Thursday, September 27, 2012

Around the World in 20 Days

We are back in Penang after a 20 day adventure that took us flying (literally) around the world.  We spent a majority of our time in the good old U.S.of A, visiting family and friends, eating delicious cheese and tacos, stocking our suitcases and shopping till we dropped.  The rest of our time was spent on airplanes with our total transit time topping 60 hours! 

Details of our trip to come, but for those of you wondering, we really did fly all the way around the world!  Here was our path:
Penang --> Hong Kong --> Toronto --> Detroit, MI --> Austin, TX --> Detroit, MI --> Rochester, NY -->New York --> Frankfurt, Germany --> Singapore --> Penang

Tired yet??

The Hartners currently have no further travel booked.... any bets on how long that will last??

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy Times in Hoi An

There is a lot of hype about Hoi An amongst the people we know in Penang and our friends that have visited Vietnam.  We were told that it's a place that you must visit -- a charming, well preserved "Old Town" with no cars, lantern lit streets, where you can have clothes and shoes tailor made, excellent food and is near a great stretch of the South China Sea.  Sound appealing enough? We thought so.  We flew direct from Ho Chi Minh to DaNang and a short thirty minute taxi later, we arrived to our cute hotel on the river set among rice paddies and coconut trees. Ahh, vacation!  We spent 5 days in Hoi An alternating between the gorgeous beach, the tailors and the town.  Simply an amazing place!

The Beach
A short cab ride or a very sweaty bike ride and we were on a beautiful stretch of white sand under cabanas that cost us $3 a day to rent.  We spent every morning and afternoon here, alternating between the shade and the ocean, while having drinks brought to our cabana.  
This view will never get old!
All I can say is VACATION!!
Lunch: Seaside
Coincidentally enough, our friends the Kempsters and Lauries also decided to go to Hoi An from Penang.  We caught up with them for an afternoon of fun!  The waves were uncharacteristically large on this day and we all had so much fun playing in real surf!
The Tailors
It seems that every other store in Hoi An's Old Town is a tailor shop.  Thanks to Nikki and Leon, we did not have to choose from the countless shops, instead we used their well-established and highly recommended tailor.   Eric and I both indulged our inner shopper.  I had 6 dresses made, 3 pairs of shorts and a skirt; while Eric had shorts and several work shirts made. 
There were literally thousands of fabrics to choose from
Custom adjustments to make sure the clothes fit just right!
Eric and I also bought a few pairs of custom shoes.  We picked out the design, heal height, color and leather.  Each shoe was made to measure for our feet.   Here's hoping that I can wear heals and actually be comfortable.
Custom shoes anyone?? We walked away with 4 pairs!
The Old Town
Gorgeous, romantic and picturesque. The tiny lantern lit streets make you feel like you are in Europe.  The food is equally as good.  Here are a few more shots of our trip.

Lanterns everywhere!
The quaint streets
The preferred method of transportation here
Al fresco dining in cute gardens
Overall, this was a great trip!  We loved Hoi An and hope to come back, even just for a long weekend!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City

Over Hari Raya, we decided to capitalize on Eric's two extra days off and head north to Vietnam.  This was our second trip there this year, but this time we explored Ho Chi Minh City, aka, Saigon and the charming town of Hoi An. We spent 3 days in Saigon exploring this large, modern, Asian city, taking in the historic sites, drinking famed Vietnamese coffee, shopping, eating and drinking proper German beer.
Reunification Palace - this is where "Saigon Fell" to the North Vietnamese during the War
One of the tanks that broke down the gates during the "reunification" of Vietnam
Overlooking the palace grounds and envisioning Ho Chi Minh addressing the Vietnamese...
We also visited the very sobering War Remnants Museum, which documents the atrocities of the Vietnamese War. (In Vietnam, the war is known as the American War) The museum displayed the US planes, weapons and artillery in a raw and uncensored propagandist fashion.  A very worthy stop on our adventure. This museum provided a very skewed glimpse of the war from the Vietnamese perspective.  Graphic pictures of the effects of napalm, the My Lai Massacre and the utter destruction of war where everywhere.   We would not recommend this museum for children, but it is a humbling place for Americans to visit.  Humbling.  I really like the way Lonely Planet sums of the museum, as I am struggling for words to write, "There are few museums in the world that drive home so well the point that war is horribly brutal and that many of the victims are civilians.  Even those who supported the war would have a difficult time not being horrified by the photos of children affected by US bombing and napalming....The museum remains a very one-sided story and many of the labels are woefully propagandist."

Needless to say, after we visited the museum, we b-lined it for the largest drink we could find, and that we did.  We stumbled upon The Lion - a German Beer bar and Eric almost cried with excitement.  After a liter of beer, we were able to carry on with our day.
This pretty much sums it up!  Eric was in heaven!
Fresh cold beer to cap off our visit to the museum
Saigon has other guilty pleasures, such has the strongest coffee I have ever drank. Across the street from our hotel was a local coffee shop, which was packed at all times of the day, with locals getting their caffeine fix and business men sealing deals.  We stopped their each morning for our daily dose.  I love strong coffee, but this stuff only required one small glass and I needed ice to water it down.
Iced or hot?  Strong, medium or mild?  Milk? How do you like your coffee?
My high octane morning fix.  This stuff is no joke!
After a packed 3 days in bustling Saigon, we were ready to head toward the beach for some R & R and that we did.  We packed up our suitcases and headed to Hoi An...