Adele's 9th Birthday was on December 1st. We did all sorts of travel machinations to be on a tropical island for her birthday, we arrived at midnight the night before. It was a wonderful day! We were able to scare up some balloons and a beautiful birthday cake, her inbox was filled with birthday greetings from all her friends and family and she got exactly what she asked for: a few "cultural" gifts. Please see photo for her modeling one of her gifts. I have to say, I was brought to tears by the sheer joy she expressed in her simple, but meaningful gifts. Unlike other birthdays, it was VERY light given where we are and how little we can carry with us. We love you so much Adele!!
Starting in Turkey and lasting throughout Asia, Vince has been living the life of a Rock Star. He can't go anywhere without the paparazzi and the people demanding his attention. In most of the countries it has been the men who all want to speak to him, they yell "hey baby" to get his attention then try to tweak his cheeks. He's has been asked be to photographed with school boys and security guards in Jordan, all of our guides in Vietnam wanted their pics taken with him and he (as well as Adele) were given copious amounts of candy in Turkey and Jordan.
His stardom peaked at the Cham Museum in Danang where there was a group of young school girls having lunch. As he walked into the courtyard they giggled and pointed at him. He kindly blessed them with a "sing chao" then proceeded into the museum. Upon exiting the museum the excitement level grew such that the girls were squealing and they actually gave him a standing ovation--he doing nothing on his part besides being Vincent, to deserve it. He casually waved his hand over his back as if to say, this star thing is so exhausting, but here's a small acknowledgment from me.
The final straw, in my opinion of course, is when Vince was told by our guide in Laos, at the Cave of Buddas, upon picking his "fortune number" that he will get everything in life that he wants. There were other positive future predictions, but this is the only one that stuck Now imagine walking through the night markets in Laos and Vince saying "I want this or that" followed by "I get everything I want, right mom?" No, son you do not.
Let's hope Australia already has their fill of blond boys and he can return to being just Vincent.
I arrived in Danang not knowing what to expect. I'd heard about this area from my dad. This is where the US Army had a huge base and where the famous China Beach is. I took some photos especially for dad of the old bunkers (still there) and of China Beach which is now a huge tourist destination filled with high rise hotels and casinos.
We visited My Son which are ancient ruins of the Cham group which ruled most of Vietnam for quite some time. Due to a bad marriage match, the king eventually lost most of the Cham's land. The Cham were matriarchal, which meant amongst other things, that the king had to go live with his wife's family and follow her lead, even into the great hereafter. She died at a young age and due to custom the king was killed and sent off with her into her burial chambers, losing both his life and his kingdom--fascinating!
Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to it's perfectly preserved french colonial town site. It's very charming, but really tailors solely to the tourist. Here is where you can also get custom clothes made for a song.
We had Adele an Ao Dais, a traditional Vietnamese costume. It's gloriously festooned with dragons and gold stitching to match t
Vietnam is overwhelming, it assaults you with it's beauty, it's smells, it's trash, it's poverty and above all it's kind and friendly people who all want to say hello (xin chao). We spend our first day in Saigon sick, something we caught in-flight or more likely at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Steve and I are bed ridden while Adele manages to feed and get her and her brother to bed--she's growing up so fast. The kids take turns over the next couple of days getting sick themselves.
In between all this, we see the sights. We take an amazing boat tour down the Mekong River out in the Mekong Delta and learn much about Vietnam it's history and it's religion (predominantly ancestor worship, btw). Our driver worked for the US Army and was sent to "re-education" camp for a year and banned from living in his home town of Saigon for 10 years. He was grateful to the Americans and had the kindest heart bearing grudges towards no one.
Our tour operator had a similar story of tragedy and triumph. He is the son of a Vietnamese mother and the former head of Special Ops for the US Army. After his father was KIA he and his young brother were shipped off to the US where it thought they would be safe from recrimination and his mother had no idea where he was for 15 years. They found each other on the web, he moved back to Vietnam and took over her business. Amazing story!
Kruger National Park was such an amazing experience!! For many weeks we put off planning this trip as we were overwhelmed by the myriad of high end safari options and really unwilling to pay the cost of entry. Finally, Steve dedicated a day to figuring it out and the net net was beyond perfect. We stayed in the park first at a main camp then at a "bush camp" in self-catering cottage along with 15 other cottages, both run by KNP and both highly preferable and economical.
We did 2 drives a day in our own car on our own schedule and saw pretty much every animal one can hope for-- except for lions. Fortunately we'd seen quite a few of them in Schotia and Addo Elephant Park Speaking of elephants, at night we heard the mighty elephants fighting, talking, moving, birthing--truly awe inspiring. During the day we spent countless hours just watching them and wondering just what they were thinking. We saw a baby shortly after it's birth and watched the whole clan help out: one guarding the area, another standing next to the mom as she tried to help her little one take it's first steps and the rest surrounding this whole priceless scene.
We had what I would say is a little more excitement that I care to admit when one night we lost electricity. Mind you, I'm happy to be out in the bush when I know there is an electric fence keeping the wild things out--this fence goes out right along with the lights. On top of that there is only a screen door keeping us in and them out! Not a happy mama. Steve was downright giddy with the excitement of it all, but not me. We were given a couple of candles and some sage advice "watch out for the snakes" from our highly competent (NOT) ranger.
I have to say, and I've heard many repeat the same words, Africa casts its spell on you and you really want to return time and time again. The people are warm and generous, the landscape stunning and the animal life is mind-blowing. We will be back!