable. Such a nice change from where we had been
The next day was spent exploring the city on foot. We did take the hokey little sightsee train to get the lay of the land though.


They sell plastic love locks which are much lighter and probably less stress on the bridge
This is little Venice


A visit to the museum was quite interesting
We loved Colmar. It was quite crowded but the buildings and architecture were fantastic.


Frieberg, Germany
I had arranged a home exchange with points to spend four nights in Rothenberg ob Tauber but while in Scotland found out it got cancelled for some reason. I was so disappointed. Home exchange said they would help me find another place and some people from Germany were at our hotel and said Frieberg would be great. So we arranged that
It was a lovely home but we were not overly impressed with the area. Not for more than a day anyhow. We spend the following day walking around the town. The cathedral was very impressive.


Eguisheim, France

The next day we decided to make the short drive back to the French border towns that were recommended. They did not disappoint and I think this one was my favorite


Riquewihr, France was a few minutes down the road and just as charming. It was the inspiration for the town set in the movie Beauty and the Beast
This is wine country and known as the Alsace wine route. So many vineyards. The countryside is gorgeous and another beautiful sunny day.


After three nights in Frieberg we decided to leave a day early and drive to Rothenberg ob Tauber after all. I found a hotel in the old town for a great price so we left in the morning. The autobahn is crazy! No speed limit. Four lanes. We are on the second right, the far right has hundreds of transport trucks. So many trucks. The left lanes are for passing. All of a sudden from nowhere you would see cars racing past you at insane speeds. Sometimes we saw four cars together, usually black, seeming to be in a race with each other weaving in and out of lanes at high speeds. One incidence of road rage that was a little scary.

Then traffic would stop. For hours we crawled along with all the big trucks. There are lots of pull offs though with picnic tables and washrooms which is nice. Lots and lots of trucks pulled off at these to rest. We chose one to have our picnic lunch and give Doug a break from the stress of driving.
Our 3 1/2 hour trip took over 6 hours. We were glad we were spending the night here. We had the entire next day as well to explore this beautiful town. This was the inspiration for the town in Disney’s Pinocchio. It was lovely the evening we arrived, there was hardly anyone here. But the next day was very busy with tour groups and day trippers from other areas.


This is the famous shot of Rothenberg ob Tauber that everyone wants


Taj Mahal was a wonderful Indian resteraunt we found and enjoyed a great meal. And non alcoholic beer too!


We drove the 2 hours to our next stop, Bamberg Germany, where we checked into our lovely studio apartment with kitchenette. We made a light dinner and relaxed after our busy day.

This morning we decided to drive for an hour to Nurenberg and arranged a walking tour. It was very interesting, but a bit exhausting walking mostly up cobblestone hills and it was quite warm. But our guide Andreas was very informative telling us the history for medieval times up to the present. Of course we also learned about Nurenberg and its roll in the Second World War.


After a bit of lunch we drove to the colosseum ( Kongresshall, also known as the documentation centre) where they held the Nazi rally’s which we learned more about during our tour. The Nazi rally’s started in 1923, but the first major grand scale one was 1929 The place was massive. Hitler would have very long speeches, along with others, but his major events were here from 1933-1938. The largest rally was in 1934 where 700,000 Nazi supporters attended. It was a very an interesting day.



Decided to take a break from the car and figured out how to take the bus to the old part of Bamberg. With my google maps it was pretty easy. It took around 25 minutes but we got a nice tour of the regular part of Bamberg. We wandered aimlessly for a while. First stop was city hall. Story has it that the Bishop of the time, 1386, did not want the town hall built so the mayor and townspeople made a foundation in the middle of the river and built it there, joined by two bridges.

We had no idea how pretty this town is, the old part anyhow. We wandered about, found a bench by the river to have some sandwiches I made and just had a no agenda kind of day.

The postman in the car free zone.


the painting on the building is fantastic, but someone also did a sculpture of a leg off it which was fun. Third one is blurry but gives you the idea


We really enjoyed our time in France and Germany. The towns and countryside were more picturesque than I imagined

Posted by debbep 17:16 Archived in Germany Tagged france Comments (0)


And parts of Bavaria Germany on the way

sunny 26 °C

September 16,2023
The train arrived in Munich at 10:30AM and the party was well under way. Octoberfest is in September, not October.


So many people of all ages dressed in Bavarian clothes, most with beer in hand already and looking to have fun. It was Saturday and the good times were starting early.


Dragging our luggage a few blocks we finally found out rental car, not without a few hiccups, but a couple of hours later we were trying to negotiate through the crowds to get out of Munich. A small automatic Corsa was the car we were given, much smaller than the one in Scotland thankfully.

We headed south, towards Bad Tolz and the scenery was gorgeous. It looked like what you would expect Germany to look like

First stop was food and drink. We lucked out and found this great outdoor patio where Doug was able to get some schnitzel and I had soup and salad, and a pretzel. I had to get into the spirit and wash it down with a zero beer as well

The reason we came to this area was to visit the final resting place of Dougs Uncle Doug, who was in the airforce and shot down in the Second World War over Germany at the age of 21. This is a cemetery for those in the airforce that are from countries in the Commonwealth. It is very well maintained and if you look up the name of the airman you are told which row and number his grave is at it’s very well organized. It was so sad to read the tombstones to see that most of these young men were 19, 20, and 21. Australia, UK, Canada and India were represented here.

It was an emotional moment for Doug, his uncle was very missed by his Dad.

The drive to our guesthouse was down some back roads in a town called Reichersbeuern. It was a very typical Bavarian home, with about four guest rooms.

The next day we drove to Lindau stopping a various small towns on the way.


Our favorite was Fussen where we stopped for a couple of hours and had lunch before exploring the town.


Sunday. A lot of the stores close on Sunday, the same as when Taylor and I were in France and found out the hard way. We arrived in Lindau at 7PM starving. We could not pick up any groceries and the one restaurant in town was full.

The main server took pity on us and found us a seat outside. We ordered food to go, as it was getting dark and buggy out, but during the wait I had a zero beer and Doug had two regular ones. They were local and very good, I tasted them. The lady serving us is had been to Vancouver island last year, even Coombs, so we had a nice chat.


It was just after 10AM when we left and checked out Lindau’s waterfront area before we left
We had to buy a decal to drive in Switzerland. They only have one, good for a year and a half, and costs $60 CDN! But the fine is bigger if you get caught without it. We were also driving through Austria for about 15 minutes on the way and had to buy a decal for that too, but at least it was only $15.

Lucerne was on our way so we stopped for a few hours to break up the trip. Old town is gorgeous with so many ornate buildings and a covered bridge. We loved it. When we arrived we found a parking garage that had a grocery store and restaurant as well as other stores
I had to pee so bad! Switzerland is not part of the EU and still has its own currency, the Swiss Franc. The bathroom cost money, coin, Swiss franc! I didn’t have any. I had to finds an ATM, withdraw some Swiss francs and then buy something to get the change, But I did it, in the Nick of time

We enjoyed a lunch before exploring old town for a couple of hours

Behind schedule as usual. Our apartment is in a small hilltop village of Grandvaux near Lausanne. We arrived in the dark, thunder and sheets of lightning in the hills and black clouds overtop. We were going on one lane twisting roads up a down the mountain with road construction thrown in the mix. We finally arrived at 8:30PM and there is no parking, which we knew but there really wasn’t! Doug pulled off into someone’s private empty spot while I looked for our place. It was pitch dark, tall medieval buildings, no lights, and crazy tiny roads. I am talking to myself, “ well I think this is it but there are no F’ng lights who would I know?”

A woman yelled in French something that made me figure out it was the right place. She said we can pull into the parking spot in front for two minutes to unload, which we did. Another woman yelled at us in French from one of the apartments that we were in private parking and I was assuring her we would be only five minutes
In Switzerland there are three areas where people speak either French, Italian or German. We are in the French part.
The parking lot was not far away but we could only park there till noon and then leave until 7 PM. We found the whole parking, or lack of it, in Switzerland the worst part of our travels. We had hoped to ride the trains between towns but didn’t know what to do with the car. It was complicated.

The apartment was very old, basic, and dark. Things always look worse at night and we were so tired we figured we would just wait till tomorrow to see where we were at.

Parking was an issue the entire four nights we were here, but we survived it. We drove a fair amount exploring. Montreaux and Laussane are close by and on Lake Geneva, very wealthy and prosperous small cities. We spent a little bit of time at each
Freddy mercury spent a lot of time here and this is where he wrote most of the Queen albums . They have a statue of him.

We are on a mountain, everything is on a mountainside and it is very green and lush. This is wine country and the grapes are ready to harvest. Mostly green grapes from what I could see.

I think the highlight was driving to Tasch, up small twisting mountain roads, to then take train to Zermatt, a car free town at the base of the Matterhorn. We walked around the town a bit and had very expensive cappuccinos sitting on a park bench looking at the Alps before taking the cog train up to Gornergrat

We saw the Matterhorn from the train but by the time we got to the top it was in the clouds, so we were lucky to have caught a glimpse. It was a beautiful trip as we climbed slowly to over 10,000 feet. I could feel myself being very winded when we reached the top. We stayed up for a couple hours, ate the lunch I brought from home and just marvelled at the amazing site.


The next day was spent in the small town of Gyereres where the cheese is made. One thing I have notice is that all the cows seem to be free range out in the fields not chained to an industrial barn somewhere which is great.
The Chateau Gruyère was interesting to visit as well

we drove around out little town for a bit seeing the beautiful landscapes with all the grape vineyards

On our last day we stopped in Bern for a few hours. Going in and out of large cities seems to really test us because the GPS says go straight when she means turn, or bear left when she means turn. We spend a lot of time being rerouted.

Bern was a great stop as well. They had some brown bears in an area where you could look down and watch them roaming around. There were three of them, quite large and very healthy looking

Good bye Switzerland. We are now heading to France for the night.

Posted by debbep 19:18 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Copenhagen and Vienna

sunny 28 °C

Copenhagen. September 10 -13

We flew to Copenhagen from Edinburgh and after flight delays finally arrived close to midnight. There was a train that was very easy to use which took us to the central station where we had an 18 minute walk to our hostel
We chose Next House hostel, very reasonable for here, $400 Canadian for three nights. The smallest room we have ever stayed at was in St Petersburg, Russia a few years ago. Until now.

I knew it was going to be small. But holy cow. I don’t have a photo because it was too small to get one, but did the job for three nights. New place, very clean and modern, really encouraged socializing especially for single travellers with tables and benches in the entrance, dinner night for singles, walking tours etc. Most of the guests were young people of course but also some families and a few older folk like us.

We had three nights and two full days here. We did a hop on hop off bus tour ( not worth the money) and a canal tour. Our live guide on the boat tour was hysterical and gave us lots of great information.


He also did a tour called ‘politically incorrect tours’ which would have been fun. He showed a bit of that side of him to us on this one. He really had a thing for the Swedes. There has been an ongoing battle for years.

The weather was cool and overcast in the mornings but got super warm and a bit muggy during the day.

We visited the very scenic and crowded Nyhavn which was very picturesque with lots of interesting old buildings with many colours and great signs on the walls .


A pedestrian bridge took us to the Freetown Christiana. Very colorful both in history and the buildings as there is a lot of graffiti on the walls. Walking there we found an area with food trucks and stopped for a very good poke bowl which was super filling.


The national museum of Denmark was very interesting and we spent a few hours there.

We decided not to go to Tivoli gardens as it was expensive and mostly an amusement park which we were not interested in.

The cost in Copenhagen were outrageous. They are not using the Euro but keep their Danish Kroner and I guess our Canadian dollar is very weak against it. Took a lot of the joy out of it for me looking at how much everything cost. The hotel had a good deal for a continental breakfast with a great muesli and toasties for only $15 which we took advantage of.

My $20 piece of bread with Nutella and blackberries


Vienna. September 13-16

We flew to Vienna and upon arrival took the very convenient and easy to use CAT train to the main station in the centre. It was 1PM when we arrived and found Fat Monk cafe and had a fantastic Poke Bowl before continuing on to our apartment which was a 15 minute walk.

We booked the Central Living Stephandsom Apartments for $642 CDN for three nights. It was old and a bit run down but clean, had a kitchenette and huge compared to our last place. Our studio apartment offered good bed, nice pillows and no AC but a fan which was great because it was super hot and muggy. We reached our self check in apartment and flopped out on the bed for a couple of hours with the fan on high speed to try and cool down.

There was a grocery store around the corner, Spar Gourmet, and we picked up some food and had a bite to eat for dinner before heading out

Our location is great! Just a short walk to all the main areas of old town.


We figured out the subway system which only costs 1.5€ for seniors no matter where you go and on the honour system
I had purchased tickets for a Mozart performance at the Golden Hall which is done in period costumes. The hall was over the top ornate, lots of gold and chandeliers. This was the most expensive of the three I booked, 99€ each but we had great seats and could see the facial expressions and costumes very clearly. There was also male and female opera singers as well. We really enjoyed it


On the way back we stopped for a fantastic vegan chocolate gelato. Yum

We signed up for a free walking tour ( not really free of course because you are expected to give a big tip). It was interesting and we learned quite a bit about Austrian history

I had booked a reservation at Cafe Central at the suggestion of people on trip advisor and glad I did. The line up to get in was very long and up to an hours wait otherwise.
The restaurant has been around since 1876 and was a place many came to spend their days drinking coffee and reading newspapers. Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin were known to frequent here.
Doug ordered a beef stroganoff which he really enjoyed and I had soup and salad to justify the decadent but totally delicious Viennese chocolate pastry which we shared.

The Europeans are such classy dressers, even the ones on vacation look so chic and stylish. You can certainly tell the American and Canadian tourist from the European. We dress for comfort. However I am still surprised when I see younger women in gorgeous stylish dresses trading in the high heels for white running shoes. Very practical and smart.



Another night time concert, Mozart and Beethoven in St Anne’s Church. It was also very good.

On our last day in Vienna I signed up for a tour to see the Schönbrunn Palace, the Baroque style summer palace of the Habsburg from the sixteenth century. Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth were the most well known residents.


We toured the inside of the palace and all the lavish rooms, which held wall to wall tourists and it was so hot and muggy it was stifling. It was very interesting though. Doug did not come with me as he is not interested in this type of thing.



We spent some time in a small part of the acres of gardens both French and English inspired. This is a smaller version of Versailles as all the nobility were in completion with each other but the Austrians ran out of money.

I took the subway home, had a quick lunch and then Doug and I went to the Albertina Art museum. I did stop on the way for my big splurge of a pair of gorgeous blue Swarovski earrings.
The museum was defiantly not my cup of tea. I am more interested in the masters paintings etc, but can’t win them all.

A quick dinner back in our apartment and we are off to our last concert, the best for last in my opinion. It was in the Karlschurch which in itself was spectacular. I bought tickets for the fourth row so we had a great view of the musicians and their facial expressions. The conductor was the lead violinist and he was incredible. We heard Vivaldi’s four seasons and it was the best classical concert we have heard. The acoustics were amazing. The one hour 15 minute concert was over far too soon and afterwards we made our way back stopping once again for a chocolate vegan ice cream.

Today is the 16th, Saturday, and we made our way to the subway and on to the train station at the ungodly hour of 5:30AM. But we arrived at the right place at the right time which is good.

I am writing this blog while on our four hour train journey from Vienna to Munich Germany. The Austrian countryside is beautiful and we are enjoying our relaxed morning. Going through Salzburg now and the scenery is amazing. Rolling green hills and rugged mountains. Quite a few of our train mates are dressed in traditional Bavarian garb, lederhosen and all. It is Octoberfest in Munich ( it happens in September, not October for some reason)
One family we talked to was just going for the day from Vienna. Everyone is in a party mood.

Posted by debbep 18:55 Archived in Denmark Tagged vienna austria copenhagen Comments (0)

Scotland. Again.

Northern Scotland NC500

sunny 28 °C

September 4, 2023

It was a very long travel day for us, but we planned it that way so as not to be stressed with short connections.
We left Coombs at 12:30 PM, flew to Vancouver on the float plane at 1:45 to have a five hour wait at the Vancouver airport. BC ferries has been so unreliable lately and we did not want to take any chances missing our flight
Air Canada left on time at 7:45 PM and it was a full flight. I had booked Doug a window seat and me the aisle leaving the middle seat open which is a gamble but especially today as there were virtually no vacant seats on the plane. Except that one! We were so happy.
I tried to sleep but only got a couple winks here and there
Arrival at Heathrow was on time, customs was a breeze and because we did not check luggage we were through in no time.
We now had to get from terminal 2 to Terminal 5, and thankfully I had done this a few times recently. It is an incredibly long walk, and with carry on luggage and little sleep it seemed longer
We now had another five hours to kill. Grabbed something to eat and then people watched for quite awhile. There are folks from all over the world so it is always an interesting show. What some people wear to travel in is quite outrageous sometimes.
Our flight on British airways to Inverness Scotland was half hour delayed and then we sat on the tarmac another hour. But once again we had the middle seat free which was great. I dozed off quite a bit on the hour and a half flight and we finally arrived on September 5 at 10 PM. Inverness airport is very small and so easy to get in and out
A short walk across the parking lot led us to the Courtyard Marriott hotel, which was our big splurge on this trip and we are so glad we did. We walked there in under 10 minutes.

It was one minute to 10, the kitchen closed at 10 but the staff said they would let us order, as we were starving. Again. Thank you.

Our room was nice, beds and pillows super comfortable and we were asleep in minutes, at around 11PM
I set up a UK SIM card on my phone to be able to use the GPS and look things up, which was great.

Up and wide awake at 5 AM but not too bad for the first night. We watched you tube videos and articles that went over the rules of the road and how to drive on the left before picking up our Enterprise rental car. The van was waiting outside the hotel to take us to the office
The rental staff, like everyone we have met here so far, we very helpful and friendly
Unfortunately however the small car I reserved was not available
“ I’ve upgraded you”
Well thank you but I don’t want a bigger car.
“ sorry this is all we have”
Apparently about 15% of the cars returned need body work and repairs done. So lots of smaller cars were not rentable. Not a good confidence builder for Doug
So we agreed ( what choice did we have?) on the Mazda SUV, about the size of our RAV4. Lovely car, we just wanted something tiny for the small roads. He set us all up and off we went
Doug has driven here before a few times, but not for a number of years. So it’s on the other side, and a stick shift. It took some getting used to but he did a great job.
Our first stop was an hour north in the the town of Tain to do some grocery shopping. We did not want to go into Inverness for this as it is too busy
The car had a built in GPS which was great. Lots of round abouts to navigate but the first part of the journey the road was one or two lanes on each side.
Grocery shopping complete and put into the insulated grocery bag I brought with us, we head north again to Dunrobin Castle
We were glad to have studied the road signs as there were a few unusual ones that came up on the way
A lunch was enjoyed in the tea room prior to visiting some of the stately rooms in the castle. Doug tried the haggis and said it was good. The gardens were very elaborate and we both enjoyed our short one and half hour visit here.









Now we continued north west on A9 and then onto A838. The highway became a one lane track for quite a few hours. Every 20 yards or so thankfully there is a small pull out so that oncoming traffic can get past or vice versa. The drivers all wave as a courtesy and take turns pulling off the road . It was a pretty nerve wracking drive at some points but Doug did a great job. I was the navigator reminding him which side to drive on and any hazards ahead, etc.

Once we got to the town of Tongue the scenery got better and better. The hills were now small mountains, and we saw lots of sheep grazing on the rolling pastures and lots of purple heather with beautiful stone houses everywhere. It is so picturesque and warm. The weather is incredible, I never expected blue skies and temps of 25C in Scotland! What a bonus.

Dunross was stunning. I wish we could have stopped but it was getting late. GPS said we’d be at the next town in half an hour, but that is based on going 60 miles per hour. We were going 30 most of the time and even that felt fast. Not sure even the locals would go 60.

There are so many caravans ( trailers and camping vans) parked at the side of the road for the night. This is allowed here in Scotland which would be a very economical way to travel as the costs here are so very high for hotels and BNBs.
The jet lag was kicking in and the narrow roads, standard gearshift and driving on the left was really taking a toll.


At 7PM we finally arrived at our AirBNB in Scourimore, and it was none too soon. The little town is gorgeous and we have a fantastic view from our tiny little room
We enjoyed some of the food we bought today and relaxed in our cute little room while planning out tomorrows adventure.


September 7.
It was so hot last night even with the fan on. And this is northern Scotland! After making ourselves some breakfast we headed out to explore some more of the north. Amazing scenery, and the roads got narrower if that was even possible.


There seems to be more sheep than people here. You have to make way for them on the road too.


Narrow one lane roads one person must use a pull out to pass
In Lochinver we walked around the small village and then popped into a shop for some coffee and a vegan haggis which was quite good.
I made some sandwiches for lunch and we found a bench overlooking the water in Coigach a few miles further on, and enjoyed our food alongside the cows and sheep

The landscape is very unique but also reminds us of Norway and Iceland as well.

We had planned a couple more stops but once again our day took twice as long as google maps said it would because they assume we are doing 60 miles an hour, and we averaged 25.

I nodded off in the car so we missed our turn and ended up adding another 40 minutes to the trip which sucked but finally arrived in Strathcarron to check in to our little apartment for the night. There may be all of 50 people in this little town and the woman who owns our apartment lived next door and was lovely. We even have a washing machine which will be put to good use tonight
There is a hotel pub a five minute walk down the road so we decided to have dinner there and met some other travellers including two women from Calgary. Doug had a chicken curry and I had a vegan one and they were both great. The owners were a lovely couple and very friendly.

September 8.

After some oatmeal and fruit in the room we packed up and headed for the Isle of Skye but wanted to find some highland cows on the way. Naturally this took us down some very narrow one lane roads for a few hours. When we arrived we found out the cows have just calved and were all put away until the babies were a bit older. Bad luck for us. We did see a couple from a distance though

To reach the island you can do so by car ferry or a very long but modern bridge. We chose the latter. The weather was once again unusually hot, 30 C , but clear skies so we decided to do a hike up to the Old Man Of Storr. We had packed our walking poles with us and glad of it. It was an hour up very steep gravel pathway and in the heat made it quite gruelling. But the views made it all worth it. We did not do the last bit as it was very steep with lots of loose rock, but wish I had. The views from there were even more spectacular

We started from down here in the parking lot


Arriving back at the parking lot we enjoyed some sandwiches I had made this morning. We were famished so it was very welcomed.

We headed to our BnB, Thistle guest house, which was about ten minutes into the countryside from the town of Portree. The owner came out to welcome us and we had a half hour to freshen up before heading to Portree for dinner reservations that I had made on line a couple of weeks ago.
Dulce and Brose was a lovely resteraunt in town and we enjoyed a delicious dinner.
Afterwards we walked around the town and down to the seafront and took in the views before heading back to our home for the night

September 9.
Out little room included a full breakfast which was nice, seeing as how it cost $300 a night, a bargain here. Costs in Scotland are very expensive but Isle of Skye is crazy.
What a difference a day makes. Very windy and rainy today and the temperature dropped to 16c, more in line with what I thought it would be like. We have been so lucky
After packing up we headed north again to Quiraing, another hiking spot. It warns not to hike during high winds, but we were optimistic the weather would break soon. So we’re many others it seems . The road up was another single lane twisting route but wonderful views.


Should we or shouldn’t we? It’s looking pretty grim. But it will burn off right? We put on our rain coats and grabbed our walking sticks to head off. The wind was very strong and as we travelled down the path it got narrower and narrower and right at the edge of a steep drop. I don’t have photos of the worse part as I was concentrating on not falling off the cliff. If I did not have my walking pole there is no way we would have gone. Some parts the path disappeared and we were scrambling down into rock ravines and up again. Basically it was a goat trail. I was glad it had been dry for the past week as it was not too muddy. But the mist lifted, it stopped raining for a bit and the view made it all worth


The trail is a loop that takes about three hours but we were seeing quite a few people coming back the same way. They told us the wind around the corner was very strong, so we picked a spot up ahead to target as our finish point. We had hiked around a hour and a half at that point and figured we might not want to push our luck.


See the people at the top of the hill.


When we turned around the wind started to howl and the rain was pelting down, towards us. I had a hard time seeing because there was so much water pouring off my face. We were so lucky we started earlier. By the time we reached the car we were drenched and the weather was even worse, visibility was very poor.

Down the hill again to our next stop, Kilt Rocks. It is called this because the lines in the rock resemble the folds of a man’s kilt. The waterfall in front just added to the photo.


Leat Falls was the next stop, but the weather was pretty bad and I was not that impressed so we headed off. Goodbye Isle of Skye. We are now heading to Fort William area for the night. It was about a two hour drive but we stopped at this viewpoint for Eilean Donan castle from the 13th century, first built as a defence measure against the Vikings. We didn’t go in, but stopped to enjoy the view for a bit.


Our home tonight is Corran Bunkhouse, simple rooms but a communal kitchen and lounge which is great. We finished up the rest of our groceries left over as our dinner and hit the hay.

September 10, last day in Scotland
We spent a lot of time this morning packing up our suitcases as we could only carry on 10 kilos and had to check one of the bags. They never even looked at the weight in the end.
The drive towards Edinburgh took us through some beautiful landscapes especially around Glencoe. This area is very popular for hiking and walking in the hills. The parking lots were packed with people in their hiking gear and poles set for a long day of trekking.


At around one o’clock we passed this cute little hotel, bar, resteraunt church combo. A lovely lunch was enjoyed before heading off again.


The day once again got away from us, it always takes a lot longer than what Google maps says it will. We had planned on spending some time in the small town of Culross but we had to do a whirlwind tour instead. This small village is from the 6 th century and used as a set location for many movies and shows, Outlander is one of the more famous ones


The Red Lion Pub, again used in Outlander, has been around for 600 years.


We finally arrived at the airport, dropped off the car and prepared to say goodbye to Scotland. Our flight left at 9PM. We are off now to our next destination.

Posted by debbep 18:25 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scotland Comments (0)

Kenya safari

sunny 28 °C

Our trip to Kenya
We flew Rwandair back to Nairobi and spent the night once again at the Hilton garden inn
In the morning we were picked up by Gamewatchers, a company I used in 2017 and also in 2019.
Driving through Nairobi on the new expressway had us a Wilson Airport in just over half hour or so. The airport has changed since I was last there and the restaurant is bigger now and upstairs where we enjoyed some coffee and muffins for breakfast

The Kenya Air plane was much bigger than the Safari Link I flew last time, it left 20 minutes early and four stops later we were landing in Nabosho, a conservancy near the Massai Mara . A land rover was there to meet us and the drive to Porini Mara Camp was delightful with so many wildebeest and zebras with many many newborns. Pumba ( warthogs) we’re also in abundance with lots of babies as well.


Our camp is very small, only eleven people at present, and we are tent number 5. A single and queen bed is inside, desk, chair and full bathroom, but all environmentally friendly. We have fresh drinking water put into our tent twice a day into decorated wine bottles. There are lights that work, from solar, and if we request a shower a bucket of warm water is put into the water reserve at the top of the tent at a time we specify.

Lunch is served outside at 1PM near the river overlooking a hill with wildebeest, zebra and giraffe wandering by

Our jeep mates are two women in the Canadian military, Rebecca is 38 and in intelligence living in Qatar. Her wife Tish is 48 and also in the military stationed in Croatia, but they are from Comox, an hour from where we live which is so ironic. We became great friends right away.
The other couple, early 50s were both pilots for Qantas airlines. The six of us laughed and had so much fun over the next couple of days. We were all so happy to have such a wonderful like minded group.

We had two game drives a day, 6:15AM until around 11 in the morning, stopping for a outdoor breakfast around 9AM. Eggs, bacon, toast, potatoes, pancakes, coffee etc and fruit and juice. Quite the spread


We saw a lot of animals and as I say this time of year there are tons of babies. Lots of food for the carnivores.

One morning we came upon a lone female lion who was calling for her pride, she was separated. Our driver Stanley and spotter Dalton went looking for the pride and we came upon 17 lions of various ages from 2 to adult resting in the grass. As soon as one got up to move the rest followed and all 17 walked towards our jeep and passed by. It was amazing. The pride is a group of 25 in all.


Lots of lions, but only one shy cheetah in this area. We had a leopard in our camp at night after monkeys, but never saw him.

We spent three nights here and enjoyed it so much, but a great deal had to do with our amazing travel buddies. Food was good and they catered to my vegetarian needs . I am vegan at home but flexible with dairy when I travel.

Stanley and Dalton drove us to our next camp, Porini Lion Camp, with a game drive on the way.
I have been to this camp twice before and some the long time staff recognized me which was great. The kitchen and dining staff, James and Daniel were so engaging and full of fun just as before. They remembered I was a “grass eater” and again catered to my needs
Our driver was Julius who was my driver in Amboseli when I was here in 2019 and the spotter Wilfred was our spotter here at Porini Lion the same year

Our tent was similar but the furnishings and camp is upscale from Porini Mara, and also quite a bit bigger. 10 tents I think. We left out tent flaps up all the time for air flow and did not have as much privacy as the Mara Camp. Both camps had their good points but I do have a great fondness for Lion camp, for one reason I love the cats and there are just so many in this conservancy.

We chose not to do the offered game drive in Massai Mara because I did go last time and did not like it. So many trucks at any sighting. 10 or more. In the conservancy you can only be here if you are in a camp here, and maximum five trucks at a sighting, and you don’t have to stay on the road like you do in the park, you can drive across the field to get a closer look. The rangers were very active at many of the sightings counting trucks and chasing off those who did not belong.

Again same routine, 6:15 AM game drive, bush breakfast, back for lunch at 1, rest until 4 for the evening game drive and sundowner ( drink of choice and snacks) and back for dinner at 8PM


The weather was unseasonably warm ( low 30s) which was only an issue during our down time at camp. It was also very dry, it had not rained in Nairobi and some of the other parks for a year. Amboseli was having some problems with the animals dying and suffering from lack of water and food
Our area still had watering holes and was quite green

Three nights here again. We rode with a man around our age from Germany, an avid safari goer with expensive and enviable cameras and lenses. We had a slow start but we eventually got along quite well and had a few laughs, but not like our group from Porini Mara.


So many cats, and many with babies. Lions cheetah and leopard were a daily sighting.
Two brothers looking for each other by roaring, so we followed and when they found each other it was amazing. They almost hugged and kissed. It was so touching to see how much they loved each other


We saw one lion with a fresh kill of a zebra, a hyena with a wildebeest kill and hyenas circling a young leopard which had us on the edge of our seats but mom was hissing and keeping them at bay


During the night we were serenaded by lions roaring close by and hippos eating grass outside our tent


Three nights were up and after a morning game drive we were taken to a different airstrip and flew back to Wilson on a smaller 15 seater I think.

We arranged a day room with Gamewatchers at the Sheraton four points near the airport which was a great idea. We relaxed, repacked, had lunch and waited for our midnight flight back to London

We used our points to upgrade to business class on British airlines which was another brilliant plan as we were able to lay flat and sleep most of the way.

We had an amazing safari , again, and will cherish my memories photos and videos for years to come .

Posted by debbep 06:26 Archived in Kenya Tagged safari lions Comments (0)

Rwanda gorilla hike

sunny 27 °C

Feb 14, 2023.

A long time friend and I flew from Vancouver to London on Air Canada.
We decided to overnight in Heathrow at the Hilton garden inn right in terminal 2 which was great. Comfortable beds, great pillows and towels and fantastic food in the roof top restaurant.
Linda and I had our first adventure in 1973 after graduating high school backpacking through Europe. Now 50 years later we are going on another big expedition to Africa.

The following morning we flew BA to Nairobi and decided to spend two nights there to try to get over our jet lag before the hike. Being retired we have that luxury. Again at the Hilton garden inn but near Nairobi Airport, and we’re happy with everything. We did have to show our Covid certificates upon arrival at airport. We had purchased East African visas ahead of time and it all went seamlessly

Our full day of relaxing was spent by the rooftop pool and a short trip to the Nairobi national museum which was well worth it.

At 11AM the following morning we flew to Kigali on Rwandair and with the time change arrived at 11:30. We needed to produce a negative PCR test to the rangers tomorrow taken the day prior to seeing the gorillas and upon arrival saw some booths near security that said “free Covid tests”. There were quite a few booths and a number of attendants but no patients. I asked them and sure enough they gave us each a test for free! Our driver was amazed, he did not know they were offering free ones. They may have only been supposed to be for locals, not sure. They cost $50USD at the hospital. They gave us some codes we would need to check the results on line in 3hours.

Our driver was Norman from Gorilla trek Africa and he met us at the airport to take us on the 2 1/2 hour drive to Tiloreza, our home for the next two nights. I had used Gorilla TA in 2019 and thought they were great so used them again. We used the ATM outside the terminal to get Rwandan cash for the tips.

The scenery of course is breathtaking , I had forgotten how incredibly beautiful it was.


Our hotel is very small, a nice pool, rooms all on the ground floor. The food was good, not amazing but good. Staff were wonderful and our room was large and nice.

The staff checked our Covid results on the Internet and thankfully we were negative and good to go. We were so relieved and then just chilled for the rest of the night

Feb 19, the big day has finally arrived. This is my friends first gorilla trek and first trip to Africa. I have done two previous treks to Uganda and one in Rwanda and found the one in Rwanda so much easier so chose to come here again.
Our lodge provided us with gators and after much agonizing about footwear I once again just wore my gortex hiking runners. We only travel with carry on so not much room for extra boots.
I love people watching at the meeting point, some folks look like they just came from a shopping trip to LL bean in all their crisp brand new safari gear, while others are in yoga pants and white runners

Our group was to see the new family Muhoza. A silverback broke away and found 10 females to join him and now have 8 youngsters making a family of 19. One baby was born that morning. This was supposed to be an easy trek as they were last spotted close to the base of the mountain and rarely go high.


The gorillas had other plans. We drove up an extremely rough road for about twenty minutes or so until we got to the potato fields. One of the rangers rode with us which was great because we learned a lot from him about the gorilla family we were about to visit . There were seven of us, we hail from Canada, a fellow from Columbia, woman from Mexico City and another couple from Israel. There was one other fellow but never did talk to him. We were by far the oldest, actually I never saw anyone else much over 60. We are both 69.
Linda and I were the only ones who hired a porter, mine was a young woman who did not speak English and Linda had a lovely young man.

I was just in hospital in Bangkok for a few days at the end of my trip to Asia in November for a sudden and unexpected back issue where I couldn’t walk for a few days. I was advised not to come on this trip but this was all paid for and non refundable. I did lots of physiotherapy and small hikes beforehand and took drugs in the morning . I knew I could do it.


We started to walk down a flat path for about 15 minutes and the ranger was talking to the trackers constantly. Patience was his name but he admitted he didn’t have any. He suggest we sit and wait for a half an hour cos the gorillas were still travelling and had headed up the mountain.
Patience finally heard from the trackers and we walked back to where we started, much to the surprise of our drivers. From there we walked through potato fields for another half hour or so and then headed up the mountain. It was very steep and there was not a path or trail of course, just what the guys had macheted through for us. It had not rained for a few days so it was hot but no mud. I was grateful for the gators and I had brought garden gloves for the stinging nettles which were needed.

My porter was awful. I have had porters before but I think this must have been her first day. Because of my back issues I welcomed the help, but she would grab my hand pull me and went too fast. When I let go of her hand she would walk in front and just let the branches hit me in the face and chest.
We got to a very steep part, straight up and the soil is so rich that it just falls way when you try to climb it. She was yanking on my arm and almost pulling it out of the socket. I actually yelled at her, I was so frustrated and worried about being hurt. Unbeknownst to me the ranger assigned a second woman to me as well. She was yanking on the other arm and grabbed so tight I ended up with a huge bruise
Finally Patience came and told them how to just lend an arm for support and let me pull myself up which was great
The other woman then grabbed my ass from behind with both hands and literally pushed my fat ass up that hill which I appreciated. I think the really steep part was around 30- 40 minutes but it is really all just a blur and I was not looking at my watch.

As I say it was very steep but now we were heading crosswise. Patience told us to put down our walking sticks and water bottle and get our cameras as we were there. He took my hand and assisted me the rest of the way.

Our first encounter was a mom and young one who we watched for about 10 minutes, and then made our way down the hill to find more moms and babies eating, sleeping, and playing. One gorilla was heading down the hill but we were in her way so she climbed a tree and went over us.


Working our way down the hill we find the silverback and more females and babies eating and chilling. Linda was sitting down taking a photo when I looked over and saw a big female walking right towards her. The ranger came and put his hands on Linda’s shoulders and was talking ,( grunting) to the gorilla letting her know ‘everything is okay’ . She passed mere inches behind Linda and I was able to get it on video.
A little later another large female came and sat right beside me, maybe a foot away, to eat some especially tasty bamboo. The ranger told me ‘quick stand up’ which is not an easy feat at my age.

We had to wear masks while we were with the gorillas as they are susceptible to our illnesses especially Covid. One guy continuously had his mask below his nose and Patience kept telling him to wear it properly and five minutes later it was down again. I eventually even yelled to him ‘ put your dam mask on’! Idiot
All too soon our hour is up and we make our way back to the parking lot. It was much easier going back because we had been slowly following them down for the past hour. It was a wonderful and very close and intimate visit.

We met a woman the next day who had asked for a challenging hike and it ended up to be a half hour walk through a field that was right beside the hotel they were staying in! The gorillas decided to come down that day.

So you just never know if your request for easy will be hard or hard will be easy. The gorillas don’t follow the script

Later in the afternoon we went to the Guardian Village which was fun, explaining life in Rwanda. There was dancing, singing and drumming and a mock marriage procession where I was the bride and carried to the honeymoon suite to meet my new husband. Great fun and a good income source for these people who used to be poachers

The following morning we did the Golden Monkey trek which was supposed to be very easy and just over a half hour apparently. But once again they decided to head up the mountain. It was on an actual path unlike the gorilla hike and after going through the potato fields we made our way up the mountain for about an hour. It was very hot and again no rain. We hired porters again and this time my guy was fantastic.
I felt like I was completely beat up after two challenging hikes in a row ( for me) but so happy I did it. large_25D2C468-98D9-40F7-939C-D828B8148654.jpeg


The golden monkeys were very cute and fun to watch. They are endangered and only found in Rwanda and Uganda .There were a few dozen together in the area we were in.


We said goodbye to Rwanda after our short visit and caught the 5:30PM flight back to Nairobi .
It was such an amazing experience once again.

We were never asked for our yellow fever vaccine card, only proof of Covid vaccines upon arrival in Kenya which surprised me .
We headed back to Nairobi to start part two of our adventure.

Posted by debbep 06:06 Archived in Rwanda Comments (0)


Siem Reap

sunny 34 °C

November 11 to November 15, Days 41 to 45

We flew from Hanoi to Siem Reap in the afternoon and the arrival process was very smooth and fast for the visa on arrival. After we picked up our luggage we had an arranged pick up from Memorie D'Angkor Boutique hotel.
The staff at the hotel were wonderful and we were upgraded to a large suite which was nice.

The hotel arranged a car for us the following morning for 7AM to take us out to Banteay Srei before the heat got too intense. First stop was to get the Angkor pass. A three day pass for $62 USD good for any three days out of 10. I see Lana is anxiously waiting behind me for her pass ha ha.

The crowds were not too bad which was nice, but it was very hot and humid even at that early hour.


We stopped at a couple of more sites on the way back, but came back in the early afternoon for lunch and a rest in the room to read and escape the heat.


A tuk Tuk was arranged for 8AM the following morning to visit Angkor Wat. I was feeling pretty bad from this cold so told Lana and Doug to go on without me and I just rested in the room. These are Dougs photos.


That evening we took a Tuk Tuk to an Indian restaurant that was good and then walked around Pub Street for a bit. It was pretty crowded with lots of partiers.

I felt a bit better the next morning so we all filed into the Tuk Tuk at 8AM and went off to Bayon temple, one of my favourites. Again the crowds were low but the heat and humidity very high. We walked around and over to the Elephant Terrace and then to Old Tom.



Ta Prohm is my all time favourite and we arrived there just before noon. When we got there the crowds were very light, but a few smaller groups from France arrived and it got a lot busier. I love this temple.

In the evening we took a tuk tuk to the Apsera Theatre to have dinner and watch some Cambodian folk dancing in a beautiful small theatre. The show was around an hour and a half and we really enjoyed it.


Our short trip to see the temples of Siem Reap was over and we flew to Thailand for a few days to end our farewell to Asia trip. Thanks for following along. Until next time.....

Posted by debbep 02:04 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)


Saigon, Can Tho, Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi

overcast 27 °C

November 01 - 11
Days. 30- 40

We flew Singapore airlines from Bali to Singapore with a two hour connection to continue on to Hanoi. Great airline, wonderful staff, lots of leg room, good food and pretty much on time.

After arriving in HoChi Min city, ( Saigon) we got some cash from the ATM and grabbed a cab to Solex Hotel in district 1, not far from the airport. The hotel is not near anything but it is just a place to sleep for the night and squeaky clean, affordable and just fine with us.

The included breakfast in the morning was so,so. We arranged for a driver to pick us up at 8. He was not there by 8:20AM so I phoned and he had been sitting outside since 7:30 and not bothered to come and let us know. He did not speak English or even attempt to communicate which made for a very long 3 1/2 hour drive

Our destination is Can Tho, in the south of Vietnam on the Mekong river at a small homestay called Green Village Mekong. The driver stopped the car and pointed to a long path and gestured that we take our luggage and walk the rest of the way.
I don’t think so buddy.
I gestured for him to call the homestay and in less than 2 minutes Thy (pronounced Tea), our hostess, was there to greet us. He ended up maneuvering the car down the small road/path to drop us in front.

Tea is the most enthusiastic bubbly woman I have ever met. Her English is perfect and her sense of humor wonderful
An ice cold glass of lime juice is there to welcome us and was so very appreciated. There is a main thatched building, two stories which houses the kitchen dining area, reception and lounge. Upstairs is their own living area I think. She has a very cute young daughter around four years old but she was not feeling well so rather unhappy. Another young boy around 7 is also there, it is a family run business.

Our cabins are spacious, thatched roofs and walls, with a number of gaps to the outside, a veranda over the river with chairs and hammocks to relax
Rustic and charming

A lunch of fried rice and vegetables was served and then relaxing on the veranda until four when we set off down the river in a small wooden boat to explore. Another young couple from Barcelona joined us

Everyone on the water is so friendly, smiling and waving as we pass, young and old alike.

So much garbage though. It is heartbreaking
These people are quite poor, if your house is on the water you don’t pay the taxes you pay if it’s on land.
We see people bathing in it, getting water for dishes etc , washing clothes and fishing in it. Some have gardens in the water out front of their homes growing water vegetables. Not only is there lots of garbage in the water, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sewage from these homes doesn’t go here too. Makes me feel so blessed to have been born where I was.

A gas station on the water
We cruised for two hours and watched the sun go down
Our driver stopped at a park and got us each a freshly pressed sugar cane drink which was quite sweet but good.

Dinner tonight was a hot pot on each table with vegetable broth and fresh vegetables to add to it. There was rice and pork on the side. Meals are included here as there is not much close by.

Our second day at 5:30AM we make our way into the boat again for our morning adventure just as the first light is showing. The couple from Barcelona joined us again

Every morning farmers come from the areas around with fair sized boats to this part of the Mekong to sell their fruits and vegetables to people on smaller boats who buy for their restaurants mostly. They hang what they are selling on a large pole.
Potatoes , oranges, pineapples,mangos and so many vegetables are in large bags waiting to be sold. They arrive at 5AM and usually sell out by around 10.

Our boat pulled into an area where there were many other tourist boats all huddled together. We just push our way between them to get to this small boat with a young couple selling a soup to everyone for breakfast. He would make the bowls of broth, meat , noodles and vegetables and she would hand it to the patrons and then collect the money. Sometimes the bowl is passed from boat to boat to get to the customer. They do a thriving business it was very busy. I did not have any as it was a meat stock, but the others enjoyed it, somewhat.



Next stop is on land at a rice noodle factory. It was very interesting how they made them and let us participate. Some are dyed with plants to be pink, green, purple etc.

Last stop was a huge land market where our guide, Peter, walked us through explaining many things. Peter is a high school biology teacher who loves his job but also loves guiding a few days a week. We really enjoy his wit and incredible knowledge

There are lots of variety of meat hanging for sale, god knows what some of it is. It was a tough go for me for part of it. Lots of fish, frogs, snails snakes.
Most are alive until you want to buy them.

But lots of fruit and vegetables too, Peter bought quite a few different fruit to eat on the ride home. Some new ones for most of us and very tasty.

It was a great morning, and we were back just after 10:30AM. We just relaxed the rest of the day. The skies opened up in the after noon so we had great timing.

Hoi An. November 4-6. Days 33-35

The little girl liked to sit on our big suitcase while we were waiting for our transfer to the airport. When we walked out to the road to meet the car she laid on it for a ride. I said to Thy that her daughter may have to come with us. She said “ Yes please”. Ha ha. It had been a rough couple of days

After our one and a half hour flight from Can Tho to Da Nang an arranged car was there to pick us up which worked out well. Immediately you saw a difference here, roads were better, buildings in better repair and less traffic. A large new divided highway with two lanes each way almost the entire 40 minute drive.
We had to walk a bit when we arrived as the road in front of the hotel is being redone. All streets in Hoi An are being raised a foot and a half or more as there is much flooding here every Fall. A few weeks ago they were under a couple feet of water, people took boats down the streets to get around. Typhoon Nori struck.
Another one was supposed to be here now but thankfully diverted. This part of the trip was always up in the air, weather dependant. Glad it worked out for us. Some years the water is 6 feet inside the buildings. People move everything up to the second floor.

We walked around the town, and then went for a late lunch early dinner at Morning Glory in the old town. It was just as great as I remembered it from five years ago. I had two appys, garlic eggplant and spring rolls which were very different from any I had had before. I licked the bowl.

Dusk meant that all the lanterns were lit on the shops and the boats on the water. It is quite magical. There are many couples dressed in Vietnamese matching outfits, wedding or engagement photos being taken. We walked through to night market. Block after block of stalls selling the same things. I had to have a banana pancake as we had done this before five years ago when I was here. It wasn’t as good as I remembered it but still fun to have. A crepe with Nutella, banana and coconut flakes.
There was a place on the river on the second floor where we had a cold drink and people watched for a half hour and then off home.

Doug and Lana spent the day looking at some of the heritage buildings and temples in the old town. I had done this before and woke up with a nasty cold so just hung out by myself most of the day.

There was a bit of a party in front of our hotel, lots of men eating, laughing and cheering. The residents and business on this block put on a dinner for the workers who fixed the road as a thank you. How nice is that?

We went back to Morning Glory for the same thing again for dinner


A car picked us up and we we drove for three hours on an amazing new highway with almost no traffic. The freeway took us through the Marble Mountains and it was very beautiful.

Tonight we will stay at Hue 1962 Inn, a small quaint place not too far from the citadel which is where we want to visit. Our arrival was around 2 so we figured we had plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and then start our sightseeing.

The young man at the front desk speaks virtually no English. He said there are so many resteraunts close by and gave us directions
We walked for over an hour, we never saw one place to eat. We don’t have wifi, cos we are Canadian and it is too expensive so we tried to ask people.
Nobody spoke any English and we don’t know any Vietnamese. When we gestured they would point, but it just meant we would keep walking
I saw a couple of older tourists and asked them. “ no there really are not any restaurants here, just street food.” And coffee shops but they don’t carry any food. Not even a croissant
I am getting really frustrated now, and Hangry!
We were now lost, no google maps and no Vietnamese
Finally I spot a pizza joint! I don’t care at this point , just feed me
We were able to get on wifi but by the time we were done and heading out to the Citidel it was going to be dark in a half hour and we were not sure how to get back.
We looked very lost, arguing about what to do, and having disagreements between ourselves when a man can and asked if we wanted to have a cyclo ride to the hotel. He said he would call another guy and take us and after some arguing between us and negotiating with him we were off
Doug and I in one and Lana in the other. These are basically pedi cabs.
We were actually not that far from our hotel after all.

I did not want a repeat of yesterday so last night I booked a car and driver to take us around to all the historic sights for the day. We went to a pagoda, three different tombs and finished off at the citadel. He even found us a place to stop for lunch which was appreciated


The buildings and architecture were amazing and the tile work and ceramics incredible. Most were from the 16 th century
We had a flight to Hanoi tonight which left on Bamboo Airlines, a new player in the Vietnam airline market. I thought they were great, but I thought all the flights we have taken have been fantastic and pretty much right on time
We arrived into Hanoi just before 10PM nd were met by our arranged transfer and then to our hotel in Old Hanoi

Hanoi November 8-11

Doug and Lana did a walking tour this afternoon. Unfortunately I am feeling very sick and so stayed back in the room. I have a terrible cold but really just feeling generally unwell. Thankfully I have done this walking tour before. I hope I am better tomorrow.


Halong bay cruise

Jane and I did a two night three day cruise here five years ago and it was one of the highlights of Vietnam for me. We did not have the time this trip so I looked into many options and found what I think was the best. Jade sails was a full day tour that had seven hours on the water, most only had three or four
We were picked up from our hotel at 7:30AM and taken by luxury 7 passenger van on the new freeway which only took two hours. The ship holds over a hundred guests but we were only 27 today which was great for us
The dining room inside is where we met first and the ship is very new and modern with floor to ceiling windows which was great. There are two upper decks as well.
We starting cruising around 10:30 AM


A buffet lunch was served at 11:30 and it was amazing. Lots of seafood and different delicacies but they really catered to me and another young woman who was also vegetarian bringing us lots of plates of fantastic food. I shared with Doug and Lana it was too much food but so appreciated. The staff were all young and enthusiastic and had a small amount of English language
Our ship mates are diverse in age and nationality.


A while later we stopped and some people who lived on the water in this area came by with wooden row boats. We were joined in our boat by a couple from England and thier son who has been living in Vietnam.

Our boatman rowed us through some tunnels into a bay that was so beautiful and peaceful. He asked if anyone wanted to try to row, looking right at Doug. Not sure if he gets many takers, none of the other boats participated, but Doug did a great job and rowed us for around 20 minutes. It is not as easy as it looks and I think the boatman was very impressed and sat back and enjoyed the relaxation for a bit


The next stop was for kayaking or swimming. Lana went kayaking for a bit but Doug and I are both now felling pretty crappy so stayed back. This was a followed by relaxation on the deck and then a cooking demonstration and participation class that Doug did well at making spring rolls. Another spread of fruit and spring rolls as we sailed back into the harbour and watched the sun set. They brought me some vegetarian ones


All in all I don’t think we missed out on anything from only doing a one day tour. It was the perfect amount of time and we were back at our hotel at around 8PM

Hanoi. Last day. It will be a low key day, I really hope we can shake this cold before we get to Cambodia
We fly tomorrow afternoon and start Tempelling the next day.

Posted by debbep 01:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Our last two weeks in Bali

Amed, Sanur, Nusa Penida

sunny 29 °C

October 22 to 28. Days 19 to 25

We said good bye to our wonderful staff at Satori and met with Eka for our drive to our next location, Lipah beach in Amed.
Taking our luggage down to the parking lot by motor bike

Sideman was a bit of a diversion but I was told how beautiful the countryside was and it did not disappoint.
We pulled off the road to walk through some ones rice field for a bit. Once again the drive was on very twisty narrow roads up and down the mountains.


Around four hours later we checked in to Bintang beach villas, a small resort with 9 units. We had two clean, spacious rooms each with small fridge and kettle. The staff was so wonderful here. My only complaint was intermittent wifi, but that seems to be it common in a number of places. We were spoiled in Ubud.


Right out front is a beautiful coral reef which is why I chose to stay here. Fall in the water snorkelling
Fish and coral I have never seen anywhere else, it was wonderful. The beach had black sand which was like walking on hot coals. But in the water it was white sand. We saw a number of large turtles too.


A fellow on the beach took us out in his jukung pontoon boat around a couple of bays to where there was a sunken Japanese ship not far off shore. Cost was 500,000 IDR. These boats are quite small and unique and rather challenging getting in and out of especially for us old folks.

It was great snorkelling and a wonderful coral garden with so many amazing fish. The problem was the current was so strong we would just get swept right by it and when I tried to turn around to go back it was like a very strong lap pool, I was giving it 150% but not getting anywhere.

I finally grabbed onto the pontoons and our boat driver trolled Doug and I over to where we started and we were able to hang out there for a bit. Lana did not want to go back in at that point.

We ate at only a couple of wrungs as we enjoyed them so much. One was Wrung Indah on the beach and they had a great vegetarian curry for only $5
We really enjoyed talking to the family members who owned the place.

The other was Arung Warung, we went here twice for dinner and once for lunch. It was so good, fusion Indonesian food. The owner/ cook had perfect English so we could ask lots of questions. I had a jackfruit dish one night and then vegetable teriyaki rice bowl twice and veg spring rolls with her own siracha sauce which I could have eaten with a spoon it was so good.
And as a bonus at night her husband played music and sang covers which was great. He was a fantastic guitar player.

We would spend our day snorkelling and swimming out front for a few hours, then reading by the pool with a dip now and then to cool off, followed by dinner and early night. It was so relaxing once again

One day we did venture out for some sightseeing. We left at 8:30AM to head for the Gates of Heaven, Lampuyang temple. We hired Wayan for the morning and he dropped us in the parking lot. We had to take a small bus up the twist and turns of the narrow road to the top of a mountain. From there we had to walk. A woman asked if we would like a motor bike ride the rest of the way for 5,000 (4.50 CDN). We said no thanks. Ten minutes later we had wished we had said yes . It was an incredibly steep hill to walk up and we were pooped by the time we got to the top but happy to be there, a sweaty breathless mess none the less.

This is probably to most popular and famous instagramable place in Bali.
I had number 154 for a photo. We came early to beat the crowds, so we thought. It opens at 8 and we arrived just after 9. They said it would be about a two hour wait.

Problem was there were groups, so a group of eight people would have one number so it was deceiving how long the line up would be

Some young men sat in front of the gates and one would call out a number. 88. ( shit this will be a while)
You would go up to the gates after giving one of the young men your cell phone. They would yell out next pose, next pose. You were allowed a total of four, some took more. If you were a couple you had four together and four each alone. It was a process but these guys moved everyone along and did so in a very kind and caring way.



Four hours later we were getting close. Problem is after two hours you have already invested so much time you don’t want to give up now.

We love the pictures though so in the end I guess it was all a worth it. Thankfully it was an overcast day, which meant that unfortunately you could not see the volcano in the background but it wasn’t super hot.

fruit seller on the way down. Durian really does stink even with the skin on

Next stop Turta Ganga, Hindu water park. This was a beautiful park with lots of statues and pools with stepping stones. Fish food was sold to get that perfect photo, but that meant these were very well fed Koi and some the size of a walrus.


We invited Wayan to join us for lunch, which is expected when you hire a driver but he was the only one who really expressed his gratitude for it.

It was in the temple grounds so far more expensive than usual but the food was good. In the end for the four of us for a good lunch and drink including tip it was $44, or $11 each. Our big splurge.
We loved Amed and the people here were all so incredibly lovely.

This is how much of the goods are transported in the smaller areas

October 28 to Nov 01. Days 25 to 30

After six nights we hired Wayan to drive us to our last stop, Sanur. It took about four hours but we stopped on the way at an indoor market to buy some oranges. People come to sell thier local produce starting at 4AM every morning.


We then stopped at another water park, Tasman Ujung.
Lana climbed to the top of these stairs but coming down would have been too difficult for me because there was not a handrail.


Sanur is very busy with so many tourists compared to Amed. We have a decent room, at Besakih Beach hotel which has a pool and restaurant
located on the beach. There is a boardwalk in front that goes for quite some ways past shops and other places to eat.

On our second to last day Lana and I did a day trip to an island close by, Nusa Penida.
What an ordeal it was for me, by body does not have the flexibility it once did, the car accident a year and a half ago has really messed me up. I am glad I did it, but there will not be a repeat performance of this kind in my future I don’t think

A van picked us up at 7AM to transfer us to the ferry terminal, which was only about a 10 minute drive. He parked quite a distance and then we walked the rest of the way, which seemed to be the way it was everywhere today.

Doug decided to stay back at the hotel and did not join us

Waiting for an hour we see the outdoor area in organized chaos as different tour groups arrived as well as individuals waiting to go to one of the islands to stay.


Four other people from India were going to snorkel with us. None had snorkelled before and one did not even know how to swim!
A woman arrived and yelled “ok let’s go”
We have to remove our shoes at the terminal. I have very sensitive feet, riddled with arthritis so there was no way I could walk in bare feet the rest of the way so I put on my flip flops. Glad I did cos we had to wade into the water and there was lots of rocks and pieces of coral to step on.
These people must have feet of leather.
The waves were active, we lined up to wait our turn in water up to my thighs until we got to the back of the boat and now it’s my turn to board
Someone took my backpack for me, there was a small area to step on but my legs are too short, I had to kneel and then go from there. A guy on board holds out his hand, another from the other side and I hoist myself up. They took my flip flops and put them in a big bin while we found our seats.

The boat probably held close to eight hundred passengers, half being on the top deck
It was supposed to take just over a half hour, but it was an hour and a half later that we arrived.


We did not go up to the beach like the other fast ferries for some reason and had to transfer to smaller boats which took us in. The boys on the boat had a real hard time securing it enough on the beach for us to get off, and then we had to go in, without shoes, to the beach. The waves were higher and stronger here. But I managed to do it without having to take a swim.

When we left Sanur the guide took our photo and sent it to our guide on NP so he was there to greet us and help us find our shoes and take us to the snorkel shop to get geared up.
Once again we wade out to get on another boat with 8 others to begin our snorkel tour
The guide says they did not see any Manta rays yesterday and hopes we are luckier. So do we.

The ocean is very choppy as we are slammed into the waves heading south to our first stop, Manta Bay. Other boats are heading back and the drivers are holding up fingers and doing thumbs up so I am assuming today has a good sighting.

Pulling into the bay I am not sure I will go in. This is the roughest water I have ever been in. But the Indians gear up, put on a life jacket and are excited to go. And they have never snorkelled before!

Lana gets in, which I am very proud of her as she is not a confident snorkeler even in calm waters. There’s a young guy built like Arnold Schwarzenegger travelling on his own and he jumps in without a life jacket. As I am going down the ladder to get in, he is trying to come up
“ I need a life jacket” he says.

I went in without one but it was very choppy. The others on the boat were all huddled together around the guides and some floatation rings, and the guides kept calling me over to be close to them. I stayed away, the swimmers were scary. So nervous and grouped together , getting a fin in the face if I got close. No thanks. I kept saying I was fine on my own. Lana and I kept watch over each other

Then I saw one. A manta ray about 5 or 6 feet in diameter, swimming close to the surface.


I have snorkelled with mantas before in other places, but these were different and bigger.

Then I turned around and four were swimming straight for me, just below the surface. The first one came almost right up to my face before diving just a few inches below me, and the rest followed.
Thankfully I had the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos with my underwater camera. That was worth it right there!


We went to three other snorkel spots , Lana and I did not got into the first one, ( I am a snorkel snob and it has to be good for me to make the effort)

The next two were okay, but again high waves and strong current.
The last one the current was so strong that we just jumped in and the boat picked us up down the way. Didn’t even have to swim.

It was sad though the amount of plastic garbage in this area. It really took away from any beauty of the reef for me.

I spent some time talking to “Arnold” , who’s name was actually Sergio. He was around 38 I would imagine, from Brazil but now living in Australia where he has his own martial arts studio. He was kind of moping at the front of the boat so I went up to talk to him and found out he was very seasick. He was quite embarrassed I think , this big strong guy taken down by some waves. He never went in the water again. More on him later.

We showered off and our driver, Wayan took Lana and I on private tour of the island for a few hours. Every first child in Bali is named Wayan, so there are a lot of them. They also have second names but I think they must only be used by close friends and family.

If we thought the roads in Bali were narrow and twisting, Nusa Penida was wild. The car had to stop many times to let someone pass going the other way and there would be less than 1/2 inch between them. On one corner the other car scraped Wayan’s mirror. But neither of them said or did anything, just kept driving. They are all just so chill.

If a car came around the corner too fast, or too far over Wayan would comment that they were probably from Bali. Local people know how to driver there. There is a car ferry that comes once a day.
You can not rent a car on NP which is a good thing, but you can rent scooters and there were many tourists on them. Mostly young people, but then most of the people on NP and the ferry were around 30ish. Lana and I are by far older than anyone. As a matter of fact the guys working on the snorkel boat called Lana and I ‘grandma’

We stopped for an included lunch at a tourist place and saw some of our other snorkel mates. Sergio was there and having lunch and said he was feeling a bit better which is great.

Kelingking beach was our first stop, one of many very popular instagram spots. It is just gorgeous. There is a path and stairs to go down to the beach but our grandson Silas did this a few years ago and suggested, as did our guide and everyone else, not to do it. It is a dangerous path.

Next stop Broken beach, or Manta bay which overlooks where we were snorkelling. We got vertigo just looking over the edge, and no guard rail of course. But the view again is spectacular


Last stop is Angel Billabong, another gorgeous view. The pathways were very steep and not in great shape but Wayan took such great care of me. I am okay going up hills, it is going down that is a real challenge .

Farming is the main industry in the island, after tourism. The rolling hills with so many tropical trees is just breathtaking. Wayans family farms corn and other crops. There is not enough water to grow rice here. He said monkeys are a problem for them though. Their farm is near the jungle and the monkeys come in a steal bananas and mangos. Like our deer and rabbits to some degree
There are so many monkeys in Bali
The people of Bali really rely on tourism, for many everyone in the family is involved somehow, drivers, guides, hotels and resteruants. Shop keepers as well, so two years of no tourists due to the pandemic really took its toll on folks here. They are all just so happy and grateful to have us back again.

Time to get back on the boat. Even more wave action now, I have to step up onto this small step beside the engine that is hip height. Try as I might I could not do it, my hips are just so screwed up from the accident.

All of a sudden someone from behind lifts me up and places me the boat! I found out it was Sergio, to my rescue. Rather demoralizing but I was grateful none the less.

It was after 6PM when we finally got back to the hotel, exhausted. A quick change and Doug joined us for dinner, once again across the street at Mona Lisa. And again it was amazing food and service.

Today is Monday, October 31. They don’t celebrate Halloween here that we can see, maybe some tourist places but it’s not a Hindu or Balinese thing.

Today we are just relaxing and packing up. Our Bali holiday has come to an end.

The people of Bali are the kindest, happiest and most chill of any place I have been. I never heard a harsh word or raised voice while I was here. And I think it must rub off on the tourists too, as almost everyone of them is also very laid back.

The countryside is spectacular with its rice fields, rolling hills and tropical vegetation.

Hindu temples everywhere, but different from India’s. Very beautiful.

The food is so delicious. It’s not often as a vegetarian/ vegan I can enjoy such a variety of incredible food. In one month I only had one meal that was not great.

Inexpensive. Holy cow. I wish I lived closer. I can see why the Australians are here so often, for some it is just a four or five hour flight. Apparently it is more expensive than it was pre pandemic because like everywhere else the prices of fuel and everything else has gone up, but still so affordable

Sanur, and I imagine Changu and anything close to Denpasar, the capital, are quite a bit more expensive than the other places we went. But still, affordable holiday for sure.
Bali has been incredible, and we are so glad we came. Having close to a month here really made us feel like we have been to Bali.
Tomorrow we start the Vietnam portion of our trip.



Posted by debbep 05:06 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Bali part 3

Ubud week two

rain 28 °C

October 14 -17 days 11 to 14

Our second week in Ubud we did a lot of relaxing, swimming, reading etc. Sometimes we would walk into town now and then and go for another amazing lunch somewhere. We did a bit of shopping but I pretty much just bought some jewelry. Most of the tourists here are between the ages of 20-30 and size zero. Earrings always fit.

One day Lana and I decided to head to the Ubud Aloha Swing which is where you sit on a swing and they push you out high over the Telleganan rice fields. You have probably seen young girls and their instagram posts of this but we decided to have some fun and do it as well. We did the full meal deal with the dress and flower crown and all. Doug was very patiently waiting with Eka our driver.


Kumulilir coffee plantation was our next stop. We had a tour of all the plants and herbs grown and learned how the coffee is roasted in the small villages. They grow arabica beans but they also have a small animal, a Kopi Luwuk who eats the coffee bean, partially digests the outer part and then poops out the bean. This bean ends up being roasted and is the most expensive coffee in the world. You may have seen the movie ‘The Bucket List’ with jack nicholson playing a millionaire enjoying his special coffee when Morgan Freeman tells him it’s Poop Coffee. (Great movie if you haven’t seen it).



Doug tried a cup and said it was not that special. Maybe even kinda shitty. Ha ha

We had a tasting tray of teas and coffees. We each ended up buying some tea. We enjoyed lunch but it was the spiciest meal we have ever had.


The next couple of days were very rainy, torrential. We hung around at home, I read a book in two days, we watched the Earth Chanel, documentaries and did not much of anything else, there were rain warnings . Looking at all the beautiful photos of home and the great weather on the island right now makes it harder to take.
Apparently the weather has never been this bad here in October
I did go next door for an amazing massage. 1/2 hour for 70,000 IDR ( $6.50 CDN)

Tuesday October 18, day 15
Another rainy day. We went off to the Puri Lukisan museum to see some paintings and art, some dating back to the 13 th century. Very sad though, the buildings are not in great repair and I don’t know how this art survives the high humidity.




We were in the last building and going to head for the restaurant when the skies really opened. I have never seen rain like that before. We waited inside the building for about 45 minutes and then decided to go anyhow. The water on the sidewalk was mid calf so we walked barefoot, the water rushing and pouring down the stairs. We are drenched, our small travel umbrellas not offering much cover


Lunch and warm tea were welcomed while we waited it out. Eventually the water receded and the rain was just a normal medium downpour.
We had hoped to go to the grocery store but the main road was blocked off, we saw a fire truck and front end loader heading down the street to deal with a landslide close by at a school. A wall collapsed. We heard that no one was hurt. It was a soggy walk home, stopping off for take out dinner on the way.


Wednesday October 19, day 16

Breakfast was prepared for us this morning by Wayan and Putu again and is was delicious as usual. The weather was good so we took advantage of it by swimming in the pool for a few hours and reading our books.


The skies opened at 2PM but only for an hour.
The farmer next door is plowing up all the fields. He does it barefoot as it is so muddy. The white egrets and ducks follow after him looking for the good stuff he is churning up. The fields are planted twice a year. It doesn’t matter the season, just every six months .



We have lots of critters around and in the evening a few come inside the house, frogs, toads, lizards and geckos. That we know of. Could be Others.
The other morning I woke to a very loud “OhOh. OhOh”. Not sure what that was, I think a gecko of some kind but it was in our bathroom for a while.

Doug went to a sound and meditation session and Lana and I walked over to Sweet Orange again for some late lunch and take out dinner, trying to avoid the rains. It was a lovely late afternoon


Doug really enjoyed his sound and meditation.

October 20, day 17

Lana and I headed down the hill at 8am as our little area was just waking up. We were picked up by our transfer in front of Starbucks at 8:30AM and there was another woman in the front from Amsterdam. She was around our age and we were all off to spend the day doing batik. I had booked this the night before to take a class at a place called Five Art Studio which was located twenty minutes out of the centre of Ubud in a beautiful rural area.
We were joined by another couple our age from the US, a younger woman from France and a young Japanese couple. None of us had any batik experience so we were all novices ready to learn and there were five young men ready to help us.

We each chose a drawing that we liked and then traced it onto cotton fabric.

Now came the hard part. A small utensil was used with a well for hot wax and a sharp end to paint the lines. You had to hold both the pen and the design at a 45 degree angle or you would drips large blobs of wax on to your cloth.

There were lots of happy accidents that ended up being part of the design.


When that was done we went downstairs to apply the dye and paint our picture. The studio was located in such a beautiful setting with orchids and wonderful vegetaion everywhere.




After the wax was removed by the heat of the sun, the fabric was sealed with a glue and we were all finished. The entire process took about four hours and was a lot of fun.


Lana and I asked to be dropped off near the palace and walked to Sami’s Warung for some of the fabulous jackfruit tacos we enjoyed so much a few days ago. Doug was there waiting for us.

Lana bought another pair of pants and a dress and I bought some pants and a carving of a flying angel who will grace my office.

The rain held off but OMG it was so humid I was melting. We could not get into the pool fast enough. Kasey, the owner of our villa, came by for a couple of hours and we had wonderful visit. She has been everywhere in the world and so she was a lot of fun to talk to.

October 21, day 18. Our last day in Ubud.
This morning was clear and offered a decent sunrise. I sat on our deck at 6 Am for an hour or more.


Putu and Wayan made us our last breakfast as we leave Ubud tomorrow. It is going to be hard to get used to a regular place without a private pool and staff. We have been so spoiled.

The morning was a spent at Kasey’s, the owner of our villa and five others close by. She is in a four bedroom unit , villa banana, a short walk from us and it is stunning.

The rains came again this afternoon, we had hoped to go for a hike but it was a no go, but at 4PM they stopped so we were able to head into town and go for dinner to Lazy Cats Cafe, a vegetarian resteraunt. The food was amazing. I am turning into one of those people who takes photos of their food 😁🍵🍔🥗


Across the street was Pura Dalem Temple where we watched a Kecak Fire and dance show. It was great and very different from the other show we saw.

At the end a fellow was running into the burning embers and flames of the burning coconut husks. It was quite a performance.


The rain held off all evening and we even had a dry walk home. The last time we need to walk up that steep narrow path dodging the scooters.
Tomorrow morning we will make our way east to the beaches of Amed. Ubud was a wonderful and relaxing two week stay, but now on to the next chapter.

Posted by debbep 13:23 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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