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From: PuddleGlum12/14/2018 8:51:27 PM
   of 23934
 
Posted Nov. 25:
Sitting in a coffee shop in Saigon with one of our new friends, while outside rages the worst storm to hit Saigon in 10 or 20 years. Everything’s cool for us!
"Pro-life" (??!) pickup on the streets of Saigon:



Also Nov. 25:
Journey from Ha Giang town to Ma Pi Leng. Finally catching up to one of our special days from a week ago. These mountains are hard granite, with very little water for living. Here you will often see large boulders and sharp, deep canyons, reminiscent of Tolkien’s description of the Misty Mountains. In some places you will see lush vegetation, where somehow the plants have managed to hide the forbidding rocky soil on which they grow. We were fortunate to have good weather for most of the day. As we wound our way up to Ma Pi Leng pass on the dangerously narrow road with steep drop off to our right we were too distracted to notice the high steep mountain on our left that threatened to bend over upon us, until we reached the top where the hazards of our just-completed journey were more apparent. As dusk approached we stopped by a monument that served as a memorial to those who died during the construction of the dangerous road. The intermittent fog filled valleys that we knew were deep, but looking down over the edge of the road all we could see was endless fog beneath us, with no sign of a bottom. Dusk turned the large boulders into goblins, and the strangely shaped peaks into the rock-throwing giants of Tolkien’s Misty Mountains, and the only thing lacking from Bilbo’s journey was thunder and lightning.
Misty Mountains:


More from Nov. 25:
At the end of our first day in the “Misty Mountains” we found our Rivendell in Dong Van at Hmong Homestay.


Also from Nov. 25:
Catch up, from our second day in Ha Giang. Visited Lùng Cu and finished the day in Yen Minh. Lùng Cu is a tower marking the northernmost point in Vietnam.
Lung Cu tower:


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To: PuddleGlum who wrote (23847)12/14/2018 8:55:05 PM
From: PuddleGlum
   of 23934
 
Posted Nov. 26:
The highlight of our third day in Ha Giang was the visit to our guide’s house. We traveled alongside a river about 5 km from the Chinese border, and eventually stopped just off the main road. The trail to his village was unsuitable for driving an suv, so we got out of the car and my wife sat behind our guide on the motorbike and they took off for the village. 15 or 20 minutes later he came back for me. We rode uphill, through mud, rocks, trying to avoid buffalo pies along the way. All the while I had my GoPro running. Eventually we got to his house, a two room building where he lives with his parents, 2 siblings, wife, and two children. The view from his home was stunning as is so much of Ha Giang. We enjoyed steamed corn from their field, roasted corn as well, and sweet potatoes, also from their field. Oh, I mustn’t forget to mention the “happy water”, hard liquor made from... corn, of course. We sat, ate, and visited for an hour or two, very much like family. You could say these people are poor, but in a setting like this I had to re-evaluate my definition of “poor”. Maybe “rich” in a different way than I’m used to thinking!

Oh, lest I forget an interesting part of this story... as we left the house our guide first took my wife on his motorbike back to the main road. I began walking, to make up some time. About 200 yards from the house I came to a fork in the road. Hmmm... I didn’t recall seeing a fork on the way up! Well, one fork went down, and the other went up . I knew that most of the ride had been uphill from the main road. But was that 95% up, or 100% up? Clearly the odds favored the left fork going down, but I wondered, just a little, as I started down the left fork. Just then two young Hmong boys came walking from the village and took the right fork. I called to them and asked in Vietnamese which way to Quan Ba. They didn’t speak Vietnamese, and they probably had never seen a white guy before. Eventually they understood that I was going to Quan Ba, and they pointed down the left fork. Whew! Relieved of that little nagging doubt! Then the boys started laughing. Hmmm... laughing at seeing a white guy? Or at playing a neat little joke on a white guy? I continued down the left fork, and finally thought to pull out my GoPro and iPhone to review the footage from the ride uphill, and from this determined without a doubt that the left fork was the right fork (you might think now that I’m confused?). After walking a couple of minutes I noticed a small herd of unattended buffaloes heading my direction on the narrow path. Oops. They’re docile creatures, until they’re frightened. I swallowed hard, took the hard right side of the path, and then to my great relief our guide arrived on scene and I was saved from the terrible beasties. Happy ending!

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To: PuddleGlum who wrote (23848)12/14/2018 9:13:30 PM
From: PuddleGlum
2 Recommendations   of 23934
 
Posted Nov. 26:
Good morning VIETNAM! And goodbye. My journey to Vietnam was a lifetime in 28 days. I won’t return home whole, because I can’t help but leave a part of myself here. Let this be a warning to anyone who might come here unaware of the risks. If you don’t steel your heart before you arrive, the people here will steal it away from you, and you won’t even put up any resistance.

Last night just before midnight our room telephone rang. The young man at the front desk heard that we were leaving in the morning, and wanted to say his goodbyes.

This morning we dashed out the front door to go to church (5:00 am, remember?), only to discover that it was raining lightly. Without any exchange of words the doorman/parking coordinator/security person handed me his umbrella, which we quickly accepted. Arriving at church I looked for the destitute young woman we had seen at the gate during our first 2 days in Saigon almost a month ago. She wasn’t there, perhaps due to the weather, perhaps she will never be seen again. We entered the church, and during mass the same woman who had helped us find the right page in the prayer book during our first days here again gave us some assistance. I clasped her hands and quietly said goodbye.

Yesterday we met with “5” and his wife, who came here from 2 hours away to see us one last time, and we met with a handful of others who became precious to us during our stay. I had my last “one more coconut”, brought by another dear friend from almost two hours away. Not to mention the fresh "mit" (jackfruit) that was back on the menu, also brought from two hours away.

This morning we say farewell to “the little angel” and her friend. Then we’re off to the airport. God willing we’ll be safely back home soon.

We arrived home on Nov. 27, safe and sound.

Posted on Nov. 28:

Soooo hungry... must be lunchtime. Sooooo sleepy... must be 3:00 am

And THAT, my dear friends, is the END of the story... I hope.

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From: SmoothSail12/22/2018 5:04:29 AM
1 Recommendation   of 23934
 
Lordy mercy. Try to keep you eyes dry through this:


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From: SmoothSail12/29/2018 10:06:19 PM
3 Recommendations   of 23934
 
Catalina today.


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To: SmoothSail who wrote (23851)12/29/2018 11:17:31 PM
From: Neeka
   of 23934
 
Sailor's delight!

(I assume this is an evening shot?)

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To: Neeka who wrote (23852)12/29/2018 11:24:48 PM
From: SmoothSail
   of 23934
 
Yes. Except in this case it doesn’t apply. We’re having a Nor’easter that’s created 6’ to 8’ seas in Avalon Bay. I’ll try to post some video of it.

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To: SmoothSail who wrote (23853)12/29/2018 11:34:20 PM
From: SmoothSail
   of 23934
 

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To: SmoothSail who wrote (23853)12/30/2018 12:11:07 AM
From: Neeka
   of 23934
 
We’re having a Nor’easter

Is that kind of weather normal for this time of year?

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To: Neeka who wrote (23855)12/30/2018 1:20:48 AM
From: SmoothSail
   of 23934
 
Is that kind of weather normal for this time of year?
Matter of fact it is. A couple of years ago on New Years, same type of storm put 2 boats on the rocks killing two men, one of them a Harbor Patrolman. I may even have posted about it because I knew them. I’ll see if I can find the story.

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