We are rob & lauren: two professional photographers who love weddings and travel. This is where all of those things come
together for us. Within these pages we hope you discover and sense our deep love for the cultures that we encounter and
experience. Our biggest hope is that you come away from this site with a great understanding, respect and love for them and
their ways. Enjoy!
Puppies of Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam
January 27, 2008
One thing that we have thoroughly enjoyed about Vietnam is the abundance of puppies. And no, these aren't the type that get eaten. They are the pets of the people who live here. But the great thing is that these puppies are given completely free reign to run about as they see fit. It makes for a wonderful walk down the street visiting all the familiar puppies. It's really quite funny, since these puppies don't have any fancy Purina Chow, they don't get the same nutrients as Western puppies, and are all quite short! We haven't seen a "large" dog the whole time we've been here. What we have seen are what look to be normal sized dogs, with really tiny legs. They are beyond cute. So during our photo outing the other day I took it upon myself to take pictures of all the puppies I came across, and thought I'd share a few with you!
Hope you enjoy! We're off to Bangkok, Thailand tomorrow, and are looking forward to some warmer weather!
So it’s time we gave you a little taste of Hoi An: City of Dreams….Well, City of Dreams to those who dream about fashion. This town is THE place to go if you want some clothes tailored in Vietnam. You are more than welcome to saunter into a store with a copy of Vogue in your hands, and they will do all they can to make your fabric fantasies come to life. I’ll tell you right now, it’s been incredibly hard not to pick up 15 different coats, as every day I see another one that I love. I’ll be walking away with 3, the same as Rob. Add to that a few pairs of pants each, probably 10 tops for me, 8 for Rob, a suit for him, shoes tailored to our specific size…the list goes on, as do the Visa bills. But you can see that this place is heaven if you’re coming for clothes. And that’s why we came here: just for clothes. That’s all we knew about this little town. But I’ll tell you right now that we were incredibly surprised at what a picturesque and beautiful place this is. Yesterday we had a few hours to kill between appointments at different tailors, so we packed all of our camera gear into a couple bags, and took off to “shoot the hell out of this town” as Rob put it.
And it was such a fantastic (and extremely tiring) afternoon. This is what we came up with.
A shot, not of Hoi An, but cool all the same. This was the light switch in our compartment on the train we took here from Nha Trang. To this day we aren’t entirely sure what the button on the far right is for, and I’m not really wanting to find out….Ignorance is bliss in this situation, especially since we will be taking more trains!
And now for some from Hoi An. A very typical scene here is the young kids riding down the streets on their bikes. And they usually ride two to a bike, as you’ll see here!
One of the main streets here is Tran Phu. Look at how fantastic the post is that holds the sign. I wish things back home had even half that much character.
As we made our way to the river I saw this guy rowing his little boat along. I did practically yank the camera with our big zoom lens on it from Rob’s hands to get the shot, but in the end I don’t think he minded too much ☺
One of the most enchanting parts of Hoi An is the Old Town section of the city. We’ve spent most of our time here since our hotel is right beside it. It’s an area that is now a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is regulated in order to maintain and preserve the buildings. If you can block out the other tourists with cameras in hand, and the stalls selling Coca-Cola and cigarettes, and just get lost in the buildings around you, you can almost feel like you’ve been transported back in time. This Japanese covered bridge is one of the main attractions, and is certainly a very interesting site. If you saw the picture of the lantern from the last post, that was taken inside the bridge.
A stunning view across the river
Some gongs for sale
Really, am I crazy for wishing that Edmonton looked more like this place??? I certainly don’t think so, it’s just fantastic.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but here in Vietnam they stick little bundles of incense all over the place (in pop cans on the street, in tree branches, in cracks in the pavement) and it burns frequently throughout the day. It’s such a comforting and warm smell, and I just love walking past the little bunches.
A simple stroll down the street is sure to turn up some wonderful sights, including this little lily pad
And this gorgeous flower beside it
What a quiet street looks like in Old Town
Vespas all over the place. I desperately wish it was practical to have one back home…but I don’t see it doing so well competing with the huge trucks along the freeway at 80 km/h
Some boys just out for a ride
They young guy was doing some incredibly intricate carving at a shop.
Then we walked along the river to take a peek at the fishing boats
I just love all the colours of them
And now it’s time for you to meet Chompsky! One thing that I was doing as we walked was “collecting” photos of dogs (I’ll be posting that up soon!). We were walking past a square when I saw this ridiculously cute dog just standing there, so I stopped us and went over to get a shot. Little did I know that this would turn into a 20 minute stop-over as we played with him! Here he is playing around between my feet.
And a shot of Rob as he was trying to help Chompsky catch his tail
Lowepro Camera Bags: Puppy tested, puppy approved.
Don’t you just want to snuggle him all day??
As we were watching him a group of three young girls came up and started playing with him. I took some shots of them goofing around with Chompsky, and eventually they wanted to check the photos out.
Now, why is his name Chompsky? Because he’s a very young puppy, still teething, and really likes to chew on your hands, and maybe even your feet! He loved chasing after the girls feet as they danced around keeping away from him.
Even this old man was enjoying the scene as everyone played with the puppy. Don’t you just adore his expression? So happy and peaceful.
The girls playing, and Chompsky chomping
All in all it was such a great little experience playing around with the puppy, and we even went back today and hung out with him for a bit. But, like the careful travelers we are, once we left we made sure to wash off our hands, so don’t worry that we’re going to get sick.
Then as we continued our walk we came across this lovely little scene
And then walked past the tailor where we got the majority of our clothes made. We had to take a shot and post it up here so that anyone planning on making their way here after hearing us rave about the clothes would know where to go! There are two Thuong shops, and this one (#16) was our favorite. They were super nice, and always waved to us as we walked by, which was really cute. And the clothes they made for us turned out great, so check them out for sure.
And a couple more from the rest of our walk. Here’s a fruit stand. These are all along the road and it’s so great to see them walking around pushing them down the street!
Now with all those scooters we’ve been showing you, you must wonder where they get the gas from. This here is one of the more fancy gas stations. It’s really a cylinder of gas with a plastic tube to pour it out into the scooter. We’ve even seen plastic water bottles filled with gas that they just set out close to the road in case someone needs to ride up and fill up. Yes, there are the big Shell stations, but they are few and far between, so this is a fantastically smart way of solving that problem!
So I know that was a ton of pictures, but I’ll tell you right now that we could have put up so many more. This town is just brimming with character and charm, and we couldn’t help but be swept away by it all. I hope you enjoyed it. It’s sadly the last stop in our traveling in Vietnam, but I think it was the perfect way to end it all. We will be checking out some local temple ruins tomorrow, and doing a bit of a photo excursion (hopefully the weather will cooperate with us for that!) and then we’re heading to Thailand for a week and half. Vietnam was fantastic to us, and will certainly remain in our memories for a long time. I really intend to write up some reviews of all the towns we visited here, so that those who saw what we did, and think this might be a cool place to travel to will know what the deal is!
But for now we’re heading out for dinner so I’ll leave it here.
P.S. Did anyone catch the two semi-finals of the Australian Open???? We were completely in shock! Two huge upsets back-to-back, incredible! We’re rooting for Tsonga now, and I hope he gives a similar performance in the final!
So we know we haven't posted any photos in a long time. Bad bad us! But we finally got all of our tailoring finished yesterday and we're so glad to have it all finished. It was a ton of work! But we'll let you know all about that later today and just leave you with one teaser for now (our breakfast is about to come!)
One that Rob played a bunch with last night, and looks supremely cool:
Right now we're in Hoi An, which is a small town in central Vietnam. The main reason to come here is to get clothes tailored. There are about 500 tailors in this small town, honestly you can't look around you without seeing one! This is really why we decided to come to Vietnam, to get ourselves some sweet new threads, and so we've been really busy running around and getting a ton of clothes made! So not too much in the way of pictures right now, but what I've done is put together a quick little video that shows you what kind of gear we're using, and how we lug it around with us.
I also wanted to mention that we carry around 50GB of memory cards with us, as well as a little Wacom tablet, which makes editing our photos on the laptop waaaaaaay easier.
Our travel plans have changed a bit and we're planning to head to Thailand next week. After that, in the second week of February, we finally make our way to India, the place that this whole trip was planned around. And once we get there we will change gears and start to really focus on people photography, rather than having a bit of a holiday, which is what we're doing right now. I hope you all are really excited for that, because we certainly are!
Rob (who is quickly becoming addicted to tailored clothes....they just fit so well!)
P.S. I've been toying with the idea of putting up lens and camera data (exposure, aperture, etc.) info for all the pictures we put up here, but that will take a fair bit of work. Let me know in the comments section if there are some of you out there who think this would be usefull for them and then I'll do it up. And make sure to let me know if you are curious about any of the photos here, and the processing we do to them, and we'll do our best to explain!
So we're still nursing those sunburns, which are really quite painful. We had an easy morning and watched some of the Australian Open (tennis, for those not in the know). It seems whenever we travel there's a Grand Slam tournament on. When we traveled Europe we were able to catch Wimbledon. It's such a fantastic sport to watch. But I'm way off topic here :)
Anyway, after a morning in, we made our way to the train station to pick up some train tickets to Danang tomorrow. We managed that with relatively little trouble.
Not wanting to spend too much time out in the sun today, we thought we'd check out the mineral mud baths here in Nha Trang. It was really quite enjoyable, sitting in a big tub of mud, although getting into it was extremely painful with our poor burned legs.
After 20 minutes in the mud you did some sunbathing (don't worry, we stayed entirely in the shade), rinsed off all the mud, then soaked in a mineral bath for half an hour. It was a nice and relaxing afternoon, although I'm not sure if it didn't anything for our burns. That remains to be seen!
But we were definitely pretty sore and ready to just take it easy in our hotel room, get a bit of work done, watch some tennis, you know. I guess that peace and quiet we were looking for was not meant to be....
Yes, karaoke. Very very loud, and very very terrible karaoke. It was some restaurant a little ways away, so you can just imagine how loud that speaker was. I don't know what it is about blaring volume that makes people think they are fantastic singers. Anyway, this went on for a few hours as we attempted to ignore it and work, but eventually we gave up, plugged our noise isolating ear buds in and watched a movie.
I feel sorry for those in the restaurant who didn't have that option...
No? That's not what you thought of? Oh! Well then you're in for a surprise, because on the coast of Vietnam you will find a totally amazing tropical getaway. White sandy beaches, huge waves, coconut trees. The works.
And with that comes some pretty cool scuba diving and snorkeling in the South China Sea.
Yes! It's true!
Now Rob is a certified scuba diver, but I have asthma, which is pretty much a no-go when it comes to that. So we decided we'd go snorkeling. It was my first time, and I was completely blown away. Like, my mind was blown. I couldn't believe that just swimming along the surface I was going to see tons of fish and coral. It was amazing. And we got a really awesome video of it all, so here you go!
That sound you hear while we're underwater is the sound of the fishes eating up the coral. The visibility wasn't fantastic, since we're here right at the end of the rainy season, but as you can see we still saw a lot and were really happy about it.
And our souvenir? Some really really bad sunburns :( We're definitely in a bit of pain today, and slathering on the aloe and whatnot, and hopefully we'll recover soon. But of course, we still think it was totally worth it!
So this is pretty long overdue, but we wanted to film a short little clip to introduce you guys to the site, and what we're hoping to with all of this. I'll let the video do the talking!
So there you have it! The Wedding Travelers in a nutshell. Make sure to try and leave some comments on the videos, we're always so excited when we see a new comment! And as always, if you have any questions ask away and we'll do our best to answer!
And for the record, that's the South China Sea behind us. Killer.
And the way there is fraught with many perils. And is also stinky. Very stinky. But let’s start at the beginning shall we?
As you saw in our last post we spent one of our last days in Ho Chi Minh City at the Cu Chi tunnels. Here’s a video from that experience that you might enjoy.
And finally the time had come for us to say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City. On our last night in the city our friend Kevin and his dad drove to our hotel and picked us up on their scooters. They took us on a ride so we could get the experience of a scooter journey in HCMC. It was definitely a thrill, but strange things were going down that night. We saw a really, incredibly drunk pair of Vietnamese guys topple their scooter over, fall to the ground with no helmets on, then hop back up and drive off. And while we were enjoying some sugar cane juice with Kevin and Cherie we saw a street brawl between two other Vietnamese guys (I can only assume they were drunk, as that seems to be an important component of such an event). Weird, weird stuff. But at no point did we feel unsafe, so you don’t need to worry about this being a rough town! Here’s a little video Rob took as we were jetting along on our scooters.
And finally the event we had been waiting in Ho Chi Minh City for so long for….the arrival of our Indian visas! We made our way to the consulate early in the morning, had the customary wait that is required when you are doing anything official, and BAM! Two passports complete with visas in hand, and we were ready to hit the road.
And this is where things got interesting.
Days earlier we had found a transit company that offered buses to our next destination, Dalat. With the help of our translator, Kevin, we found out where to go and when to catch the bus. They even gave us a little pamphlet that showed us the times and location to get the bus. However, this pamphlet was entirely in Vietnamese. Not one word in English. This should have been our first clue….
But of course we went along our merry way, caught a taxi, and they dropped us off at this bus station. We were expecting to see a ton of huge tour buses, but in fact it was a small, little place, with rows of chairs, and no buses to be seen. That’s okay, thought we. We marched inside, and Rob set out to get us a couple of tickets. As I’m sitting with the bags I notice that it’s taking him an incredibly long time to just pick up a couple of tickets. I also look around and see only Vietnamese people. Not a single tourist in sight. Hmm….
Rob comes back and says that it seems like we’re on a bus at 2:00PM (it was around 12:00PM now and we were hoping to leave at 1:00PM) and it was a 16-seater bus (we were wanting a big 45-seater). But apparently the girls at the counter didn’t speak a lick of English and Rob had a tough time getting what we wanted across to them. He went back to try to figure it all out, and one of the staff members came up to me and basically made it clear that it was our turn to go. I was quite puzzled, since it was only around noon, and apparently we weren’t leaving until 2:00PM. I waved Rob back over, and we grabbed our bags and were loaded into a little van. I honestly had no clue whether this was to be our transport to Dalat. The seats were old and worn, and our driver swerved in and out of traffic like a slalom skier. Little did I know that after finding out how we were actually going to be traveling, I would have happily chosen the little van over it!
So we bump along in our transport, with no clue where we are off to. And when we finally got there, we really wish we hadn’t. There may as well have been sign that said “Welcome to the Urinal Depot”, because that’s what we’ll forever remember it as. It reeked. Badly. Like urine. Just in case you didn’t get that from the “Urinal” part.
Add to that the smell of about 100 buses coughing fumes, and you can see why we weren’t too pleased to be there. We get out of the van, grab our bags, and stand helplessly amidst the buses. Thankfully our driver sensed our confusion, and said a bunch of things in Vietnamese, then led us to the café.
In case you’ve never been to Vietnam, a café can very easily consist of some tiny plastic chairs (think of the ones designed as lawn chairs for children), tiny plastic tables, and some umbrellas. Out in the middle of the pavement.
He motions for us to sit down. I do so with little problem. Rob, who is very much not of normal Vietnamese stature, sits down in his chair, then laughs, and stands back up to demonstrate the fact that the chair sticks to his bottom, because it is so desperately small for him.
We whip out our books and begin to pass the time by reading. And also by inhaling the fumes of the running van a meter behind us. This is Ho Chi Minh City, and it is sweltering, so we weren’t too pleased to be blasted with hot, stinky air. We weren’t too pleased with anything at this point. But this is what traveling can be like, and we’ve had a very similar experience waiting for a ferry in Greece, so we just sit and read and hope that whenever we’re supposed to get on our bus someone will tell us.
Well, eventually someone finds us and motions for us to follow him. We go through the motions of putting our books away, getting our bags ready, stand up, and….Where did he go? We peer around, start to slowly walk through the vans, and generally look like some lost, baby deer. Then he suddenly appears again, and waves to us to follow him. So we start walking through the buses again, and have to take a little detour because the bag won’t fit between two of them. By the time we get out into an opening where we was standing but moments before, he has once again disappeared.
I’m starting to feel like Alice chasing the white rabbit.
We wander again, many Vietnamese men motion at varying buses and at us and seem to have very important things to tell us, but it’s all in Vietnamese, and our grasp of the language doesn’t extend beyond pho bo (beef soup) and sinh to (fruit shake). And they were using neither of those phrases, so we were out of luck.
We stand for a while, then suddenly he pops up out of nowhere and motions us towards a small little bus that here is known as a 16-seater.
Please note that this means 16 Vietnamese people, traveling in Vietnamese style (i.e. crammed in like sardines).
At least the sign on the front says Dalat. We’re getting somewhere.
We bring our bags around back to put them away. Two of them get in there alright, but our large camera bag doesn’t look like it is going to fit, and we’d rather not watch him slam the door on it, as we’re sure it would be accompanied by the crashing both of our cameras and our dreams, so Rob holds on to it. We walk around to the door, and it opens to reveal…
A damn tiny bus.
And luckily for us, our seats are in the very back, crammed with two other people in our row. Wait, make that three other people, because the woman was holding her young son on her lap. We literally barely even fit in our seats, and had three bags between the two of us to hold. The leg room was so scarce that neither of us could sit with our knees straight forward, as they would bump into the seat in front of us. And we needed to contort our limbs into pretzels in order to actually fit in some way that didn’t involve Rob’s elbow in my ribs, or my kneecap in his thigh.
I sat there and knew that this was going to be a very very long ride.
And it was. It was about seven hours to get to Dalat, including a pit stop where I had my first encounter with a squat toilet (not as fun as you’d think), and we watched kittens playing (way more fun than you’d think). We both attempted to sleep, though that definitely didn’t happen.
And we became intimately aware of the poor condition of the roads in Vietnam, as we bumped along, and upon many occasions became completely airborne, sometimes by about a foot.
We said a silent thank you to Steve Jobs, and those awesome folk at Apple for inventing the iPhone, as we spent the last two hours of the ride watching The Matrix, which helped time pass better than counting black shapes in the darkness. Did I mention that twilight here lasts about 30 seconds? One moment I’m reading my book, and by the time I’ve flipped the page it’s pitch black and I’m SOL.
As we got closer to the ETA that we calculated when we left HCMC (I’m in an acronym mood right now, it appears) the bus started pulling over, and people started getting out. At very very random places in the middle of seemingly nowhere, without saying a word to the driver. At least I don’t think they said anything…It was incredibly strange, and we were starting to wonder how we were to know that we were supposed to get off.
Well, the way to know when you’ve arrived at your final destination in Vietnam is precisely when the driver hops out and throws your stuff onto the street.
He jets off and leaves us there around 9:00PM in a bus station, which we desperately hope is in Dalat. The only other person we immediately see is a very intrepid motorcycle driver who wants to take us into town. This tiny man on his tiny bike wants to take me, Rob, and our 6 larges bags into town. We chuckle at his optimism and tell him “No, we need a taxi”. “No more taxi” he tells us. Did I mention it was raining?
So we start to walking towards a building with lights on, in hopes of figuring out what to do next when a little green van driving by stops, and some Vietnamese guys inside yell at us “Where are you going?”. “Hotel”, we reply. “Yes, get in”.
They may as well have said “Yes get in and I’ll tell you all about how you just won the lottery”, for as good as it sounded to us at the moment.
So we pile into the van, and pick a hotel from the Lonely Planet and say we want to go there. They convey this to the driver, and off we go. Before they get out they let us know that we don’t have to pay for this ride, it’s complimentary from our bus company. People here can be genuinely, incredibly nice, and we were very glad to have met some of them.
Then we met the other taxi driver.
After the local guys had piled out, and it was just the two of us foreigners left (read: easy marks) another taxi driver came up to the window and told us about a very nice hotel room for very cheap. “No thanks, we want to go here”.
”No, it’s closed”
“It’s not closed”
“Yes, it’s closed. I have a very nice room for very cheap.”
“No, we want to go here.”
“No, it’s not closed”
“You say it’s not closed. Okaaaayyyyyyyy” Like he thought we were crazy.
It wasn’t closed.
Remember that if you’re ever traveling. As I hear it, it can be pretty bad in India. Just stick to your guns, and if you get there and it really is closed, you can still find somewhere else.
So, it wasn’t closed. We were proven right. But it was, in fact, full for the night.
Did I mention it was raining?
And though that could have been a wee little disaster right there, luckily in Vietnam you can’t spit and miss a hotel (or however that saying is meant to go) so a two minute walk down the street brought us to a two star hotel (they were very proud of that fact) for $20/night that only smelled mildly of sewage, and so we took it.
And that was our journey to Dalat.
Since it was pitch black there when we arrived we had no idea what to expect. When we checked in to the hotel they asked if we wanted to partake in the breakfast buffet. “Sure!” we said. (Mistake).
The girl at the desk happily informs us that she can give us a wake-up call at 7:30AM so we can get breakfast. Our happy faces turn into sad faces. But we figured we’d wake up, sleepily walk downstairs, have breakfast and walk back upstairs back into bed.
So 7:30AM rolls around and we are woken up by knocking at the door. Apparently our line was busy so she came to the room (in all fairness, the staff there were super awesome, and totally helped us out a lot while we were there!). We trudge downstairs, expecting to see a restaurant somewhere full of people. We saw nothing of the sort. With confused looks, we go to her, and she tells us that the restaurant is actually 100m down the street. So we take off, walk quite a ways down the street, see absolutely nothing, so we walk back. One of the security guys springs to action when we say that we can’t find it, and says he’ll take us on his scooter. So he and another guy rev up their engines, and take us right back the way we just walked. Only difference, they went about 10m further around a corner, and there it was.
So we’re finally here, we figure we might as well enjoy it. We burst through the doors expecting to be welcomed with the smell of waffles and eggs. And instead the smells of noodles, fried rice, dumplings and “fish gruel” (as Rob describes it) meet our nostrils. Mmmm, breakfast of champions.
But we eat, get back to the hotel, and arrange to rent a scooter for the day. About 10 mintues later a very friendly guy who says he loves the snow but has never seen it (that’s why he loves it, he doesn’t know how freakin’ cold it is) shows up and gives us a scooter for the day.
Scooter rental: 100,000 Dong (around $6) Filling it up with gas: 50,000 Dong (around $3) Total freedom: Priceless
We found a map, brought along our handy Lonely Plant, and took off down the road. Some of our best memories of our trip to Europe involved jetting around the Greek Islands on a scooter, and we were very glad to be doing it again. And we sure got our monies worth with some breathtaking scenery. Let’s get to some visuals shall we?
Our first stop was a cable car that promised breathtaking views of the area. I think it came through.
The cable car took us to this little area with some pagodas and whatnot. We just wandered around, avoiding the legions of small schoolchildren who were visiting that day. One thing you don’t see at home, bamboo growing all over the place!
We followed a path that took us down to the water. The skies were just fantastic, sometimes a clear blue sky isn’t always the best.
The ubiquitous motorcycle, everywhere you go.
The steps leading back up
And after we made our way back across the cable car we stopped for a little snack. These have become our favorite treats, and it’s funny because we’ve actually had them back at home in Edmonton, from the local Asian grocery store. They are ice cream bars that taste just like honeydew melons. Rob bought two and had both of them finished before I had finished my one…. I have sensitive teeth….
The entrance to the cable car had some really interesting trees and Rob grabbed this awesome shot of one of them.
The view of the city from where we caught the cable car.
Then it was back on the scooter, a quick look at the map, and off we went again. This time we were heading a bit further out of town, but we were up for the adventure. The Lonely Planet had mentioned that you would be taking a dirt road. What they should have called it was “the crappiest road you’ve ever encountered”. There were two tiny paths on the very shoulders of the road where people tried to avoid all the bumps. Didn’t work that well. Every jolt sent a shockwave of pain into my brain. It definitely wasn’t too fun. But that’s the price you pay for independence ☺
And I would say the views we got were worth the pain. Here’s a little video of some of the scenery.
Finally we made our way to our destination: Tiger Falls. And because we made our own way out there, we were the only tourists in the whole place, so we were able to enjoy the scenery all alone, without any kids tearing around, or people screaming in 20 different languages, and the tour guide herding you back to the bus before you are ready. Just peace and quiet and a ton of water.
I sat and read the guidebook while Rob took some shots
He took some really really amazing shots.
Then when we were hiking back up we had the option to go left, the way we came, or right, a brand new way. Naturally, we went right. And came across the bridge that crossed over the falls. It certainly wasn’t like any bridge you’d encounter in Canada.
It was a bit scary
And we had to walk very cautiously
But it was definitely fun. Here’s a little video just to get you even more scared
And then it was back home. Here’s our trusty stallion, our scooter
And a sign that we saw as we were driving along. Apparently the Vietnamese don’t care for the sound of trumpets. Who knew?
And a final shot, as we were driving around looking for some place to eat dinner. One of the strange features of Dalat is a radio tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I had to get a shot of it, because who would really believe that this was here, in the middle of Vietnam? But it is, and it was really funny to drive through the streets with this huge thing looming in front of you.
And that about sums up Dalat! We left the next morning, bright and early. A mini-bus picked us up from our hotel at 7:15AM and we were just praying that we weren’t in for a repeat of our last journey. When we pulled up beside a big huge tour bus, and saw lots of white people standing around, we knew we were safe. 7 hours later, and we find ourselves in Nah Trang, a beach town. We’re in a room that costs $15/night, has WIFI, and we can see the ocean from our room.
And it smells nothing at all like sewage. We’re very happy.
First off, at this point in our trip, after having logged many hours of walking, we thought it was about time to give some credit to our shoes.
Yes, our shoes.
If you’ve ever traveled before, you know that it involves huge, huge amounts of walking. And if you have shoes on that aren’t comfortable, it can be misery. Add to that the fact that this place is hot, and you need something that isn’t going to make your feet super sweaty.
Well this time around we took a chance on an unknown shoe, and boy are we glad. Rob remarks about once a week that he could live in these shoes.
And I guess the makers would appreciate me saying that these are, in fact, not a shoe. They are designed to “mimick the natural function of the foot”. They like to call it “Barefoot Untechnology”. And I’ll tell you right now, these babies work. For the first couple of days we definitely felt some soreness in our feet. There were muscles there that we don’t usually use with our fancy schmancy hi-tech shoes. Now that we’ve gotten used to them we can wear them all day and barely feel a thing. It’s so amazing, we really had to recommend them to any other travelers. Here’s another shot more close up. They definitely look really cool, we think. And they don’t stick out the way bright white running shoes do…..Please don’t wear bright white running shoes! ☺
So another cool thing we did was check out a lacquerware factory. Lacquerware is a big thing here in Vietnam, and you can see it being sold all over the place. It was really amazing to see what actually goes into making it. This is where they apply the lacquer and sand things down. This guy was just working away as we walked through.
A close up of him sanding. The white parts of the panel are made out of eggshells that are broken into very small pieces.
This woman was working on putting the eggshells on. They use goose eggs instead of chicken, as they are stronger. Bet you didn’t know that!
And this guy was painting designs on. They really have incredible skill, and the painting they do is so intricate.
Now here’s a common site in Vietnam. Iced coffee! They make it with very strong coffee, a ton of ice, and condensed milk. Think about that for a moment. Amazing. To tell you the truth it takes like a Tim Horton’s Iced Cappuccino (Iced Capp, as we Canucks like to say), but more flavourful, and less simulated.
Those two were actually both Rob’s. He tends to drink one in 30 seconds, so he always orders two. The men here will nurse one of these for 4 hours as they sit and watch traffic go by. Rob has a long way to go before he manages that!
Now one of the really nice things about this past week here in Ho Chi Minh city is that a couple of our friends from Edmonton have been here. Actually, let’s call them our “flients”. That’s a term I concocted to describe clients of ours who have become our friends. So Kevin and Cherie are flients of ours. And it just so happened that they were planning to be in Vietnam the same time we were. So we’ve been hanging out with them and having a ton of fun. The other night we went out for dinner and found this insanely cool place. It had tons of tables with grills for the meat, but it was all open air with tons of lights and lanterns and huge trees. The ambience was just amazing. The food was pretty tasy too.
Those crazy cool flients of ours, Kevin and Cherie. Trust me, you will be seeing a LOT more of them very soon ☺
Now, I know we haven’t been posting a lot these last few days, and for that we definitely apologize! I’ve actually had a bit of the stomach flu and have spent a ton of time trying to recover in the hotel room. So we haven’t been out too much. Now if you’re like me, when you’re stomach isn’t feel too hot you want some familiar food. So we went out in search of some pasta. And did we ever find it. This is what I got for dinner, served in a clay pot red hot from the oven. It was fantastic, and I was so happy to have something familiar in my tummy!
Man, this post is just loaded. Yesterday we ventured out to the Cu Chi tunnels. This was an elaborate network of tunnels dug by the Viet Cong in the American war. Here’s one of the guides showing us a cross-section of the tunnels. They were three levels deep, and had kitchens, living rooms, and escape routes. They even created a system to let the smoke from the cooking escape in a manner that kept it small so that the enemy wouldn’t notice it. Very impressive.
They have widened the tunnels so that the tourists could fit through them. But they have one that shows the original size of the openings. There was no way Rob would fit, but I managed to squeeze in there.
It sure was narrow though!
And last night we made our way to the post office to send some of our gifts back home. That was a crazy adventure in of itself, which I will write about later, but on the way out we decided the play a bit. Here’s a shot of the impressive post office of Ho Chi Minh City, and we tried to write “Vietnam” over top of it. Hard to do, and we didn’t do the greatest, but it was still neat looking!
And one last shot. A wide view of the street below our room at night time.
Well all, that’s it for now! We’re hopefully leaving tomorrow to Dalat, and then things will really pick up! But we still have some cool stuff up our sleeves from HCMC, so stay tuned.
Well, well, well here we are! Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Formerly known as Saigon. And honestly an insanely cool place to go. Like I mentioned before, neither of us really knew what to expect from Vietnam, but I’ve gotta say that I’m so glad we made our way here! Within moments of driving through the streets on our way to the hotel we got a sense of the charm and character of this place. The photos will really tell you more than I can with words, so lets get started!
Our airplane from Singapore to Vietnam.
A shot from the balcony in our hotel room of the typical street scene
Many of the women here actually wear the conical hats that you see in movies. It adds such a dimension of authenticity, it’s fantastic. They all ride around carrying whatever it is they sell. I believe this woman was selling strawberries.
The street that our hotel is on. Sure it looks crowded and crazy, but it’s so simple and real at the same time.
So when I ordered a coconut juice at a local café I definitely wasn’t expecting this! To be honest I wasn’t a huge fan, but it sure looked cool.
There are street side markets all over the place, and our hotel room is a short walk to Ben Thanh, one of the big ones. Here are some of the fruits they are selling. I really don’t know what they are! But they look interesting ☺
The Ben Thanh market caters not only to tourists, but also the locals to come here to buy their meat and produce. We were quite shocked to find that all of this seafood is actually still alive!
The market is crammed with hundreds of booths selling everything from shoes, to handbags, souvenirs, dried shrimp, coffee, tea…you name it! Most of the booths look like this, completely packed!
We’ve grabbed a couple meals at the market. This fried rice surely had some sort of addictive substance in it, because there was just no way to stop eating it.
And of course when in Vietnam you have to have a bowl of pho. It’s pretty much the staple here, and is eaten at any time of day. It’s a simple soup, with rice noodles, onions, and meat. But it’s just incredibly good, and we enjoy it immensely.
Here’s Rob getting right into it!
A shot from our seats where we were eating. This was all the meat for the dishes that they were preparing.
And a very typical street scene. The women carry so much on their shoulders, I can’t even believe it. And they always, always do it with a smile.
A shot from our walk home. The walls here all have the most incredible texture and character to them, Rob is loving getting shots of it all.
And this is what the roads look like. As you saw in the videos below, crossing the street is a bit of a gongshow. There are an insane number of scooters here, like they comprise 90% of the vehicles on the road. And from the outside the traffic looks like complete chaos. But somehow they manage to get by with out ever colliding. Honestly, there have been times when we were in a cab where we simply couldn’t believe that we would get through it all, but somehow the scooters magically part and you just sneak on through. It’s beyond impressive. If only Edmonton drivers were this good ;)
All the drivers on their scooters wear face masks because the pollution here is so bad. We literally have not seen the sun yet!
At all the intersections the power lines look like this. It’s beyond nuts! Our power was out yesterday, and I think they just routinely shut down different parts of the city. All the restaurants and shops had generators out on the sidewalk so that they could keep business going.
So as you can see this place is really incredible. There’s such a different feel to it than Singapore. Yes, here you are constantly berated with calls of “What you looking for, madame?” and “Let me help you, madame!”. I definitely get it worse since I’m so obviously white, and Rob’s just an enigma to everyone. I think people who have trouble with personal space might have a hard time here, as I’ve been gently grabbed on the shoulder quite a few times by over-eager shop keepers, but I’ve learned to just keep going, and stay chilled.
Same thing with the street crossing. It may have looked incredibly scary on the video, but after doing it once you really get the hang of it.
For any of you planning on visiting Ho Chi Minh City in the future, and are worried about the crossings, I’ll give you the scoop. All you need to do is understand how it works, and it’s easy as pie.
First, you check the road, and which way the traffic is flowing, and at what point it changes direction (for when you are crossing traffic going in both ways) so you know when to switch and start looking the other way. Do not step out if a bus is just about to come your way. They have the rule of the road, and don’t really stop for anyone. You stop for them.
Then you slowly step out into the road. Yes, there will be scooters careening at you from every which way. But the key to is to walk slowly. That way they know where you are going, so they can swerve around. Don’t start to run, that would pretty much be the worst thing you could do! Just walk nice and slow, small steps, and don’t be afraid to just stop and wait for cars or buses to go by.
It’s quite the experience, and I know things are similar in Dehli, so I’m glad we’ve earned our wings with street crossings!
So that’s the scoop so far. We’ll be posting again soon with something different, so stay tuned!
P.S. Just a couple of house-keeping things! We just wanted to let everyone know that they can feel free to post about us on their own blogs, and grab a few pictures (keeping the logo on of course!). We think it’s so awesome that people are spreading the word about what we’re doing! Just make sure you drop us the link so we can check it out! And HUGE thanks to all that have done so so far, we totally love you guys!
And also, sometimes when we’re working on pictures or surfing the net we’ll have our Skype open. You can feel free to add us and chat with us if you wish! Our username is “robnlauren” so say hi!
Since we've been here a couple days now and haven't shown you anything, we thought we'd give you a little teaser. There's more to come later!
At the end of that second video you can hear Rob saying "I thought he was going to charge me 600,000 Dong for that..."
The currency here in Vietnam is the Dong, and 15,000 is roughly $1 Canadian. Rob was talking about some sunglasses that he bought, and how he thought the guy was going to make some ridiculously high offer!
But we'll tell you more about our adventures later. We had a very busy morning (with tons of photos taken) and we need a nap!
So finally the time had come and we were about to leave Singapore. We were here for only a few days, as this was really only a stop over before we made our way to Vietnam. We’re hitting Singapore up again for a few days on our way home, and at that time I’ll do up a little review of it as a travel destination. But in 100 words or less, Singapore is a great place to start your trip. It is a very gentle introduction to Asia, if you’ve never been before. In fact, let’s call it Asia 101. Safe, clean, bright, fairly modern. A good way to prepare for Vietnam and India!
On our last day we decided to head down to the waterfront area to take some shots. We found ourselves at the Fountain of Wealth, the largest fountain in the world (so they claim). But it looked pretty large to me. There are times throughout the day when they turn off the main fountain so that people can walk out to the little center fountain, wish for something, and walk around three times. I think it’s meant to bring you wealth. We didn’t go out there, as we have all the wealth we need. We are artists after all ☺
We grabbed a quick bite near the fountain. Now I’ll tell you that if you’re a food lover, you’re going to get extremely jealous throughout this trip. So far we’ve had some of the best food of our lives, and it’s only been a few days! We had some dumplings:
A crazy tasty bulgogi beef soup with ramen noodles
And here’s a shot of Rob digging in to some spicy chicken. To die for. Oh, and for anyone thinking of visiting Asia, make sure you’ve learned how to use chopsticks before you come, because many times there isn’t a fork to be seen. I absolutely love using chopsticks, and use them all the time at home, so I came prepared. But I can imagine how tough it would be for someone who never has used them!
Then we just randomly wandered around. Rob grabbed this neat shot of the staircase
This is a shot of the Esplanade (or some like to call it the “big durian”…I’ll explain what a "durian" is later in this post). It’s a performing arts center, and we were really excited to see an ad for Broken Social Scene, one of the absolute best Canadian bands at the moment!
Then of course we had to visit the famous Merlion statue, the symbol of Singapore. There was a small version that Rob named Jorooter.
And the huge one that I named Mermy
The clouds were so amazing, and added such interest to our shots! But yes, we did get rained on, again!
We’re always looking for cool patterns, light, and texture
Here’s a shot of the sign for Merlion park, just in case you thought we made that name up
Rob spotted some amazingly cool trees as we were walking around
This one will make an awesome desktop background, I’ll have to size it up for that!
What we’re going to try to do is a post about the food for every location we were in. Singapore had some of the strangest foods I’ve ever seen…..and smelled…..there were definitely times when I had to promptly do a 180 and walk right back out of a market because I really couldn’t handle the smell! Stuff like fish head soup in a clay pot….tripe and intestine soup….ugh! I definitely was not that adventurous! That’s not to say that there wasn’t good food, but our appetites definitely ran far away from us a couple times when we found one of those smells. This is a quick shot from a night market we wandered through.
And speaking of smells, Singapore is well known for the durian fruit. This is a moment when I wish someone had invented a way to transmit smells over the internet, because this is one that needs to be experienced, not described. Suffice it to say that there are signs on all of the public transport that explicitly say “NO DURIANS”. That’s how pungent they are…they are banned from confined spaces!
Now I know you are all so curious as to what they smell like! I’ve seen them before at Superstore back home in Canada, or any local Chinese market. If you see one, definitely go up and give it a good smell. You certainly won’t forget it! When Rob’s grandparents stayed with us, they would buy durian (they are from Singapore actually!) and the whole entire house would just be filled with that smell…those were good times ☺
This guy was cutting up the durians for people to eat on the street. I did not try it, since I don’t know if I could handle being around the smell for that long. Plus the insides sort of looked like little brains! Rob says the texture is like custard….Perhaps we’ll try it some time on our travels and report the experience back to you ☺
Well, that was about all from our time in Singapore. Didn’t buy much, just walked around and got used to traveling again! It’s been a very long time, and life is so much different when traveling. At home we’d go to bed around 2 AM and wake up around 10 or 11. Here we’re so tired we’re in bed by 10PM and actually woke up today at 7! We take life slow, sit down and just watch people go by and just enjoy taking it easy. I think these 3 months are going to be really fun. We’re so glad so many of you are following along! Make sure to leave a comment if you have a question you’d like us to answer!
(P.S. Sorry for the delay in posting this! We're actually in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam right now and the internet in our hotel was down yesterday. But look for a couple awesome posts about this place in the next couple of days. We also did an amazing shoot today, and can't wait to share it! Cheers!)
Right now we're at the Changi Airport in Singpore waiting to board our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! Honestly we have NO idea what to expect from Vietnam, but we're incredibly excited.
It will probably be a couple days until we get a post up about our first thoughts of Vietnam, and our last day in Singapore, since I'm not sure how easy it will be to find Internet in HCMC. But keep the comments coming, we really love to read them!
Yesterday we thought it might be a fantastic idea to make our way to the Singapore Zoo….before I go much further into that I’ll show you a video we made.
Yep, it rained. Nay, it poured. Leopards and hyenas. The nice thing about being nearly on the equator though is that even a torrential downpour still is warm. And since we’re cheap cheap travelers, there was no way we weren’t going to get our money’s worth! So on we ventured, armed with our garbage bag covers for our gear. And I’ll tell you right now it was such a fun time. Except for one thing…
We sort of had a money crisis for an hour.
One travel tip I’ll give you is to make sure you know your credit card pin number BEFORE you get to the other side of the world. Yes, with only 8 Sing Dollars in our pocket, we walzed up to the ATM, and all of a sudden there was total silence as Rob said
“Um, I think I forgot the PIN number”.
Cut to us, sitting at a little table, with the rain pouring all around on our cell phone with VISA (I really, really don’t want to know how much that call is going to cost us…). And you know what? They clearly didn’t think it was that much of an emergency that we were sitting in a foreign country with absolutely no way to get any money. The only solution they could give us was that they would send a new PIN number to our home address in 5 – 10 business days, or we could find a Western Union in Singapore (um….where????), and they would give us some emergency money. Awesome! Thanks so much for all your assistance!
Those 8 dollars were just mocking us at this point.
So Rob stands up and says he’s going to go try his old Mastercard. He literally has not used the PIN number on this card for three years, back when we went to Europe.
He tells me that as he stood there in the line, he focused all his energy on visualizing that piece of paper that comes in the mail that tells you your PIN number. I’m sure he channeled every bit of luck that ever was wished to us, because as he stepped up to the machine and pressed 4 seemingly random numbers, BAM! Instant money. I still can’t even believe that the guy who can’t remember what I told him 5 minutes ago could pull that little bit of info out of the deep recesses of him mind, but am I ever glad he did.
But anyway, you’re here to see some pictures of the zoo! So after we had some money in our hands, we looked out at the rain and said “What should we do?”. We decided to wait 20 minutes for the rain to slow. And right at the end of that it seemed to have almost stopped, so off we skipped into the gates of the Singapore Zoo. Moments after entering, Rob was put straight to work.
A photographer never rests.
Then we ran along looking for the tigers. We spotted this sign, and off we went.
Yes! Rare white tigers! So incredible. Honestly, seeing these things was worth the full price of admission. And at this point the rain was pretty light, so we were really pumped.
After the tigers everything else was just bonus. We saw pygmy hippos
Some very wet kangaroos. By this point the rain had definitely started up again, and all the animals were looking a bit damp.
The baboons were pretty cool. But by now it was a torrential downpour. I took this shot just a few minutes before we shot that little video you saw.
So we waited it out for a while, and then said “Screw it” and just kept walking. We saw some rhinos
And were really pumped to see some giraffes.
The tongues on these guys are crazy. They are very agile, and are used pretty much like a hand to grasp leaves.
And we walked into a little enclosure where these tiny little things were running around free. They literally would come within a foot of you to check you out. They were so curious.
I am very glad these ones weren’t running around free. This is a cottonmouth snake.
Rob really likes the lighting and texture on this one.
Even though we were thoroughly drenched we still had so much fun.
We also checked out the night safari, where you can go and check our animals while they are awake at night. We hopped on the little tram and rode through the park in the pitch black. It was really neat, but we don’t have much to show for it, since it was, well, dark. I was able to grab this shot of the flamingoes
So that was our day! We made our way home and promptly passed out on our bed. But all in all it was a fantastic time, rain and all.
Hello everyone! We’re writing to you from hot hot Singapore. As you saw from the last post, we left a very cold and snowy climate. Here it’s about 30 degrees, with about 90 – 100 % humidity. It’s been a very huge change, that’s for sure! All of the locals are wearing jeans and some of them are even wearing long sleeved shirts. We’re dying of heat in our tank tops. But I think we’ll get used to it…hopefully! Luckily our hotel room has Air Con, so we’re able to adjust slowly.
Now to get to Singapore from Edmonton we did about 24 hours of flying time, between three flights. It was certainly a very long trip, but I guess one has to be grateful for that. If it was easy to get to this side of the world, everyone would be here, and it would become a tourist trap. At the moment it’s very strange to be such a hugely visible minority. White people are rare, that’s for sure! But it’s not too bad, we’re used to being some of the only white people at the weddings we shoot, so it’s not a huge shock.
I’ll share a few pictures we’ve taken so far with you. Here’s a shot of our plane that took us to Singapore…
Haha, that’d be terrifying!! No, this is the plane that took us from Edmonton to Calgary. Thankfully that was only a 50 minute flight, because this thing was loud and bumpy. The landing was definitely anything but smooth.
From Calgary we flew to LAX. Our flight was a bit late getting there, but we didn’t think it was such a big deal. As we stepped out into the airport we asked the airline representative where to go to connect to our flight to Singapore. As we were standing with her, another couple stepped up saying they were going to Singapore as well. The lady gave us the most ridiculous instructions (go straight, then go down one flight, follow the flow of traffic, and then go left). Um…..this airport is huge! Those directions certainly didn’t help us, but at the time we thought it must be pretty easy. Well, the other couple takes off at a sprint. We stood there, a bit confused. Did they think this was the amazing race? Our flight wasn’t leaving for an hour, we thought we were totally fine.
Coming from the Edmonton International Airport, where there were hardly any people at all, into LAX which was a zoo was crazy. We were walking through this huge place, and were thoroughly lost. We ended up having to ask about 3 more staff where on earth we were going. And I’ll tell you right now the directions weren’t so great from any of them. But we did finally make our way to the Singapore Airlines check-in. And there were NO other passengers there. Weird, thought us. Well the flight attendants who checked us in seemed to feel like the situation was pretty urgent, so they rushed us to the express lane for security. At this point we were certainly getting a bit worried, since this “express” lane moved about as slow as molasses on a winter day in Edmonton. We got through security, grabbed our ridiculously heavy camera bags, and checked out which gate we had to get to.
It just wouldn’t be traveling if it that gate wasn’t as far away as Siberia.
But as you may have guessed, we did make it to the gate just in time to queue for boarding and all was fine.
Take off. 4 movies, many naps, 3 crazy delicious meals, 1 refuel in Taipei, and finally we got to Singapore.
We’ve taken things pretty slow here so far, but today we’re planning on hitting up the zoo which should make for some really cool pictures! I’ll show you a few that we took so far. Nothing too intense, since we were letting ourselves slowly get into the groove, but I hope you guys enjoy them anyway!
A quick shot from the airport in Taipei, Taiwan. I loved the fact that there was a Beef Noodle stand. I love noodles...
Rob strolling through the Taipei airport. Note the casual smile? That is because we weren't sprinting to try to catch our plane! He certainly did not look this relaxed in LAX.
Don't you just love seeing how different things can be around the world? I got so excited to see this pop machine with tons of drinks I had never heard of!
A shopping tower here in Singapore, close to our hotel. We like to think it is "our" tower...Simpson Lim....Sim Lim...
Last night we made our way to Orchard Road, which is the big shopping area in Singapore. If you've ever been to Paris, this place really reminded me of the Champs Elysee, but bigger.....This is a shot of one of the big malls. I think this one had a Tiffany's, a Cartier, a Bvlgari, a Hermes...and those were just the ones we recognized!
And to round it all out here’s a nice little video to show you the crazy, opulent life of a world traveler. Try not to weep from jealousy, though I know it will be hard ;)