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travels to Inle Lake

sunny 100 °F
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Day 1: Our arrival to Burma was delayed because of something with their tides,
so we missed most of our first day in Burma. By the time our ship was cleared it
was near dinner time. Josh and I rode the ship's shuttle into the city, which
was a little over an hour away from the ship. When we got off we headed in the
direction that we were told Chinatown was in because apparently around it was
the place to get dinner. Pre-port emphasized how under developed Burma was so
with that in mind, Burma was much more modern than I had expected. To me Yangon
looked how I imagine Ho Chi Minh looked 20 years ago. Urban development and
migration into the city was clearly all very recent. We were very nervous about
where we were going to eat (so no, we aren't getting too reckless!!). We both
had large field programs the next day so the last thing we wanted was to get
sick and they had terrified us the night before in pre port with stories of
worms and bad sanitation. We kept walking for awhile looking for the right place
and just taking in the city. There was street vendors covering both side of the
side walk. They were making food over open fires, selling everyday clothes,
pirated movies, and rolling cigars for sale. When we finally got to what we
could only assume was Chinatown we saw some sort of festival going on. At first
we were nervous that we had just stumbled upon a protest because there were
voices coming over a loud speaker, people were chanting and there were banner
that were being marched up and down the street. However at second looked it was
clearly a festival. We still didn't go too far in, as to not be too disruptive
tourists. It was a very different city experience than the places we had been
so far. We found a place that looked very clean. Plus this place had fans to cool us and
professors from the ship eating there, so we figured it was a good bet. We each
got a beer and then we got a fried rice dish and a pan fried noodle dish to
share. That was pretty much the end of our time in Yangon sadly! After we
finished eating we took the bus back and got a good night sleep before our

Half way to the top on our trek
Sunset on our trek to the monastery in Inle Lake Area
Lantern celebration at the monastery with the local village

Day 2: Our first stop on the trip was to the Reclining Buddha. I though I heard
the guide say reclining pagoda, which was a reasonable guess since there was a
pagoda every half mile in Burma, so I was picturing a tilted pagoda of some
sorts. Thats not what it was at all! It was a giant statue of a buddha laying
down on its side. I mean seriously giant. I am bad at estimating lengths, but I
would have to say it was about half a football field long and 25 feet high. We
walked around the Buddha for awhile, it was all in open air and the surrounding
area was absolutely beautiful!! There were not too many other tourists there
either, its was mainly people praying at the Buddha and the shrines around it.
Next we went to the air port to catch our flight. We had a lot of down time
before boarding so I went to get lunch at the airport restaurant with some of
the other girls on my trip. They didn't even give us menus at the restaurant,
they just said fried rice, fried noodles or noodle soup. I got the fried rice
and it was some of the best fried rice I have ever had. I couldn't believe it,
this was AIRPORT food! But the fried rice was seriously Benihana quality. After
the delicious lunch we still had a long wait because our flight was continuously
being delayed. I was feeling really grateful at this point that I was doing a
SAS planned trip for Burma. It would have been a nightmare to plan any of this
on my own. Eventually we did get on the plane. The flight was interesting, very
rocky, lots of sharp turns, kind of a rough landing, but we got these in one
pice. By this point I was feeling pretty nauseous, I think it was a combination
of the heat, the flight, and unfamiliar food in my system. From there we took a
bus to the Inle Lake area. This day included tons of travel time so we were
lucky that there were plenty of beautiful things to look at. Rock baskets? We
finally stopped at the bottom of the foothill we were going to trek. We got into
the back of small trucks that took us to a starting place further up since we
have been delayed by the flight and wanted to get to our destination before

From where the truck dropped us we began the trek uphill to the monastery. The
trek could not have been more beautiful. It was through tea plantations, so
every so often we would get a whift of Jasmine. While we were walking the sun
began to set. It was the most incredible sun set I have ever seen and its effect
was heightened even further by the scenery that accompanied it. I don't know how
to describe the area we were in adequately. I hope the pictures that I post can
do it some justice. There were rolling green hills and plateaus everywhere. Some
areas were groomed for agriculture, other areas were looked wild and untouched.
We walked for about 3 hours, mostly up hill, until we got to the monastery. It
became dark about a half an hour before we got there, so we had to guess which
way to turn at some points because the group had spread out a lot. Luckily
everyone made it to the right place. We got settled into our rooms at the
monastery and headed over to dinner. The dinner was fantastic. The food tasted
incredibly fresh. The itinerary had said 'campfire dinner' so I am pretty sure
it had all been prepared just over an open flame. After we had eaten we had the
wonderful treat of a music performance by the people from the village. We had
something like this on my Vietnam visit, but it felt very different here. In
Vietnam, it was fun but it felt maybe a bit rehearsed and impersonal. Here it
felt like they were almost as excited to celebrate with us as we were with them.
After they had preformed we danced with them! I pulled a kid from the sidelines
to join us, and all his friends laughed at him, but then most of them joined as
well. After the dancing was done there was a lantern lighting. Together with
them we lit them and watched them rise until they came dots as small as the
starts. It was just like in Tangled! After all the festivities were over
everyone was extremely tired and headed into bed. Our sleeping arrangements were
mats and comforters on the floor of what looked like a prayer room. Since we
were so high up the weather was very nice and I slept well that night.

Visiting the Inle Lake water village
Natural cave pagoda
Buddhist monks who asked to take a picture with me outside the natural caves

Day 3: When we woke up the next morning we had breakfast at monastery. Again it
tasted fresh and delicious. After breakfast we took a picture with one of the
main monks of the monastery. There were just two of them who lived up there.
They acted as the leaders of the local village. After this we began our trek
back down. It was great to see the village that we had passed through at night
in the day light. I don't want to over romanticize the lives of the Burmese in
the area, but they seemed very happy. I don't think there was running water, but
everyone I saw looked well fed, not hungry or sad. In our group we talked about
what we define as poverty, is it just below a certain income level or is it a
contentness with life? The walk was beautiful. It really hit me on this trip how
amazing everything I have seen and am going to see is. There was something so
untouched about Burma that made me really feel like I was in another world. When
we got back down we had lunch on the lake, it was again some of the freshest
food that I have yet had on this trip. From lunch we had a long and pretty bus
ride to the natural cave pagoda. Just like for the Reclining Buddha I had no
idea what I was about to see. I thought maybe we were going to see some caves
and then a pagoda. What we saw was by far the most incredible religious site I
have every visited. I don't know how well I can describe it, the picture I
posted hopefully will do it more justice. There were thousands and thousands of
Buddhas covered in gold leaf inside a cave. They were in every direction, and
the path twisted in every direction as well. You would turn and a whole new maze
of Buddhas would great you. The walls of the cave were wet which further
heightened the majestic feel and the cave echoed making you feel as if the cave
was endless. After exploring the caves for as long as I could I went to get a
picture of the beautiful scenery outside. While I was doing that two monks came
up to me and asked if they could get a picture with me! I said of course and
took the opportunity to get pictures with them as well!

We got back on the bus to visit a monastery school. While we were there we got
to see young monks, from the ages of 5-15 practicing and studying. When we went
out there was another beautiful sunset over the lake. I had been carrying around
mechanical pencils this whole time to give to kids I met, but everyone else
brought candy and I thought the pencils would be lame in comparison. But there
were some boys hanging around the monastery. I asked if I could take their photo
them afterwards I gave each a pencil. They didn't seem extremely excited at
first, but when I walked away they started jumping up and down! And as our bus
was leaving I saw them waving at the bus with the pencils clipped to their
shirts. :) We went to check in at our hotel next. It wasn't terrible, but I much
preferred the accommodations at the monastery. Next we walked to our dinner
location, which surprisingly was an Italian restaurant. We were served
absolutely incredible tomato soup, delicious pasta, and chocolate crepes. I
could not get over how fresh the food in Burma was! Next, not knowing what to do
we set out to find the internet cafe. We got on for a half and hour to check
emails quickly then walked back looking at the shops that were still open. When
we got back three of us decided to do yoga in the lot behind the hotel. We were
going for a little while, when some locals cam and started doing it with us! We
started talking to them and tried to find things pop culture things that we
would both know. We were failing miserably, this area was infinitely more remote
than the other places we have visited though Semester at Sea. Finally we
realized GANGNAM STYLE!! They knew it instantly and I had the realization that
Gangnam Style is the only universal truth throughout the globe! I will keep
testing this theory throughout out Africa, but I have heard it in every country
so far, even in the most obscure of locations!!! They began to bump a soccer
ball back and forth to each other, at which point I excused myself for the night
because my skills could not compete with their mastery.

Day 4: The next morning we had breakfast at hotel. We had asked the guys from
the night before if they worked around here and they said no, but it was them
who served us a breakfast in the morning. It was a really strange feeling when
they acted so professional and courteous towards us when we had been hanging out
so casually the night before. After breakfast we went on a river boat ride. I
loved this part of morning. There was so much to look at! There was a huuge
flock of birds that followed us really low to the boat, there were people who
rowed their boats by standing on one leg and wrapping the other around an oar to
propel themselves forward, and there were entire towns built on stilts over the
water. Next we visited the jumping cat monastery, which was pretty and there
were THE MOST ADORABLE CATS, but we didn't get to see any of them do their
jumping tricks. From the monastery we could see the floating gardens. These were
the same gardens that our tomatoes from last night's soup had been grown in.
After leaving we went to several different local craft workshop demonstrations
before stopping for lunch. The thing that had made Burma was so great was how
new their tourism industry is, but that also comes with them not having
perfected the tour. The prices were strangely marked, we never knew where we
were going next, so we didn't know how to budget our money, and after the 3rd
demonstration everyone was getting a litter worn out of the whole routine.
However I would take an unperfected tour routine any day if it meant I could
interact with the location the way we were able to interact with Burma. We had
yet another great lunch before getting on the boat back, to get on the bus back,
to get on the plane back, to get on the bus, to go to dinner. We ate at a super
fancy hotel in Yangon. It was buffet style and I went to town! We then took the
bus back to the ship and all ran back to our rooms to jump in the showers
because we had grown pretty rancid over the past few days!

Posted by ElizabethSAS 10:39 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma inle_lake Comments (0)


In a Day and a half!

semi-overcast 80 °F
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Fountain in Singapore
Same area at night

Day 1: Our trip to Singapore was extremely quick. We only had a day and a half
in the city. With this short amount of time Josh and I certainly got to know the
city well, by eating our way through it!! Our trip was really one big
international food fest. We started out for the day unprepared so we ended up
regrouping at a coffee shop where we got a Tuna Bahn Mi and espressos before
heading back to the ship to put on sun screen, deet, and get all of our things
for the night. We decided it made more sense to go back for the things then and
stay at a hostel for the night so we would have the maximum time in the city.
Our ship was docked very far from the main area of the city, it was in a
shipping area in the middle of a bunch of construction sights. I think that Josh
and I were basically the only ones who walked it every time. We were then ready
to head out into the city. We went to find our hostel which was located on the
edge of Chinatown. (Of course we stopped for bubble tea on the way there…) We
kept trying to ask locals how to walk there but everyone we asked just kept
saying, don't worry about it, just take the metro! But we really wanted to find
our way walking so we knew how to get there again, eventually we did make it
there. This was the first hostel of the trip that we stayed and it was highly
impressive! It was meticulously clean, the staff was super nice, and it was very
reasonably priced for being in Singapore. After getting settled in we set out to
get dinner. We got very hungry very quickly we made the rushed decision to try a
Japanese Hot Pot place because we were never able to in Japan . It was delicious
and it made us long to be back in Japan again! We even got to practice our
Japanese please and thank yous with the waitress! Afterwards we explored this
beautiful area by the river with many restaurants. It looked like Europe, if
Europe had been built in the 21st century with all the latest technologies but
still was able to hold on to that European charm. We walked around there for a
long time amazed at how awesome it was. Next we went to get second dinner in
Little India! We realized how easy the metro system really was and why all the
locals advised us to just use it! It was fast, clean, easy to use, and
reasonably priced! We felt like masters of their subway line with in minutes,
something that would take at least a week in New York! We got fun fresh fruit
drinks when we got there and then explored the area waiting to get hungry again.
We had an interesting encounter with one of the ship keepers and looked though
many of the local shops. We ended up having a bottle of beer at this one place
and then getting appetizer at another. After we felt like we had funny explored
the area we went back to the fun river area for desert! It was a fantastic night
and the area was even more exciting at this hour. We mainly spent the night
people watch and then headed back to our hostel. On our way back we explored
China town, which was the fanciest Chinatown that I had ever seen and we wished
that we had more than just one more day in this city! We were reminded on this
trip that you meet the absolute coolest people in hostels. There are so many
travelers from all around the world just doing their own things and having crazy
adventures and if you can find the best hostels, you can find them!

Chinatown in Singapore
Breakfast time at our hostel
Our to die for French Cafe meal before leaving

Day 2: Our goal this day was to go to the botanicals gardens. We never made it
there. Instead we had four meals before 3:00 in the afternoon. When we woke up
at the hostel they had breakfast waiting in the common area. We didn't expect
them to provide breakfast so we were pleasantly surprised by this. Next we took
the metro down a few stops away from the botanical gardens so we could enjoy the
walk there. Right when we got of the train we stopped at a swiss bakery to have
a light snack. We got a sugar roll and an incredible salami sandwich on a French
baguette! It made me so excited to get to Europe. When we got out of the station
we were dazzled by the area we were in. It was mall after mall all the way down
this avenue that lead to the gardens. We started on our trek and stopped for a
walk in a pretty park that we saw. We explored some of the malls. Every single
one of them was fancy, spotless, and huge. At one of them with a grocery store
in it, we pick up snacks for when we were back on the ship. At another one, we
had been walking for awhile at this point, we stopped at their food court for
another little lunch. We had heard from everyone that you need to try the food
courts in Singapore. We were completely floored by all our options, it was like
the best food from all the countries we had been to were all complied into one
place. We decided on some sesame chicken type Chinese food (PF Changs quality)
and an a freshly squeezed all fruit juice. The man sitting next to us corrected
us when we started to eat with chopsticks. He looked at us disapprovingly and
said, " spoon and fork." We were confused so we tried to clarify but he just
kept repeat, "spoon and fork." When we looked around we saw that everyone was
using their spoons and forks to eat like they were rakes and shovels. After
listening into many of our closely seated neighbors conversations, something we
hadn't been able to do much in the non-English speaking regions we have visited,
we continued on our way. We kept walking for awhile and then were all of a
sudden caught in a rain storm. So we ducked into what looked like a coffee shop
with wifi. Turns out it was a pretty nice restaurant, but we only realized this
after we had been seated. We only wanted tea and to wait out the rain so we felt
very rude, but thought it would be ruder if we left at this point. When we
searched my phone we realized that we were right next to the botanical gardens
at this point, and that we were also really close to this highly rated French
Cafe. We only had time for one in order to make on-ship time so we had had to
make the wrenching decision on which we wanted to cut. Of course we chose the
restaurant. This turned out to be a fantastic decision and one of the best meals
of the trip! We had peppered cream of mushroom soup, two croque Ferdinand's, two
glasses of red wine, and a creme brûlée. It was so strange to be in a city that
was ruled over by an authoritarian government where you know you could be caned
for spitting your gum on the street, but feeling so at home and so pampered.
Either way it was a fantastic place to visit and I would certainly go back.

Posted by ElizabethSAS 14:56 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Je t'aime Vietnam part two

Days 4,5 & 6

sunny 90 °F
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Floating market exchange
Day 4: The first thing we did our last day in the Mekong Delta was visit a
floating market, which was really dead because people were with their family's
for the New Years Holiday. but we still got a sense of what shopping in a
floating market is like. Basically boats with goods in them attached themselves
to your boat and you do the exchange and then they go on to another boat
interested in buying something. It was mainly food that was sold in the market,
but they also have refreshment and souvenir boats for tourists. It was great to
see this interesting way of doing business and I wish I could have seen it in
full swing! Next we had some free time to go to the town market. At first I got
a really good deal on a small purse but once everyone got to the market and they
realized that there were 40 of us coming the price went up ten fold! Afterwards
we had a really nice lunch on the water and headed back to Ho Chi Minh City. The
traffic was very heavy but we got back on time and I found Josh right away, got
packed up and went out into the city. There was a place that Lonely Planet
highly recommended so we were determined to find it, as our Valentine's Day and
our anniversary passed while I was in Ho Chi Minh city. We walked all around the
city trying to find it based off the small map in Lonely Planet for basically
the whole night. We ended up finding it just before close, off of a road that we
had passed several times! After dinner we were exhausted and called it a night!

Treats from our favorite French Bakery!!!!

At the Hotel Balcony over looking Can Tho in the Mekong Delta
Day 5: We had a very good breakfast at the hotel. I really enjoyed that they put
sweet and condensed milk in their coffee! The first thing we did that morning,
besides taking advantage of Wifi, was to visit a tasty French Bakery! We ordered
all sorts of sweet and savory treats of Woulett's quality and they weren't more
than around 50 cents each!! Then we went to the must see historical tour site in
Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. I could dedicate a whole blog post
to the Museum, but I will continue on with my blog post after saying that it was
extremely interesting seeing how the Vietnam told their story of the war.
Afterwards we walked to a cafe that Josh had found while I was in the Mekong
Delta for lunch. After lunch I was feeling a bit light headed so we went back to
the hotel for awhile to cool off. All of this took a lot of travel time so
before we knew it we were ready to start to find a place for dinner. We walked
around the backpacker district for awhile and saw a place that looked nice to
sit and have appetizers and a beers while we decided where to eat. We ended up
staying for a full meal there because half way through our beers a fight broke
out across the street and we had front row seats! It wasn't crazy violent or
anything, there was just a lot of yelling and holding each other back. There
were very few people in at our restaurant when we came in but the fight did
wonderers for their business that night. I have no idea what the fight was over
but the whole neighborhood came over to watch. After everything died down and
we finished our food we went to check out the night market. Josh purchased some
beautiful art and by that time we were ready to call it a night.

Josh and I right before leaving Ho Chi Minh City :( In front of City Hall and a statue of Ho Chi Minh.
Day 6: Our last day we finally caved in and took a taxi because we had so much
stuff to carry with Josh's big purchase last night. We went back to the ship
just to drop these things off before starting our last day. From there we went
back to the French Bakery to say goodbye to it and load up on pastries for the
day. There were many things we thought we might do that days but we needed to
get postcards before we left so we went to do that first. Eventually we did get
postcards but we got distracted by other purchases first :) I finally, after
oogling them all throughout Japan and China bought a beautiful tea set for 12
dollars! Josh went to look at the backpacking backpacks that we had been seeing
everywhere just to get a price estimate on them. Turns out it was just $20 for a
basically top of the line intense backpacker's backpack that would easily go for
$350 in the US. It was a no brainer for him to get it, especially because his
Camelback couldn't even hold his laptop! We felt like it was too good to be true
at first but he let us examine every zipper and seam for any weak spots and we
found nothing that suggested it wasn't high quality. After he bought his we
stopped for a second and realized that for this price I should probably get one
too! So we went back to the nice guy who sold Josh his and purchased another
one! We then cooled down, got postcards and a smoothie with the last of our
money we had and headed back to the ship. We got there fairly early which we
really nice not to have to wait in any lines and when we were coming in one of
the RDs said that he got a back pack just like out 7 years ago in Vietnam and
its still in goos shape today! If you can't tell we are very excited about our

Posted by ElizabethSAS 05:14 Archived in Vietnam Tagged mekong_delta Comments (1)

Je t'aime Vietnam

Days 1, 2 & 3 In Vietnam

sunny 72 °F
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Day 1: The first thing that we did when we got off the ship in Ho Chi Minh City,
Vietnam was tag along with my roommate to meet up with her couch surfing tour
guide. We had a little trouble meeting up with him because of an unfortunate cab
incident that reaffirmed in Josh and myself that our walking everywhere policy
was the way to travel. He was very nice, I am not sure that I ever learned what
he did but from what I took away, he was an exporter of dumplings, which if true
IS THE BEST JOB EVER! He took us to see the flower show that was up for the Tet
Lunar New Year. It was great that we got to experience the preparation for the
New Year when we were in China and the continuation of the celebration while we
were in Vietnam. The flower show was absolutely gorgeous, it was like the Macy's
flower show on crack and the in middle of the city. After walking around this
very nice and expensive part of the city we were starving and asked Tuyen (our
guide for the day) to help us find somewhere off the beaten path to eat. He took
us to an amazing Vietnamese restaurant. The kitchen was around the outside of
the restaurant so you could see all your food being made and point to exactly
what you wanted. Josh and I both tried different types of Pho soup and my
roommate Shariqa had vietnamese pancakes (basically big crepes) with shrimp
filling. All of our meals were to die for and they were only like 3.50 each!
After lunch Tuyen showed us to the backpackers district because Josh wanted to
see if he could make it to the Mekong Delta for a day or two. We met some of the
Chinese students from the trip and together they tried to find the best program
in the area. They ended up doing a 2-day home-stay in the Mekong Delta which was
for $25 a person for everything and Josh did a trekking day trip for $10! This
included food, transportation, demonstrations and a tour guide! During this time
Shariqa and I walked around and look in some of the shops and I found tons of
the product that I always see and 10,000 Villages and it was good to know how
authentic the goods they sell there really are. Josh and I then parted ways with
Shariqa and followed the Chinese students to the shuttle for the ship so we
would know how to get back if we ever needed to but when we went turned around
to go back to the backpackers district for dinner we got all turned around. It
turned out to be a very good way to get to know the city though. We stopped at a
street stand and got bubble tea, then a little later stopped for a bahn mi at
another. It was a delicious sandwich on fresh french bread with tasty Vietnamese
seasonings and it was only 50 cents! Finally we got back to the backpackers area
and had dinner at a place that Tuyen had said his friend owned called Tiny's.
There we had clay pot pork, and lemongrass tofu. The pork was average but the
lemongrass tofu was perfect! We ended the night by searching for a place for
Josh to stay the following night so he didn't have to go back and forth to and
from the ship the next day. This helped us get our bearings straight in the city
so when we came back we would know exactly what was up. We spent the rest of the
money that we had for the day on some ice-cream treats (25 cents each!) And
walked back to the ship with only 10 cents left between the two of us!

Day 2: Early the next morning I left for my 3-Day trip to Mekong Delta. It was
around a two hour bus ride there and the first thing we did was go on a river
boat ride. The boat dropped us off at a sweets workshop and we got to see how
all different sorts of local sweets were made. The products that were
demonstrated were popped rice biscuits, coconut milk caramels, and rice paper
wrappings. Then we had a tasting of all their different products, including
snake wine, which wasn't too tasty. I ended up buying a lot in their shop to
have on the ship. From there we went to lunch. This was my favorite meal of the
Mekong Delta trip because we got to roll our own fish spring rolls and they were
so fresh and delicious! Next we got on smaller row boats they were a lot like
the gondola ride our family had in Italy except the rowers standing in the back
were all women and the seats weren't covered in gaudy velvet. These boats took
us to a garden for tea. We were served delicious tea, fresh local fruit, and
again, snake wine. Then we finally went to the host family that we were staying
with. There was just one family that we were all staying with and they had
dormitory types areas for us to stay in. When we got there we were able to
explore the area and relax for awhile. We walked around their garden and just
appreciated the beautiful area we were in. Then while waiting for dinner I laid
down on a hammock and read my kindle for awhile. We all got to help to make
dinner this night with the family. I helped getting some of the vegetables ready
for the soup, and rolling the fried spring rolls. Even though there were 40 of
us there was a job for each person to do. After we ate this dinner we got to try
out hand at making the Tet New Year holiday cakes. You took a palm tree leaf and
spread sweet rice out, put a banana inside and then wrapped it up in a super
confusing and complicated way. None of ours turned out too nice looking. After
dinner the family gave us a traditional music show. My favorite part of the show
was when the little girl insisted she took the stage to sing "If you're happy
and you know it" and "No more monkeys jumping on the bed." After the show was
over it was quite late and we all headed into bed.

Day 3: Breakfast was at the host family house. We were treated to eggs, french
bread, cheese, jam, and coffee. We also were able to try the cakes that we made
the night before. Most people weren't very keen on them, but I though they were
very interesting and finished my whole cake! After we left the host family we
walked through the local food market. People were horrified seeing just
slaughtered animals up for sale, but I found the connection they still have with
the food that they eat refreshing compared to the way in which we buy our meat.
Next we took a bus ride to where we were going to be staying for the night and
checked in at our hotel. I was bummed I didn't bring any internet capable device
on the trip since the hotel had wifi, but luckily they had a computer for us to
use for free. Next myself Katie, Sarah and Eden went to find some ice cream to
cool us down on this hot day. After we were done eating our refreshing and
delicious ice cream we still had time to explore the area of Can Tho a bit more.
We were walking through different ally ways when we came across a Mahayana
Buddhist temple. We went inside to look around for awhile. I was a little
uncomfortable because I always feel weird in religious tourism situations. It
just seems wrong to be taking pictures touring around somewhere that is sacred
for those in the area so I mainly said around the outside. There was a beautiful
view from the balcony. You could see all of the different architecture
influences in the city, primarily the influences of the Chinese and the French.
While on the balcony I saw a monk and he smiled at me so I smiled back. As we
were about to leave the monk came up and pointed to the stairway and motioned
for us to follow him. The temple was 4 levels high and each level got smaller
so the lines of the building were ascending to the sky. With him we were able to
visit every level of the temple! The first three levels were different
worshipping areas, each one getting more private and more ornately decorated as
we went up. The last level, we were incredibly lucky to visit because it was his
own library and study area. Every inch of the room was covered in books. He
pointed out the one English book in the library for us, we were all amazed be
the beauty of the study and of the view from this high up. We then walked down
with him and thanked him profusely and he just nodded and smiled to us. He
hadn't said more than maybe a few words to us this entire time. We were so lucky
to be able to have this incredible experiance. It was one of my top highlights
of this trip so far. I am learning more that when you wander and are friendly
amazing opportunities just pop up!

Once we got back to the hotel we had lunch there and then got back on the bus to
visit an old traditional house. The house and the garden were gorgeous but the
coolest thing was seeing the current owner of the house interact with one of the
lifelong learners on our trip who was about the same age as her. They connected
with each other immediately, shared stories about the ages of their children and
complimented each other on how well they were getting around for being women
around the age of 80. They took pictures together and the lady who owned the
house had her, just her, sign the house guest book. It was so sweet. Next we
were dropped off at a village area where we were going to walk to the stork
garden from. The whole time we thought our guide was saying historic garden, so
we were not expected what we saw when we got there, but I will get to that in a
second. The walk there was my favorite part of this trip. We saw local life
going on as we walked through. There were people just finishing up work in the
rice fields, there were kids watching cartoons in open living rooms, teenagers
biking down the roads. It would be really difficult to describe the wealth level
of the people we saw. There house were small, very small. It seemed as if 10
people would be sleeping in a 2 or 3 room house, But many of the living areas
were decorated in beautiful sparkling tile, but the outsides of the house might
be patched up with cardboard. The people didn't look hungry, but they didn't
look hungry or very wanting either. It was just a very different way of living
than we are used to in the states. It was fun walking through there because it
got tourists seldom enough that they were excited to see us! Many places I felt
bad taking pictures of locals, or didn't know how to gracefully ask for their
permission, but here there were grandma asking me to take pictures of their
grandchildren. I think they liked the idea of people all around the world seeing
how cute their grandkids are. The kids were also very excited to practice the
few English words they knew with us. Some of them just shouted "Hi Hi Hi HI" and
then would act shy and surprised when they would actually get a response. The
stork garden surprisingly really cool! We climbed up an observation tower and
there were literally thousands of storks in every direction! It was amazing!! I
tried to capture how many there were on camera, but it was impossible! When we
got back to the hotel, we went for dinner on a boat. in the river. It was a
really loud and exciting atmosphere. They had live music, and we even got the
see a magic show! After dinner we went out to explore the city we stumbled upon
a carnival where I went on a ride like the old Yellow Screaming Eagle at Camp
Snoopy. The thrilling part of the ride was not knowing if it was going to break
down on every up swing. It was awesome. The Tet New Years lights that
illuminated the city turned off at 11 so we had to head back at that point, but
we were really tired from the crazy busy day we just had anyway!

Posted by ElizabethSAS 16:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

China Days 4-5-& 6

View Semester at Sea- Spring 2013 on ElizabethSAS's travel map.

Day 4: We started out our day with a trip to the Great Wall of China! I was
pleasantly surprised with my Great Wall experience. I expected it to be very
touristy but we were basically the only ones on that part of the wall, granted
there were 120 of us!! We had a beautiful clear sky that day and it was a bit
chilly but not nearly close to what I hear it has been at home!! After lunch we
went to a jade factory where we got to see how you carve Jade. We were given a
lot of time after to shop in their store but everything was EXTREMELY expensive
so I barely even looked around. Next we went to the Karate School which had some
relation to the new Karate Kid movie, but I can't remember what it was. Maybe a
lot of the stunt doubles were trained there? We watch them do seemingly
impossible stunts without even flinching. Then we had a rickshaw ride to a home
dinner. At the home dinner we they showed us how to make dumplings, a skill I
will definitely be bringing how with me :) This was our last night in Beijing
and mainland China as a whole. I thought that China was an incredibly
interesting place. There is so much development going on that it feel like
anything could happen with the country. There is already so much there but there
is also still so much potential, they are really just getting started.

Day 5: We had breakfast at the hotel again and made one stop before we got to
the airport. We visited this really cool temple area that really wish I could
remember what it was called. It was definitely my favorite religious site that
we visited in China, but it wasn't Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian, I believe it
was an ancient tradition that isn't really practiced anymore. I think I liked it
because there was so much blue on the buildings. Also it was pretty much just a
giant peaceful park with people ballroom dancing, playing hakysack, and
practicing Tai Chi. we left a little early thought because people couldn't stand
the cold any longer. After that we headed out to catch our plane lane ride. I
wished that I had gotten to explore Beijing a bit more on my own, but there is
only so much you can fit into 4 days! Hong Kong was a crazy awesome city! When I
got into Hong Kong I made a quick trip out into the city with some people from
my China trip. They were very indecisive, even more so than me and we basically
didn't get around to doing anything in the two hours we were out in the city.
They gave up exploring for somewhere fun to eat eventually and just stopped at
McDonalds so thats when I parted ways with them and headed back the ship to find
Josh who was almost back from his field lab. I was starving because I hadn't
really eaten much since lunch and it was midnight at that time! So Josh very
kindly went out with me to find some food and we finally found somewhere that
looked good and was open! It was a really small place but it was also very nice,
it had lots of different skillet and grilled seafood dished. I order eggplant
and shrimp and garlic toast and Josh got white rice. They used so much garlic on
their food! It was great! We left there really late but they still weren't
closed and while we walked back there were still tons of people on their front
steps playing cards and just hanging out!

Day 6: The last day in China, just like the first, I had a field lab. But in
this one we weren't just sitting in a lecture the entire time we actually went
out and explored the city! Our lab was called "Hong Kong through the eyes of
Hong Kong" and it was for my History of Modern China course. We were lead around
by Dr. Elizabeth Sinn, a professor from Hong Kong that our professor had worked
with in the past. First we went to the historical Museum of Hong Kong and it was
incredibly interesting to see how they portrayed their own history, what they
chose to included and what they chose to leave out, especially in relation with
mainland China. Then Dr. Sinn gave us a real tour of Hong Kong. It was the least
toury tour that I have yet to have on Semester at Sea. She took us to the places
where people go to buy their groceries, where they go to pray, where they buy
their new years offerings and decorations, and lots more! I loved listening to
her talk, I learned a ton on this field lab and was really grateful to be having
this experience. At the end of the tour we said good bye, thanked Dr. Sinn and
took a ferry back to our ship. My trip to China made me reflect on how messy our
distinctions are between different government systems and economic models. In
mainland China, a communist state, we saw a huge and growing gap between the
rich a the poor, the exact thing communism is meant to eliminate. In Hong Kong,
a model capitalist city, we saw government subsidized housing, free medical and
just general socialist government services. Granted there is a HUGE scale
difference, I found it interesting.

Posted by ElizabethSAS 07:27 Archived in China Tagged beijing hong_kong Comments (0)

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