Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cambodia and Vietnam

by Annette Dixon
Friends asked me why would I go to Vietnam? I felt the need to see the country of Vietnam. Surely this war was over more than 35 years ago, but the people do not forget, neither Americans nor Vietnamese. The country was filled with war memorials in many cities and towns. The sights I saw in Cambodia were the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, the birthplace of the Capital, the elegant National Museum and the Royal Palace with its adjacent Silver Pagoda wherewe viewed the spectacular Emerald Buddha. The Sunway Hotel was near the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia. InCambodia the beginning of sadness entered by first takingan optional journey to the Killing Fields. While I was thereI wanted to see what happened so long ago, but still sadly memorable. I didn’t know that the tour guide was also going to take us to the Museum of Genocide. I took many pictures knowing someday I will be using the them for our Vietnam Veterans.

Phnom Penh does have some modern sights for example, the Central Market, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building. From Phnom Penh, the bus traveled to Siem Reap which was scenic, not only rice fields but watching the people working in this city, country andtown. The world famous temples of Angkor Wat, are among the “Seven Wonders of the World” and I could see why it would be! The temples are so exquisitely carved, they are considered to be an architectural masterpiece. After sightseeing the temples of Angkor Wat, we went to Angkor Thom and the Southern Gate of Bayon. Of course, we could
miss the beautiful sunset at the upper terraces of an ancient temple. Cambodia has fertileland and of course there are jungles, mountains, river and lakes, some of the well known names are Mekong River, Tonie Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest lake. This lake runs into the Mekong by way of a river called Tonie Sap, the same name as the lake. Bordering Thailand are the mountains, in the west are Cardamon Mountains, Southwest the Elephant Mountains and the Dankret Mountain Range. The highest mountain in Cambodia is Phnom Aural in the Cardamon Range, with a height of 1813 meters. We did get a boat ride on the Tonie Sap Lake and visited a floating village.

After flying into Ho Chi Minh City, (Saigon) and again staying in another luxurious hotel, we were able to journey outside the city to visit none other but war remnants. The Museum was opened in 1995 and I will now quote “At present, it is a member of Vietnamese Museum System, of Museum for the World Peace, and the International Council of Museums. The Museum is specialized in research, collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the remnant proofs ofVietnam War Crimes and their consequences.Then to go to Cu Chi Tunnels and see more of this by their showcasing theiroutright success stories.By now I am taking hundreds of pictures to show people back home. We are not overwith this yet, more to come
in Hanoi!

Early the next morning we traveled to MekongDelta, the agricultural center of Vietnam. A boat took us along narrow canals, passing rice fields and orchards and giving us a feel for village life. Later that day we took a flight to Danang and then a bus ride to Hoi An a very nice town. Our city guide who lived in Hue, sounds like Hay, met us in Hoi An, a World Heritage Site, showed us the historic part of town and centuries old houses. We went by Trishaw (Cyclo) to see the Japanese Bridge, and the Thu Bon River and other parts of a quaint beautiful place. In the afternoon we had leisure time, so I spent hours walking. For dinner six of us got together and had the best pizza ever.Little Italy founded in 2002, their website is http://www.littleitalyhue.com/., what a town. Hue has a slogan, think green, go clean, go cyclo. Danang
was were China Beach is and again the remembrance of our troops being there, for R & R, and don’t forgetin 1969, we had a maximum of 543,000 men in Vietnam. Marble Mountains, consisted of five stone jagged crests that represent the elements of nature. In Danang, we went to the Cham Museum which housed sandstone carvings and sculptures, quite unusual and a must see.

The trip is now beginning to show the best side of Vietnam, starting with Hoi An. As we were driving through some spectacular scenery and heading for the Hair Van Pass, which was surprising because of the coastline views on route to Hue. Well in Hue, which is the old city and formerly the Imperial Capital of Vietnam, we visited the Citadel, Flag Tower, Ngo Mon Gate and the Forbidden Purple City, home to the Royal Family before 1945. After lunch we visited the revered Thien Mu Pagoda, the most famous monument in Hue and took a boat ride on the Perfume River. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Dong Ba Market.

In the morning we flew into Hanoi and the bus picked us up. We drove through lush countryside to Halong, a vast mysterious bay with majestic scenery! Halong Bay excursion was a “5 star event”. We went on a four hour boat trip which included a cave trip lasting at least two hours, a delicious seafood lunch on the boat. Vietnam’s most special natural attraction is the three thousand small jagged limestone islands rising out of the South China Sea.

Lastly, I spent four nights in Hanoi and I have to admit it was stimulating to see the Water Puppets, really
thrilling, and never before seen. Each day we had a tour guide taking us to various city sights. Hanoi,
Vietnam’s capital lies on the banks of the Red River and dates back as far as the 3
conquered by a French expedition and a year later for the then uncolonized North of Vietnamese empire
to accept the status of a French protectorate. The French administratively divided the country into this colony Co Chin China in the South and protectorates Annam (Central Vietnam and Tonkin North Vietnam) as the St. Joseph Cathedral, in the historic old quarter.

After staying at the 4 Star Moevenpick Hotel and touring the city with the group and seeing Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature, which houses tablets belonging to Confucius, Hoan Kiem Lake, we went to see the infamous former prison “Hanoi Hilton”, which still is intact and we visited Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts. The group departed after a farewell dinner, but I stayed another day at Indochina Hotel 1 in the French Quarter, close to the Cathedral. I did get to see another war museum. Vietnam Asian American war display in which bombs shot down the American tanks, planes, and helicopters. The only reason I went to this one alone, was because it had a Hanoi became
the capital of the protectorate Tonkin. The Vietnamese never accepted the French rule.

By 1930 the Vietnamese Nationalist Party staged the first significant armed uprising against the French. They didn’t fare to well so now that left a three way struggle to ensue, which included the communist party. The French military disaster at Dien Bien Phu in May, 1954 and the conference at Geneva marked the end of the eight year war and French Colonial rule in Indochina. In December of 1961, President of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem request assistance from the United States and President Kennedy sent military advisors to South Vietnam. Hanoi has a rich history with French influence such built in wall around the tower which was built in  1885 to protect Hanoi City. It had cannons, turrets, and was very antique. The
modern building housed all the information on all the wars, which started with China’s Han dynasty. They ruled Vietnam for a thousand years. So with all the invasions, I’m sure the inbred behavior comes from suspicion of the invaders and I guess they have a right to their behavior. If I sound like I am pro-military, I am. I am proud of each and every service person in all of the wars, even in the cold war. Village View Newspapers, Annette Dixon has a memorial brick at the Lansing Memorial and is a Lifetime Member of the Vietnam Veterans and the POW Organizations.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Africa Safari-Kenya and Tanzania Game Reserves

by Annette Dixon

The Safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania is very difficult to write because of the amount of animals we saw
in eight game reserves. It was most fasinating not only seeing the animals in their own habitat, but also
seeing the different species of birds in Africa. I cannot forget the amount of wild flowers and
flora in places I would have  never guessed for it to grow. I have heard that some people who have visited
the game preserves have stated that they only saw a few animals, so I considered myself very fortunate.
Our group of 10 people from SmarTours were happy when we saw our share of the big four. The first of
many animals started at the home and preserves of Karen Blixen, a coffee farmer and famed author of “Out
of Africa”. Nearby her farm was the Giraffe Center where we fed the gentle and rare Rotschild’s giraffes.

Not to get to redundant so I will now mention that there are only 34 Black Rhinos in Africa and we saw
two a black one and a white one on different days. There are only 4 white ones in the Country of Kenya. We
saw three Cheetahs and the only animal we didn’t see was a leopard. I counted 51 differentspecies of animals and 69
bird and fowl species and 15 different types of flowers and flora. It’s too difficult to name everything in
this article, that is why the story becomes so complex and difficult to write. After the game hunt it
was evident that we spend an extraordinary stay at an excellent lodge. Serena Mountain Lodge was the
place I enjoyed because I could watch the animals arrive at the water hole which was lit up all night. I could
either stay in the room and watch or go to the lobby of the Lodge or the open 2nd floor viewing sight.

People were always on the 2nd floor waiting for that perfect picture of the rarest seen animal. I purposely
did not take a camera, but I took my $200 binoculars and didn’t miss any creature, bird, beast or
flora. It is known that some people love to share their pictures, I did have two throw away cameras with
me and my cell phone, so therefore I used that for my special shots that no one got and sent them to all.
It was amazing to see thousands of Pink Flamingoes in Lake Naivasha. I heard that Kenya has over a million
flamingoes. My adventure started in Nairobi, in Kenya, where we stayed at the Nairobi Safari Hotel, which was a
resort and casino surrounded by 64 acres of grounds. The lobby staff is there 24 hours which isgood for
insomniaces! The Swahili greeting of Jambo was throughout our stay in Kenya and Tanzania. There
were fine restaurants where home made pasta in LaPiazzetta, Chiyo for authentic Japanese food,
great Sushi and Sashimi Bar. Many other restaurants included the Winners Pavillion and exclusive
Chinese Restaurant andNyama Choma Ranch, Nairobi’s most exciting African Restauant. On the first night
we ate crocodile, ostrich, steak, chicken, roasted mutton at the Nyama Choma Ranch with a show of dancers that really
looked good and danced beautifully.

The next day we crossed the Equator to approach Mt. Kenya a dormant volcano, then to Samburu National
Reserve in Kenya’s semi-desert. Set in a region along the Ewaso Ngiro River, Samburu is home to
some of African’s rarest game species. Plenty of Hippos and Crocodiles attract plenty of wildlife including
the Grevy’s Zebra, the long necked Gerunuk Antelope, the shy Oryx, Beisa and the Somali Ostrich.
After leaving Samburu, we came across a dense forest with tumbling waterfalls and our lodge for the night
was the only Tree Hotel ever built on the slopes of the legendary Mt.Kenya in the middle of the thick forest.
There we saw all the animals arrive at the water hole and lit up at night. I was so excited when I saw
my first Hyena in the middle of the night. Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha are next on the
itinery and we are traveling southwest in a safari van. We stopped at Nyahururu Falls and traveled along the
magnificent Rift Valley toward Lake Nakuru, known for their pink flamingos.

After being on Lake Naivasha where the animals were in abundance so was the natural flora and stunning
scenic beauty. We traveled toward the Masai Mara which is the northern extension of the Tanzania famous
Serengete Plains. Our lodge was on the banks of the Talek River and surrounded by lush gardens.
At the Mara Simba Lodge, we saw our second tribal dance, but this one was performed by our waiters
and they were from the Masai Tribe. We had fun with them. After a restful but fun day at the lodge.

The next morning we traveled back to Nairobi to drop off two out of 10 tourists who were not going
onto Tanzania. Eight people wanted the optional tour of four days in Tanzania. I was sure happy I was one
because Tanzania was so beautiful. People there were friendlier than Kenya. It surprised me because the
travel commercials always are about Kenya and never Tanzania. After arriving at the Kilimanjaro Airport and
transferring to Arusha, Tanzania for a safari briefing,we continued to Tarangire National Park and checked into
Tarangire Sopa Lodge. In the afternoon we went on a game drive in the park and saw beautiful big elephants,
zebras, giraffes and a Rhino. While driving to Manyara, we saw some game and also many monkeys.
Everyone thought they were so cute until one of the monkeys stoled a camera from Julie, a girl from New York.
We were all warned not to leave anything in the van nor to feed the monkeys or carry anything in our pockets
or in our hands. of course, some people do not listen, a monkey ran off with her camera. While in Lake Manyara
National Park, in the afternoon we saw our second Rhino, and this time is was the white one. I didn’t mention
that the Black Rhinos are brown and the White Rhinos are grey. They werecalled Black and White by
the Safari Guide. My favorite place was Ngorongora Crater, the largest unflooded and unbroken
caldera in the world.

The crater floor supports a large resident population of wildlife up to 25,000 animals. Just to name a few
more species, there are wildebeest, gazelle, buffalo, eland, kongoni and warthog. The swamps and forest
are filled with hippo, elephants waterbuck, reedbuck and bushbuck, baboonsand vervet monkeys,
dikdik, jackals and more. What was nice was that we were able to touch ground and be able to see
these animal while on land, instead of the safari van. I saw what I may want to think was my first leopard. I
cannot be sure because the cheetah and leopard look so much alike that it is difficult to decipher which it could
be. It ran from a wooded area so fast I could see the back and a tail and the paws. That was it. This was the end of
the trip but I cannot close without telling about the wonderful working farm we had lunch.

We enjoyed Gibb’s Farm in Tanzania half way between Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. It is 10
acres of organic fruit and vegetables on a 45 acres farm. Gibbs’s Farm is an 80 year old legacy set among
lush floral gardens, the farmhouse and 20 ensuite cottages are the heart of the 80 year old working Arican
Farm. The farm house had 2 living rooms, library reading room, wraparound veranda overlooking the valley.
It also has a bar and giftshop, dining room, serving farm meal. We had our lunch there and it was
stated by several members of our group that they felt it was a perfect setting for our final days in Africa.

What was nice was the hospitality they showed us and the walk through some of the 10 acres of organic
coffee plantation. If one wanted to stay there they provided Farm rim walking, mountain biking, hippo
pools, canoeing, Manyara Night driving. We went back to Aruska, then Nairobi where we stopped by a
Tanzania mining company which sold precious Tanzinite. It was a mini expedition and five of
us got stuck in an elevator , if felt like hours. There was no air conditioning in this elevator because
it had stopped in between two floors. The mechanic was notified and of course that took a while.
After fifteen minutes the joking was over and no one spoke! It appeared as though we would not get
out in time to catch our flight for home. When we felt it move was when we realized how
uncomfortable we were, but hiding our fear. We made it on time in Nairobi and everyone
was safe and happy.

We had a great time up until the stalled elevator, but once in Nairobi Airport, we had a wait of two hours and
that was plenty of time to get settled and be able to enjoy our long flight home.


Amazing Thailand with its colorful

by Annette Dixon
Many years ago a dear friend who was a world traveler mentioned to me about
the company called SmarTours. She said that the intellectual traveler
usually uses this company. It very reasonable and the owners know how to
outsource for quality guides, hotels and food. I have used this travel agency five times and plan
on using them again in October for a trip to India and Nepal.

My friend also told me she enjoyed the most beautiful country in the world,
Vietnam and I had to differ with her. I thought Thailand was much better in many
ways. I had back to back trips and was traveling for 33 days, first to Thailand,
then Cambodia and Vietnam.

The country of Thailand is where the people were so friendly. There wasn’t a
time no matter who they were or what part of Thailand they were from, they
had the most beautiful smiles and oh so friendly. I do not recall beggars as in
Vietnam, begging for money. Surely, there were Thai people hounding us
with their sovigneers, but that was to be expected on the streets, especially near
the day markets. I cannot speak harshly about anything or anyone in Thailand,
for in that country I felt safe, happy, very healthy, and the desire to
return to this country. Yes there was poverty, much poorer than the slums of
Chicago and New York, but it’s a third world country. Americans are aware that
poverty exists, for the average wage earner earns $200 per month, but a tourist
can eat for $2.00 per day at a market or at street vendor, where the native
spends $0.25 per day on food. Thailand, no doubt, is a country I would want
to visit again.

The most outrageous cost for entertainment was at the Chiang Mai Zoo and
Aquarium in Northern Thailand. For the American, we
wouldn’t think paying $18 dollar for admission was too steep, but natives from
throughout Thailand couldn’t afford to spend this amount. So when they
wanted to visit the zoo and aquarium, about 6 to 8 people would come from the
country in a truck, and each person would give money to the one person who
would be entering the complex. that person would spend the
whole day in the Aquarium and Zoo, also entertainment in the
the zoo, take pictures and return to the family and report on
what was in this zoo and show pictures.

On the better side of this trip, I did get to stay at five star hotels
and yes there is the economic divide of rich and poor. I guess their working on developing
a strong middle class in the years to come for Thailand. According to our guide, Chai
said that “Thai people never throw anything out when they
cook, they use the skin, seeds, roots, etc. and every thing that
grows. They use the heads, eyes, organs, etc from animals fowl, sea food.”
Many times I didn’t know what I was eating unless our
guide was with us. And yes, I did try something which I didn’t
try in China, jumping shrimp. I didn’t try a deep fried grasshopper
because I tried that in China, to crunchy.

A good thing was in this country , we could be on excursions by ourselves and walk
among crowds of people without worrying about our safety. Of course, we were warned
about theft , yes it happens in Bangkok, but injury to the victim doesn’t take place. Now for
the tour. In Bangkok, we were on the Chao Phraya River after a long
days of visiting temples. It was this river where we visited water
market and the market where the train goes through. If you
look on UTube for Thailand Market you will know what I saw. The temples where unique
and elaborate with ornate and colorful designs, precious gems
such as diamonds, emeralds, opals, sapphires and rubies. Wat Trimitr has the 5 ton solid
gold statue of Buddha and Wat Po has the colossal 150 foot
long Reclining Buddha. It was fun to see this along with the
white marble temple representing Thai architecture.

The ancient capital of Thailand is Ayutthaya, I didn’t know this but I surely became
interested because of our guide. In Ayutthaya we saw a huge bronze statue of Wat
Mongkol Borpith and three ancient pagodas at Wat Phra Sri. We then continued to
Lopburi to visit the stone carvings which were awesome. I wasn’t too thrilled with the
Monkey Temple not knowing what the monkeys were up to, but I went along with the tour.
Traveling north to Phitsanulok, which is the gateway to Northern Thailand, we
visited the Bronze Case Factory and viewed more Buddha Images. Sukhothal/Lampang
are the two towns we visited. Sukhothal is where the famous ruins of the 13 century’s
famous capital of Siam. We couldn’t avoid seeing a textile
Museum and unique private collect. I do know several
quilters who would die for this adventure. After visiting an ancient
ceramic kiln which was at least 500 AD, we traveled to Lampang for the overnight
stay at Wiang Lakorn Hotel. Continuing North into the Golden Triangle which includes
the Mekong River and the meeting point of Thailand,
Myanmar (Burma), and Laos. We visited Laos by boat for
those that wanted the experience of being there. Thailand’’s most northern
point is Mae Sai and there we visited the local market and
shopped for handicrafts. By evening we stayed in the
charming town of Chiang Rai. Oh my, what came next
was unbelievable. People, namely immigrants from Burma settled near the Mae
Kok River mostly on high ground and these people were
called the hilltribe. Their village, which was mountainous brought tourist paying to see
their culture. handywork, costumes and how they live and survived in their surroundings.
We even saw the long neck tribe, different the the Hilltribe’ I was quite surprised to see
their village and how gorgeous the young girls were. When a girl is born, the parents
place a coil, brass , copper or gold, depending on the wealth of the family, around her
neck, as she grows and gets older, the coil is sized for her. We were sitting and talking
with a 16 year old and her neck was very long. The longer the neck, the more beautiful she is
considered to be. She let us try this on, I really like it until I realized you have to keep it on
day and night. It’s only removed for hygienic purposes. It stays on until she is married.
After this exciting day, we traveled to Chaing Mai the Rose of the North. Here was where
the elephant camp was and of course the history of the use of the elephants for this area.
Besides the fascinating temple in the mountains, we did get to see the Chaing Mai
Zoo. This was quite a trip.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

World History Classes, but what we may have forgotten
is that this temple was transplanted from the submerged island of Philae.
Before I forget I also wanted to mention I did get into King Tut’s Tomb and
saw his remains.The cave like tomb is about a 3ft by 5ft. x 6 ft. high and he was unwrapped. Also in Cairo was a famous museum with artifacts of King Tut. Once in Aswan, we boarded a plane for a short
flight to Abu Simbel to view the Nubian Monuments which consisted of
twin temples carved into the mountainside. We took a felucca ride back to the riverboat for dinner.

In Cairo we had a guided excursion to the famous sites in Egypt including the place where Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus, when Herod was killing all babies in Bethlehem. The Great Pyramids of Giza, which stood for 46
centuries are considered one of the Wonders of the World. Also looking close up at the Sphinz, a feline character with the body of a lion and face of Khufu, Cheops in Greek, carvedfrom one stone and lies before the Pyramids made this trip perfect. To conclude this exciting trip was the Camel ride on the other side of the Pyramids which was so much fun. I forgot to put this one on my facebook.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Traveling in Egypt was an exciting adventure especially riding a camel at the Pyramids by Annette Dixon On October 22, 2009, the departure took place in Kennedy Airport, New York to Cairo then Cairo
to Hurghada. It was a short connection to this prosperous resort
town on the shores of the Red Sea. Little did Iknow that Fort Arabesque
Resort Hotel was an all inclusive resort on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Abu Mahang Bay. It was the most elegant three nights, I have ever spent on any vacation. Many people go toEgypt, not necessarily to
the seaside of Hurghada. It is for this reason I travelwith SmarTours, so that I can go to the unusual places and stay at 5 Star hotels.On October 26, our group met with our tour director who is not only a Civil Engineer, but an Egyptologist. We traveled by bus to Luxor where we boarded a riverboat to explore the Nile River Valley. There we toured the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, the great cities of ancient Egypt. We walked the Avenue of Sphinxes and among the pillars of the colossal Temple of
Amon Ra. The next morning we visited The Valley of the Kings/Valley of the
Queens/Temples of Esna/Edfu. Here generations of Pharaohs and royalties
were buried in tombs cut into sheer rock. The cruise down the
Nile River brings us to many ancient and exciting cities to visit. For example we were at Deir El Bahari Mortuary rock temple of Queen Hatshepsut, an architectural masterpiece built against the backdrop
of looming cliff face and the Colossi of Memnon, two huge seated statues of
Amenhopep III guarding the valleys. On the cruise boat downthe Nile we could see camels, water buffaloes and the striking desert with tall palm
trees in the horizon. The enjoyment of the relaxation of the cruise and the excursions along the way makes for a pleasant trip. We took a short stop to visit more temples, the Temples of Esna and continued sailing to Edfu. We disembarked in Edfu and enjoyed a guided tour to The Temple of Edfu, this one was a Greek-built temple and preserved monument to Horus, the falconheaded son of Osiris. It took 200 years to complete and has helped fill in many gaps of knowledge about the Pharaonic architecture that
it was inspired by.

We docked at Kom Ombo where in ancient times, sacred crocodiles basked in the sun on the river bank. A short walk brought us up to the temple dedicated to the falcon and crocodile gods. World History Classes, but what we may have forgotten is that this temple was transplanted from the submerged island of Philae. Before I forget I also
wanted to mention I did get into King Tut’s Tomb and saw his remains.The cavelike tomb is about a 3ft by 5ft. x 6 ft. high and he was
unwrapped. Also in Cairo was a famous museum with artifacts of King Tut.
Once in Aswan, we boarded a plane for a short flight to Abu Simbel to
view the Nubian Monuments which consisted of twin temples carved into
the mountainside. We took a felucca ride back to the riverboat for dinner.
In Cairo we had a guided excursion to the famous sites in Egypt including the place where Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus, when Herod was killing all babies in Bethlehem. The Great Pyramids of Giza, which stood for 46
centuries are considered one of the Wonders of the World. Also looking close up at the Sphinz, a feline character with the body of a lion and face of Khufu, Cheops in Greek, carved from one stone and lies before the Pyramids made this trip perfect. To conclude this exciting trip was the Camel ride on the other side of the Pyramids which was so much fun. I forgot to put this one on my facebook. Back to the sailing on the Nile River, we were able to go and see the Aswan

Aswan Dam was very important to see, which controls the Nile River and
gives the major source of hydoelectric power inEgypt. Later we boarded a
motor boat and visited an island of Agilika and there was the Temple of Isis, now this one we remember from