A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Bangkok


View 2020 on mrb430's travel map.

We arrived in Bangkok on February 5th so I'm definitely due for an update!

But before we talk about Thailand, a few more thoughts and images from Nha Trang.

PONAGAR TOWER (Tháp Bà PoNagar)

On a granite promontory just across the Cai River from central Nha Trang, this Cham temple tower founded sometime before 781 A.D. is dedicated to Yan Po Nagar, the goddess of the country, who came to be identified with the Hindu goddesses Bhagavati and Mahishasuramardini. At this point just upriver from the ocean, the river is filled with colorful fishing boats.
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Built between the 7th and 12th centuries and originally Hindu, the towers are still actively used for worship by Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists. Originally the complex had seven or eight towers, but only four remain. The independent Cham political states extended across the coast of what is today central and southern Vietnam from approximately the 2nd century A.D. before being absorbed and annexed by Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mạng in AD 1832. Cham peoples still exist in Vietnam though they are a small minority.

The temples are unlike any we have seen so far. Built of red brick, they have weathered and softened over time but are still incredibly beautiful.
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The whole area is surrounded by beautiful gardens and rock out crops and the views are awesome.large_96F81FFF-B2A5-4148-BF5F-6AEF7BFF5106_1_201_a.jpeglarge_B647F9ED-94D4-4B4A-99B3-00F0A76D7AF8_1_201_a.jpeglarge_IMG_4138.jpeglarge_IMG_4145.jpeglarge_IMG_4144.jpeg

SUPERBOWL LIV

In which my Kansas City Chiefs win it all! We watched with a group of friends we'd met over our weeks in Nha Trang. We did begin to establish friends and a small community, even in the short time we were there - a testament to the fact that anywhere can be home if you try. We wish we had liked Nha Trang better but...and yes those are VICTORY Duck Farts for those in the know. (One is for Scott who had to be photographer but he was celebrating, too!)
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LASTING IMAGES OF NHA TRANG

Of course there are the motor bikes but there are also a few other lasting impressions we will take with us from Vietnam. One of the most lasting images for us is the juxtaposition of old Nha Trang, the sleepy fishing village, with new Nha Trang, the tourist Mecca. These pictures capture that feeling.
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Vietnam is a coffee culture and having an ice coffee prepared at one of the many coffee shops was a favorite activity. Oddly, they serve you a glass of complimentary iced green tea with each cup.
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Vietnamese street food is cheap, safe, and delicious. It's also pretty easy because most vendors only sell one thing. Bánh Mì vendors sell Bánh Mì. Pho vendors sell Pho. And Banh Can vendors sell Banh Can, one of our favorites.
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The food is simple with easily identifiable ingredients. And it's generally not too spicy. We came to really like a lot of it, although we could see it getting a little boring over time.

Vietnam is really inexpensive. Compared to Thailand, it's cheap! We can see the appeal for expats on limited budgets.

The communist presence is limited as I discussed in my last post but the entry to the neighborhoods throughout the city remind you of that past.
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And unique to Nha Trang, at least for us, is the use of Bougainvillea as a street tree.
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Lastly, over the time we were in Vietnam as the Coronavirus spread, face masks because as ubiquitous as in Japan. Thanks to the many Chinese tourists (although by the time we left there were very few remaining and it was like a ghost town), the Vietnamese went a bit crazy. All of the staff in our hotel were wearing masks. The government had posters everywhere and were making public announcements in the street, and of course as a result finding face masks to purchase was next to impossible. That didn't stop us from finding them and they felt like a necessity, if only for our peace of mind, on our flight to Bangkok.
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As was wiping everything with disinfecting wipes, being maniacal about hand washing and hand sanitizer (though truthfully that obsession has been with us for awhile). Arriving in Thailand, the mood is much more relaxed, at least after leaving the airport, which is a relief.

BANGKOK, THAILAND

Our arrival to Bangkok was like going from rural America to NYC. Back in the big leagues! Almost from the moment we arrived and realized there weren't any cars or motorbikes parked on the sidewalks, we knew we would be happier here. It's just true that we are more comfortable with places able to provide a few more of the creature comforts we need to feel at home.
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Of course, it comes at a price. Housing is still very affordable, especially now that tourism is taking such a huge hit from the virus, and transportation is very inexpensive but food and clothing are only slightly cheaper than in the West.

Don't get me wrong, there are motorbikes and traffic here, too. But there are stoplights and crosswalks! And they make use of overpasses over the really big roads.
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And they have public transportation! The Sky Tram is an awesome elevated train and a great way to see the city.
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As a major international city, it has great food from all over the world. German, French, Italian, Indian, and of course Thai - one of our favorites! We've been eating really well! We haven't tried street food yet although it's supposed to be amazing. Unfortunately, unlike Vietnam it's hard to tell exactly what's on offer, the ingredients are unfamiliar, and it's usually really spicy. Maybe we'll do a food tour to get our feet wet.

SALA DAENG, SILOM - LUMPINI PARK - SUKHUMVIT

Our first place was in a small hotel in the neighborhood of Sala Daeng in the Silom district. It's mainly a business district so its quiet at night but has great coffee shops and cheap lunch spots. The best part is it's right across the street from Lumpini Park, the Central Park of Bangkok.
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It is closed to traffic and has great walking paths and bike lanes as well as ponds and tons of birds. In my first few days I recorded 16 new birds! It also has great views of all of the tall buildings of Bangkok's amazing skyline. There is some amazing architecture here and they spend extra to make their buildings unique.

We've moved now to an apartment in the Sukhumvit district. It's full of more upscale hotels, residences, and as the major shopping area, tons of huge, very nice malls. It's close to Nana, which is the big expat party district, and we've made a few forays over there. We're moving around exploring different parts of the city in case we do decide to settle here for awhile. Our last week here, we will move again. Not sure where yet. Have any suggestions?

BUDDHISM AND THE KING

If the primary imagery of Vietnam was the Communist Party, in Bangkok, Buddhism and the King share the spotlight. There are pictures of the King everywhere, on buildings, on banners along streets, and this huge one as you exit the highway from the airport. I don't know enough to comment on it really other to say it's different and interesting.
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And religion is a huge part of the culture here, too. Almost every building of any size be it a home, business, parking garage, etc., as a Buddhist shrine. These are maintained daily with fresh offerings of food and drink and flowers. It's really interesting and many are really beautiful.
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They call Thailand the land of smiles. Many people comment on this, both bad and good, but for us it's true. In our experience, Thai people are very warm, welcoming, and genuinely nice. It's a big piece of why we feel more comfortable here. It's a little strange to have them bow to us but we try to take it as it's meant and recognize it is a part of what makes their culture so deep and interesting.

So I know this is light on sights after three weeks in Bangkok but we've been catching up on some medical stuff while in the land of inexpensive, high quality healthcare, so we haven't seen or done too much yet. But stay tuned, that will change.

WHAT'S NEXT

Our plans change frequently as we discuss different options but for now we have decided to move on at the beginning of March to Koh Tao, a Thai island. Although we are flirting with staying in Bangkok, at the end of the day we want to be at the beach so we're gonna go try it out and see if it might work as a home base. We're working out our visas and continuing to take this year one day and one step at a time.

Posted by mrb430 18:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Nha Trang: Buddhas, Waterfalls, and Tết


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After a week or so of trying to be adventurous travelers in Vietnam - you know sightseeing, eating street food, walking the streets - we've settled into our normal routine of not doing much and just hanging out. Back to that "it's life not vacation" mantra! Because truly, at the end of the day, I feel like Nha Trang is really just more enjoyable as a beach town and if you don't ask it to be more than that, you won't be disappointed. And, spending a month in a beach town isn't all bad! Especially when beach chairs and an umbrella are $6.
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It took a few days by the pool, some country music, and some good cocktails at a rooftop bar (eight American-style cocktails for $35), but we've got our groove back.
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It isn't place to move and that's sort of disappointing but we're excited to keep searching out "home" in Asia.

BUDDHAS AND TEMPLES

When we first arrived we were going out for walks in the morning and we walked out to Chùa Long Sơn, a buddhist temple. We can see the 24 meter tall white concrete Buddha from our apartment so it was an obvious destination. As a bonus, there is also a reclining Buddha and a nice temple.
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Walking around is definitely an adventure here and not for the faint of heart. We've pretty much given it up except on the beach walk and in the tourist zone. The reality its that nobody walks anywhere here, except tourists. As a result, the sidewalks are filled with parked motor scooters, things for sale, tables, and food stalls. It is not a walk-friendly city (more on that in a minute). But if you get out you do get to see other temples and occasionally a really pretty sight like a courtyard filled with orchids.
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And as it's Tết, the sidewalks are filled with huge potted flowers and flowering trees for sale that are an integral part of household celebrations.
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One thing you don't see, as a visitor, is many real signs that you're in a communist country other than the ubiquitous hammer and sickle flags and the communist-style concrete architecture. There are other subtle things like the morning and evening broadcasts of the news over loud speakers throughout the city, which we assume include patriotic announcements and music, and the plethora of what appear to be government and party buildings. But really, it's not at all a thing as a tourist.

So about the walking thing. Anything you read about Vietnam will mention the motor scooters.
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What they don't really get across is that there are literally no traffic signals or stop signs. Traffic just "flows". Crossing the street consists of walking into traffic, keeping a steady pace so the scooters and cars can avoid you, and hoping for the best. It's total chaos. But as with everything, time breeds familiarity and if we still aren't comfortable with it, we can navigate it. The craziest thing we saw was a railroad crossing near the temple. You have to check out this video to see the reality of it all.

The other crazy thing about scooters is how many people ride on one. It is totally normal to see a family of four on a scooter together. (Not the best capture from video but can you make out the family in the bottom left?)
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One kid up front, the driver, second kid wedged in between the driver and the other parent on the back. I've wondered whether there is an inherent incentive not to have more than two kids as that's all they can fit on the scooter. And kids don't wear helmets. It's insane. The parents all do but maybe one in a hundred kids has a helmet.

WATERFALLS

From our balcony we see the hills surrounding Nha Trang and we wanted to get into them as there are supposed to be an assortment of waterfalls to see. Many have been taken over by tourist infrastructure with everything from gondolas to restaurants to spas. But luckily one day while lazing on the beach, we were approached by Lac and invited to take a tour with him. A local from Nha Trang, his wife has a sidewalk coffee cafe around the corner from us, he knew of an off the beaten path waterfall and included a visit to the market to buy our lunch, stops at local " craft villages", and a BBQ lunch at the falls.

CRAFT "VILLAGES"
So the idea of a village is different near the city. It's really impossible to tell where the city ends and a village begins. But even in the city there are small areas with entries and signs and flags denoting the entry to a specific "village". The first we stopped at, women were making rice paper. Really fascinating. They use the rice husks to burn for fuel, prepare the tapioca and rice mixture in huge vats, make the rice paper over the fire, and then lay them out to dry. Yep, right on the street. Yum! Seriously though, they were tasty.
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At the next one, women were weaving traditional sleeping mats. Beautiful but I can't imagine sleeping on one - not too comfy!
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THE MARKET
Chợ Đầm Market is a huge indoor/outdoor market selling everything under the sun. The food section, as always with market like this, is a sight to behold. Here, it was the fresh seafood that was stunning. The shrimp are alive and wiggling, their little "feet" going a mile a minute. And you can't ignore that the chicken still have their feet here! We bought chicken, prawns, and lobster for lunch!
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THE WATERFALL
The drive to the waterfall was both beautiful and unsettling. The rice fields and forest were beautiful but so much land is being "slashed and burned" to clearcut for bananas and mangos. It's really sad to see these open scars in the otherwise green and lush forest. Ah progress. But let's focus on the beautiful - it's what we try to do.
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The waterfall itself wasn't that impressive and after the waterfalls in Baja the water clarity and litter was a bit of a let down but it was a fun hike, a nice place to relax and swim, and a great picnic spot. Lac was a great chef!
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As a side note, the Vietnamese đồng is one of the least valuable currencies in the world. One dollar is 23,000 đồng. So spending a million đồng isn't that hard. Our tour, all in, was 1.16M đồng each ($100 total). You get used to it. My method is: divide by two, take off four digits, and subtract a bit! One benefit is there are no coins! Score!

Lunar New Year and Tết Nguyên Đán

Tét is the most important Vietnamese holiday. It is a combination of the Lunar New Year and the celebration that follows and reminds us a lot of how the US goes all out for Christmas with decorations and lights everywhere.
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The biggest symbol is the yellow flower of the Mai tree, a relative of the Apricot.
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So much so that there are cutouts of it pasted all over and even fake ones added to other shrubs and trees. Those red envelopes symbolize the money gifts given within a family but every tree everywhere has them, not just in homes.
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The celebration begins about a week before the actual New Year. In the week before, Vietnamese people clean up their kitchen and prepare food to offer in the farewell ceremony for the Kitchen Gods. As I understand it, it is said that Kitchen God’s task is to report to the King of Heaven about the family’s affairs throughout the year and to wish for a lucky and prosperous new year. In Nha Trang, many, many businesses do this, too, including our hotel and the bank next door. Some even have monks in to do a blessing. No idea what they do will all the food afterwards.
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Then it's New Year's and there is a huge fireworks show and concerts. The beach and streets are packed with people having fun - just like the 4th of July!
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And now, in Tết (the week after New Years), it seems like people are out in the streets just trying to make as much noise as possible using firecrackers, drums, bells, gongs, and anything they can think of to ward off evil spirits. This morning, beginning at 8:00 AM, a group of Lion Dancers (Lan) started up in the street below us. The Lan is an animal between a lion and a dragon, and is the symbol of strength in the Vietnamese culture that is used to scare away evil spirits.
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So a word about the Vietnamese people. Everyone says the Vietnamese are so very friendly. While we haven't found them unfriendly, we also wouldn't say they are over the top welcoming. Of course, we spend most of our time in the "tourist zone" where I'm sure it gets a little tiring to always be friendly to foreigners. Especially when most of them are Russians and Chinese - two peoples that are not well-liked by the Vietnamese for all kinds of historical and modern reasons. Usually, once they realize we're American, they become friendlier. Amazing but true. There aren't a lot of fluent English-speakers but most people have enough to communicate a little. When we get out of the tourist zone, people just seem to wonder why we're there and it feels kinda like they wish we'd just go back ha! I suppose if you lived here and they saw you day after day things would change but the language barrier is a significant hurdle and its seems most Westerners kind of stick together in a few places.

SCUBA DIVING

Scott did his first dive here!
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The dive company was very good though there were only two divers on the boat with a ton of snorkelers. The diving is nice but nothing special. Having Roatan, one of the best dive sites in the world, as your first experience gives other places a pretty high bar to live up to! But he enjoyed being in the water and rediscovering his skills and he's excited to do more as we travel on.

WHAT'S NEXT!

We booked travel to Bangkok for after the Super Bowl - we do have out priorities! We found a good sports bar here that either plays in real time or rebroadcasts the games so we've been following the playoffs! GO CHIEFS!! We will be watching the Super Bowl along with you, albeit at 6:30 am Monday morning. After Bangkok we're planning a side trip to Angkor Wat, the Hindu temple complex in Cambodia that is the largest religious monument in the world and so-called "8th Wonder of the World". Then it's on to the Thai and Malaysian islands for more scuba diving. You can check out our notional map here.

Posted by mrb430 21:33 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Good Morning From Vietnam!

We're back!


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It's taken us awhile to get the travel mojo back after our month in the US but we're back and excited for the year to come!

A brief catching up is likely in order.

DECEMBER WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS

We landed in DC on December 4th and moved into our AirBnB in Alexandria. To say it was a shock to our systems would be a major understatement. Our two weeks were "blessed" with cloudy days, rain, and cold. I suppose we had a few karmic dues to pay for all the sun but still... We made the best of it hanging out in our apartment in front of the fire, catching up on Netflix, enjoying our roof deck, and drinking our share of Bloody Marys...
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...in between catching up with friends (apologies for those of you missing from the pics!)...
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...and celebrating some serious life milestones with the girls as Courtney graduated from Nursing School and Morgan from Law School.
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Then it was off to Colorado to be with my parents for the holidays. We had a lot of good times and thankfully some sun!
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Courtney came out to visit and my nephew, Jean and his girlfriend, came out, too. We also got to spend some good times with my niece Kalyn who has moved to Denver.
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It was a good visit and we enjoyed seeing everyone!

OUR FIRST TRIP ACROSS THE PACIFIC

We decided to break up the 22+ hour flight into segments and so glad we did! We flew from Denver to LA and spent the night before catching our flight to Tokyo.

NARITA, JAPAN
We spent two nights in Narita Town, Japan. It's a 14 hour flight from LA to the main airport in Narita outside Tokyo. I guess I have to mention that we actually flew into Haneda. Yep, I screwed that up. Luckily, Japan being the easy and efficient place it is, there was a direct bus between the two that took and hour and cost about $10. Say it with me, "double check when there are two airports serving a city!" In any case, we made it to Narita Town, the small town outside Narita airport, and checked into our hotel without any other issues.

Narita Town is a really cool little place. We had a day to explore and were happy to find it had a large Buddhist temple complex and garden to explore. It was quite crowded with Japanese tourists visiting the temple to make their yearly offerings for good fortune in the coming year. We felt lucky to have happened on it at this time to see the cultural activities and share it with them. We were among only a handful of Westerners in the whole town.
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I highly recommend this town as a stop over. The pedestrian street is packed with restaurants and coffee shops and the park is beautiful and free!

Quirky things about Japan:

  1. The toilet seats in even the smallest restaurant and at the park were heated!
  2. About 40% of the population are wearing surgical masks and they come in all colors and styles. Makes you feel like your in the movie Contagion!
  3. Everyone follows the rules and there are instructions for everything. It's super easy and organized!
  4. You need instructions to use the toilet as they have about 10 functions other than flushing waste!
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AND FINALLY, VIETNAM - OUR 20TH COUNTRY TOGETHER

As you may recall if you read regularly, our plan was (yep, was) to move to Vietnam and stay here for the foreseeable future using it as a launching point for SE Asian travels. Those plans have changed.

NHA TRANG: COMPLETE CHAOS - WITH A BEACH
Nha Trang, where we chose to land, is billed as a "smaller" city that is less chaotic and more beach oriented. I suppose this is true if you're comparing it to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, but it is a pretty big and sprawling city nonetheless. It does have a beautiful beach and a really nice park along most of it...and the thousands of Russian and Chinese tourists seem to really like it!
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It took us about a week to get our feet under us, both from the 12 hour time change and the severe environment shock. This isn't Kansas, Toto. We've found a few places to hang out, found street vendors with food we like (Báhn Mì!), and are generally getting a feel for the place. Maybe we were unwise to embark on Vietnam for our first SE Asian experience since it isn't as developed to Western standards as other countries like Thailand. Or, maybe we shouldn't make big plans based on research alone. Or maybe if we were 65 year old men looking for a young wife or just wanted a few weeks at the beach, Nha Trang would be our spot. Okay, maybe all of those things! But alas...we went back to the drawing board and are re-planning our year. Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia here we come! We're gonna explore and search out somewhere that actually fits our requirements. So stay tuned as we figure all this out. So thankful we have the luxury of time and the willingness to admit when we're wrong!

It's not all bad, though. There is a lot to see and do and, well, there is the beach and the pool!
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Stay tuned for a post on how we're filling out our time here before heading to Bangkok.

Posted by mrb430 03:43 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Tenerife & Lanzarote - Amazing in Their Diversity (Part 2)


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Continuing with our posts from Sunny Spain to warm all of you up back home, up next Lanzarote. Be sure to check out Time Out in Tenerife and Tenerife & Lanzarote - Amazing in Their Diversity (Part 1), for our take on Tenerife.

Before we get into the stark differences in the landscape, the difference in the "authenticity" is also worth mentioning. Tenerife is the largest and most populated island of the seven Canary Islands with a land area of 785 square miles and 904,713 inhabitants. By comparison, Lanzarote is just 326 square miles with 149,183 inhabitants. Tenerife first started receiving, mainly British, tourists in the late 1800's but tourism really took off in the about the 60's and today close to 5 million tourists visit each year. The development is extensive and geared at European tourists. As a result, much of the authenticity of visiting Spain can only be found in the highland villages.

CÉSAR MANRIQUE

Lanzarote got a later start and got lucky in its native son, César Manrique. Born on Lanzarote in 1919, he went on to become a famous artist before returning to Lanzarote and starting a crusade to preserve it's traditional building methods, banning roadside billboards, and helping to design visitors centers and tourist attractions in a sensitive way. As a result, developments are smaller, shorter, and more contained solely along the coast, not rising unchecked up the sides of every hill with a view. They are all white, as are the traditional villages, and most incorporate the local architectural features of green or black wood trim, cupolas, and onion-shaped chimney pots.
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His sculptures adorn many of the round-abouts.
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And he designed, with an architect friend, the important visitor centers, miradors, and the cactus garden.

As a result of his efforts and the adoption of his beliefs by a non-profit that now monitors development, Lanzarote still feels like Spain. It's much easier to get away from the "international" areas (aka British pubs and Chinese restaurants) and see traditional ways of life. And the natural landscape is accessible, protected, and unspoiled. The villages are well maintained and hide beauty around each corner.
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LANZAROTE

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Saying Lanzarote is a volcanic island is like saying New York City is a village. There are over 300 volcanoes on Lanzarote! The close up from Google Maps above shows the greatest concentration of them in Timanfaya National Park and the dark, black landscape of the area. The island's volcanoes erupted over six years in the 1730's. Amazingly no one died but whole villages were destroyed and the landscape changed forever. Tour guides say that Lanzarote looks like the moon and when I read that I thought it was just a tease but there is no escaping that the place is otherworldly.
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That last shot is of a volcano with a bunch of antennas on top and could easily pass for some kind of sci-fi civilization. There is virtually no naturally occurring vegetation other than a few hardy shrubs in some of the lava fields and tons of different varieties and colors of lichen. The lack of vegetation adds to the sense of being somewhere "other". The closest we could come to thinking of other similar places are some places in Baja and the American Southwest but they really don't compare. We are so glad we decided to come see the island and highly recommend you add it to your list. Rent a car, drive around, be amazed by the colors (these photos are not photoshopped!), and see if you can keep from saying "it's like being on the moon!"

Timanfaya National Park - Montañas del Fuego
The National Park is accessible by a short road to the parking area and restaurant from which the only access into the park is on tour buses. The entire area is so well done and well preserved it is a real gem of sensitive land use. There is no trash, no footsteps, and no ATV tracks disturbing the smooth ash fields. It's as it was the days after it happened. Truly amazing!
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Check out this video to ride along on the tour.

The visitor center and restaurant are built above a number of hot-spots. Where else can you get food cooked by a volcano??
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Jardín de Cactus de Lanzarote
The Cactus Garden is located in an old quarry that César Manrique re-designed into a garden with 1,000s of different species of cactus, large and small, from all over the world. It is a really beautiful and peaceful place to visit. A word on visiting these sights. There is pass available for discounted admission to the six most popular sights that is a bargain and available to purchase at whichever you visit first.
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The garden is surrounded by fields of Opuntia cactus that are grown to support Cochineal, a scale insect used to produce a red dye by the same name. With the advent of synthetic dyes, production dropped significantly but it is making a comeback as the desire for natural products grows.
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Agriculture and Wineries
One of the most striking aspects of the landscape is that almost everything is black, volcanic black. Homes and other structures are made from the black rock but most strikingly the "soil" is volcanic ash that retains both heat and moisture. Depending how hot the ground is underneath, they add depth to the ash to insulate and achieve the right growing temperatures - anywhere from one to six meters. In addition, they build retaining walls to protect the plants from the strong winds that whip across the island with nothing in their path otherwise. The traditional method was semi-circular walls that produce sunken growing beds but many have been straightened now for ease of harvest. It makes the landscape into the most incredible patterns and everywhere you see them they remind you of the incredible resilience of the islanders.
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Lanzarote is known for the white Malvasia grape grown here. Although there is a red they cultivate as well and from which they make a rosado, the white is the best. People especially like the sweet Malvasias but the dry, which we prefer, is quite good. There are dozens of wineries so, of course, we had to patronize a few. The best among them, in our opinion, although it actually didn't have the best wine, was El Grifo. They are the oldest winery on the island dating from the early 1700's after the eruptions and the 10th oldest in Spain. They have lovely grounds, their own cactus garden, and a really well done museum. We did a sampling of their wines and, again, we'd stick to the whites.
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Our favorite wine and a spectacular view can be found at La Geria. Set on the edge of the open fields and plains below Timanfaya, it should not be missed.
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The black ash is also used everywhere instead of turf or gravel, around housing, restaurants, just everywhere.

The Malpaís de la Corona (Badlands of the Crown)
The far northern tip of the island is dominated by the results of the eruption of the Volcán de la Corona. An area of desolate lava fields, it is home to cliffs and caves. Notice he hardy shrubs and lichens.
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In this area, north of the town of Yé, the Mirador del Rio (again built by Manrique) is an astonishing overlook off the cliffs. Built of lava rock and set into the cliffs, you'd hardly be able to pick it out as a manmade structure. The views of the cliffs and Isla Graciosa are amazing!
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Also in this area are two caves, Cueva de los Verdes and Jameos del Agua. Cueva de los Verdes is an eight kilometer lava tunnel of which the first kilometer is open to the public. It's an amazing place and definitely worth a visit. I will pass on this information from the public website and highly recommend you DO NOT read much before you go.

We recommend you stay close to the tour guide during your visit in order to be able to listen to the characteristics, peculiarities, and secrets of Cueva de los Verdes. It is better if you do not look up too much information prior to your visit, let yourself be surprised.

Suffice it to say there is an AMAZING surprise in store for you inside the cave!
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Jameos del Agua is a large cavern converted into a restaurant and pool with a few rooms (closed for renovation while we were there). It's claim to fame is the small albino blind crabs that live in the pool inside the cave. If you have time, it's fine to see and on your pass but don't go out of your way for it. DO you out of your way for Lanzarote!

GOODBYE "EUROPE"

It's been an amazing summer and fall! Since May 1st we've been in:

  • Malaga, Cadiz, and Jerez, Spain
  • Montpellier, France
  • Sintra, Lisbon, and Porto, Portugal
  • Amsterdam
  • Split, Croatia
  • Larnaca and Paphos, Cyprus
  • Marrakesh
  • and, Tenerife and Lanzarote, Spain!

We have seen so much, done so much, and learned so much. Tomorrow we head back to the DMV to celebrate our anniversary with our friends at the Scottish Walk in Alexandria and Morgan and Courtney's graduations. Then we go on to Colorado to celebrate Christmas with Marcy's family. It's going to be COLD but it's also going to be nice to see everyone! And then it's Vietnam! Stay tuned for more of Arrradventures and Happy Holidays to you all.

Posted by mrb430 07:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Tenerife & Lanzarote - Amazing in Their Diversity (Part 1)


View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

The Canary Islands certainly are a diverse bunch! We're only seeing two but from the mountains, deep ravines, forests, and hill towns of Tenerife to the lunar landscape of Lanzarote, they are some of the most amazing places we've seen. Spending the month of November here has been a wonderful experience. The weather is amazingly pleasant. The sun is strong and warm during the day and the evenings are cool and fall-like. We're in bathing suits during the day and sweaters at night. Fall being my favorite season, it's nice to get a bit of a chill so you can cuddle up but unfortunately it leads to winter and in just a few days now we will be back in it. We're looking forward to being back "home" for the holidays but not looking forward to long underwear and heavy coats! So for you already in the throws of winter, I hope you enjoy these posts from Sunny Spain! First up, Tenerife.
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TENERIFE

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Tenerife, like all of the Canary Islands, is of volcanic origin. It has one large volcano at its center, Teide. The island is divided by the spine of mountains created by the volcano and they catch all of the weather coming onto the island with the prevailing winds from the northeast. The southwest is almost always sunny and the north is almost always cloudy, at least at this time of year. We went across from Adeje where we stayed to Puerto de la Cruz and the difference was stark. If you plan to come, definitely stay on the southern coast!

Costa Adeje and the Southern Highway
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Puerto De la Cruz and the Northern Road
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For some of the highlights of the steep southern slopes of Teide, see our last post.

PARQUE RURAL DE ANAGA
On the very northeastern tip of Tenerife, is the Anaga Rural Park, certainly the most lush and green area of the island. It's a dense forest of pine and laurel with amazing views down to the coast across the deep ravines. The contrast between this and the more arid southern side is extreme. It's moist with moss and ferns growing everywhere.
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The drive through there park follows a twisty-turny road through laurel tunnels.
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Then, as you come out the northern side, cross the spine of the mountain range, and head down the switch-backs towards the village of Taganana...
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...the amazing landscape of steeply terraced farms and precariously situated villages expands before you.
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All along the way are incredibly views and roadside vista points.
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This area is not to be missed and certainly has some of the best views and most challenging roads of the whole island.

I would be remiss, however, if I led you to believe we spent most of our month exploring. The truth is, we redefined the term "couch potato", or maybe for us it was "lounge chair potato"! It was hard to leave our little corner of heaven in Adeje where the sun was out every day, the weather was warm, and each evening treated us to the most amazing and unique sunsets. So I'll end Part 1 with some of the best!
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Don't miss Part 2 - Lanzarote!

Posted by mrb430 03:49 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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