A Travellerspoint blog

Here we go again.....

Eastern Europe with Ireland and a little genealogy thrown in for good measure

sunny 101 °F

28 August 2015

One week and counting....

Yes, we're traveling again. Actually this year it feels as if we haven't stopped moving. I was going to blog our trip in the spring which was a road trip back east, a month in Nova Scotia on a house exchange and then road trip back home. It wasn't that it wasn't a great trip...I just didn't. It was one of those, I'll get to it...and I just didn't. So after I was asked (more like told) by a friend that I should blog this trip, I'm starting now so I have no excuses.

One week from today we'll leave AZ, stop in Rochester for a few short days and on the 8th of September we will be flying to Prague, Czech Republic with continuing stops in the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Netherlands and then on to Ireland.

If you've followed my site before, you know that on our last couple of trips, after we taught in China, we continued to travel with my TFF teaching partner in crime/friend/buddy Brenda. When we left China last summer, we were ready to go back this year. That was not meant to be. Teach for Friendship is no longer active at HUST in Wuhan, which actually makes me very sad. But, life and travel still continue. Sooooo, we were left to our own devices to make memories happen.... and Brenda is going with us for the first month.

I'm in packing mode - which I really find the hardest part of travel. When we travel in Asia the weather is pretty warm. Eastern Europe in September and Ireland in October will definitely not be "Asia" weather. That means I have to pack for warm and cold weather and then carry that bag. I'm still making decisions.

Also, if you're new to my blog, my husband and I travel with a travel backpack each and one day pack.

Purple is for girls and Green for boys[/float

Purple is for girls and Green for boys[/float

Amazingly ...yes, it all fits

Amazingly ...yes, it all fits

Our motto , "you buy it or pack it..you carry it."

Note: these are photos from a couple of years ago, fortunately (or unfortunately) we don't have to worry about packing all our TTF "stuff".

This next week will be really busy. Not only are we getting ourselves ready for the trip. I'm also getting the house in shape. You see, the second part of our trip will be a house exchange in Donegal Ireland. This is our second exchange and we're hooked. The Kings (Irish couple) will be staying at our house and we at theirs. We've been to Ireland before but never north of Westport and Jim's not been to Dublin. Of course, I'll find some time to squeeze in my "search for dead relatives". I'm looking for bit more "Crowley" information and will try to search out any information I can find on the Banahan side. :-)

Now that I've started...I'm psyched to keep it going. Hope you all enjoy the ride!!!

Posted by pjburke 12:30 Archived in USA Tagged eastern house trip europe planning exchanges Comments (1)

Vietnam ...continued

rain 97 °F

Week 2 and 1/2

It rained the whole trip to Nha Trang, stopping momentarily as we walked to our hotel – Nha Trang Inn. Nice small hotel about a five minute walk from the beach. Rooms are basic, A/C cooled and the owner (Minh) is very helpful.

We had dinner at Omar’s (Indian) just down the street and we settled in for a good night sleep with hopes that tomorrow I would not still be feeling the effects of my “illness”

Friday – breakfast and a walk to check out the beach. We found an area right in front of the Louisiana Brewery which rented umbrellas with beach lounge chairs ($2 pp/pd)….great deal. We rented three and headed back to the hotel for beach attire. The scenery was beautiful – blue water with a backdrop that reminded me of Maui. Jim also liked the scenery – two Russian girls on lounges in front of us in their very small thong bikinis…that and beer made the day for Jim.
Relaxing in Nha Trang

Relaxing in Nha Trang

Saturday – We weren't sure when we’d have the chance so it was back to the beach!!! This time we started the day dressed in beach attire, had breakfast and got there early. Another beautiful day!!
Waiting for the train Nha Trang

Waiting for the train Nha Trang


Ridin' the Rails

Ridin' the Rails

Sunday through Thursday– Up really early for a 0645 train ride to Danang and from there a short van ride to Hoi An. Our original plan was to stay three nights in Hoi An with the possibility of extending our stay there or in Hanoi. We wanted to make sure that our hotel was nice before we made our decision and after just one day – we decided to extend. Lantern Hoi An was wonderful. The rooms were very nice, pool very refreshing and staff wonderful!!! We took a cooking class with Mr. Tai, ended up getting some clothes made from Mr. Lai and Brenda also found a cute couple who made nice silver jewelry. Add to that some really good food, we could not ask for more. Brenda headed out early one morning for an early bike ride to the beach and another day to snorkel at the Cham Islands.

View from above Hoi An

View from above Hoi An

Cooking Class with Mr Tai

Cooking Class with Mr Tai

Tomato Rose

Tomato Rose

Perfect spring rolls

Perfect spring rolls

Green Papaya Salad...yum!!

Green Papaya Salad...yum!!

Hoi An

Hoi An

Mr Tai and family

Mr Tai and family

Local food in Hoi An is some of my favorite – ok – I like just about all Vietnamese food but Crispy Pancakes and White Rose are high on my list.
Hoi An was a definite highlight of the trip.

Friday…off to Hanoi. The decision was to either take a 15 hour train ride for $70 or a 90 minute plane ride for $90…..no brainer there.
The flight to Hanoi was effortless with a driver from our hotel waiting for us.

We have decided (especially with three of us traveling) if our hostel/guesthouse/hotel is able to provide pick up and drop off service either to train station or airport…we’re taking it. It just makes things SO much easier and usually the same price or cheaper.

Our hotel in Hanoi was the Hanoi Glory Hotel. We booked it through our hotel in Hoi An and it was supposed to be as nice as the Lantern….it was ok but nowhere near as nice. It was centrally located in the Old Quarter and for just for a couple of nights with a trip to Halong Bay in the middle – it worked.
View from our room at Glory Hotel

View from our room at Glory Hotel

Hanoi - Old Quarter

Hanoi - Old Quarter

Saturday - Halong Bay was a nice trip. The ride out about 3 ½ hours – weather OK, the boat...not huge – about 20 people, bed pretty comfortable (though we were right over the bilge pump which went on and off all night). We woke to beautiful blue skies and Brenda got to see the “beautiful Halong Bay”. Breakfast and it was a slow cruise back to catch the bus back to Hanoi - short but sweet!!

Peg Pic ...Halong Bay Style

Peg Pic ...Halong Bay Style

Only way to eat prawns

Only way to eat prawns

Yummy fish served on our boat

Yummy fish served on our boat

Hang Sung Sot - Surprise Cave

Hang Sung Sot - Surprise Cave

Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Sunrise over Halong Bay

Sunrise over Halong Bay

View from our boat

View from our boat

Brenda enjoying Halong Bay

Brenda enjoying Halong Bay

View while kayaking on Halong Bay

View while kayaking on Halong Bay

Full Moon over Halong Bay

Full Moon over Halong Bay

Sunday and Monday….Back to Hanoi and the weather was brutally HOT!!! so we spent the day enjoying good food and cold beer. My restaurant recommendations: Ying and Yang and Green Mango and any of the Gecko’s (which were abundant with cold beer and good food).

Posted by pjburke 13:50 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Vietnam 2014 – South to North

rain 90 °F

I've been back almost a week...still feeling jet lag. Computer problems on my end made posting along the way difficult - sorry. Hope you enjoyed what are now (mostly) wonderful memories of our trip.

Thurs - 24 July 2014

Week 1

Another HUST Summer Camp session came to an end with the same mixed feelings as last year. We were excited to start new travels but sad to be saying “until we meet again” to our students and Wuhan. We know now that that statement is true.

Fresh was waiting in the lobby to say goodbye. We were originally told that TA's would not be able to go to the airport with us. Fortunately, that situation changed and we were traveling in a van not just a car. She was very happy to be able to go with us: always taking care of me.  The Wuhan International Airport is much smaller than the Domestic, so getting to our gate for our trip to Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon or HCMC) was very easy. We flew through Bangkok and arrived in HCMC with the dark skies threatening rain.

With our “Invitation Letter” (obtained while we were still in the US) the VOA (Visa on Arrival) process was very easy. $45 and a passport photo in hand, we filled out the applications and within ten minutes our names were called. With visa in hand, we passed through immigration, picked up our bags and located our driver and it was off to Hotel Luan Vu. Even though it was 2330ish, Bien Vue (which is a major backpacker area) was hoppin’. No problem getting something to eat and a cold beer…holiday had begun.

Luan Vue Hotel

Luan Vue Hotel

Friday - Our stay in the HCMC area is a little chill time for us but adventure for Brenda. She headed off on moto tour of the city,which we did on a previous trip. JB had done his homework and found us a nice place for lunch: Temple Bar and then off for a little spa time at Glow. Oh..we're loving Luan Vue - staff is great and the beds are SOOOO comfy.

A rather tough decision was made today was to head home from our trip early. We got news from home that my Mom had fallen and after a short hospital stay and pacemaker tweak, she was heading to a rehab facility to regain her strength. I was receiving regular emails from friends (angels) at home who were checking in on her. BUT....I found that I really felt "home" was where I should be. Friends at home convinced me that I didn't need to rush home and that Mom was being well taken care of so while Brenda was out scooting around HCMC we made our return reservations for the same day (and on some of the same flights) that Brenda would be taking home on August 23rd.

Saturday, Brenda off today for a tour of the Chu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple – Jim and I relaxing…and it rained.

Sunday, we were all off to an overnight tour of the Mekong Delta area. Jim and I had traveled in this area back in 2009, coming into Vietnam from Cambodia. Brenda expressed an interest in the area and we wanted to see how things had/had not changed. Our 2009 trip was a three day tour, this one only an overnight but it was a good, quick overview staying in Can Tho and arriving back on Monday late for dinner and a quick night sleep…it’s off to Mui Ne in the am.

P and J on the Mekong

P and J on the Mekong

Mekong Riverboat

Mekong Riverboat

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

Smile!!

Smile!!

Selling Veggies

Selling Veggies

Life on the Mekong

Life on the Mekong

Mekong Floating Market

Mekong Floating Market

Working on the Mekong

Working on the Mekong

Making rice paper

Making rice paper

Anytime...anywhere!!

Anytime...anywhere!!


Tuesday –Feeling sad to leave our comfy beds but our adventure continues. We headed off to Mui Ne (a small beach town east of HCMC). Travel entailed about 5 hours on sleeper bus which at first we were NOT excited about but ended up being much easier than regular bus. The bus let us off at Sunrise “something” Hotel– at first look we thought – this can’t be our hotel – too nice. .well it wasn’t. We had to get a cab to our hotel, a little north of the resort area: Sunrise Village Hotel – room nice, nice pool, nice people. B didn’t feel like dinner so Jim and I headed out and stopped at a BBQ/Hot Pot place. We were the only westerners except for another couple who were with a nice young Vietnamese lady who was either a guide (or friend). She helped us out with ordering –goat hot pot, the specialty. We also ordered a couple of beers. When they arrived they were warm (not good) but served with a bucket of ice. Can you see where this is leading??? Yes, another “rookie mistake”…DO NOT use ice delivered to you in a bucket – only cubed ice!!!!
Sunrise Beach Hotel

Sunrise Beach Hotel

Dinner was good going down…not so great coming back up. Within a few hours of dinner, I was sick, sick, sick. It was reminiscent of our first trip to Vietnam when I was convinced that I had Dengue Fever but most probably only had a little food poisoning along with dehydration… it really sucked then and was only a hair better this time. Symptoms lasted all night and Wednesday was a lost day for me. Fortunately(for me), it rained all day. B and J took off to explore a bit of the tourist area, had a few beers at a beautiful beachside hotel (or so I was told) and wandered back later in the afternoon, as I was starting to return to the land of the living. We used this off day as a planning day. Since it appeared that cancellation openings for the Orangutan trip were not going to materialize….

OK…back up – our original plans were to go to Vietnam and then to Borneo and take a klotok (small boat) into the jungle to see Orangutan in their native environment. Well, one company kept stringing us along with an apparent price increase which never materialized and neither did the reservation. We decided to check with another company but by that time it was too late – everything was booked but they would keep us on their cancellation list. So it was on to Plan B but we had to decide just what Plan B would be.

…. we decided to look for a side trip to fill in before we were scheduled to travel to Bali…what to do, what to do!! Jim had read in Lonely Planet about an area in West Java called Cianjur. It’s off the main tourist route and sounded like an interesting trip. Since, I was not feeling up to it, Brenda and Jim took the lead planning this portion of our trip. They emailed Cianjur Adventures, confirmed that there was room, got air reservations from Hanoi and also confirmed that we would be able to get our Visas on Arrival in Bandung Airport. For this portion of the trip, I’ll just be along for the ride!!

Thursday and I’m feeling much better. Today it's time to move on but before we needed to catch our bus I finally felt like a walk on the beach. The skies were threatening but no rain (at least not yet) and although our hotel is just about 60’ from the beach, it’s not a pretty stretch of land. As B and I ventured out around an old shack to the beach, we found the local fishermen (women) had just brought in the morning catch. It was pretty cool The boats were being brought up on the beach with the assistance of the small waves. The families would then collect the fish from the nests. The remaining task of refolding their nets kept them busy for quite a while. Hard work!!

Boats on the beach

Boats on the beach

Morning Catch

Morning Catch

It rained a bit more as we waited for the bus to take us up to Nha Trang. We were going to take the train, but that would mean an hour ride to Muoung Man and then a five to six hour train ride. Sometimes buses are just easier.

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

Posted by pjburke 13:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Summer Camp

HUST 2014

sunny 96 °F

07 July 2014 – 23 July 2014

HUST Summer Camp

This year’s HUST Conversation English Classes with TFF (aka Summer Camp) was three weeks of great fun.

Brenda Rubacha and I, were again teaching partners – by design. Our feeling, when something works – don’t fiddle with it. We got together in AZ a couple of times to go over last year’s lesson plans. Most worked, some didn’t – we tweaked (not twerked) the fine points and were ready to go from day one.

School this year was the same as last’s – five days on, one off, five on, one off and five on. Having just one day off is rough but this year’s weather was nowhere near as hot as last year, plus most of the students now had A/C in their dorms. Really made a difference!!
Below you’ll find highlights from our three week session, with a few off time photos thrown in. Enjoy!!!

Week One

Koko in a role play

Koko in a role play

Reconnecting with former student Nicol

Reconnecting with former student Nicol

Celebrating birthdays

Celebrating birthdays

Shadow enjoying our first group mixer

Shadow enjoying our first group mixer

The beginning of new friendships!!!

The beginning of new friendships!!!


First Day off ...Raining .....Raining!!!

Jim..playing in the rain!!

Jim..playing in the rain!!

Greeting us on our river cruise

Greeting us on our river cruise

Week Two - More Fun

Student creations!!

Student creations!!

My Chinese name

My Chinese name

Patty and Wan

Patty and Wan


Exploring on our second day off

Dumplings, wontons etc - Wuhan Street Food

Dumplings, wontons etc - Wuhan Street Food

Xiao Long Bao - Wuhan Style

Xiao Long Bao - Wuhan Style

Jim's Class

Hellen, Eva and Syliva

Hellen, Eva and Syliva

Clement and friends having fun in Jim's Class

Clement and friends having fun in Jim's Class

Mike and Allen

Mike and Allen

Jim's students having some fun

Jim's students having some fun


Celebration!!! Our last day of Class.....

Linda - having a little fun

Linda - having a little fun

Enjoying our last time together

Enjoying our last time together

Talent show fun!!!

Talent show fun!!!

Jim's Class presents the Fisherman and his Wife

Jim's Class presents the Fisherman and his Wife

Florence leading our two class at the Talent Show

Florence leading our two class at the Talent Show

Class photo 2014

Class photo 2014

Dale - my Scottish brotha from anotha motha

Dale - my Scottish brotha from anotha motha

See you next year!!!!

See you next year!!!!

Last day.....Final lights out!!

Last day.....Final lights out!!

Me and Brenda... HUST Summer Camp 2014

Me and Brenda... HUST Summer Camp 2014

Posted by pjburke 02:37 Archived in China Comments (4)

Reunion

sunny 90 °F

06 July 2014

Ok, one thing I didn’t miss about HUST is the beds….really hard but as in previous years I know I’ll get used to it.

Chinese buffet and noodle soup for breakfast – yup, we’re back at HUST.

Brenda, Wendi, Joy and Patty

Brenda, Wendi, Joy and Patty

Brenda and I met Joy and Wendi in the lobby. Charles (Jim’s TA from last year) was supposed to meet us but he didn’t wake up in time, so Jim begged off and it was just the girls for coffee. We walked up to the large open market and found a number of new businesses had been added to the courtyard area in the past year including (as I would later find out) the first McDonald’s on a university campus in China. We tried out a new “very western style” restaurant for refreshments and chatted for a long time. Finally we had to go – Joy’s parents were on their way to help her pack up her dorm and take her home. As luck would have it, we dawdled enough so that Joy’s parents were close by and I was fortunate to get the chance to meet them. We spoke through Joy as our translator –though we all seemed a little nervous, they are very nice. I told them that they have a lovely daughter and they should be very proud. I made her promise to tell them "exactly" my words. Hugs and fewer tears than last year, we said our farewells and bid each other safe travels and “until I see you in America!!”

Meeting Joy's Parents

Meeting Joy's Parents



As much as I was sad to see Joy go, both Brenda and I were looking forward to dinner that evening - a special dinner indeed!! Wendi had gotten in touch with our students from last year and found that a few would still be on campus.

Excited, surprised and touched were just a few of the words to express our feelings when we saw ten of our former students around a large table in one of the hotel’s private dining rooms. They looked great but not so much the college freshman we had last year but the, more mature, soon to be juniors.. but they were still our great, fun loving students. We talked and laughed until the dining staff had to ask us to leave which also reminded us that the alarm clock would ring early the next day for the start of class.

Thank you Wendi, Jerry, Nicol, Jeff, Nero, Jesse, Kevien, big and little Lance, Sam and Michael for such a special night!!!

Good to be back together!!

Good to be back together!!

Reunion with 2013 Students

Reunion with 2013 Students

Lance, Jeff and Kevein

Lance, Jeff and Kevein

Sam and Michael

Sam and Michael

Posted by pjburke 22:54 Archived in China Comments (3)

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