Category Archives: travel

A whirlwind trip… totality and back


My brother Charles got wind of the fact that I had Sunday and Monday off work. Just enough time to drive to the eclipse in Sweetwater Tennessee and back. He really wanted to go, and total eclipse was on my bucket list. It took me three asks to persuade Alan to come with us, but he caved. We checked the weather forecast on Sunday morning to make sure we weren’t heading for total cloud cover and headed off from Ottawa at about 10.30. We picked up Charles and left Mum’s by about noon.
Mum had packed us sandwiches and bananas so we didn’t need food until suppertime. Of course we stopped at a Crackerbarrel once it went dark. Charles had never been so we got a new convert. I picked up a road atlas in the gift shop because we had only managed to find maps of NY and PA before we left. Not that it was hard up to that point…cross the bridge and stay on the I-81. We got back in the car and drove till midnight when we stopped at a Motel 6. we were back on the road by 6 and stopped for breakfast at 8 at a McDonalds for the wifi. This was critical because we had to decide at this point if we were heading to South Carolina or Tennessee. The weather forecast looked much better for Tennessee, so back in the car and south we went.
Knoxville gave us pause and at one point I thought we were going to spend the eclipse in a giant traffic jam just north of the totality zone. How depressing would that have been? We did eventually crawl through Knoxville and on to Sweetwater. We pulled into the last space in the parking lot of a Burger King with an hour to spare and the moon already starting to cross the sun. It turned out to be a perfect location. We bought lunch from a very harried staff and sat down to watch eclipse coverage on CNN. Every few minutes or so we went to check the moons progress with our eclipse glasses left over from our Transit of Venus viewing in 2012. We left the restaurant for good about 20 minutes before totality and joined the legions of peaple with their lawn chairs in the parking lot.
Totality only lasted 2 1/2 minutes but I can say that it was worth driving 3000 km for. The crowd cheered, the crickets started chirping up a storm and the sun looked like the pictures (the ones taken with real cameras…not mine taken from my phone!). Someone let off fireworks a few hundred meters to the north west. I am not sure it was a good use of their totality watching time, but their choice I guess. The diamond ring effect happened, I got the men into the car and we booked it home. We only stopped for gas and subway sandwiches which we ate on the road. We got back to Mum’s in time for me to have a shower and head straight to work.
Road trips…gotta love em/

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A day in the Cambodian countryside.


Charles has been living in Phonm Penh off and on for many years and has befriended people over time. Today we went into the countryside to visit the home of Ro’s parents. Ro is in the middle between Charles and Chanras. It took a little over an hour to get to their home.


Apparently at least 10 other members of my extended family and their friends have enjoyed their hospitality over the years.
This platform became the table for a lovely meal, then we were invited to have a nap when the meal was cleared away.The meal consisted of three fish dishes, roast chicken, Khmer beef with green tomatoes and onions, a cabbage dish, mango salad, rice and homemade condiments.We all sat together cross legged on the platform to enjoy our meal.
On the tuktuk ride we stopped and bought some lotus seed pods and learned how to break them open like a pomegranate. You also have to peel the seeds. All in all a great day.

Saigon

Yesterday we spent wandering round Saigon, starting with the very disturbing War Remnants Museum. It is all about the Vietnam war, starting with the French and continuing with the Americans.Our next stop was the Reunification Palace, a fabulous 1960’s building with amazing furnishings. Huge estate rooms and a grand staircase.From there we went to the central post office.It was designed by Eiffel, of tower fame.Attached to the post office was a McDonalds, so I did my traditional visit to see what the local item was. Pork with rice. Horrible, reconstituted pork.

24 hour bus ride…Still doing fine

Here in Southeast Asia, the sleeper bus is all the rage. We just finished an 844 km journey from Hoi An to Saigon, which took 24 hours. The bus was supposed to leave at 6 pm and it pulled into place and took on the bags then. Then the power trip started. They kept coming and opening the door, telling us to wait and leaving again. After an hour they let us on the bus but tried to bully us to the back “behind!,behind!”. It became obvious in the morning that they wanted their friends near the front. Fair enough, I suppose.The journey was long, but we knew it would be so we weren’t bothered at all. Snoozing off and on, waking up to see little vignettes, hills, towns,rice paddies and beaches. The seating is very civilized, each with their own pod. We have been on 4 different buses so far (we also had an 18 hour journey from Hanoi to Hoi An)and each of us has had two seats that come back up to sitting, many are broken.
We got spit off one bus not long after dawn and had to line up outside the next one for 45 minutes after our bags went on. At least it was beside a pretty river.

I am a sucker for those world heritage sites….

n.B. WordPress is apparently censored here, so it is intermittently available for posting
Today, we went on a day trip from Hoi An to the My Son temple complex. We took the swishy tour, so for $75 cnd, we had our own car and driver.As well as a tour guide, Lam, in the pink shirt. He was quite well informed and very pleasant.
We toured the ruins, a 3rd to 12th century Hindu site.Luckily we had been warned about the heat, and found surprisingly few other tourists, another thing we had been prepared for.
After the site, we went out to lunch at a “local food” restaurant (rice noodles with chicken) and ended with a boat back to the city …with a stop at the obligatory artisan village. Thankfully there was not much of a hard sell. Their hearts weren’t into it, probably the heat.