Vienna waits for you

Listened to Billy Joel’s song with that title. Turned out to be a great week in this beautiful City. I started out thinking the Palace Hostel located outside of the city up on a hill was a big mistake. Turned out to be a great place to stay to really enjoy Vienna.
image

You can see the whole city from the hostel. Each day I take a bus down the hill to the subway station and go visit the tourist sites. When I get to Outaking subway station I usually got a slice of Pizza and a glass of white wine. A Kurd family runs the place. My last time there I was surprised when Mama gave me my pizza on a nice plate.
image

Traveling is full of these little surprises. I left Vienna with some new friends…like Kyle from Alberta, Canada. He got me to walk long ways and play miniature golf at the Palace Hostel.

image

Kyle beating me..

I took a train to Prague, Czech Republic. This is much more compact then Vienna and funkier.

My hostel is near the Charles Bridge. I am walking again and trying to take it easy. I did find the Opera House and got to see Pucini’s Madame Butterfly. It was so excellent. The story is set in Nagasaki and I got to see the area where the story took place. The orchestra was Amazing!!!!

image

Prague


I bought a bus ticket to Frankfort and will spend 2 nights there before I fly home.

Will write more about my time in Prague next time.
Happy my trip is ending.

Advertisements

Vienna time

Really felt bad about my hostel out of the city…but I got my Existentialism going and started to make the best of it. This place is so sterile compared to Asia, Serbia and Hungary.

And so damn clean. I finally got my clothes washed at the hostel. Not making many friends here but I have wifi and a sim card. I use my phone to get around Vienna.

image

Rip Van Winkel


I ran into this guy in the intercity next to St. Ruprech Church. He looks like he is enjoying life.

I visited the Parliament which resembles our Capitol without the dome.
image

I walked down to the Danube canal and sat in the sun with a glass of white wine…just about the most relaxed I have been in a long time. This is a big city and most stores close by 7 pm. My German is not so good but danke and bitte works for me. I am hoping to make some friends at the hostel…we shall see. Going to see Prague next Tuesday. Will have to figure out bus or train… I booked a hostel there and everyone tells me that the place is fantastic. Things are expensive here but I am staying in my budget.

A young Canadian is in my room and we took a long walk down the hill and through the city to St. Stephen Church. This is the epicenter of Vienna tourism. The walk was over 5 miles each way. We came across many churches, the Emperor’s residence and many small parks. This place is so damn clean….so different than my travels in Asia.

image

View from Palace Hostel

We went in most of the churches. Most were ancient and dark. I found my old home in one of the churches. …

image

Geodesic Dome

image

Hungary to Austria

My week in Budapest was excellent.  I walked all over the place….ate some great food and the wine is cheap and good. I took plenty of pictures. My hostel was a real one. Meet some new friends from around the world.

My favorite place to have dinner was at an outdoor tourist place….it had tourist things to buy and food called Langos. .a big piece of cooked dough filled with veggies and cheese…

image

Langos

I could buy a glass or two of wine and listen to 2 guys playing guitars. They were great.

image

Great music


My last night in Budapest I went to the National Opera to see Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. I had a good seat and enjoyed the music and the singing.
image

Budapest Opera

I wanted to stay but kept with my schedule. I walked to the train station and went to Vienna. My hostel is out of town so I had to take the U3 Subway to the end and a bus up to the Palace Hostel. The hostel is on the grounds of the Schlossherberge Palace, the former housing for the Vienna Boys Choir. The view of Vienna is amazing.

So this hpstel is out of the City so I had to figure out the bus, tram and subway system. I got to St. Stephens Church which was full of tourists.

image

St. Stehens

I got on a tram and ended up at the Belvedere Palace. This was jusr luck but I ended up at a great place on my first day. Sometimes when I have no plan good things happen.

image

Belvedere Palace

image

Belvedere Palace


I the way to find a way back to my hostel I ran into the Russian Orthodox Church.
image

Nice gold domes

So I will be here for a week, hope to see another opera. Vienna is beautiful but too big….

Budapest

Ok what do you think of when you hear the word HUNGARY? My first thought is goulash, then Zsa Zsa Gabor, then Gypsies. I do not eat meat so goulash is out…Zsa Zsa is still alive, in her 90s with 9 husbands…not too many Gypsies here but Budapest is really amazing… here is the Grand Market..

image

There are so many beautiful buildings and bridges here. My hostel is downtown and the neighborhood is beautiful.

I had a great hostel in Belgrade and stayed for a week. Igor, the day manager of Manga Hostel greeted me with a hug. Alex drove me from Smerdevo right to the hostel. I was still in shock coming from Thailand to Serbia. It was so nice to get to a real hostel.

image

Igor the Great

I got a long van ride to Budapest, this was Easter weekend so the border took a long time to get through.

I am at another great hostel. Suite Hostel is in an old building on the 4th floor. But it has a real old fashion elevator…scarry but it works.
image

Looks like the elevator in Rocky Horror Picture Show….

It is raining again so I am walking around with an umbrella taking pictures. Plenty of nice buildings here.

image

A place to eat


image

National Museum


image

Communist Ruin Bar

Serbia…..class

My flights from Bangkok to Doha, to Ankara to Belgrade were okay and there was Marko, his wife and sister, both Maria, waiting for me at the N.Tesla Airport. Passport and Customs could not have been easier.

They drove me to Smederevo and I went to visit Valentina and Alex’s new baby boy. They are very happy new parents. Marko and Maria have a daughter who is now a year old. Ivana visited us and I have not seen her since 2008 in Wellfleet. Both ladies still have that Eastern Europe beauty and could not have been nicer to me.

image

The food here is fantastic and a nice change from my Asian diet. They specialize in Burek which flaky dough with cheese in it. The turkish coffee here is strong. I had home cooking thanks to Valentina and Marko’s family. So lucky to have good friends around this world.

image

Good Serbian Food

I got messages from Macedonia, Crotia, Slovenia and England….. my friends asking me to stop bye. But Belgrade, Hungary Vienna, the Czech Republic and Germany were on my list this time. My friend Petar was in Belgrade to apply for a USA Visa. So I said goodbye to my Smeredevo friends and Alex drove me there to a hostel near St. Marko’s Church.

image

St. Markos Church


I will be off to Novi Sad in a few days. And then to Budapest in Hungary.

Here is a Yugo, there are many left here.

image

Yugo

Time for Europe

image

Chiang Mai is still an excellent place to spend a month. The first few days I kept to myself and wondered why I came back for the forth time. I was just walking the city to visit many temples and eating the great Thai food. My favorite place to eat is the Teatree, which is right across from the fruit and vegetable market. You can find it easily, it is the one with all the people waiting to get a fruit drink out in front and a table inside.
image

There has been no rain here, the air is smoggy due to the agricultural burning, and it has been hot. It gets up to 40º in the afternoon. My room has a fan and gets some breeze through the windows. I did manage to make a few friends and started to socialize.

One of the first friends I made was Griff.
image

She has spent 3 months here in Chiang Mai and after staying at 3 other hotels/hostels was now staying at my hotel.

Griff is from northern Wales and an amazing life force at 96 years old. She is here on her own and is a well seasoned traveler. We started to have our breakfasts together at the UN Irish Pub. The pub is a couple blocks away from our hotel but worth the extra distance. They make their own bread there.

My role was to make sure no motorbike or taxi ran over Griff on our way to and from the Pub. She can really move when she has room. I told her to slow down a couple of times. The pub is on a busy street so I hold her hand as we cross the road.
image
Let me describe the way she orders her breakfast…(spoken in a crisp Welsh miltary-precise manner) I do not need the menu… I want tea with ‘boiling’ water…2 hard boiled eggs…peeled and do not cook them as long as yesterday….1 piece of whole wheat bread lightly toasted, some butter and some honey and no jelly…it really is not jelly nor jam.
The waitress is use to the breakfast orders and they all love her. We usually arrived at the pub’s courtyard at 8:50 am. Our talks go on and on, most of the time past noon and a couple of times past 1 pm. We eventually had German and UK people showing up just to be in her presence.

Our talks were amazing…she has been everywhere. She told me about the military. She worked at a radar base in Belgium when the country was still occupied. She was stationed in Ghana and she went out looking for snakes and birds. She was an excellent horse women. She later was stationed in the UK Sector of post war Germany.

At first she told me the internet was stupid but I think I changed her mind. She asked me to find a 1944 BBC production of Under Milkwood as narrated by Richard Burton. This was written by a famous Welsh man. Dylan Thomas. I found the program on Youtube and we listened to most of it at the Wat Chiang Man Temple. She did not like that Youtube only gave you 10 minute bits at a time. I have a couple hours of audio recording of her and eventually will post it.

She told me about an Australian poem she memorized when she was 6. And now 90 years later she still knows the whole thing. Bannerman of the Dandennong is a long poem and she can still recite it. I found it on the web and read it as she recited it.

image

Griff with her German admirers


We both left from Bangkok on the same day for Europe.

Siam times 4

So an old Lufthansa 747 flight from Saigon to Bangkok, thinking about the missing Malaysian plane…. nice to be on a real airline for a change…got a half veg sandwich, a glass of white wine and a cup of coffee. These are little things but many asian airlines charge for everything,  even a sip of water.

Took the train to my hostel and it was a little depressing to be back at a hostel. Here is your blanket, take your shoes off and lug your luggage up 4 flights of stairs.

I have 3 days to handle Bangkok. First off to the electronic mall to get a sim card so I always have web access. I was surprised to find a new Samsung Note smartphone for less than $200. These cost alot more at home…maybe get one if I have an money left when I get back to Bangkok.

One day I walked around the Bangkok red light district during the day. Patpong is harmless looking in the daytime. I came across the USA Embassy and the ambassadors residence, an opulent display of colonial extravagant wealth. I took this picture at the Dutch Ambassadors residence.

image

Fake Cows

My bags are stuffed with too many clothes, so I really could not buy anything. Gonna need to give some of my stuff away, or get bigger baggage. I did most of the tourist stuff in this city so I was not really interested in doing it again. I was surprised to see plenty of military checkpoints at major intersections. I never take military pictures, their guns are big and they are super sensitive about pixs. Just keep my head down and walk past them without eye contact.

I got a tuk-tuk ride to the central train station and took an overnight train to Chaing Mai. Can not say I was as excited to do this like I was the first time.

A $1.40 red truck ride to the White House Hotel. It was so nice to see my old friend BJ again. He has been busy…they have had son number 2. Two beautiful babies with beautiful Thai eyes.

image

BP with son #2


I am keeping busy with walking the old city. It is hot now, over 90º in the afternoon. There is also smoke from agricultural burns. I am still happy to be here. I have made some new friends here. We all went out for a Korean BBQ and my fish and squid were cooked for me at our table. I have also gone clubbing… there are many bars with live music and it is excellent.

I am hanging out during the afternoon in my hotel room, I just have a fan, but the air comes through 2 windows and it is okay. My room is only $10/night. BJ got better wifi here so I am emjoying life without cable. I have been downloading House of Cards and enjoying this show very much.

I have had some nice fruit salads at the market. This one is so good, so much better than the syrupy fruit salad from a can.

image

Can you ID these fruits?


My days here are slow but happy… here is one of the many temples here in Chaing Mae.
image

Karma is Real

Goodbye HCMC

30 days went fast…. I am leaving with a bit of sadness.  Everyday here in this great city was excellent. Hot and no rain. I met so many people here and look forward to returning next year.

image

Probably time to leave


One night we visited my friend John from Seattle. He is working here in the IT field. He just moved into a new highrise which is beautiful.
image

John's new home


image

Home sweet home with a great view


On my last night in Saigon Lee took me for a grand tour of the city. First we had clams and crab on the street. Then we went to the river and got a ride on a tourist junk. A great night watching the city’s skyline.
image

Times Square

The boat had some traditional music and dancers. The music was excellent
image

The next stop was on top of a 27 story building. We just went up to the rooftop bar, looked out at the city and left without buying a drink.

image

Saigon on a Monday night

Then off to Catwalk, a karaoke bar in the best hotel in the city. We sang a couple of songs and then went up to one of my favorite places. A little street place with soy yogurt. We have had yogurt there many times. The lady who runs it always has a nice smile for me.

image

Yogurt Lady

So back to the Greensuites Hotel for my last night. I have slept so good here and will miss my morning breakfasts up on the roof.

Tonight I fly to Bangkok, after a few nights there I will take an overnight train to Chiang Mai. Home in 2 months. It seems my round the world trips go so fast. I know how lucky I am to live this life.

My thanks to Lee and Cuong for your hospitality and all those rides through Saigon traffic.

Living in Saigon

Life is good!!!!

My days are easy, a nice hotel, breakfast on the roof, long walks, sitting at my favorite coffee bar watching the people on the street and downloading podcasts and movies and night time rides on the back of motorbikes. It is nice to be settled in one city without packing and catching busses.  I needed to slow down a bit.

image

My coffee shop

Here is a list of somethings I have done:

-Cuong took me to the Mango Garden an hour out of Saigon. It is a beautiful nature preserve with ostriches, crocodiles, lakes and a swimming pool
image

-Lee took me to get a hair cut, head massage, shave and an excellent ear cleaning

-we also went to a spa for a shampoo, head massage, and a face peel, this cost $2.50

-I visited many coffee bars, lemonade bars and karaoke bars. They all have young ladies who sit with you and pour ice tea for you
image

-I have gone fishing twice

image

-every day I am lucky to go through Saigon on a motorbike, most tourists never get to see all the parts of Saigon that I have seen.

My friends are keeping me busy here is this vibrant city. The month has gone so fast, next week back to Thailand..

Back to Vietnam

Hard to believe that I got back to Saigon for the forth time. Adi drove me to the Bali Airport but on the way it started to rain. He flagged down a taxi for me and we said a quick goodbye on the busy highway.

My 2 months in Indonesia was great. Adi, my tour guide basically stopped working for 2 months to take me to many places in Bali and Java. There is no way I would have seen so much without him.

Thank you Adi and thanks for showing me how a good Muslim lives. I hope to continue your example of generosity to the poor in my life and thanks for helping me continue my vegetarian ways in Indonesia.

Jetstar took me back to Singapore and after a 6 hour wait I landed back at Saigon. I shared a taxi with a rich UK businessman and checked into my favorite hotel. It was a long day but I still had enough energy to walk to my favorite Indian restaurant.

Both my friends, Cuong and Lee came to see me and my days in Saigon have been filled with night rides through the streets of Saigon. The experience of riding in the bike madness of Saigon is something words can not convey.

The first night Cuong and Lee took me to dinner; we rode for an hour through many parts of Saigon. The decorations for Chinese New Years were still up and Saigon was beautiful.

We then visited a coffee bar….nice to be back in Saigon.

image

Saigon Coffee Bar


Lee took me to Chinatown, the temples were holding festivals for this year’s first Full Moon. The crowds were amazing. Not many tourists get to see these things from the inside.
image

Full moon festival


Lee took me to Karaoke and I sang some Johnny Cash, Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

We also went with a group of international types to Red Scorpion Island. My third visit. It is a picnic area about an hour east of Saigon.
image

That night Lee took me to one of his meet ups. We went across the river to the new section of Saigon. The Cresent Mall is new and one of the nicest malls I have seen.

image

Crescent Mall

Lee hosted a group to practice taking pictures, we even had a model. We went up the escalators taking pictures. A strange experience but pretty normal with my luck.

image

Crescent Mall


Not sure what else I will do in Vietnam for the rest of the month. My first week has started off great. Will let you know.
image

Saigon