As you scale the citadel in Sisteron, you’re treated to views of the hamlet at the foot of the mountain across the Duran river from the town center.
Setting out for Sisteron, France I wasn’t sure what I would find following the hour and a half drive there. I also wondered what the roads would be like. I was pleasantly surprised as it turns out there is a nicely paved highway running from Aix-en-Provence most of the way to Sisteron. Once we arrived there, it was immediately clear that the drive was worth it. The town is perched on the bend of the River Durance and works it way up the valley walls. At the top is the Sisteron Citadel, which has significantly hindered the efforts of armies trying to enter Provence from Roman times through to the second world war.
What you see here is the Devil’s Sentry, posted high above the valley on an outcrop of rock. It’s not difficult to understand why it earned this name, especially when you imagine winter winds whipping through the valley and directly into the sentry box.
As we kick off the 2017 working year, it seems fitting to post a photo of the lady that got my Vietnam trip going for me. As I was sat, tired from the long journey, and queasy from the small boat I was in on my first day in the Mekong Delta, my mood was lifted by my first Vietnamese coffee. It was delicious and gave me a jolt of caffeine that set me up for the day. It also resulted in me talking non-stop for the next hour, as my travel buddy can attest.
The coffee is being served by the lady in the small boat in the middle of this picture, who stopped to deliver her wares to each boat at the market. She had everything she needed to make hot or iced coffee on board, and blend it with super sweet, condensed milk. I’m pretty sure my face looked a lot like the kid on the left before I had a cup too.
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!!
It was a treacherous walk on a rainy afternoon to Nuoc Moc’s swimming hole, but our stomachs were full. We’d arrived at the nature walk of Nuoc Moc, between the Dark Cave and Paradise Cave, in the stunning Karst mountains of Phong Nha Ke Bang, to discover a typically gracious Vietnamese woman who offered us lunch. We agreed and were treated to a plate of steamed broken rice topped with fried chicken, tofu, delicious string beans, and a fried egg. It’s a simple meal, but after liberal application of soy sauce and chili, it was delicious.
With full stomach’s, we accepted that the light drizzle was not going to let up. We donned our rain gear, waterproofed our bags and set off to visit the Nuoc Moc swimming hole. To get there, you have to cross a number of fast flowing rivers via rickety bamboo bridges like the one you can see below. The rain made them slippery, but they seemed sturdy enough that if you wound up in the water it would be entirely due to operator error.
On the way back I asked my travel buddy to take a picture as I carried my gear across. She walked up to where I stood on the bridge to take my Iphone, photo mode ready. However, you’ll notice there’s no picture of me tentatively carrying my gear across a slippery, bamboo bridge. That’s because, when she reached me, the bridge decided to drop what felt like meters, but was probably more like inches. This warning was well heeded and, after freezing in shock briefly, we removed ourselves from the structure at great haste.
I’ve never been good at photographing people in my travels so made a conscious effort to do this more in Vietnam. When I saw this girl in Hoi An I had to push the limits of my camera to get this picture.
She’s selling lanterns for people to float down the river during Hoi An’s full moon festival. We didn’t have a set plan for most of our journey around Vietnam, but made sure we were going to be in Hoi An for the festival. Funnily, I think I preferred the place when the festival wasn’t on but it’s definitely something worth seeing. They turn off all of the electric lights in the city so the only light available is from lanterns strung up around the streets. There are loads of people around, tourists mixing in with the various local vendors. There’s so much going on that as you approach the water it’s a bit disorienting at first. Lanterns are thrust in front of you in the hope you’ll buy and your eyes struggle to switch between the intensely bright flames and the dark city streets. Eventually though, you make your way to the river where everything calms down and you can watch the lanterns, released from the bridge, slowly drift away.
Happy New Year everyone. So, last year’s attempt to post a photo every day fell flat about half way through. I didn’t do a lot of traveling in early 2014, and when I did it was because I got to go to the World Cup in Brazil. There was too much distraction at that time for me to take a lot of pictures!
In November I finally got to set foot in Asia with a three week holiday in Vietnam. I now have a fairly sizable stock of photos to show you!
This first one is of Hoi An, an ancient trading port on Vietnam’s coast, known for the abundance of tailors and original French colonial architecture.