Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mini Travel Log: Moscow, Russia (2)

As other parts in Europe have started thawing in Spring, Moscow is still practically very much in winter. It was still bitter cold when I arrived. It snowed lightly every day when I was here. Being blanketed in white snow, the Red Square is beautiful in the white backdrop and gray skies. I had my first outdoor ice skating experience in front of the Red Square. I also watched the great Russian circus. At one time, they put 9 lions in the cage. The lone trainer inside the cage is amazing to be able to control all the lions.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Moscow, Russia (1)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Liberation of Saigon: The Defeat of the US

This year, C121's annual trip brought us to Ho Chi Minh City, which was formerly known as Saigon. After the Vietnam war, this country is fast emerging as a powerhouse in the ASEAN region. I am very impressed with this city on my first visit. Streets are quite clean with decent walkways for pedestrians; probably influenced by the French during the colonial rule. The traffic however is a huge mess with millions of motorcycles terrorizing the roads. If you are not used to crossing the streets without lights or zebra crossings, then you'd probably have BIG difficulties in crossing a road.

Food is very cheap here. For USD 5 above, you can get good meals from nice restaurants already. There are many places to visit around the city, most of them are museums displaying Vietnam War relics and abandoned US army equipments. In the museums, you'll likely see the "other" side of the war story of US atrocities during the war. Propaganda or informative, it's up to you decide who is the villain in the decade long Vietnam War that cost so many lives.

Highlight of this tour is the Cu Chi tunnel which is at the outskirt of Ho Chi Minh. You can experience the guerrilla life of the Vietcong in jungle and small tunnels. The area is a maze of different kinds of booby traps used in the war. You can also crawl into the small tunnels which are camouflaged superbly from the ground. At the end of the tour, stop by the gun range to experience firing weapons from both sides of the army used in the war.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Mini Travel Log: Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa is a small French town just south of Christchurch. This town is surrounded by volcanic hills, which offers fantastic view down to the town and harbor if you drive along the scenic mountain top road. Because of the earthquake, much of the town buildings were damaged and abandoned while painfully awaiting re-construction. On top one of the hills in the residential area, one must visit the Giant's House. This house is home to a renowned artist whom she converted the place into another realm with interesting sculptures and landscapes. If you decide to stay overnight, you may even consider staying in this house which also serves as bed and breakfast for tourists.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aurora Borealis

Few days ago, huge solar flares erupted from the sun and headed towards earth to create one of the biggest solar storm in history. In the morning when I turned on the TV in Houston, doomsayers were preaching about doomsday and massive geomagnetic interference on earth when the solar storm hits; probably frying up the earth with some super rays and disrupting communications and satellites. Oh great, what a "happy" day to start my day off knowing that I'll be flying over the North Pole on this impending doomsday. Being optimistic, I brushed aside all this nonsense and actually hoped that I will be able to see the Aurora(Northern Light) for the first time in my life. My wish was granted and I witnessed the best light-show from the best front row seat. Another checklist in my life done. Yippee! And so at the end of the day, the GPS still worked, I am not fried and I reached home safely to tell another story. So I guess the end of the world is not so near after all.

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