Western Australia RV

DAY ONE

We were all a little sad to leave our comfortable house in Two Rock on a quiet street with bikes in the garage and playgrounds on either end of the street.
Our house in Two Rocks
Sunset in Two Rocks
Our rented RV

On March 23rd, we left our comfortable house in Two Rocks. Nolan and I drove our rental car south to Perth and returned it, took an Uber to the RV rental center, and after waiting two hours, were set up in our motorhome.

It was a crazy time at the RV center. The Premier of Western Australia had issued an order closing the state’s borders effective the following day to all outsiders, Australians from other places included.

This changed the holiday plans of many people. The lot at the RV rental place was filled with idle RV’s when this is usually the busy season.  Many people were hurrying to return their rentals early and head back home.

A couple who had to cancel their trip early and fly back to Sydney gave Nolan and me a bunch of food and water and other supplies.

In any case, we headed back north, and six hours after leaving the city of Two Rocks that morning, we had the family loaded up and left it again.

The thought of driving on the left side of the road in Australia, particularly a big RV at first seemed daunting. But after driving the rental car for a week and a half, it seemed natural, and although the motorhome was big, it wasn’t that bad to drive.

Our plan was to make our way along the coast, southeast toward a town called Esperance, where we had it on good account that some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are tucked away.

Our first stop was a city called Bunbury about three hours south of Perth.

Our first dinner in the motorhome was Pizza. Then we parked in a public parking area near the beach and got ready for the night.

Dominoes pizza our first night

In the RV, one problem we faced every day was finding a place to camp each night.

There are plenty of RV parks in Western Australia, but the majority seem overpriced. In many, to park for a night on a gravel spot with a power source, the cost is $20-25 per adult and $5-15 per kid. Even though it’s Aussie dollars, that still seems steep to me when we can rent a whole house for the same price through Air BNB. Free camping sites are pretty few and far between.

The space we found in Bunbury, was one of the rare places that allows a few RV’s to camp overnight.

The beach in Bunbury

It turned out to be a great place–right on the beach and with a clean public restroom. Even thought our RV was completely self-contained and had a toilet and shower, it was nice to have a clean public bathroom with showers to use.

DAY TWO

We spent a good chunk of the day at the beach in Bunbury. Like all the beaches we’ve seen in WA, the beach was beautiful and there were very few people. We fished a little and swam a little.

In the afternoon, we headed down the coast an hour or so to a town called Bussselton. It was a pretty little town that would probably have been packed if it hadn’t been for Covid-19.

One of the main attractions in town is the Bustleton jetty–the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere. We walked the 1km from the shore to the end of the jetty. Although there weren’t many people out, we passed some people fishing, so after that,Nolan couldn’t think of anything else.

Busselton Jetty

We spent the night in a small parking area that allowed overnight camping and was about twenty minutes out of town.

DAY THREE

We woke up early and drove back to the jetty, stopping at a gas station to get some fishing supplies, and then drive back to the Busselton jetty.

Nolan and I fished for about four hours from the jetty while the girls played in the park.

We fished for Australian herring–a species similar in appearance, but unrelated to true herring. We caught a few and cooked them up for lunch back at the trailer.

Margaret watching Jess and Nolan fishing.
Nolan holding up an Australian herring
Jane making one if her many creations on the beach

After lunch, we loaded up and headed down the road toward the town of Margaret River, stopping at a parking area just off the road for the night.

Day Four

The Margaret River is famous for it’s vineyards, Mediterranean climate, and beautiful nature. But the actual town of Margaret River was a little underwhelming. So, we bought some groceries, played in a park, and then headed down the road to the Boranup Karri Forest.

Driving through the Karri Forest

Karri trees, like innumerous other species of plants and animals, are only found in Australia. They are quite beautiful trees, with bark that peels off during development, exposing the smooth, ivory trunks. Although the trees are not as big as California’s redwoods, they are big, and the feeling of walking among them is similar to a stroll through the redwoods. We saw very few cars on the road to the forest, and didn’t see another soul while we were walking the trails.

After a few hours hiking through the Karri trees, we hit the road for the coast to see where the famed Margaret River empties into the ocean.

Nolan standing in the Margaret River

The rangers also informed us that there was talk that in a few days, not only the borders between neighboring Australian states would be closed to travel, but also the borders between the small regions within the state of Western Australia.

Rolling into the parking lot near the beach at about sunset, we were hoping to park near the beach and camp for the night. But as mentioned before, Western Australia is not friendly to free camping, and park rangers showed up and moved us along, recommending a caravan park close by.

So we bit the bullet and rolled down the road to the nearby caravan park, arriving after dark. The front office was closed, but we were able to locate the park host. Although he was a little tipsy or perhaps because of it, he gave us keys to the park gate and told us to pick a spot. When we queried him about the cost of staying the night, he was equivocal and mentioned several prices, from $70/adult plus $10/child ($170 total–which I think is what they really do normally charge during the peak season, and if it weren’t for Covid-19, not only would this be the charge, but the caravan Park would have been completely booked up) for a single night to $54 total. In any case, the price seemed high (but in line with what we’d read on the internet) for a strip of gravel with an electric outlet to run an extension cord to.

But without knowing where to go, we chose a spot and camped for the night.

It was nice when we checked out the next morning the we were charged the lowest price he had mentioned.

Day Five

At this point, even though we hadn’t used the RV shower at all, just the sink for washing hands and dishes, our gray water tank was completely full and starting to leak. So we hurried to the dumping station.

Nolan helping clean up the RV

Certainly one of the most unsavory aspects of RV travel–dealing with the waste tanks. Turns out European style RV’s only have a grey water tank. The toilet empties into a “cassette” that you slide out by hand and empty into the dumping station. Since I knew this ahead of time, I insisted that whenever possible, we use any alternative to the camper toilet.

Once the toilet cassette and great tank were empty, we headed down the road, stopping after a few hours to check out Cape Leeuwin, and its lighthouse.

Then we drove inland toward a forest town called Pemberton, stopping in a primitive rest area off the main road for the night.

Day Six

We hit the road early and rolled into Gloucester National Park the next morning. It rained off and on, but we did a little hiking.

By early afternoon, the weather was clear and we visited The Gloucester Tree, a giant Karri tree with a staircase of pegs spiraling up to the very top. It feels a little precarious to work your way up the bars 150 feet to the viewing platform at the top. But with sweaty palms, Jane and I both made it all the way up.

The view from the top was great.

There was only one other car in the lot in the National Forest. It was another RV with decals clearly indicating it was a rental. Turns out it was a child with a young son on holiday in Australia from Switzerland. They confirmed what we had heard–the borders between regions in Western Australia were closing, and the locals in the small towns were not pleased with holiday-goers. They have such limited medical services that they feared if Covid-19 hit their towns, they would quickly be overwhelmed.

That information roused in us a sense of urgency about finding a place to hunker down. With no desire to spend the next two weeks with our rented RV (we had it booked for two more weeks) hunkered down in an overpriced RV park, we started searching AirBNB for a place to stay. We found one in Busselton, the second town we had visited with our motorhome, the one with the long jetty. Fortunately, we ended up in a place with a driveway long enough for our motorhome. And for the record, as I write this post more than five weeks later, we’re still holed up there.

It’s a great place, right across from the ocean, with three bedrooms, two baths, a cupboard full of board games, and an old school video game table. With the virus leaving so many rentals empty, it’s a pretty good price, too. We couldn’t get any money back on the RV, so it was our means of transportation for two weeks until we turned it in and got a rental car.

Beach across the street

Our next post will cover the rest of our time in Western Australia–which as it turns out is a pretty good place to self isolate if a pandemic strikes.

Bali, Indonesia

We left Ho Chi Minh City destined for Bali on March 7th, leaving for the airport at five am (again!).

At the airport, we weren’t allowed to check in to our flight until we could show we had a ticket to leave Bali. So, for once on our trip, we were forced to plan ahead farther than we wanted. We ended up buying a ticket to Australia leaving Bali on March 27th, planning on spending three weeks in Bali. Once we bought our ticket out of Bali, they let us check in and we were Bali bound.

Indonesia is a huge country consisting of over seventeen thousand islands! It has a population of over 250 million and is the most populous Muslim country in the world.

Among those islands, is one in the south called Bali. In contrast with the most of Indonesia, Bali has a relatively small Muslim population, with the majority of it’s people being Hindi.

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a religion that has such a visible display of devotion as Bali’s brand of Hinduism.

Each town, no matter how small, has multiple ornate temples and statues depicting the various deities.

Each devotee (it seems that nearly everyone in Bali is highly-dedicated devotee) daily places small offerings in front of these statues and temples but also many other places–the dashboard of taxis, the steps of their homes, their many motorscooters.

The offerings generally consists of a banana leaf folded and stapled into a small box which is then filled with flower petals, rice, candy, money, and a smoldering stick of incense. As you walk the sidewalks in town, you are constantly stepping over these small offerings.

In the small, family-run homestay where we lived in Bali, it seemed like half the staff spent the majority of their mornings making and placing these offerings around the rooms, statues, and fountains on the property.

Based on the recommendations of several travelers we had met in Thailand and Vietnam, we decided to start our Bali adventure in the city of Ubud, which in contrast with most of the tourist destinations in Bali, is miles from the ocean.

Ubud is super picturesque, surrounded by rice paddies and rainforest, and filled with Hindu temples.

The economy in Ubud, as in most of Bali, is very highly tourist-dependent. For us, one thing this meant was that it was easy to find little pizza shops and Mexican restaurants. And while I’ve read that things in Ubud are priced higher than in much of Bali, we found both food and lodging pretty reasonable.

Here are some of the things we did in and around Ubud.

Just waking around every day was a visual treat. Bright colors, ornate temples, statues dedicated to duties and other figures in Hindu beliefs.

Statue depicting a figure of Hindi religious tradition at an intersection
Ganesh with fresh flowers
Lots of weathered concrete with vibrant contrasting colors in Bali

There was a monkey forest with tons of monkeys and old temples. If you weren’t careful, the monkeys would grab your bag and put up a fight trying to run off with it.

In Ubud, the food was pretty good. The restaurants definitely were geared toward tourists. We did have some Balinese food, but also a fair amount of Mexican and Italian.

We hiked in the rainforest just outside of town one day.

After the hike, Nolan really wanted to swim. So a taxi driver talked us into driving us to a waterfall outside of town.

The girls stayed behind and Nolan and I hopped in the taxi and drove to the waterfall. It was pouring rain when we got there and walked down to the river in our swim trunks and carrying our goggles. It turned out not to be a great place to swim, but a great place to watch tourists strike a pose to get the perfect Instagram photo.

Nolan and I crossed the river on a little make-shift wooden plank bridge to reach a path where you could climb to the to of the waterfall.

Above the waterfall, we found a hotel pool where we could swim. It was pouring rain at this point. With ask the rain, the river surged and the little bridge we had crossed on got washed out and we were stranded on one side of the river with our taxi waiting for us on the other side. We had to take another taxi twenty miles upstream to cross back over the river to get back to where our taxi was waiting. The whole process took a few hours. But I guess it was an adventure.

One day, we hired a driver and visited a terraced rice paddy. We climbed around the rice patty for a while and Jane and Nolan swung out over the terraces on a giant swing.

We also toured a plantation that grows coffee, cacao, and a variety of fruits and spices. One of the specialties in this part of the world is kopi luwak, coffee made from coffee beans that have been eaten and defecated by the palm civet, a small cat-like animal.

Although it sounds like these coffee beans are scooped up from the scat of free and happy civets, in practice the beans usually come from caged civets. Not only is it a cruel industry, but from what reviews I’ve read from expert coffee tasters, it doesn’t actually improve the flavor of the beans. Anyway, don’t buy kopi luwak, despite what Jack Nickelson’s character on As Good as it Gets might recommend.

Palm civet in a cage
Doesn’t look like something you’d want to brew a drink out of anyway

The plantation was nonetheless interesting to visit and we see cacao trees, coffee plants, papaya trees, and a variety of other fruity trees and spice plants.

We also toured the Tirta Empul temple, a temple with a holy spring. To enter this, as any other Hindu temple in Bali, you had to don a sarong. If you wanted to bathe in the holy spring, you had to change this first sarong for a special green sarong before you entered the water.

Margaret, Nolan, and I bathed in the holy spring and we all toured the beautiful temple ground with its many temples, springs, and pools.

Jane and Nolan in sarongs
Feeding the koi
Catching frogs

Storytelling through music and dance is an important part of the religious tradition in Bali. Although the outdoor performance we attended was forced inside due to rain, it was fun to watch.

The dance was supposed to take place at the foot of this temple, but was moved indoor due to rain

We had planned on going to visit cities in the far north of the island where the beaches and snorkeling were supposed to be wonderful.  But in the few days after we arrived in Bali, the news about Corona virus began to really heat up. The US closed its borders to Europe and many other countries were starting to adopt similar measures. As cool as Bali was, and it was really cool, we decided that if things got worse and we ended up stuck somewhere, Bali might not be the best place to be stuck. So we changed our flights and at 4am on March 14th, we climbed into another cab and drove back to the airport–after just one week in Bali.

Ho Chi Minh City and an explanation of where we are now

Since I am so behind on posts, I should explain that we left Vietnam on March 7th for Bali, Indonesia. We intended to stay in Bali for three weeks, but left early as things with COVID-19 were heating up worldwide. We are now in Australia and intend to stay until travel is safer.

The US government has called for US citizens abroad to return home if they are not prepared to remain in place for an extended period of time. The government’s call to return to the US is not a call to patriotism, but out of concern for the well-being of its citizens who may not be prepared to remain out of the country for an extended period of time.

For any concerned about us, we are prepared to remain in Australia until travel conditions are safe. We have consulted with the United States Consulate in Perth concerning this decision.

Our decision to remain in Australia is based on many reasons, among which are: we cannot return to our home until August (it’s rented out until then), our current health insurance is only active outside of the US (in the US, we wouldn’t be covered right now), Australia has good health care, and the situation with COVID-19 in Australia right now is a little better than in the US.

We are sheltering-in-place here just like most people in America. The state of Western Australia has locked down travel not just to neighboring states, but also between cities, so we will be in Busselton, a small town south of Perth, until the virus is under control and the travel ban is lifted.

But, there could be worse places to be in quarantine than Western Australia with an empty beach just across the street!

Anyway, on to the post about our last stop in Vietnam.

Our last few days in Vietnam were in the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

Nolan on the bus to Ho Chi Minh City
Scooters everywhere. It was scary to cross the street.
Scooters are used for everything in Vietnam

Right away, Ho Chi Minh was different from Hanoi, the second largest city. It was much cleaner. In Hanoi, people literally dumped their garbage on the street. At night people came with brooms and handcarts and cleaned it up. The same was true in Quy Nhon–there was always garbage everywhere by the end of the day. Ho Chi Minh had public garbage cans and dumpsters and the streets were much cleaner.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh
Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), also known as Reunification Palace. Home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through its gates
Historic Post Office

The food was also much better in Ho Chi Minh. I guess it’s hard to say since we only saw a limited slice of both cities, but it seemed that way to us. Despite originating in the north, pho was much better in the south. The bahn mi was also quite a bit better in the south than in the north.

Southern Vietnamese pho, in our opinion l, more flavorful and better than the pho in the north.
Margaret enjoying pho bo.

We didn’t have a lot of time in Ho Chi Minh and prioritized seeing the war remnant museum and the tunnels in Cu Chi.

War Remnants Museum

The war remnant museum displayed many of the tanks, planes, guns, and shells used by America against Vietnam. It had a display dedicated to the war protests among GI’s and civilians in America, and to the protests to the war in other countries in the war. Many of the GI’s stories were gut-wrenching and moving.

Posters from various countries promoting the anti-war movement.
Senators Kerry and McCain, both veterans of the Vietnam war, were key to legislating to lift the economic sanctions that kept Vietnam in poverty after the war.
Inspiring words on display in the war remnants museum.
The museum did not focus on the terrible cruelties of war so much as it highlighted all the support for the anti-war movement within the US military servicemen, the US public, and within other countries around the world.

The museum also housed a display showing the terrible effects of Agent Orange, a chemical sprayed from planes that killed all the vegetation it contacted, reducing the cover where Vietnamese guerrillas could hide. Agent Orange is a chemical “intercalating agent”, meaning it inserts or intercalates a new base into DNA stands, inducing all sorts of mutations (many resulting in cancer) and permanently altering the DNA. Even trace exposure in results in permanent, irreparable damage to DNA that is passed on to the offspring of those exposed. Because of this, the affects of Agent Orange are multi-generational and still occurring in children born today.

Photographs showing some of the effects of Agent Orange
Video showing how one man affected by Agent Orange has learned to work around limitations and build furniture. He employs several other people similarly affected

We spent our last day visiting Cu Chi, a village located close to Saigon that was a stronghold for the Vietcong.

The villagers of Cu Chi dug tunnels in the compact clay plateau above the Mekong River. The tunnel construction started in the 1950’s under the French, but continued to the end of the Vietnam War.

The people lived in the tunnels, coming out at night to farm and to fight.

When you see this place and read the stories of those who lived in the tunnels, it becomes clear why the US never had a chance in Vietnam.

The Cu Chi villagers lived in an unsanitary, cramped, dark, and low oxygen environment with the constant possibility that the bombs dropped by the B-52’s would collapse the tunnels and bury them alive.

The US went to Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. But the truth is, those who supported the communists were not so much dedicated to the ideals of communism as they were to an independent and self-determined Vietnam.

They were generally the poor and working class who had grown tired of the oppression that they had endured for centuries under a ruling class. The oppression had worsened under the policies of the French who maintained their power by bolstering the upper classes. When the French left and the US intervened, the government they helped put in place maintained the dominance of the ruling class to the point of extreme poverty and starvation of the lower classes of people.

And so communism was not what they were striving for so much as an end to decades of French oppression and centuries of oppression before that.

Their level of commitment is something that cannot be grasped by someone who hasn’t known what it is like to live in those conditions for generations.

Living in the tunnels and fighting was just more misery and suffering for a people who had endured it for so long.

The Vietnamese were not just ready to die fighting for their country, they were ready to live in unbearably deplorable conditions, half-starved, indefinitely and then die fighting for their country.

Unfortunately, having eventually won the war, the government in Hanoi did not/could not live up to the hopes and expectations of the Vietnamese people and life after the war continued to be very tough.

One entry point into the tunnels. The wood lid would swell when wet, sealing tight the opening during heavy rains and preventing water from getting into the tunnels.
Worker showing how the tunnel entry was concealed after entering the tunnel

The tunnels had three levels. The first was used for daily life–cooking, working, waiting, sleeping. The next, deeper layer was safer from shelling and bombs. The third, deepest level exited the plateau into which the tunnels were dug just below the level of the Mekong river and was used as an escape when Americans filled the tunnels with toxic gas–the Vietcong would follow the deepst tunnels to where they met the river, swimming through the several meters of water-filled tunnel into the Mekong river and then rising to the surface to escape.

Model showing the levels of the tunnels

The tunnels were intentionally dug low and narrow–on average 3 feet tall and one and half feet wide. Hollow bamboo poles placed vertically from the tunnels to the surface carried some fresh air into the stuffy tunnels. Cooking was accomplished using similar ventilation to carry smoke out of the tunnels. The tunnels had hospitals, schools, work stations and other places to go about the daily tasks of life during war. By the end of the war, at least 75 miles of tunnels had been constructed

Excerpts from A People’s History of the Vietnam War (Jonathan Neale)

An account of Le Van Nong, a farmer turned guerrilla who lived in the Cu Chi tunnels for years.

“The tunnels we were in stank and we stank. The tunnels were usually very hot and we were always sweating…At night we tried to cook the rice for eating the next day. If there was no time to prepare the rice, we went without food for the whole day until the next night, and we tried to come up to cook. It really wasn’t possible for us to cook underground, the smoke was always asphyxiating, you just could not breathe, there was no air down there anyway. Sometimes we were driven to attack the Americans and make them go away, just to we could come up and cook at night, cook in the open. You cannot imagine what pleasure it gave us. “

Vien Phong was a poet who worked in the tunnels, writing and printing leaflets for distribution in Saigon. He slept in a hole three feet high dug out of the side of a tunnel:

“I had not dug the shelter too deep, for we learned from bitter experience that the deeper the shelter, the greater the chance of being buried alive after a bombing attach, so I built a moderately strong shelter that could deal with the bomb fragments. When the enemy carried out their anti-guerrilla operations above, I went into my sleeping shelter, lit a candle, and read books or poems until the air was so foul I had to extinguish the candle and lie in the complete blackness of eternal night, listening to the tanks and guns above me. I did not know, and nor did my comrades, whether we had judged the depth of our tunnels correctly. One lay there, wondering if a tank would crash through the ceiling of your sleeping chamber and crush you to death, or worse, not quite to death.”

Dang Thi Linh was originally from Saigon. Helicopter gunships had killed both her father and mother in separate incidents. She worked as a dancer in one of the traveling theatre groups the Vietcong sent around to raise morale. They performed in the tunnels and were very popular. Peasants traveled from the surrounding villages and came down into the tunnels to watch. Air was always a problem. Above ground, the audience would have sung along with the performers. Below ground, the audience was usually silent, so as not to use up the air.

In any case, it was an eye-opening experience to visit the tunnels. There is a section of tunnel you can crawl through (although it was made specifically for tourists and is wider, taller, lit, force ventilated, and only 40 meters long), but Nolan and I got our fill of being in tunnels while we were in Turkey. So, the girls went without us, but apparently they had got their fill, too as they bailed out at the first side exit and didn’t make it the full 120 feet.

Entry to the tourist tunnel
Jane in a tunnel entry
Bamboo was used as ventilation pipe
Tunnels were vented through fake termite mounds
One of the many simple, yet terrifying and effective booby traps used against American and South Vietnamese soldiers

Even though our stay in Ho Chi Minh was short and the Cu Chi tunnels and war museum occupied most of our time, we enjoyed other things the city offered. We ate good food, both Vietnamese cusine and some foods we missed from home, including pizza and Mexican food. We also, found a great spa where our whole family got to soak our feet in a big pool with little fish that ate your dead skin. After sitting in the pool for 1/2 an hour, Ashley, Jane and I all decided to get pedicures and foot massages.

Feeding frenzy

And then, we left Vietnam. We loved it. We stayed right up to the last day allowed on our visa. Like our experience in Morocco, going to Vietnam was a step back in time where you could see farmers working their rice paddies with water buffalo, people living in boats on the sea and on the river, and women carrying fruit or flowers to sell on a milkmaid’s yoke. It was a wonderful experience.

Mekong Delta

We left Hoi An via the Danang airport and flew to Can Tho, a city in the Mekong Delta.

Nolan after being cooped up on a plane

The Mekong River flows from China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, then winding it’s way through southern Vietnam, finally reaching the sea.

For a hundred miles or so before it meets the sea, the river splits up into thousands of narrower branches which diverge forming the V-shaped delta.

This area is the most fertile in Vietnam and allows Vietnam to be the world’s largest rice exporter. Dozens of various fruits and vegetables are grown here as well.

Jackfruit tree. The fruit gets HUGE. The inside of the fruit is a series of large seeds surrounded by the edible fruit which is sweet and slightly off-tasting.

We stayed in a little bamboo and grass-thatched bungalow (with no AC) with mosquito nets over each bed, right on a canal in the Delta.

Canal and our bungalow on the Mekong
Our bungalow on the Mekong

On our first day, we took a tour up the river and visited a crocodile farm.

Nolan and Margaret on the boat to go and see the crocodiles.
Nolan loved looking for fish and treasures as we rode in the boat.

On day two, we left at five am for a tour of one of the floating markets in the Delta.

Sunrise on the Mekong
Houses and shops on the Mekong
Houses on the Mekong

The floating markets are wholesale markets where farmed goods are shipped down the river on wooden boats powered by automobile motors attached to propellers by a long shaft.

The boats are of various sizes, but none are huge. Regardless of size, each boat has a wooden cabin where the sellers can live while they sell their goods.

Since it’s a wholesale market where vendors and restauranteurs from the local towns ride out on smaller boats to buy what they need for the day, all the action happens in the early morning. By ten, the markets close down as the sellers retire to their huts to sleep.

We ate a decent bowl of pho floating on the river.

Boat that sold pho. Apparently, Gordon Ramsey ate here once and said it was the best breakfast he’s ever had.
Our family eating pho on the boat.

Then we walked around a land market where all sorts of fish and fruits are sold.

Produce at the local land market.
Produce at the local land market
Produce at the local land market.
Meat at the local market. It is butchered and left out until sold.

We also visited a small factory that produced rice noodles. After mixing rice and tapioca flour into a thin paste, they spread on onto a finely woven fabric screen where it is steamed by a large wok filled with water that is heated by burning rice chaff.

Jane moving the steamed rice pancakes.
Nolan moving the steamed rice pancake
Jane helping make rice noodles
Nolan helping make rice noodles
Nolan sampling the rice noodles

The kids got to move the steamed rice flour “pancakes” from the fabric screen onto a bamboo lattice to dry in the sun. Then they got to run one of the dried pancakes through the hand-cranked machine that cuts then into noodles. They loved the rice noodles factory.

Drying the uncut noodles
Our guide trying to teach us the 6 Vietnamese tones. Six different tones means that one word, “ma” means six different things depending on the tone.

Back at our bungalow, we killed time fishing (Nolan caught a massive catfish), riding bikes into town to buy deep-fried cheese and cheddar fries from a roadside vendor, and trying “cupping”, a traditional healing technique offered for free by our hosts. As I write this, two weeks have passed since our cupping experience and I still have the bruises to show for it. Ashley and I both found it a moderately painful and unpleasant experience (see photos).

One of the small fish Nolan caught off the side of our bungalow.
Nolan’s big fish

After just two nights in the delta region, we boarded a bus and headed to Saigon.

The bus had small compartments, three high, like a bunk bed. Here Margaret and Nolan are watching a movie during the ride.
A view of the narrow hallway on the bus.

Hoi An and Cham Island

From Quy Nhon, we took a night train to Danang. We got a sleeper compartment with two sets of narrow bunk beds and tried to get a little sleep between the hours of midnight and six-thirty am. We must have slept a little, but it wasn’t the best night sleep any of us have had.

Our family on the sleeper car

In Danang, we taxied down to the city of Hoi An, a city that draws Vietnamese and foreign tourists alike.

Old Town Hoi An

We stayed in a little hostel that had a family hut to accommodate us. The hut did have hot and cold running water and AC despite being built from bamboo and palm fronds. Aside from one instance where baby rats fell from the palm frond thatching and into our bathroom garbage can, we had a good stay there.

Our bamboo house in Hoi An on An Bang Beach. Under the Coconut Tree was a cheap hostel close to the beach.
Breakfast at our hostel. I loved the passion fruit on top of the yogurt.

We spent some time on the beach that was just a hundred or so yards away.

We wandered the old City of Hoi An and took a short boat ride. We sampled the street food and released lanterns into the water.

The streets in Hoi An will filled with lanterns.
Old town Hoi An
Old town Hoi An
Boats on the Thu Bon River, Hoi An.
Getting ready to take a boat ride on the Thu Bon River.
Lanterns at night on the river
Vietnamese pizza-made on rice paper. It had onions, green onions, beef, pork and spicy sauce.
The kids sharing a banana, Nutella crepe.
Street vendor at night

We also stopped in at one of the many tailor shops and were measured and fit for some custom clothing. You pick out the design and the fabric, and twenty-four hours later you return for final alterations.

Ashley started with one simple fitted dress and impressed with the quality, fit, and price, decided on another one.

Jane ended up with two dresses as well and loved them both.

After some consideration, I got a few shirts for work as well (unpleasant reminder that this trip will end and I will have to work again). I kind of regret not getting a few more–for $20, it’s hard to beat a custom tailored shirt from what feels like very nice fabric.

Poor Nolan and Margaret just had to get dragged along while we went back day after day for more fittings of the clothes we had decided to order.

In the end, the suit with two white shirts set us back $162, Ashley’s dresses about $40 a piece, and Jane’s dresses $30 each. You can find shops there that will make a suit even cheaper than that, but this shop had come by recommendation and so we felt comfortable with it.

It did cost $90 to ship it back to the states, but if we end up liking the clothes as much as we think we will and they hold up will, it’s still a bargain.

We found great food to eat around Hoi An. From french toast for the kids, to poke bowls (with very good fish) and avacado toasts for the parents, everybody was happy. Turns out how much we like the food at any of our destinations influences our opinion of that part of the world as much as anything else (or even more for a certain couple of folks in our group).

We rented bikes one day and rode with white knuckles in the bike lane on the shoulder of a busy highway to some rice paddies where we saw frogs, water buffalo, local fisherman, and Asian kingfishers.

Rice paddies in Hoi An.
Fisherman at the rice paddies.

We also took a boat to an island off the coast called Cham Island based on the recomendation of a traveler we had met earlier. The island was a hit. We ended up staying two nights instead of the one we had planned.

On Cham Island, we played for hours on a beach outside of the town, went snorkeling amongst coral, colorful fish, and blue starfish, fished from a wooden boat, and rode around the island on scooters.

Aside from tourism, the islands main industry is fishing and it’s known for the quality of the catch. Even Ashley who previously would cringe at the thought of any seafood besides fish found out that shrimp, clams, and oysters can actually be quite good.

The seafood platter we grilled up at our table
Beach on Cham Island
Beach on Cham Island
Beach on Cham Island
Jane with her sand house that she built.
Margaret and the little beach house she found
Nolan and Jess on a scooter on Cham Island
Margaret and Jess on a scooter on Cham Island.
Scootering around the island
Buckets full or fresh seafood for sale on Cham Island.

So after a few days on Cham Island and a boat ride back to the mainland, we spent a few more days in Hoi An

With 30 days on our Vietnam visas, and 24 of them already used up, we decided to make a quick trip to the Mekong Delta and then finish up in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Margaret getting her nails painted at one of the many nail salons in Hoi An
Ashley holding a sleeping Margaret in downtown Hoi An. Margaret manages to nap anywhere.

Quy Nhon

After we left Halong Bay and Hanoi, we headed to Quy Nhon (it is pronouced Way Num). We made the decision to go there based solely on the recommendation from our Halong Bay tour guide. We have found that locals and other travelers typically have the best advice on where to go and what to see.

Quy Nhon is a coastal town in central Vietnam and not a destination on the radar of very many tourists at this point. In coming years that will probably change. When we boarded our flight from Hanoi to Quy Nhon, I looked around and we appeared to be the only non Vietnamese people on the flight.

Our time in Quy Nhon was spent mostly relaxing, catching up on home school, and playing at a children’s museum that we found. We did find time to go to a couple beautiful beaches–too bad the conditions weren’t right for snorkeling and swimming–and a few of the old Cham temples.

Margaret at the kids museum
Jane at the kids museum

We all enjoyed having a week of mostly down time. Jess found a place where he could get an hour long massage for $3.50. It was run completely by people with visual impairments and Jess was happy to patronize their establishment.

The food in Quy Nhon was delicious. We especially loved a little restaurant that was always crowded with locals called Peppa’s Kitchen. It served Korean food and we all agreed (except Jane) that it was some of the best food we have had on our trip.

Nolan workings the sticks to nosh a bunch of straw mushrooms in his Korean hot-pot.

The pho in this town was great as well. The street food was pretty good too. Ashley found a Bahn mi (Vietnamese wheat roll sandwich) stand that would make her an avacado and tomato sandwich with chili sauce. Jane found a stand that sold deep-fried cheese on a sick. We all loved walking a few blocks in the mornings to visit the fruit market and eat mangoes, bananas, pineapple, and passion fruit for breakfast. In fact the only thing that wasn’t a hit with the whole group was a local specialty of fatty pork, rice noodles, mint and basil with a bowl of fermented shrimp paste to dip it in (although Jess thought it was quite good even if it was a strong fish taste).

Local fruit market
Veggie Bahn mi
Nolan, dressed for the beach with one of the small pineapples they grow in Vietnam
You could get a coconut water for .50 cents
Margaret and Ashley drinking coconut water
Street pho
The Korean hot plate from Peppa’s kitchen
Korean rice bowl from Peppa’s kitchen
Enjoying the food and 15 cent drinks at Peppa’s kitchen

On our last day in the area, we taxied around to a couple of local historic temples. They were pretty in their own right, but the sun and clouds made for some very beautiful photos.

Our family at one of the Cham temples
Jess carried a sleeping Margaret up many flights of stairs to reach the Cham temples
Jess, Margaret and Nolan at one of the Cham temples.

On an average day spent in town you might see one other gringo, but you would be greeted by dozens of Vietnamese (especially children) with a wave and an English “hello”.

The vendors and the taxi drivers gave you straight prices, no negotiating necessary.

All in all, it was a relaxing and fun stay in Quy Nhon. After a week in the city, we boarded a night train and tried to get some sleep on the six-hour ride to our next stop, Hoi An.

Jane and Nolan enjoying the beach a few minutes walk away from our air BNB.
Quy Nhon beach
Ky Co beach. A very beautiful beach that you have to pay to go to and have to pay to use a chair and umbrella once you’re there. During the busy season, this is a good place to catch a boat to some excellent snorkeling (so I’m told). While we were here, the water was pretty rough.
These jellyfish looking creatures were all over Ky Co beach
And these purple shells
Nolan with one of his beach finds
Nolan at ky Co beach
Eo Gio beach. Not a place to swim, but very pretty.
Eo Gio beach
Nolan with a bit of rope he found on the beach.
The last stop on our beach day–a little fishing village.
The fisherman use the round wicker boats to paddle out to their fishing boats tied buoys a few dozen yards offshore.
Nolan hanging out in one of the fishing boats
Locals hanging out near the beach. They were impressed that we had three kids.
Waiting at the train station in the middle of the night
Our train accomodations for the night. Since there were only four beds, two people had to share. Lucky for the rest of us, Jane and Jess were happy to share a single bed that could barely hold one person.

Halong Bay Cruise

A few hours east of Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, lies a body of water called Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.

Halong Bay

In its 600 square mile area, the bay has nearly 2000 limestone islets. These little islands are cliff-faced with tropical jungle on top and are truly beautiful.

Halong Bay with a group of floatng huts where people who fish the bay live with their families

We booked a three day/two night cruise on the bay.  As it turns out, this is the most expensive thing (by far) we’ve done on the trip.  But it was beautiful, and fun, and so I guess it was worth it. If I were to do it again, I think I would just book a cheap cruise with good reviews.

Our family when we first boarded the cruise.

With the Coronavirus scare, the ship which normally carries fifty passengers had fewer than twenty-five (with thirty crew members to serve those twenty-five). So, we almost had the place to ourselves.

All the reviews on this particular ship raved about the food, but it turned out to be mediocre food served with excellent presentation. The menu was set and featured squid in too many dishes to please my group. The second day was light on squid and was enjoyed more by all.

Margaret enjoying some pho on the boat.

The sea itself was incredibly calm and the ship (tiny compared to an ocean-going cruise ship) barely pitched at all so none of our party, so prone to motion sickness, got sick at all.

You can see how calm the water is
And how beautiful the view was

We didn’t spend a lot of waking hours on the ship though as we went on multiple excursions each day of the trip.

We anchored at night in a harbor a little secluded from the hundreds of other boats that were in the bay. Had it not been overcast, it would have made for some incredible stargazing.

But with or without clear skies, from any place in the cabin or in the ship, you could look out over the calm emerald water and see in every direction those islets that make the bay so stunning.

Our first excursion was biking on Cat Ba Island to the village of Viet Hai. Located entirely in the middle of the sea, surrounded by high mountains and the jungle of Cat Ba National Park. The fishing village only has around 80 households. The island is also home to the Cat Ba Languar, an endangered monkey whose total population is less than 100 (we didn’t see any BTW).

Jane on a bike ride on Cat Ba Island. Nolan and Margaret had to ride on the back of our bikes.
Views from the island
Bee farm on Cat Ba Island
One of the local farmers
Village kids playing. Our tour guide told us that without internet and cell phone reception, the kids here spend their time playing soccer and building things out of the pile of bricks.
Nolan enjoying the island views
Nolan hunting for frogs

On our second day, we headed to another part of Cat Ba Island for some hiking, a cave trip, a visit to the beach and a tour of a local fish market.

Start of the hike
Some parts were quite steep (but we didn’t have to carry Margaret at all!)
We all made it to the top in good spirits, mostly due to the fact that we had a can of Pringles and some snickers bars to eat along the way.
Jane, Ashley and Margaret at the top.
View from the top. There was quite a bit of fog.
Our family at a beach overlook on Cat Ba Island
Beach on Cat Ba Island
Beach on Cat Ba Island
Local fish market on Cat Ba Island
Local fish market on Cat Ba island

Our third and final day was spent on a boat exploring the bay and seeing the floating fishing village.

Fishing village

We then headed back to Hanoi for a few more days before leaving to our next destination.

On our bus ride to the cruise, we stopped at a complex that had a few restaurants and stores. Jane found gold fish crackers, so she was happy when we stopped at the same place on the way home so we could stock up.

View of Hanoi from our apartment after the cruise

Good morning Vietnam! Hello from Hanoi

After leaving Thailand we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and is in the northern part of the country. It’s a good-sized city with around 8 million people.

Our first impressions of Hanoi were that the city is busy, polluted, and dirty. But this city also has a lot to offer.

Streets of Hanoi
Night lights

In Vietnam, you take your life in your hands when you cross the street. Although there are marked crosswalks, neither vehicles nor pedestrians seem to notice them. Pedestrians cross the street through traffic all the time. Keep a steady pace and let the scooters go around you–but remember the cars and especially the buses can’t weave around you well, so wait for then.

Still, I get anxiety when I have to cross a busy street with three kids.

Our first night in Hanoi, we found a local street food vendor selling pho and settled down at the plastic chairs and table that felt more like a kids table than a table that adults can actually fit at.

The pho was alright, but tbh (abbreviation for “to be honest” for anyone not as hip as me) it was a disappointment compared to the pho we were used to in the states. Less flavorful broth; crummier noodles; no plate full of basil, cilantro, sprouts, limes, jalapenos; none of that good purple sauce or Sriracha. A few more bowls of pho at various locations confirmed our bias for the American version.

Nolan and Margaret eating pho our first night.

The bahn mi in Hanoi was a little disappointing compared to what we’ve had at the Vietnamese sandwich shops in Utah as well

But we did have some great street food as well–falafel, burgers, hot dogs, and a Hanoi specialty called bun cha.

We ate bun cha at a humble little restaurant made a city landmark by it’s best-known patron. Now, not every POTUS is down-to-earth enough to sit down on a short plastic stool behind a short plastic table to eat a $6 meal (beverage included). But in 2016, president Obama joined Anthony Bourdain for a meal of this local staple. Bun cha is rice noodles served with fatty pork, lettuce and mint leaves, and a bowl of sweet, fishy broth to dip it all in.

Although, the others didn’t love it, Jess did.

A decent bun cha joint
President Obama’s photo on the wall–one of many
Nolan working the chopsticks

Here are a few other highlights from Hanoi.

We took a guided tour of a few sites in the city with a group called Hanoikids. Hanoikids is a student-run organization that pairs travelers with college aged students looking to practice their English and share their insights into culture, tradition, and sight seeing.

Our first stop was Hỏa Lò Prison a prison used by the french colonists for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.

During this later period it was known to American POW’s as the Hanoi Hilton. Former Senator, John McCain, was one of the POWs in the Hanoi Hilton after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam war.

The prison was demolished during the 1990s, although the gatehouse remains as a museum.

Entrance to the prison.
Our family with out guides Morp and V.
One of the prison cell rooms. There were times when more than 50 people would be crammed into one room.
Margaret at Hoa Lo Prison

After Hoa Lo Prison, our Hanoikids tour guides took us to Hoàn Kiếm Lake or Lake of the returned sword -Our kids were more interested in seeing if there were any fish in the lake than listening to any of the history, but for anyone interested here is the story that locals will tell you about the lake:

The tale goes that Le Loi King came across a shining metal bar when he visited his friend. It turned out that his friend caught the bar while fishing. The King asked for the bar, brought it home and moulded it into a sword. All of a sudden, there was two words printed on the sword “Thuan Thien” (harmonious with heaven).

Le Loi then understood that the sword was a gift from heaven. He used it in war with a neighbouring country. At the beginning of 1428, when peace prevailed, on one of his trips to the Thuy Quan (now Hoan Kiem) Lake, a tortoise rose from the water shouting, “Please return the sword to the Dragon King”. Without hesitation, the King threw the sword to the lake. The tortoise took the sword and dove down the water. From then on, Thuy Quan became Hoan Kiem lake.

Here are a few more highlights from our stay in Hanoi.

Ashley and Nolan took a cooking class and learned how to make pho, spring rolls, and a whipped egg drink.


Bicycle taxi ride

The Museum of Ethnology-a museum that shows some of the traditional housing of some of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum-just as the Russian Communists put Lenin’s embalmed body on display as a human symbol of their revolution, the Vietnamese Communists display the preserved body of their first leader, Ho Chi Minh.

It’s just as an unusual experience to see his embalmed body, in a glass tank filled with fluid, glowing under artificial light as it is to see Lenin’s.

The guards at the mausaleum also observe the same formal, keep moving, keep quiet, no photos, procedure in Hanoi as they do in Moscow.

Photo of Uncle Ho, courtesy the internet.

Water puppet show-a tradition that traces back to times when these shows were performed in flooded rice patties to entertain Vietnamese villagers.

The kids loved this show, performed by puppeteers hidden behind a curtain and standing in waist-deep water.

They didn’t understand any of the words to the songs that narrate the story, but they loved the fire breathing dragons and silly puppets.

I was glad when the break after an hour turned out to be the end of the show and not an intermission.

Parks where the locals hang- my favorite thing in Hanoi was relaxing in a park in the evening.  You could watch kids skateboard, watch women do some sort of coordinated line-dance aerobic activity, our check out the incredible Vietnamese sport called da cau.  It was so cool to watch.

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai clock tower. Designed by the same person who designed the White temple.

Our original plans in Thailand were to spend two weeks in the south and two weeks in the north. The incident with Nolan changed our plans and we ended up spending much more time in the south. We had however, already purchased our tickets to leave Thailand from the northern city of Chiang Mai and so we had to make our way up there.

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand. One thing we have learned is that although there is a lot to do in big, busy cities, our family nearly always prefers a quieter alternative. So we had decided that rather than stay in Chiang Mai, we would spend our time in the city of Chiang Rai, just a four-hour bus ride away.

Lucky for us, Chiang Rai was big enough to have a Pizza Hut

Because we had to fly in and out of Chiang Mai and ride a bus to and from Chiang Rai, we only ended up having four days in Chiang Rai.

Our first night in Chiang Rai we walked to a local restaurant where you could catch your own shrimp. The kids spent all night trying to catch shrimp.

One of those days was mostly taken up by a visit to the hospital for what turned out to be the last day of Nolan’s bandage changes and wound care. He’s got a few scars, but is all healed up!

Like many tourists in Thailand, we really wanted to see elephants. Elephants are a big deal in Thailand. Historically, elephants were used in the military and for heavy work such as logging. Now, the four thousand or so captive elephants are almost all used in the tourism industry. There are tons of places you can go to ride an elephant or interact with an elephant by giving one a mud bath.

But if you read about elephants in Thailand, you’ll find that the care these elephants receive ranges from not very good, to terrible. The “training” that elephants need so that tourist can safely interact with them is also cruel and fear-based.

But we really wanted to see elephants, so we decided we would look into elephant sanctuaries. A little deeper Google research (I know internet research isn’t always reliable) showed that most of the “elephant sanctuaries” out there are just relabled and reworked versions of elephant tourism.

In any case, we found one that seemed legit. It was called Elephant Valley. Their goal is to take captive elephants from the tourism and logging industries and “rehabilitate” them to the wild. The elephants at the sanctuary move from a smaller location where they learn essential skills to live independent of humans to a 460 acre sanctuary where they live without chains,  mahouts and in social groups again.

We spent a couple of days here and came out with a little better understanding of the complexities of trying to do something ethical within the captive elephant industry. In the end, I think this was a good organization to support, and I think knowing what we now know, we would still go back. But it’s complicated. The fact that in their ten-or-so years of existence, they have yet to successfully complete the rehabilitation of an elephant should give you an idea of how complicated the issue is.

Interaction with the elephants was mostly at a distance. Since these elephants had been captive elephants, they were accustomed to eating high calorie density foods given by handlers. I guess they get pretty upset initially if they don’t get this and have to be transitioned away from it. So, we did get to prepare food and feed the elephants.

You would think that the closer interaction with the elephants would be the highlight for the kids. But it turns out that picking up “the largest poop in the animal kingdom” was a lot more fun. And they had a giant swing, a sandbox, and a rotting ping-pong table. And Nolan dug up and caught and ant-lion so…..

Watching the elephants at the sanctuary.
The dominant male elephant at the sanctuary.
Riding the poop cart to go cleanup elephant poop, wearing our elephant pants.
The kids fought over who got to pick up the elephant poop. I wish we could get them to pick up dog poop with such excitement at home.

We visited a few temples, the night market, and a huge and well-known park. But between the hospital, the elephant sanctuary, and shuttling to and from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, we didn’t have time for much else.

Standing in front of the white temple.
White temple. Interesting to note that the inside included paintings on the wall of superheroes, Pokemon, and Disney princesses.
Pathway to the white temple included thousand of hand sculptures reaching up.
White temple
The kids loved the White temple because they got to write on and hang up bodhi leafs. They all thought it would be so cool to bring their kids back when they are older to show them their bodhi leafs.
Blue temple
Blue temple
Blue temple
Buddah in front of the Blue temple.

Our last day in Chiang Rai we spent at Singha Park. Owned by the Boon Rawd Brewery, the park consists of a zoo, bike trail, tea plantations, fruit orchards, restaurants and barley fields. Jane and I rode bikes around the park while Nolan, Margaret and Ashley decided to play at one of the ponds.

Margaret at a little cafe in Singha Park
Margaret and Nolan at Singha Park

So, wearing face masks and washing our hands frequently, we boarded a plane bound for our next destination—–Vietnam!

Halfway Done

The end of January marked five months on the road for our family. This is the halfway mark for our adventures.

In five months, we have visited eleven countries, been on sixteen airplanes, stayed in twenty-nine different dwellings (which means we’ve packed our suitcases that many times), ridden countless buses, taxis, metros, tuk-tuks, and trains. We’ve used seven different currencies (Jane can name them all and the exchange rates to USD!).

We’ve been on three continents–Europe, Asia, and Africa.

We’ve eaten at McDonald’s twenty-three times (I’m thinking about starting a blog reviewing the country-specific items on the McDonald’s menu), burger King fifteen times, Pizza Hut/Domino’s/Papa John’s nine times, Subway twelve times, KFC seven times, and Taco Bell three times (some of these numbers may be made up, but they’re probably close).

Four of the members of our family have celebrated birthdays overseas. 

Our toddler has said goodbye to diapers, and our first-grader is reading and writing. 

Our first grader has lost two teeth in two different countries-Spain and the Czech Republic.

Our older two have gone from a love/hate relationship to being the best of friends (OK, more of a LOVE/hate relationship, but they fight a lot less and play together a lot more)

Homeschooling continues to be a struggle–I’m working on the memoir right now: Raised Voices and TearsA Year of Homeschool on the Road.

But our kids are learning something in between the tears and meltdowns.

Ashley probably knew this all along, but I’m learning that patience and positive encouragement go along way in helping motivate the kids–now it’s only about every third day that Nolan screams This is the worst day of my life! during homeschool.

We’ve found that the best recipe for a good travel experience (for our family anyway) is to stay in a place with a good kitchen and access to a good grocery store, stay for at least a week and preferably two to three, find some outdoor activities to do, and follow the tips that other travelers give.

The hardest things about travel are: homeschool, the constant packing and unpacking, late night/early morning flights, time changes, unfamiliar food for weeks on end, and being away from family and friends.

Ashley and I have only been really sick once (in Turkey, where we both felt like giving up the fight).

That experience in Turkey taught me that if you’ve been sick for a few days and start to feel better, don’t make your first meal barbecued lamb liver and lungs wrapped in intestine. That choice did not end well.

Aside from the severe GI issues in Turkey, everyone has had an occasional cold or sore throat, but Margaret, who touches everything and licks her fingers, is the one who’s been the least sick.

In every country, we’ve nearly always felt safe (a few brief exceptions), and found that the vast majority of people have been very helpful and kind.

I was worried about how others might relate to Americans, but when people ask our nationality and we tell them, the most common response is very positive, even excited.

There are so many great things about travel, but for our family the most valuable thing has been being together every day, all day (although an occasional break might be welcome).

Here is a picture of each of the countries we have visited

Vilnius, Lithuania
House of the Blackheads, Riga, Latvia
Viru Radu, Estonia
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
Cappadocia, Turkey
Meis, Greece
Tbilisi, Georgia
Peniscola, Spain
Camel Riding in the desert-Morocco
Bohemian Switzerland National Park, Czech Republic
Ao Luek, Thailand