So it turns out I have got a lot of photos I worked up but never uploaded! This one is of the interior of the Pisa Cathedral, which is right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When you see the Leaning Tower it’s hard not to wonder if it was really worth the trip into Pisa. I’ve been a couple of times and the area is always crawling with tourists. The interior of the Cathedral, which seems to draw less of a crowd, is an impressive surprise though.
While in Brazil for the World Cup we took some time out for a side trip to Ouro Preto in Brazil. It’s an old gold mining town perched atop steep hills. There’s a church with an amazing gilded interior, but you couldn’t take pictures inside. The church in this picture isn’t that same church, but gives you a good idea of what the town looks like.
This temple is located in the Forbidden Purple City in Hue, Vietnam. You weren’t supposed to take photos inside the buildings. I bent the rules a bit by setting up my tripod just outside the door. I had a scary moment when, after deciding the doors needed to be symmetrical, I closed one slightly and felt like it was about to come off in my hand!
I keep thinking that I need to go back to Vietnam. I may need to make a return trip next year.
I went on a really good food tour in Marrakech. We tried all sorts of food from lamb cooked underground for hours to amazing sardine-ball sandwiches. As a bonus we also stopped off at some interesting spots, including the village bakery, where people would bring food in to be baked in the oven to be picked up later in the day.
If you’re ever in Marrakech I would definitely recommend it! You can find their website here:
Our second stop was at an olive stand, we were allowed to just eat all the olives that we wanted off the stall. The seller seemed to have an endless supply of different types of olives.
So I got to talking about Vietnam today, which led me to look on my SmugMug page to show some friends a few pictures. Then I realized I had a fair few waiting to be posted.
This photo shows the entrance of Phong Nha Cave. During the Vietnam (or American, depending on who you ask) War this cave was employed as a Viet Cong military base.
To get to this cave we first had to wander to the river bank in town where we found a number of Dragon Boats lined up waiting to give tours. They gestured that we needed to go to a ticket booth to pay. Once we were paid up we set up. Most people wait to group together to save money, the dragon boats can sit at least a dozen people. It was late in the day and we didn’t see anyone around so we got straight on.
Our drivers were an older couple who communicated to us entirely in gestures. You can see them in this previous post.
It’s about a half hour boat ride up the river, through the jungle covered Karst formations, past a fishing village and numerous water buffalo tied up on farmland along the banks.
Around a bend we came to the entrance to the cave, a low slit in the mountainside. The rocks above were scarred by artillery as the US army attempted to seal the cave. It’s amazing that the rock face held together.
Our boat ride continued inside, through narrow passageways and into large chambers full of stalagmites. When we reached the furthest point of our journey our pilots carefully turned the 30 foot long boat around in a space that only seemed 20 feet wide. They did this mostly by using their hands to push off the cave walls.
From there we were dropped on a beach inside the cave that served as a landing point for injured Viet Cong soldiers. We walked back out through the rock formations. Just before walking back outside to board our waiting boat I stopped to take this picture.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo, so here’s one of my favorites.
To visit the amazing caves at Phong Nha town it’s typical to hire a dragon boat at the river bank in town. They then whisk you up river and a good way into the cave. There, they drop you on a beach inside the cave once used as a military hospital during the American War. On the way back I saw the sun’s rays breaking through the clouds and managed to snap this picture. It was a bit tricky though, I had to fit my head through the slats in the top of the boat, then raise my camera with my hands reaching through two different gaps. It took a couple of tries but eventually I was in. I had a brief moment of panic afterwards as my head appeared to be stuck.
Today’s photo follows on from the photo of the rice paper drying in the sun. This is the bow of the sampan that we hired to take us out to the Mekong Delta’s floating markets. We had based ourselves in Can Tho and arrived there the night before we planned on going on a tour. We turned up without anywhere to stay booked and no real idea how to book a boat for the next morning. Using our trusty guidebooks we decided on a place right on the waterfront and were happy to find out they had a room available. Shortly after checking in a very smiley old lady who had been sat quietly in the lobby approached and asked if we were interested in a tour. She had a book of photos and a map of the route. Unsure how we’d go about getting a boat at sunrise the next morning we decided to assume her price was fair enough and book. We went to sleep happy in the fact that we’d found a boat for the morning.
Sure enough, the next morning we were greeted in the street by the same lady who escorted us to our boat. We did realise that had we waited until the next morning to find a boat we’d have been fine. The waterfront was abuzz with locals as soon as there was a hint of light. This included numerous other old ladies offering boat rides to every Westerner within earshot.
We were happy with our tour guide, who drove the boat while constantly weaving reeds into various bits and pieces. The “roses” you see here were particularly impressive!!